W is for Welsh

Welsh currently has 700,000 speakers and is a Celtic language, closely related to Cornish and Breton. It is believed to be one of the oldest living languages in Europe, dating back about 4000 years.

It is on the UNESCO endangered languages list with a rating of vulnerable, although efforts have been made to revive it. In Wales, Welsh has joint official status with English, and it is taught in schools up to 16.

Did you know….?

  • As well as in Wales, Welsh is also spoken in Argentina. About 2500 people in Patagonia, descendants of 19th century immigrants from Wales, speak Welsh as their first language.
  • It has 29 letters in the alphabet, compared to 26 in English. It has no k q v or z, but instead has ch dd ff ng  rh th and the famous ll
  • It may look as though it doesn’t have enough vowels, but actually it has 7: a e i o u y and w
  • The longest word in Welsh is Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch which is also the longest place name in Europe.

Related posts:  V is for Vietnamese     X is for Xhosa

V is for Vietnamese

Vietnamese has about 66 million native speakers with a further 10 million who speak it as a second language. As well as in Vietnam itself, it is also spoken in Cambodia, Laos and Thailand. It belongs to the Mon-Khmer branch of the Austroasiatic language family.

Vietnamese is a tonal language like Chinese. It was originally written in Chinese characters, with lots of vocabulary and grammar borrowed from Chinese. After the French colonisation, the Latin script was adopted instead.

The language has a subject-verb-object word order, and like Chinese it has no gender and no verb suffixes to indicate tenses.

Related posts:  U is for Urdu    W is for…..

U is for Urdu

Urdu is one of the official languages of Pakistan, jointly with English, and it is also spoken in India, Bangladesh and Nepal. It has about 100 million speakers altogether, but for most people this is as a second or even third language. Despite its official status in Pakistan, only about 8% of the population speak it is as their native language, meaning it is not the most widely spoken language. In fact it only comes in at 5th place!

A descendant from Proto-Indo-European, it is very closely related to Hindi, and the two spoken languages are mutually intelligible. The main differences between them are the ways in which they are written: Hindi is written with the Devangari script, and reads left to right, whereas Urdu is written using the Persian-Arabic script, and like Arabic it reads from right to left.

Related posts:  T is for Tok-Pisin    V is for Vietnamese

T is for Tok Pisin

Tok Pisin is an English Creole – that is, it is based on English but with an influence from a variety of other languages. It started out as a pidgin, but it has now become a language in its own right. It is a relatively new language, only dating back to the 1800s.

Tok Pisin is one of the official languages of Papua New Guinea, jointly with English. It has only about 50 thousand native speakers, but about 4 million people speak it as a second language and it is already replaced many minority languages.

Tok Pisin means “talk business” and it is seen as the language of economic development in the countries where it is spoken, which perhaps helps to explain its growth in popularity.

If you’d like to learn some words in Tok Pisin, take a look at this online dictionary: www.tok-pisin.com

Related posts: S is for Spanish     U is for Urdu

S is for Spanish

Spanish, aka Castilian, is one of the Romance languages and the second most spoken language in the world after Chinese. It just spoken in Spain, most of Central and South America, and parts of Africa.

The language evolved from Latin, and its current form spread from the north of Spain, down through the country when the Christians reconquered the lands from the Moors. There is still lots of Moorish influence on the vocabulary, including words such as aceite (oil) aceituna (olive), albóndiga (meatball), alcalde (mayor) and aldea (village).

Spanish is a popular language to learn as a second language in the UK, partly because Spain is a popular holiday destination, and partly because its phonetic nature makes it easier to learn than some European languages such as French and its lack of cases makes it easier to learn than other European languages such as German.

Like most Romance languages, it has two genders (masculine and feminine) for nouns, and sentences follow a subject-verb-object word order. Probably the languages most distinctive features are the upside down question mark (¿) and the upside down exclamation mark (¡).

If you fancy learning some Spanish, there is a free course at FutureLearn. If you’d like some face-to-face lessons instead, then get in touch to see how I can help.

Related posts:  R is for Romance Languages     T is for Tok Pisin