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……

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…..

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

R is for Romance languages

The most common Romance languages are Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, Romanian and Catalan. Other lesser-known ones include Occitan, Galician, Asturian, Sicilian, Corsican and Sardinian. In all there are about 35 living Romance languages. Sadly their name comes from the word Roman and not the word romantic.

The Romance languages are the ones that evolve from vulgar Latin. Vulgar here means common, ie the version of Latin actually spoken by the common people, compared to the classical Latin of the church and of the elite. Originally vulgar Latin and classical Latin were mutually intelligible, but over time vulgar Latin evolved into the various Romance languages and the people were no longer able to understand classical Latin.

Most Romance languages have lost some of the more difficult aspects of Latin, such as declensions and cases. Because of this they have a much stricter subject-verb-object word order, and they make more use of prepositions.

There are about 800 million speakers of Romance languages in the world and most of them are in Europe, Africa and the Americas. In Europe the places where Romance languages are spoken roughly equates to the boundaries of the Western Roman empire.

And to return to the statement in the first paragraph about the Romance coming from Roman and not romantic, there is a link between the words. Back in those days, “serious” literature was written in classical Latin. Popular tales, such as love stories, were written in the common (ie  Romance) language, and so they came to be called romances.

Related posts: Q is for Quechua   S is for Spanish

P is for Proto-Indo-European

Proto-Indo-European is the common ancestor of many of the India and European languages spoken today. Little is known about it, because it wasn’t a written language, but linguists have traced languages backwards, using their knowledge of how languages evolve, to reconstruct what PIE probably sounded like.

Because there are no written records, nobody even knows for sure how long ago it was spoken, or where it originated, but the theory is that it dates back to between 5000 and 2500 BC and that the speakers lived around the Black Sea area. From there they probably migrated across Europe and Asia and the language evolved in different ways to the languages we speak today.

I came across this article a while back and found it fascinating. Have a look and listen to what Proto-Indo-European was probably like! Telling Tales in Proto-Indo-European – Archaeology Magazine.

Related posts:  O is for Ojibwe      Q is for Quechua