What’s the Difference Between Language and Dialect?

Introduction

Once upon a time, people rarely traveled, or at least never traveled as much as they do today (speaking of pre-Covid times of course!) Communities were separated from other communities for much of the time and over long periods of time the way they spoke to each other, their language, changed slowly. The longer communities were separated from each other, the more their languages evolved into different dialects, and perhaps over longer periods of time, different languages.

What is a language?

People communicate using a common language, which is a specific vocabulary arranged in a structured grammatical sequence. Language can be verbal or converted to text. There are many thousands of different languages used around the world. Some are spoken by hundreds of millions of people as their main native language, and then there are other languages that are only spoken by very few people. Some languages are growing in importance while others are dying or retained with difficulty.

Languages don’t stay the same. They change gradually over long periods of time. A bit like the branches of a tree, different languages may be closely or more remotely related to other languages. Linguists (the experts who study languages) recognize broad families of languages like the Semitic languages or Germanic languages. The fact that some languages are related to others reflects the way people have migrated in the past. As a group of people moves away from one part of the planet to another place altogether, they take their language with them. Over time, the language changes, but may still be similar in many ways to the language of the people they left behind. A good example is the group of Germanic languages: German, Dutch, English, Swedish, Danish and Norwegian. These are distinctly different languages, but there are as many similarities between them as there are differences which reflects the way a common group of people migrated into northwestern Europe from the East many hundreds of years ago. It’s easy to recognize the similarities between Italian and Spanish or Portuguese, to use another example just as it is easy to recognize the huge differences between these Romance languages of Europe and the East Asiatic languages of China and Japan.

What is a dialect?

Dialects are variations of a single language spoken by people who have lived in different regions. Dialects can become so distinctively different that it can be hard to recognize that they are actually the same language. This is especially the case with the way the dialects are spoken. For example, a person brought up in Glasgow, Scotland may be hard to understand by an Australian from Sydney, but they still speak the same language, albeit in different languages. If the Glaswegian writes down what he or she is saying, it would be hardly any different from how the Sydneysider would write down the same thing that was spoken. In other words, the written form of a language tends to be much more uniform, while the colloquial or verbal variations of a language can be quite different although the speakers will still recognize that they are speaking the same language.

The differences between a language and a dialect

So, what is the difference between language and dialect? By definition, dialects of a language belong to the same language. The differences between the two dialects reflect how long the people who speak the same language have been separated from each other and by what significant geographical boundaries. These days, new dialects of the same language are much harder to form because of the amount of traveling that is done and the ubiquity of communication over the radio, TV, films, and the Internet. To give an example of how dialects are harder to form these days, compare the native English used by Australians and the same language used in Great Britain. There are hardly any notable differences between the English used by those who are brought up in Perth and those who were brought up in Brisbane, yet the distance between them is huge. People who are brought up in Perth, Scotland, though, speak with a much more recognizable dialect than anyone brought up in Southampton on the South coast of England.

Translation services used for languages and dialects

Generally, when a chunk of text is translated into another language, dialect tends to be disregarded unless there is a particular advantage in adapting the target language used to take into account a regional dialect. Commercial translation services, especially those used to translate marketing material, certainly do need to take into account different dialects as they are translating material that needs to be understood as widely as possible. This means that both language translation and dialect translation are needed.

When translation takes dialect use and colloquialisms into account, it is usually referred to as localization. Some translators specialize in localization. Translation services for things like manuals and medical journals or instructions are most likely to use the standard language without converting it into a specific dialect.

Summary

People use language to communicate and over the tens of thousands of years that humanity has lived on Earth, there have developed many hundreds of different languages. Some languages are very similar to others as they belong in the same family while may be totally different from other languages.

Dialects are different variations of a single language and develop because people have taken a single language and moved to different places. Because of separation, their use of the same language has changed but not enough to call it a different language.

Do Sri Lankan Tamils Speak Sinhala?

Introduction

Sri Lanka, the “teardrop-shaped island” to the South of India, is a bilingual country that has inherited its bilingualism and the origin of the conflicts between the two main ethnic groups that live there because of its colonial history.

The majority of Sri Lankans are Sinhalese. They speak the Sinhalese language or Sinhala and are mostly Buddhists. The minority ethnic group in Sri Lanka is the Tamils. Although all Tamils today were born in Sri Lanka, their presence on that island is due to historical migration from Tamil Nadu in India. Tamil Nadu is a southeastern state of India, lying just across the Palk Strait from the Jaffna district of Sri Lanka. Tamils speak Tamil and are mostly Hindu. Tamils were encouraged to migrate to Sri Lanka when it was a British colony, mainly as laborers in the tea plantations.

Similarities between Sinhala and Tamil

One of the many problems that modern-day Sri Lanka has had to deal with is that the two main languages used by nearly all of its people are quite different. They belong to two different language families of Indian origin. The only similarities that are notable are that both languages developed on the Indian subcontinent. Many Tamils can in fact speak at least some Sinhala and there are also many Sinhalese who can speak some Tamil, but this bilingualism depends on the geographical location in Sri Lanka. Where many Sinhalese and Tamils live in the same communities, it is more common to learn each others’ languages. In some parts of Sri Lanka, though, the communities are almost exclusively Sinhalese or Tamil.

Violence and civil war have wracked the country on and off for decades now due to tensions between the different communities. This makes true bilingualism more challenging. Language disparity has been a major source of friction. Added to that is the fact that many educated Sri Lankans also learn English and there are Sinhalese and Tamils who find it easier to communicate with each other in English rather than Sinhala or Tamil.

How Sri Lanka copes with the language divide

Sri Lanka is hardly unique in its bilingual identity. There are very few Asian countries where everyone speaks the same language. Korea and Japan are two of the exceptions. Malaysia has Malay, Chinese, Tamil, and indigenous languages, as well as English, inherited from the colonial era. India, Sri Lanka’s neighbor, has far more languages and dialects than its smaller neighbor to deal with.

The language divide in Sri Lanka has been historically problematic. After Sri Lanka (colonial Ceylon) gained independence from Britain, one of the first laws to be passed was to make Sinhala the national language. This elevated the importance of Sinhala over Tamil and was and remains a hindrance to national unity. Sinhalese say that the change in the law was to remove English as a national language, but many Tamils didn’t see it that way. In 1978, the law changed to make both Sinhala and Tamil official languages with English a link language, but the language disparity is still a huge source of grievance in Sri Lanka.

Summary

Modern Sri Lanka is primarily a bilingual country. The two main languages are Sinhala and Tamil, both of Indian origin, but mutually unintelligible. Sinhala is the language of the majority of the population and there remains a significant disparity between the perceived importance of the two languages. Sinhala to Tamil translation and Tamil to Sinhala translation is much used in Sri Lanka, especially in the provision of government services.

 

Adapting Egyptian Language to Egyptian Culture

One often wonders why so many people want to visit Egypt until they are reminded that Egypt boasts one of the world’s most ancient civilizations. There are still remnants of bygone eras in the mystical pyramids found in Giza, near Cairo, and the remains of the ancient cities of Aswan and Luxor. In its heyday, Egypt was one of the most powerful of the world’s civilization. Its success meant it lasted for nearly 3,000 years.

Before it became an empire, ancient Egypt was made up of several city-states fringing the River Nile which bustled with commerce and trade. In those days the construction of the Pyramids alone showed how expressive and innovative ancient Egyptians were. Its success grew as written language developed between 2,500 B.C. and 1,075 B.C. The first writing style was hieroglyphic. In one Rosetta stone can be seen Egyptian hieroglyphs translated using Ancient Greek and Egyptian Demotic. This system was created in the days of the Old Kingdom and it possessed nearly 700 pictorial characters which were used as decorations and for use in ceremonies.

When the Hieratic writing form was first developed from the hieroglyphic system ink was used and this changed communication forever. This writing was written on papyrus (a reed) so the Ancient Egyptians could communicate more easily so that they could spread their culture far and wide for many centuries.

The spoken language of Egypt

The Egyptian language known in classical form as Middle Egyptian was classified as an Afro-Asiatic language. It became the vernacular which was Egypt’s literary language until the invasion of the Roman Empire invaded. As time progressed, this spoken language slowly evolved to become Demotic and lastly Coptic, when Christianisation took place. Coptic, as a spoken language, was just about non-existent when the 17th century began but is still used as the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria liturgical language.

The commonest dialect used in today’s Egypt is called colloquial Arabic (or Masry). Each of the Arabic speaking countries has its own accents, with many divided into groups that speak different dialects. Overall, in the modern-day, there are several variations of the language.

Egypt’s official language is Literary Arabic, which is the most used in writing in the country. Another key fact is that it is Islam’s liturgical language, which is Egypt’s main religion. When the key text for Islam was written, the Qur’an, seven different dialects of classical Arabic were included in the text at that time. But today, Quraishi is used for the Qur’an.

Arabic is now the 5th most spoken global language, with 293 million people who are native speakers and a total of 422 million speakers throughout the world. It is one of the 6 official languages used by the United Nations.

The growth of Arabic

Arabic started to grow in importance after Napoleon in 1798 entered Egypt. This brought about more contact between the Arab culture and the West, which of course meant adapting the language to include the newer western ideas. At the beginning of the 20th century, Arabic language academics sought to reform the language with a particular focus on increasing Arabic vocabulary. These updates brought a new name to the language which is Modern Standard Arabic (Al-fuSHa). This is used in many areas of life but it doesn’t mean that the spoken word doesn’t still use dialects. Every country has its ‘amiya’ (“Arabic dialect”.)

The differences can be found more in pronunciation than in grammar or vocabulary. The main reason for this was after the Islamic conquest occurred it was important politically to standardize written Arabic because such large groups of people were starting to speak the language. From then on, the Arabic script was adapted so that it was more practical with the prose style and grammar being standardized.

When people communicate but have markedly different dialects, communicate they can use Modern Standard Arabic instead or just adjust their spoken words so they come across more formal and resemble al-fuSHa.

Interesting Facts about Bahasa Indonesia and Bahasa Melayu

The most important languages of the Malay Peninsula and the vast, scattered Indonesian archipelago are Bahasa Melayu and Bahasa Indonesia. They are both based on the language of the Malay people who today live in Malaysia, Singapore, and parts of Western Indonesia. The two languages are almost so similar that a Malaysian from Ipoh in North West Malaysia would easily be able to communicate with a Timorese from Kupang in Indonesia, despite differences in vocabulary and pronunciation. The differences between the two languages are more like the differences between Castilian Spanish and the Spanish of many South American countries.

The word ‘Bahasa’ means ‘language,’ hence Bahasa Indonesia, is the ‘language of Indonesia.’ Until recently, Bahasa Melayu was more commonly called Bahasa Malaysia, although the term ‘Melayu,’ meaning Malay, (rather than the nation-state of Malaysia) was always more common in Singapore and Brunei. Bahasa Melayu and Bahasa Indonesia are often just called ‘Bahasa’ by locals.

History has shaped the emergence of the two languages

Both these two languages, whatever their origin, have become important unifying influences in the two neighboring countries of Malaysia and Indonesia. Malaysia and Singapore have been strongly influenced by British colonialism and a short, but bloody period of Japanese occupation in the Second World War.  The colonial period meant that the indigenous Malay people were forced to share their territory with significant populations of ethnic Chinese and Tamil Indians. Although English has had a strong influence on both Malaysia and Singapore, the modern nation of Malaysia has adopted Bahasa Melayu as the official language of the country and is the main language of government and education. Nonetheless, Chinese and Indian Malaysians commonly speak at least three languages, their language of birth, (Chinese or Tamil) as well as Bahasa and English.

The word ‘Malaysia’ by the way is a combination of Malaya (the old British colonial name) and Singapore. Each country went its own way after a brief episode of federalism. Singapore’s national language is Malay (Bahasa Melayu) but has four official languages: English, Malay, Tamil, and Mandarin. Singaporeans themselves often say they speak ‘Singlish,’ a unique version of English with its own intonation and smatterings of other languages, including Bahasa.

Indonesia is even more diverse than Malaysia. It was colonized by the Moghuls who used Arabic and then by the Dutch. It is far larger and more diverse and complex linguistically than Malaysia. The modern nation-state of Indonesia emerged from the Dutch colony, a bloody war of independence giving Indonesia “Merdeka” after Indonesians had had enough of being pushed around. To unify this vast scattering of islands with its variety of indigenous languages, cultures, religions, and beliefs, Bahasa Indonesia became the official language. Just about every Indonesian apart from some remote tribes’ people (especially in the disputed territory of Irian Jaya) speaks Bahasa Indonesia as well as their native language. Bahasa Indonesia is consequently the language of government, education, and commerce.

Far-flung language family

The two ‘Bahasa’ are relatively easy languages to learn. A form of Arabic writing, Jawi, is long gone, although still seen in old literary works and religious scripts. There are Arabic words in both languages as well as many other loan words, especially from English. More interestingly is the little known link between the Malay family of languages and those of the Pacific. In Bahasa, the word for fish is “ikan.” In Fijian, Tahitian, and Maori, the word for the same item of food is ‘ika”. There are important linguistic similarities in the wide-ranging family of languages called Malayo-Polynesian, although a Malaysian or Indonesian would find it impossible to understand a Samoan, Hawai’ian, or even a Malagasy or Filipino.

There’s English and Spanish, but What on Earth is Spanglish?

Languages are never fixed in time. They evolve and change. When people moved far less than they do today and most grew up in a defined locality talking to those who spoke the same language or dialect as they did, then there was little change. Dialects evolved due to geographical separation or isolation over time. Colonization or invasion often meant that there were two or more primary languages, one of the dominant or more powerful occupying group and the other the oppressed. That’s when the purity of a language began to change.

Kids grow up speaking both languages simultaneously and combining words and phrases to make new combinations. Globalization and the growing importance of English as a global lingua Francia often lead to changes in a language. These can work both ways, with words introduced from one language into another and new words and phrases being created from a combination of both.

Spanish is one of the world’s most spoken languages. In its purest form, it is spoken throughout the Iberian Peninsula apart from Portugal. Even there, there are regional dialects, as well as totally different languages like Basque (Catalan has strong similarities to Spanish). When the Spanish formed colonies in the Caribbean, Central, and South America, colonizers established their language as supreme amidst a huge number of largely forgotten indigenous languages. To the North, lay English speaking USA and Canada, to where eventually many Spanish speakers migrated. The juxtaposition of majority Spanish and minority English has given rise to “Spanglish,” a sort of creolized melee of both languages.

Where is Spanglish spoken?

Spanglish is spoken in Puerto Rico and many parts of North America where there are large Hispanic communities. It is not a uniform language by any means. Even back in the 1930s, what we now refer to as Spanglish was called Espanglish or Inglañol. The former was mostly Spanish and the latter more English than Spanish. Puerto Rico is probably where more Spanglish is spoken than anywhere else, partly because it is the only part of the world where both Spanish and English are joint official languages. Puerto Rico is a U.S. dependency and there are millions of Puerto Ricans who live in the U.S., so it is not surprising that it has become widespread in use there.
There are now over 50 million Hispanic people living in the U.S., the largest ethnic minority in the country. Many in the Hispanic community grow up with Spanglish, although they may also be able to speak pure Spanish and English depending on the context as well.

Spanglish may be the preferred language to be used in many Hispanic communities in places like Miami, California, Texas and New York. There are so many variations of what could be termed Spanglish such as the creolized language used by Afro-Cubans who live in Florida, called Cubonics from Cuban Spanish and Afro American slang.

Spanglish has also become established in places where the two languages mix in other parts of the world like Gibraltar, Belize and the ABC islands of the Caribbean, together with other creole languages like Papamiento.

Japanese Culture and Language Explained

Introduction
If you intend to visit Japan (after the coronavirus is defeated, of course!) for any length of time, then it is a good idea to become acquainted with the Japanese language and Japanese culture. This article is intended to provide a few facts about the Japanese language and culture to get you started. There are 125 million Japanese and their economy, while perhaps not as strong as it once was, is still an extremely important one on the world economic stage.
Sadly, if you thought your visit would coincide with the Olympics, you will now have to reschedule your visit to 2021, due to the threat to athletes and visitors alike from COVID-19. The postponement of the XXXII Olympiad, now officially renamed Tokyo Olympics 2021, has been met with a huge disappointment in Japan, but the reaction to the postponement does indeed teach the outsider or Gaijin about the Japanese character and the pride they have in their nation.

Is Japanese a tough language to learn?
It’s probably fair to say that Japanese is a tough language to learn, whoever you are (unless you are Japanese, of course!). Part of the reason for that is that Japanese is unlike any other language on Earth. Geographically, Japan is closest to Korea and China and there are many superficial similarities between Japanese, Korean and Chinese. There are some definite similarities too, particularly the use of kanji (Japanese), or hanja (Korean), which are the characters used in Japanese, Korean and Chinese writing. There is some overlap in the vocabulary, partly because of possible, but not proven ancient linguistic links and partly because of occupation by the Japanese prior to the Second World War, but basically these three languages are mutually unintelligible. A Korean or Chinese person who cannot understand Japanese would probably try using another language like English to communicate.
This is a very different situation to other parts of the world, although Turkish and Greek, although close geographically is quite different. So is Finnish quite different from all other Scandinavian languages? Think how similar many Latin languages are to each other – Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian and French. They may still find it difficult to talk to each other, because of accents and dialects, but they can probably have a very good stab at understanding each others’ printed words.

Interesting facts about Japanese culture
One of the most notable features of Japanese culture is that the Japanese population is surprisingly monoethnic, especially compared to other western nations. Nearly 99% of the population is Japanese, with a small smattering of Koreans, Chinese and other nationalities. Of course, major cities like Tokyo have a relatively small population of foreigners who come to study, teach, work in business or arrive as curious tourists.

Like any other large population, it is not safe to assume that the Japanese are all the same culturally. There are some stereotypes that may ring true for some Japanese, but there are many Japanese who don’t fit into these stereotypes.
Here are some interesting facts about Japanese society and culture

Most widely practiced religion or belief: Shintoism and Buddhism;
Saving face, or maintaining one’s own pride and self-esteem is important;
Japanese traditional food is centered on rice and fish;
Japanese tend to prefer to keep their own personal space,(probably very wise in these days of avoiding the coronavirus!);
Gift-giving is an important part of the culture;
Business or work dress tends to be conservative: dark suits for men and dresses for women;
Use purpose-designed slippers while using the toilet;
If invited to a Japanese dinner or meal, there is a protocol that is important to know about it.
How Japan compares technologically to other countries
Japan is an advanced Western country with a sophisticated and well developed technological basis. It wasn’t always like that. Japan took off industrially well before the Second World War and came to dominate much of East Asia, including the Korean Peninsula and much of China. Imperialist Japan felt it needed to expand its borders to find the resources to feed its growing industrial base and compete with the West. Post WW2, it went through a very rapid phase of development and filled the place in terms of industrial output and manufacture that China is now filling. Japanese technology is for that reason on a par with other comparable western nations. The country’s manufacturing base is now centered on heavy machinery, automobiles, and electronic products. Many Japanese companies are household names around the world.
The country’s technological prowess and confidence took a big hit in 2011when the tsunami offshore from Fukushima killed thousands of people and several nuclear facilities were breached. Japan’s economy nosedived further at the time and hasn’t fully recovered. To date, Japan remains behind in the search and introduction of renewable energy technology although it has rolled out some of the cheaper EV cars on the world market.

Introduction

If you intend to visit Japan (after the coronavirus is defeated, of course!) for any length of time, then it is a good idea to become acquainted with the Japanese language and Japanese culture. This article is intended to provide a few facts about the Japanese language and culture to get you started. There are 125 million Japanese and their economy, while perhaps not as strong as it once was, is still an extremely important one on the world economic stage.
Sadly, if you thought your visit would coincide with the Olympics, you will now have to reschedule your visit to 2021, due to the threat to athletes and visitors alike from COVID-19. The postponement of the XXXII Olympiad, now officially renamed Tokyo Olympics 2021, has been met with a huge disappointment in Japan, but the reaction to the postponement does indeed teach the outsider or Gaijin about the Japanese character and the pride they have in their nation.

Is Japanese a tough language to learn?

It’s probably fair to say that Japanese is a tough language to learn, whoever you are (unless you are Japanese, of course!). Part of the reason for that is that Japanese is unlike any other language on Earth. Geographically, Japan is closest to Korea and China and there are many superficial similarities between Japanese, Korean and Chinese. There are some definite similarities too, particularly the use of kanji (Japanese), or hanja (Korean), which are the characters used in Japanese, Korean and Chinese writing. There is some overlap in the vocabulary, partly because of possible, but not proven ancient linguistic links and partly because of occupation by the Japanese prior to the Second World War, but basically these three languages are mutually unintelligible. A Korean or Chinese person who cannot understand Japanese would probably try using another language like English to communicate.
This is a very different situation to other parts of the world, although Turkish and Greek, although close geographically is quite different. So is Finnish quite different from all other Scandinavian languages? Think how similar many Latin languages are to each other – Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian and French. They may still find it difficult to talk to each other, because of accents and dialects, but they can probably have a very good stab at understanding each others’ printed words.

Interesting facts about Japanese culture

One of the most notable features of Japanese culture is that the Japanese population is surprisingly monoethnic, especially compared to other western nations. Nearly 99% of the population is Japanese, with a small smattering of Koreans, Chinese and other nationalities. Of course, major cities like Tokyo have a relatively small population of foreigners who come to study, teach, work in business or arrive as curious tourists.

Like any other large population, it is not safe to assume that the Japanese are all the same culturally. There are some stereotypes that may ring true for some Japanese, but there are many Japanese who don’t fit into these stereotypes.
Here are some interesting facts about Japanese society and culture

  • Most widely practiced religion or belief: Shintoism and Buddhism;
  • Saving face, or maintaining one’s own pride and self-esteem is important;
  • Japanese traditional food is centered on rice and fish;
  • Japanese tend to prefer to keep their own personal space,(probably very wise in these days of avoiding the coronavirus!);
  • Gift-giving is an important part of the culture;
  • Business or work dress tends to be conservative: dark suits for men and dresses for women;
  • Use purpose-designed slippers while using the toilet;
  • If invited to a Japanese dinner or meal, there is a protocol that is important to know about it.

How Japan compares technologically to other countries

Japan is an advanced Western country with a sophisticated and well developed technological basis. It wasn’t always like that. Japan took off industrially well before the Second World War and came to dominate much of East Asia, including the Korean Peninsula and much of China. Imperialist Japan felt it needed to expand its borders to find the resources to feed its growing industrial base and compete with the West. Post WW2, it went through a very rapid phase of development and filled the place in terms of industrial output and manufacture that China is now filling. Japanese technology is for that reason on a par with other comparable western nations. The country’s manufacturing base is now centered on heavy machinery, automobiles, and electronic products. Many Japanese companies are household names around the world.
The country’s technological prowess and confidence took a big hit in 2011when the tsunami offshore from Fukushima killed thousands of people and several nuclear facilities were breached. Japan’s economy nosedived further at the time and hasn’t fully recovered. To date, Japan remains behind in the search and introduction of renewable energy technology although it has rolled out some of the cheaper EV cars on the world market.

Is There a Limit to the Number of Languages You Can Learn?

There are some common denominators around language learning. Firstly, it’s far easier for learning languages when you are young. Secondly, people learn languages primarily because they are motivated to do so. How many languages can you learn at any one time? There are unsubstantiated records of some exceptional people have been able to speak 40 or so different languages, but that is probably unlikely. Before there are any answers to the question in the title of this article, it must be defied what ‘learning a language’ actually means.

Monolingualism is the default

Someone who only understands and speaks a single language fluently is called monolingual. The stress is on the word ‘fluent,’ so if someone can say a few words in another language and guess what a sign is in a language other than his / her own, then that doesn’t classify as ‘fluent.’ It has been estimated that just over 40 per cent of the world’s population is basically monolingual.

Bilingualism is commoner than you might think

If you are genuinely bilingual, you are fluent in two different languages. This would be a common development for anyone born to two parents whose native languages are different and has had some immersion in countries where these languages are spoken. It is also a common phenomenon in countries that have more than one official language. Many Welsh speakers, for example, are genuinely bilingual, as they also speak English. Bilingualism is typical of people whose native language is a minority language in a country where it may have official status but is far less used or useful.

Many Europeans in countries where the native and official language is spoken only by a few million inhabitants are also often bilingual. For example, many Scandinavians understand and speak English very well indeed.

Many migrants to a country where their native language has no useful role apart from within their own particular migrant community also develop bilingualism quite quickly.

Perhaps surprisingly, there are thought to be more genuinely bilingual speakers than monolingual speakers, with the former percentage at around 43% of the world’s population.

13% of the world’s people are trilingual!

Far fewer people can speak three languages fluently, but it’s still a healthy number. People who live surrounded by countries that have a strong influence on them but speak a different language are often candidates for trilingualism. Many Dutch people, for instance, are fluent in Dutch, English and German. The three languages have similarities but are still different enough to be worth the effort of learning them. Travellers and people who work with refugees and migrants have an incentive to learn several different languages, but whether they develop true fluency is another question.

Reaching the limit at a dozen?

About 3% of the world’s population is thought to be able to speak more than three languages fluently. They are called ‘multilingual’ although there are other terms that have been coined for even more language proficiency. Polyglots are those who can speak five or more languages and there is even a term for those whose language proficiency is almost stratospheric and probably reaching the absolute upper limit of language fluency.

The so-called hyperpolyglots have been credited for speaking as many as 12 languages proficiently.

Is there a limit to the number of languages you can learn?

We can probably reasonably conclude that there is a natural limit to the human ability to learn languages fluently. It drops off markedly after 3 or 4 and is probably a maximum around the low teens. The reason for the limited number of languages is twofold: most people find it hard to learn a new language when they are older, so their upper limit is probably determined by what they are exposed to when young. Also, most people apart from a few, have no real reason to learn more than two or three languages well.

The effects of globalisation tend to make an international language, like English, become the main language of communication, or lingua franca when people who don’t otherwise understand each other wish to communicate. In other words, when Germans meet Italians, or Indians meet Argentinians, it’s easier to stick to English, rather than learn a whole new language. That might also explain why an unhealthy percentage of monolinguals are native English speakers –they think they don’t need to bother learning another language, and unfortunately arrogant presumption.

The French Language Around the World

French is often called the love language. Because of its close association with Paris, it creates the image of a romantic cobblestone narrow alley lit up with the softly glowing iconic Parisian street lighting. French does, of course, originate from France, but it has spread throughout the world, and today there are several French variations some of which are indistinguishable from standard French while others have developed their own idioms and nuances.

Standard French from France

This French variety which is spoken throughout France is called le français neutre, meaning neutral French”, and it can be heard spoken by 50 million-plus people both in and close to France. It is heavily influenced by the Académie Française, the main official administrative body which makes most of the grammatical and lexical decisions about what should be included in the French language and is found in dictionaries. Standard French is the French that is typically taught at language classes throughout the world.

Canadian French and Quebec French

It might be a surprise to know that there are 6.2 million people who speak French who live in Quebec and more than 700,000 speakers in other parts of the country. Montreal uses French in several contexts including in the media, education and the government. Canadian and Standard French isn’t different but is much the same language, meaning that speakers of both the two supposed dialects can easily understand one another. However, there are a few important differences in vocabulary that you must get right. For example, in Canadian French, the word plein(e) as an adjective means “full up with food”, while in France its meaning is “pregnant.”

African French

There are actually more people who speak French who reside in Africa than in Europe. There are some countries in West Africa that have French as either the official or joint-official language. Overall it is estimated that there are 120 million individuals in Africa who speak French. They are not all exactly the same as standard French. In Abidjan which is Ivory Coast’s economic capital, there are many loanwords which come from Mandinka such as une go, that means girlfriend or just girl, and the phrase un bra-môgô, that means  “dude.” In a few more urbanized areas there is a new type of French evolving which is called Français Populaire Africain. It was, to begin with, associated with the lower classes, but has recently been adopted as the preferred language among the upper classes, and is now socially accepted.

Belgian French

French is typically the 2nd most common Belgium language and is spoken as a native language by about 4.5 million individuals which are 40 per cent of the country’s population. Belgian French mimics Standard French with just a few rather subtle vocab. differences. One clear example in standard French is the word “potatoes” which are pommes de terre but in Belgian French they are patates. Also in standard French, a “sofa” is canapé but in Belgian French, it refers to a divan.

From the continent of Europe through to Africa and North America, French is growing rapidly as a popular global language. From this, there is developing several versions of French accompanied by unique accents, vocabulary and idioms. Much of today’s French slang originates from North African Arabic, which is spoken in Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. Some slang is used among friends and families who come from the outside of the vast French cities.

The best way to learn French is in a country where you are likely to stay the longest. You can learn from a native speaker so that when you speak your new language you will sound more like a native than learning Standard French in a classroom in France.

The Indonesian Language is Easy to Learn

Bahasa Indonesia, or Bahasa Melayu, usually just called Bahasa, has 200 million speakers throughout the world which makes it one of the ten most spoken global languages. Its speakers live in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei, Southern Thailand and the Philippines Sulu archipelago. It has a useful characteristic and that is it’s one of the simplest languages to learn.

This is partly due to the fact that over the years some spoken words in Indonesian have been officially accepted into the English dictionary. This includes words like gong, sago, kapok and sarong. However, there are other suggested reasons why learning Indonesian is not that difficult.

It isn’t a tonal language, which for speakers who don’t know much about tonal languages, listening to Bahasa for the very first time makes the language appear quite straightforward and direct. It is quite easy to pronounce and imitate and still be understood. It is even easier for people from parts of Africa and Asia as there are similarities in sentence formation and pronunciation. There are also some words that have been borrowed from Arabic, Dutch and even Sanskrit.

Bahasa is often referred to as “agglutinative.” This basically means that it uses many suffixes and prefixes. It is so easy that some basic words only require affixes to change the meaning of the word.  This is easy to adapt to by English speakers.

Bahasa’s grammatical rules are not too difficult and even if you don’t follow the standard rules in grammar for forming sentences you should be understood. Even if you put sentences together which aren’t grammatically correct as long as there are some keywords in them you should still be understood.

Importance of learning Indonesian

Whether you wish to travel to either Malaysia or Indonesia the two languages are pretty well much the same. So you can use your hard-won Bahasa Indonesia in Malaysia as well. You will without a question be understood. You will find when visiting either country that English isn’t necessarily widely spoken but you can throw in a few words into roughly formed sentences in Indonesian and you will be understood. More and more businesses are selling their manufactured products to Malaysia and Indonesia so if you work for these companies just a smattering of Indonesian will help you establish a good reputation for you and your business.

Some people say if you buy a dictionary or even use an Indonesian language app and memorise a lot of words and keep practising with the locals you will soon get a good understanding and feel for the language. There are no complicated verb forms to worry about in Indonesian. The past tense is created by adding other words to the main verb. There are some pronunciation rules worth knowing like “C” is pronounced as CH in Indonesian.  If you see the letters “nga” in a word you may have trouble pronouncing the word. It is pronounced as “NNGGG,” such as pengacarra, meaning lawyer and lapangan, meaning meadow. There are lots of words like this. There is the letter “a” to consider as well which is pronounced like the British pronounce it and that is “ah.” It is very easy to communicate by just putting the words together. The local Indonesians will think you are clever / “pintar” if you can put words together when holding a conversation with them. They will probably ask “Dimana belajar Bahasa Indonesia?” which means where did you get to learn our language, Indonesian? The normal reply is “Saya membeli kamus, (I purchased a dictionary) saya belajar banyak kata2, (I taught myself many words from it) and dan saya latihan dengan laki-laki di panti, (I practised talking with young men while relaxing on the beach”). They would be so impressed. It is even better if you can learn some humorous phrases as they just love to laugh.

Here are some surprising Indonesian phrases and their English translations.

  • An Indonesian isn’t ever “two-faced.” S/he is a “sheep with make-up.” In Indonesian that is kambing dibedakin.
  • Indonesians are not “coy,” but they’re “shy-shy kitten.” In Indonesian that is malu-malu kucing.
  • Indonesians never “get sick” or “catch a cold,” but they “enter wind.” In Indonesian that is masuk angin.
  • Indonesians never have “beauty marks,” but they do have “fly poos.” In Indonesian that is tahi lalat.
  • An Indonesian won’t tell you that s/he “is not feeling well,” but s/he will say that s/he is “not of the delicious body.” In Indonesian that is gak enak badan.
  • An Indonesian never “loses interest” in his/her passion, but s/ he gets the ”warm-warm chicken shit.” In Indonesian that is hangat-hangat tahi ayam.
  • An Indonesian will never tell you that s/he is feeling “tired,” but s/he may say that s/he has “5 watts left.” In Indonesian that is tinggal lima-watt.
  • Indonesians never order eggs “sunny-side up,” but they have what they call “cow’s-eye eggs.” In Indonesian that is telur mata-sapi.

 

What Languages Are Spoken In Australia?

The Australian national language is English and it is this language which is spoken freely as a first language by the majority of the country’s inhabitants and is the official language of government and education. There is no need to translate English to Australian as there is no significant difference between the English of Australia and that of England. English started to take over from aboriginal languages after the country was systematically colonized by the British from the1780s. Today, English still dominates but there are some aboriginal languages that still exist, albeit only in small isolated pockets in more remote parts of the country.

How Many Different Languages are Spoken in Australia?

Different Languages are Spoken in Australia

There are several other languages spoken in Australia apart from English. The way that government authorities determine what main languages are spoken in the country is from census information provided by those living in the country at the time of the census, which takes place every 5 years. Over the last 15 years there has been some change in what languages are spoken in Australian homes. In 2001, 80 percent of the population indicated that the main language they spoke at home was Australian English. By 2006, which was the next census, this had dropped to 79 percent, while by 2011 the English speaking number had decreased further to 76.8 percent. 

By 2016, the census showed that 72.7 percent of Australia’s population spoke English as their main or native language. This trend is due to immigration changes into the country. Previously most immigrants came from New Zealand and the United Kingdom but this trend is starting to change. Out of the 6,163,667 people in the country who were born overseas, almost one in five, or 18 per cent, had entered the country since the beginning of 2012. The 2016 Census revealed that 67 per cent of Australians were born in the country. Almost half, 49 percent, had been either born abroad, or 1 or both of their parents had been born abroad. 

Languages are Spoken in Australia

The immigration trend has now changed to the extent that English is slowly losing its importance and other languages are replacing it. This doesn’t mean that immigrants don’t speak English, as they have to pass English tests before they are allowed to migrate into Australia. In the early stages of the life of an immigrant their native language would accompany them and would continue to be used in the family environment until children have passed through the Australian education system, where the only language used is English. Unless a language is actively maintained by the family and the country they live in the native language will start to lose its importance, but that can take several decades.

The other languages spoken in the country depend on which countries in Australia people come from. The top countries are Arabic speaking countries, China, Italy, Vietnam and Greece.  Second to English is Mandarin with 2.5 percent of Australia’s population speaking the language, followed by Arabic with 1.4 percent speakers; thirdly Cantonese with 1.2 percent of speakers and Italian and Vietnamese attracting 1.2 percent. Greek is also spoken too, but Greeks were early migrants to Australia and the language does not have so much importance today. Added to this percentage is the 1 percent of the population that speak indigenous languages, of which there are at least 50 languages spoken today. 

Top Languages Spoken in Australia 

Languages Spoken In Australia

The Other Top Languages Spoken in Australia Include:

● Nepali

● Malay

● German

● Spanish

● Hindi

● Filipino

● Spanish

● Korean

● Punjabi

● Afrikaans

● Malayalam

● Fiji

● Dutch

● Min Nan

● Sinhalese

● Tagalog

● German

● Indonesian

● Afrikaans

● Japanese

● Polish

● French

● Thai

● Urdu

What Does Diversity of Language Mean to Australia?

Diversity of Language

In 2016, more than 300 languages were identified as being spoken in Australian homes. More than 21 per cent of Australians spoke at home a language that’s not English Tasmania had the greatest number of people who only spoke English in the home, with 88 per cent, and Northern Territory had 58 per cent, which was the lowest. Language is something you can’t remove from people as it allows for effective communication of the beliefs and values of a particular culture. 

This diversity of language is an asset to Australia as it helps to foster international ties and trigger cultural exchanges. It’s useful to have people living in a country who naturally speak another language apart from the national language of the host country. They can act in bilingual situations when their skills may be needed to facilitate trade agreements or to engage in communication between countries which have diplomatic ties with Australia. They can act as interpreters or translators in court cases or in medical situations where those involved don’t have a full command of Australian English.

Australian Aboriginal languages

Australian Aboriginal languages

 In the later part of the 18th century, there were 250 Aboriginal social groups and they shared around the same number of aboriginal languages. By the 21st century, there were fewer than 150 Aboriginal languages still used on a daily basis. Most are today likely to disappear completely, except 13, which are still taught to children and are only found in the most isolated areas. Out of the 5 which are least endangered, four belong to the Ngaanyatjarra grouping in Western Australia who are found in the Central and Great Victoria Desert. North East Arnhem land in the Northern Territory still teaches Yolŋu languages to children as part of bilingual education programmes. Tiwi, Warlpiri, and Murrinh-patha, also in the Northern Territory, have from 1,000 to 3,000 speakers.

For the time being English is still the dominant language in Australia and embedded in it is Australian English, which even though is clearly recognizable as English today, it has absorbed words, phrases and idioms from North America. In fact, there are many ways that Australia resembles America, particularly in the design of its towns and cities which both follow post colonial lines and lack historical buildings and quaint villages and towns you find in England. Some Australians are quick to mimic American English they hear on mass media and words like ‘truck’ and ‘guys’ are embedded in Australian English. Australian English also has a whole vocabulary which has developed in isolation and is recognisably ‘Australian.’ While it would be pushing it too far to say that Australians speak Australian, they certainly can be recognised by their accent, which is recognisably distinctive.