How much do you know about European languages? To mark European Day of Languages on 26 September, here are some interesting facts to test your knowledge.
How many languages are there in Europe?
It really depends on how we define language. As a popular adage puts it, "a language is a dialect with an army and navy". But it’s safe to say that there are between 200 to 300 languages spoken in Europe.
We can be sure, however, about official languages. There are 24 official languages in Europe. Can you name all 24 (you’ll find a list of them at the end!)?
The chances are you speak more than one language already. In Europe, more than 50% of the population speak more than one language.
No matter how many languages you already speak, you can always develop them further or learn a brand new language.
In the Skills Centre we teach six of the EU's 24 official languages (English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese), plus three non-European languages (Arabic, Japanese, and Mandarin Chinese).
What is the oldest language in Europe?
Basque is spoken in regions of France and Spain. It’s the only European language that isn’t related to any other language and its origin is still unknown.
Which European languages are spoken the most?
Based on numbers of native speakers, the languages spoken the most in Europe are:
- Russian, with roughly 160 million native speakers
- German, with about 97 million native speakers
- French, with around 81 million native speakers.
However, English has the largest number of speakers in total, including some 200 million speakers of English as a second or foreign language in Europe.
Italian and Spanish are also among the languages that have more than 50 million native speakers in Europe.
More fun facts about languages
- In some South Eastern European areas such as Bulgaria and southern Albania, shaking your head means ‘yes’ whilst nodding means ‘no’.
- In Irish, there are no words for ‘yes’ and ‘no’. Instead, you have to use a verb form to answer questions.
- Hungarian is touted as the most difficult language to learn because of its difficult rules.
- The longest village name in Wales (Anglesey) is Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch (58 letters).
- The longest Italian palindrome (a word which reads the same backwards and forwards) is ‘onorarono’ which means ‘honoured’.
- ‘Shemomedjamo’ is a very useful Georgian word that can’t be translated into English. It describes the feeling of eating without limit (even when you’re full) simply because the food is good.
If you'd like even more language trivia, have a go at this Languages quiz!
Share your love for languages
- What does shaking your head in your culture mean?
- How do you express ‘yes’ and ‘no’ in your language?
- What do you think is the most difficult language to learn?
- What are your favourite long words or palindromes?
- Do you have any untranslatable words or interesting language facts to share?
Share your thoughts in the comments!
We’ll be celebrating the European Day of Languages on Tuesday 26 September from 11am to 2pm on the Parade. Come and find out more about languages and ask us any questions about the Skills Centre's languages courses. We hope to see you there!
*Official European languages are, in alphabetical order: Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish, and Swedish.
(Feature image: Council of Europe)