Most spoken languages and where they are spoken

I found this an interesting website to check out.

Thanks. Visualizations are cool.

But this groups how many different languages under some Chinese “macrolanguage”? Speaking of just two of them, Wikipedia says, “Although Cantonese shares some vocabulary with Mandarin Chinese, the two varieties are mutually unintelligible because of pronunciation, grammatical, and also lexical differences.” Quite a macrolanguage they have going there! I have no knowledge of either language, but that sounds like it could describe the relationship of English to French or to German.

Meanwhile, Urdu and Hindi are mutally intelligible (says Wikipedia) but are considered two different languages. There are plenty of other examples of people putatively speaking separate languages yet able to understand each other. (Look to the Balkans.) The line between dialect and language is on a continuum, of course, which provides endless hours of entertainment for linguists and nationalists alike.

My wife recently describe a skit or show or movie in which representatives of two parties speaking perfect English are at odds with each other and require a “translator” to negotiate because they insist they can’t possibly be speaking the same language. Does anyone know what that was?

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I think it is funny how politics, religion, and nationalism fudge these lines and make “dialects” or separate languages thorny issues.

Most chinese seem to insist that cantonese or shanghai-ese, or any non Mandarin Chinese are just dialects of the “Chinese” language.

It’s like

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From my experience, I would go as far to say that Arabic is at a minimum 3 distinct languages.

  1. You have classic “standard” arabic (the written language, very old and formal like latin is to romance),

  2. the modern colloquial dialects of the Middle East and Egypt (large variety of different dialects but mostly mutually intelligible)

3, West African Maghrebi Dialect (Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria) which is a distinct language of around 50-60 million speakers, mutually unintelligible to other speakers of arabic… native Arabic speaking friends from Egypt and Syria told me that it is easier to talk to moroccans in english than arabic.

I think saying that 300 million people speak arabic is quite misleading to naive americas like me who try to learn arabic.

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I found what it is that my wife was speaking of, it being only slightly different from what either she related or which I recalled. It is from the book “The Marvelous Land of Oz” by L. Frank Baum, which is in the public domain. You can get it from Project Gutenberg (The Marvelous Land of Oz by L. Frank Baum - Free Ebook).


The King was the first to speak. After regarding Jack for some minutes he said, in a tone of wonder:

“Where on earth did you come from, and how do you happen to be alive?”

“I beg your Majesty’s pardon,” returned the Pumpkinhead; “but I do not understand you.”

“What don’t you understand?” asked the Scarecrow.

“Why, I don’t understand your language. You see, I came from the Country of the Gillikins, so that I am a foreigner.”

“Ah, to be sure!” exclaimed the Scarecrow. “I myself speak the language of the Munchkins, which is also the language of the Emerald City. But you, I suppose, speak the language of the Pumpkinheads?”

“Exactly so, your Majesty” replied the other, bowing; “so it will be impossible for us to understand one another.”

“That is unfortunate, certainly,” said the Scarecrow, thoughtfully. “We must have an interpreter.”

“What is an interpreter?” asked Jack.

“A person who understands both my language and your own. When I say anything, the interpreter can tell you what I mean; and when you say anything the interpreter can tell me what you mean. For the interpreter can speak both languages as well as understand them.”

“That is certainly clever,” said Jack, greatly pleased at finding so simple a way out of the difficulty.

So the Scarecrow commanded the Soldier with the Green Whiskers to search among his people until he found one who understood the language of the Gillikins as well as the language of the Emerald City, and to bring that person to him at once.

When the Soldier had departed the Scarecrow said:

“Won’t you take a chair while we are waiting?”

“Your Majesty forgets that I cannot understand you,” replied the Pumpkinhead. “If you wish me to sit down you must make a sign for me to do so.” The Scarecrow came down from his throne and rolled an armchair to a position behind the Pumpkinhead. Then he gave Jack a sudden push that sent him sprawling upon the cushions in so awkward a fashion that he doubled up like a jackknife, and had hard work to untangle himself.

“Did you understand that sign?” asked His Majesty, politely.

“Perfectly,” declared Jack, reaching up his arms to turn his head to the front, the pumpkin having twisted around upon the stick that supported it.

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This is very cool, so thank you for posting it. Maybe I should have chosen to learn Bengali and Arabic instead of Korean and French.