Did You Know India Has Over 19,500 Mother Tongues? 15 Interesting Language Facts For You

Did You Know India Has Over 19,500 Mother Tongues? 15 Interesting Language Facts For You

New Delhi: The International Mother Language Day is observed every year on February 21 to celebrate the importance of linguistic diversity.  

The world has been observing the day since the year 2000, a year after the 1999 UNESCO General Conference approved the initiative proposed by Bangladesh.

February 21, locally called Ekushe February or just Ekushe, is one of the most important days observed in Bangladesh where many people, mostly the youth, sacrificed their lives in 1952 to save their mother tongue, Bangla, which was under threat when the country was East Pakistan.

UNESCO observes this day as it believes “multilingual and multicultural societies exist through languages that transmit and preserve traditional knowledge and cultures in a sustainable way”.

It is within its “mandate for peace that it works to preserve the differences in cultures and languages that foster tolerance and respect for others”.

On the occasion, let’s look at some of the most interesting facts about mother languages. 

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International Mother Language Day 2022: 15 Interesting Facts

  1. There are around 7,000 languages spoken in the world, according to UNESCO. An analysis of the 2011 census in India, released in 2018, however, says India alone has more than 19,500 languages or dialects that are spoken as mother tongues.
  2. 90% of the 7,000 world languages are used by less than 1 lakh people. 
  3. Over 1 million people converse in 150-200 languages.
  4. 46 languages have just one speaker.
  5. In India, there are 121 languages that are spoken by 10,000 or more people.
  6. Globally, 40% people do not have access to education in a language they speak or understand, according to UNESCO.
  7. Asia has 2,200 of the world’s languages, while Europe has 260.
  8. According to UNESCO, Mandarin Chinese, English, Spanish, Hindi, Arabic, Bengali, Russian, Portuguese, Japanese, German and French are the world’s most widely spoken languages based on the number of native speakers and as a second language.
  9. 2,500 languages are at risk of extinction, UNESCO says.
  10. Amharic, Arabic, Armenian, Bengali, Burmese, Chinese script, Cyrillic, Devanagari, Georgian, Greek, Hebrew, Japanese script, Khmer, Korean, Lao, Latin, Sinhala, Thai and Tibetan are are the world’s most widely-used alphabets, or scripts, which are still in use, according to a BBC report.
  11. Sanskrit, Sumerian, Hebrew and Basque are some of the oldest languages known.
  12. India has 22 scheduled languages, and 96.71 per cent population of the country have one of these as their mother tongue, according to the 2011 census analysis.
  13. The 22 languages included in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution are Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, Bodo, Santhali, Maithili and Dogri.
  14. There are 99 non-scheduled languages in India, which have less than 10,000 speakers each at the all-India level.
  15. Globally, since the 17th century, around 200 artificial languages have been created — some for communication among philosophers, and others for trade, commerce and international communication.

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