According to statistics from TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), English is the most translated and interpreted language in the world, followed by Mandarin Chinese. It is therefore common to find translation agencies specializing in these languages, but the world is big place and the number of languages it is home to can be overwhelming.
In this edition of the Babel International Translators blog, we bring you 7 of the most unusual languages in the world:
- Rotokas in Papua New Guinea: this language is characterized by its simplicity. Only 7 consonants and 5 vowels make up its minimalist alphabet, which is the smallest in the world. It also has no nasal sounds.
If you are a person of few words, you may want to master this language.
- Piraha in Brazil: This language originates from an Amazonian tribe and it is curious to note that at the semantic level it has no concept of numbers or colors, while grammatically there are no pronouns or verb tenses.
Anthropological research has found that the limitations of this language have deprived the tribe of historical consciousness (myths, anecdotes or theories of the past).
Piraha has a limited alphabet and most communication involves chanting, whistling and humming.
- Afrikáans in Namibia and South Africa: this language is neither obscure nor endangered and is spoken by millions of people, most of them in Namibia. The curious thing about it, however, is that it is a true Frankenstein’s monster, with elements of Germanic languages and touches of Portuguese, Malay, English, Zulu dialects and Dutch.
The language is so multicultural that an Afrikaans speaker and a Dutch speaker can understand each other perfectly.
- Taushiro in Peru: this language spoken by members of the Pinchi ethnic group is practically dead with only a handful of speakers left.
The amazing thing about this South American language is that it does not use prepositions but postpositions, a type of “adposition” with the same function as the preposition whereby the postposition follows the word modified by the preposition. Truly a language that defies the rules of space and time.
- Yupik from Siberia to Alaska: this language covers the widest territory on the list, although it is only spoken by a few thousand people.
Yupik is part of a special group of languages: agglutinative languages, or languages that use incredibly long words to represent complex phrases or ideas. Words in the Yupik language are essentially a summary of complete ideas.
- Nushu in China: This language comprises roughly 2,000 characters and has been used since the 3rd Century AD. Unlike written Chinese, where each character has a meaning, Nushu is a phonetic language.
But what is truly unusual about this language is that it was spoken exclusively by women and passed on exclusively from mother to daughter. Although Nushu has been spoken for hundreds of years, it was not until 1893 that we learned of its existence.
- Evenki in Russia, Mongolia and China: this language does not have a minimal alphabet, complex grammatical structure or anecdote about unusual use. What is really curious about this language is that the main activity of the speakers is reindeer herding.
Why is that so odd? The strange thing is that in Evenki there are 30 words for reindeer. Without a doubt, a language for true specialists.
The cultural diversity of our planet is reflected in its multiple languages. If you require an agency with native translators in any language and specialized in the different sectors of the business world, we can help you: