The world’s languages are not always easy to master, but they are undoubtedly rich and full of peculiarities, specificities, and exceptions.
They are also full of curiosities, some of which can be surprising or amusing, like very long words of different types, with a particular pronunciation, to be constructed, deconstructed, and reconstructed.
Read on to discover some of the curiosities that make us love the languages of the world.
French is spoken on five continents
French, along with English, is the only language spoken on all 5 continents. About twenty-nine countries have French as an official language, including Switzerland, Canada, Belgium, and of course, France.
Vowels in French
The only word in French that has all the vowels in it is “oiseau,” which means “bird.”
Spanish has 88,000 words
The Royal Spanish Academy dictionary contains no less than 88,000 words.
Although this may seem like a very high number, English exceeds it with 350,000 words.
The first document in Spanish dates from the year 959 AD
The author of this document was a monk from the convent of San Justo y San Pastor in La Rozuela.
It is not, however, a text of great importance in terms of its content. It is in fact just a list of provisions and cheese deliveries from the convent.
Mandarin Chinese has no alphabet
The Chinese language does not use a Latin alphabet, but instead is composed of about 20,000 different characters. It is estimated that the average speaker uses about 3,000 characters.
Despite this, Mandarin can be transcribed with pinyin, a phonetic transcription system that converts the Chinese script to the Latin alphabet.
Tone pronunciation in Chinese
Mandarin Chinese has four tones and the meaning of a word can change depending on the tonal variation.
This is one of the major difficulties encountered by people studying Mandarin Chinese.
In German, all nouns are capitalized
In German, nouns are capitalized. Unlike English, this rule does not apply only to proper nouns. There are no exceptions.
The longest German word
German is known for its long and endless words.
One of the longest is “Grundstücksverkehrsgenehmigungszuständigkeitsübertragungsverordnung,” which means “regulation on the delegation of authority for real estate transfer authorizations.”
A long word can almost always be broken down into parts that are easier to understand. For example: “Staubsauger” (vacuum cleaner) is made up of the words for “dust” and “vacuum cleaner.”
k, j, w, x, y
What do these letters have in common? Well, no Italian word contains them.
Italian uses twenty-one letters of the Latin alphabet, and reserves the use of these other five letters for foreign words.
The longest Italian word
“Sovramagnificentissimamente” has the honor of being the longest Italian word in its dictionary.
With twenty-seven letters, it can compete with the longest words in the world. Its meaning is also curious, as it is used to say that you are “much more than magnificently.”
The most common Russian names
The most common names in Russia and in some of the Russian-speaking countries are “Aleksandr,” “Andrey,” “Vladislav,” “Dmitriy,” “Ivan,” “Ilia,” or “Nikita” for boys and “Anya,” “Alena,” “Dasha,” “Ekaterina,” “Irina,” or “Katya” for girls.
Blue in Russian
The Russian language has more expressions to refer to shades of blue than most other languages.
In fact, it divides these shades into light (голубой) and dark (синий). This fact is even more curious if we take into account that some languages do not even differentiate between blue and green.
Read also: What languages are spoken in China?