10 Languages You Probably Haven’t Heard Of – A look at 10 rare languages from around the world…

How many different languages have you heard of?

How many different languages have you heard of? Twenty? Thirty? Fifty?

It’s estimated that almost 7,000 spoken languages exist in the world today, yet it’s extremely unlikely that anyone will encounter even a fraction of them in their lifetime.

UNESCO has recorded around 2,500 endangered languages and, already, there are over 40 languages with only one speaker!

As well as these, there are countless languages which were once spoken by many and have fallen out of use.

Have you heard of any of the following languages?

Crimean Gothic

This extinct Germanic language was once spoken in isolated locations in Crimea (now part of Ukraine) until the late 18th century. There is only one source providing details of Crimean Gothic: a letter written in 1562 by the Flemish ambassador, Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq. The letter contains a list of around 80 words as well as a song; however there are misprints in the document which is unfortunately the only written record of this language.

Examples of the language:

Apel = Apple

Hus = House

Reghen = Rain

Dyirbal language

This Aboriginal language is only thought to be spoken by around five members of the Dyirbal tribe in Northwest Queensland, Australia. The language is growing steadily closer to extinction as the younger community members fail to learn it.

Examples of the language:

Bayi gagara = The moon

Balan buni = The fire

Gottscheerish (also known as Granish)

In the Gottschee region of Slovenia, Gottscheerish was the main language of communication before 1941. After the Second World War only a few hundred speakers remained in their homeland, while most immigrated to the USA. Today, most of the people who speak Gottscheerish live in the USA, but are unlikely to speak it as their first language. As it isn’t being practiced or learnt by the younger generation, Gottscheerish is now considered a critically endangered language by UNESCO.

Examples of the language:

1 = uains

2 = tsboai

3 = drai

Livonian language

This language, native to the Livonian Coast in Latvia, recently became extinct after the last native speaker died during 2013 at the age of 103. In the 13th century, there were around 30,000 people who spoke Livonian. Efforts are now being made to revive the language: it is currently being taught at universities in Latvia, Estonia and Finland to increase the number of second-language speakers.

Examples of the language:

Tēriņtš! = Hello!

Tienū! = Thank you!

Massachusett language

The Massachusett language (also called Pokanoket, Indian language, Wômpanâak or Natic) was once spoken by members of various Native American tribes who lived along the coast of Massachusetts. It became extinct in the late 19th century for a number of reasons including disease, war, starvation, execution, slavery and the increasing number of European immigrants. Since 1993 efforts have been made to revive the language and in 2011 there were 400 adult second-language learners and five children whose mother tongue was the Massachusett language.

Examples of the language:

annum = dog

noohsh = my father

Mentonasc

Historically, Mentonasc was spoken throughout the coastal region between Monaco and Ventimiglia. By the 19th century, the language was spoken in the territory of the “Free Cities of Menton and Roquebrune” – a smaller area than before. Its use has continued to decrease; today it is thought that around 10% of the population of Menton and a number of surrounding areas still speak Mentonasc.

Examples of the language:

Tempe à pailla = Time for yawning (a Mentonasc proverb)

Pazeh

This language, native to Taiwan, is another that has recently become extinct after the death of its last remaining native speaker at the age of 96. Before her death Pan Jin-yu taught the language to around 200 regular students.

Examples of the language:

1 = isaesa

2 = dusa

3 = turu

4 = supat

5 = xasep

Shelta

This is a language spoken by Irish Travellers and widely known as the Cant. It’s hard to determine the exact number of speakers but it is estimated there might be up to 86,000 worldwide.

Examples of the language:

Slum hawrum = Good morning

Slum dorahōg = Good evening

Tehuelche

This is an extinct Chon language of Patagonia. Speakers were originally nomadic hunters from Chile. The language started to decline when many tribes adopted Mapudungun as their main language.

Examples of the language:

Ahal = man

Karken = woman

Bade

This is a West Chadic language spoken by the Bade people of Yobe State and Jigawa State in Nigeria.

Examples of the language:

Fàgu = fall

Gàmsu = laugh

Had you heard of any of these before? If not, it’s hardly surprising when you consider how quickly languages are dying out. Every year we lose around 25 languages from around the world and it’s estimated that by the year 2100 a staggering 90% of languages may have ceased to exist.

The top 20 languages of the world are spoken by more than 50 million speakers each, so it’s safe to say these will be around for some time to come. But for languages hanging on by a thread such as some of those above, who knows how long they have left?

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