Immigration in Europe: Map of the percentages and countries of origin of immigrants

As a language teacher, I find these maps fascinating. Speaking another language opens doors to so many different cultures, and I’ve always loved travelling and visiting different countries and experiencing different ways of life.

Although the time when I could have happily emigrated has long gone, I can think of so many reasons why other people might choose to settle in a country other than where they were born: love, work, different opportunities….

Immigration in Europe: Map of the percentages and countries of origin of immigrants.

K is for Korean and Kickapoo

Like Basque and Japanese, Korean is a language isolate. It has about 70 million speakers in North and South Korea, and a further 5 million or so in NE China, parts of Japan, and small communities in Russia and the USA.

Until the 15th century Korean used Chinese characters for writing, and only the elite were able to read and write. In the 15th century the monarch, King Sejong, invented a new writing system which was more alphabetic, and this made writing more accessible to people.

Known as Hangul, the system consists of 24 symbols, representing vowel and consonant sounds which are written in a “box” approximately the same size as a Chinese character. Each “box” has a consonant-vowel-consonant symbol, written roughly left to right, top to bottom.

It has a subject-object-verb sentence structure and includes many basic words from old Chinese as well as an increasing number of borrowings from English.

Kickapoo, also written Kikapú, is not a well-known language – in fact it has only about 250 speakers, making it in danger of extinction – but it has such a great name I simply had to include it in my A-Z!

It belongs to the Algonquin family of languages. It originated in the Great Lakes area in North America, but is now almost extinct in the USA and most of its speakers live in Mexico. The language used to include “whistle speech” where each sound could be represented by whistle, but this aspect of the language has now died out from the lack of use.

Whistle languages were mostly used by hunters and herders, so that they could communicate without frightening the animals. The limitations of whistle sounds meant that many sentences were ambiguous, making this aspect of the language only useful in certain circumstances.

Sadly I can’t point you in the direction of a Kickapoo course, but if you fancy learning some Korean, have a look at FutureLearn.

Related posts: J is for Japanese     L is for…….

J is for Japanese

Like Basque, Japanese is known as a language isolate, which means that it does not belong to a language family. There have been attempts by linguists to link it to other languages, such as Korean, but there are not enough cognates between Japanese and any other language to prove a relationship between them.

Spoken almost exclusively in Japan (about 99% of its native speakers live there), Japanese has approximately 125 million speakers.

It has a roughly subject-object-verb sentence structure, with the verb going at the end of the sentence. Adjectives go before the noun like in English.

The first written evidence of Japanese dates to the 8th century. It now has 3 writing systems which are all used simultaneously:

  • Kanji: these are the characters which they imported from the Chinese writing system. They are used for a lot of the basic words in Japanese.
  • Hiragana: this is used for writing Japanese words that have no kanji form, and also for writing suffixes, etc.
  • Katakana: this is used for loan words – phonetic transcriptions of foreign words.

Japanese can be written horizontally, reading from left to right, or vertically, reading from top to bottom, right to left.

Related posts: I is for invented languages     K is for Korean and Kickapoo

H is for Hawai´ian

H is for...Hawai´ian is a Polynesian language, related to Maori, and believed to have evolved from Tahitian. It is named after the island of Hawai´i, where it is the joint official language with English. The Hawai´ian language is under threat from English, which is the language used in schools, and for any years it suffered a decline, but in recent years it has been promoted and the number of native speakers is rising again.

Before the 1820s, Hawai´ian was a spoken language only. When missionaries arrived on the island, they learnt the language and then set about devising a writing system so that they could teach the local people to read and write.

The alphabet has 13 letters: 5 vowels and 8 consonants, including a glottal stop. It is written in Latin script with the addition of a character that looks like a back-to-front apostrophe, which represents the glottal stop.

Related posts: G is for German      I is for Invented Languages

B is for Bable and Basque

B is forEach of the autonomous regions in Spain have their own language in addition to Spanish, which they call Castellano, or Castilian. The most well-known is Catalan, but that begins with C, so let’s look instead at Bable and Basque.


Bable is the language spoken in Asturias. Surprisingly, it is a Romance language even though the culture and heritage of the region is Celtic. Also known as Asturianu, it has around 100,000 native speakers and there are approximately 450,000 more who understand it or who have it as a second language. It is not an official language of Asturias, but it has protected status.

Bable was used in official documents in Asturias until 14th C and then disappeared gradually between 14th – 17th centuries although it was still spoken unofficially.

Basque also known as Euskara, is spoken in the Basque country which is the region to the west of the Pyrenees in north east Spain and south west France. It has between 500,000 and 700 000 speakers.
Basque is what is known as a ‘language isolate’ which means it is not related to any other language. This means it is most likely to be pre-Indo-European. The first written evidence of it dates to the 11th C.

Basque is not an official language of Spain, but it has co-official status in the Basque Country. It has no official recognition at all in France.

Related posts: A is for Arabic   C is for Chinese