Y is for Yiddish

Yiddish is a Germanic language, but it has influences from Hebrew and (to a lesser extent) some Slavic languages, and it is written using the Hebrew alphabet.

100 years ago Yiddish was spoken by approximately 18 million people. It began to decline as Jewish people dropped their language in an effort to be seen to integrate more with their neighbours. After the Holocaust, the language almost disappeared completely and there are now only around three million speakers. It is listed on the UNESCO endangered languages list as “definitely endangered”. The language is, however, experiencing a revival.

Related posts: X is for Xhosa   Z is for…

X is for Xhosa

xXhosa is one of the 11 official languages in South Africa, and after Zulu it is the second most common home language with about 8 million speakers. It is closely related to Zulu and the two languages are mutually intelligible.

Xhosa it is noted for its clicks, of which there are 15: 5 each of dental clicks, lateral clicks and alveolar clicks. It is written using the Latin alphabet, with c x and q representing the clicks. It also has tones like Chinese, although it is not related to Chinese.

To hear the clicks, have a look at this video of Miriam Makeba singing the Click Song.

Related posts: W is for Welsh   Y is for…

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