Languages of the World, from Australia to England

australia pinned on a map

This round up of language links to love takes us from a small South Pacific island near the continent of Australia to the global city of London, England, and then on to the tiny town Waxhaw, North Carolina, with just over 15,000 residents. Enjoy the trip!

Why Human Beings Speak So Many Languages

On a small island in the South Pacific named Makelua, residents speak around 40 different indigenous languages. This tiny isle joins almost 80 more as part of the densely linguistically-diverse Republic of Vanuatu, where over 200,000 people speak more than 100 different languages. Similarly, residents on the island of New Guinea in the tropics speak nearly 1,000 languages. These numbers reflect how far more indigenous languages can be found close to the equator than in more temperate areas around the globe. But linguists are not sure why this phenomenon occurs. Recent research in Australia explores the mystery of why our world has so much linguistic diversity, and why that diversity is not equally spread about geographically.

Top 5 Countries with the Most Languages

Counting roughly 900 languages, Papua New Guinea heads the list of most linguistically-diverse countries in the world. According to Ethnologue, Australia makes the top 10 with over 250 languages, and Vanuatu makes the top 20 with just over 100 languages.

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These five countries are the most linguistically diverse ones around the globe, representing almost 3,000 of the world’s roughly 7,000 languages. (Data by Enthologue)

Greetings from Cities Around the Globe

You can see the rich linguistic diversity of our world in this video compilation of greetings from around the globe. Produced by Cut, this charming YouTube clip captures salutations in a variety of languages and cultures from Addis Ababa and Bogota to Dubai and Tokyo. Note how not just spoken language but also gestures and body language may vary greatly depending on the culture and background of the speaker.

How London History Reflects Linguistic Diversity

Unique holdings at the Museum of London also demonstrate the diversity of the world’s languages. This global city is home to roughly 8.2 million people who speak over 300 languages. These languages include many regional and indigenous ones, like Basque and Welsh. Throughout history, London has been a cultural center, with immigrants from around the world contributing to the diverse metropolis. The Museum of London’s holdings showcase stories of French-speaking Huguenots, Chinese-speaking traders, Italian-speaking immigrants, and Yiddish-speaking members of the East End’s Jewish Community who have made this city home.

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From Chinese to Yiddish, London has long been rich in linguistic diversity, and today it is home to over 8 million people who speak roughly 300 languages. (Photo by Andrew Haimerl from Pexels)

What Written Alphabets Mean For Rare Languages

For an unusual glimpse into minority languages of the world, pay a visit to the Museum of the Alphabet, in Waxhaw, North Carolina. Established in the 1930s by the Summer Institute of Linguistics along with Wycliffe Bible Translators, the museum features 12 galleries that display a chronological history of the written word. In addition to exploring major languages like Arabic and Greek, the museum also documents how minority languages are codified, ie, how linguists help to preserve the over 2,000 languages that do not have written alphabets. These rare languages need written records to help protect and preserve the world’s rich linguistic history and diversity.
Almost one-third
of the world’s 7,000 languages
lack a written alphabet.
That’s over 2,000 languages!
Research in Australia and on neighboring South Pacific islands provide clues that help to illuminate the mystery of the world’s amazing linguistic diversity. (Photo by Catarina Sousa from Pexels)

Support for Linguistic Diversity with Language Services

AFLS understands the power and importance of language, and we seek to support the unique linguistic diversity of the world by providing language interpreting and language translation in over 400 different languages, from Afaan Oromoo and Afar to Zulu and Zuni. Do we have your language? Take a look at our language list to find out! And contact us today for a free quote!

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