Counting languages

Word cloud of the languages of Ghana

Most people are surprised to learn that there are over 7,000 languages spoken in the world today. Over 800 of those are dying and another 1500 are in danger of dying in a generation. Even assuming that all those will die within a generation, that will still leave upwards of 4,700 languages spoken in this world.

The Ethnologue has a fascinating page showing where the languages are an giving other facts about them. It features a fun, interactive map where each language is represented by a dot at its geographic center. There are clusters of dots into which you can zoom to see the details. There are other facts about languages as well, like a comparison of the number of languages to the number of people who speak them, and which countries have the most languages.

Did you know that it was only in the early 1990s that the number of languages in the world and their location was known with any accuracy and that it was Bible translators who made the effort to collect the information, compile it and make it public?

That is the case in Ghana too. A couple years ago, I worked with a small group of Ghanaians to produce a definitive list of Ghanaian languages. People use it to mobilize Ghanaian churches to get involved in translation. It works; because few people know all the languages of their country, nor do they know that some Ghanaian languages don’t have a translation.

4 thoughts on “Counting languages

  1. It is a great and glorious labor that you are engaged in. To provide a Bible in their mother tongue to every people group is a God inspired endeavor!

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  2. That truly is a fascinating map! I’m surprised we have so few languages from Alberta and East in Canada. Thought there would have been more First Nations languages than there are. Thanks for expanding our horizons, Ed.

    Like

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