Countries With More Than One Language

There are several countries in which more than one NaturalLanguage is spoken. Here is a surely incomplete list.

The list of countries in which only one Language is spoken is much shorter than the list of countries in which more than one Language is spoken.

[Obviously. On the other hand, many (most?) countries have only one `official language'.]

http://www.ethnologue.com/web.asp has a searchable index of countries and their languages.
How exactly are we drawing this definition, anyway? There are plenty of languages spoken in the UnitedStates, for example. Only one of them is dominant, but many more are used.

I created this page. But I don't know. What do you think would be interesting?

Possibilities:
Would you differentiate between indigenous languages and those of settled groups. For example in England we have the Indigenous languages of English, Welsh and Gaelic. (Welsh is not really indigenous of England, apart from parts of the borders which used to be Wales.) The EU also recognise British Sign Language as an indigenous language of the U.K. There are also a lot of languages brought by recent immigrants, for example I have heard that there are now more people in Britain with Urdu as their first language as Gaelic. Certainly where I live, it is not uncommon to see signs in Urdu and English. I realised that such a distinction would be a can of worms (would the U.S. count English as an introduced dialect and Native American languages as the original, for example). Even so, many books list the languages of Britain as English, Welsh and Gaelic, ignoring the large numbers of people who have other first languages. Some books even mention Cornish as a language of Britain, even though it is only spoken by half a dozen people, for none of whom it is a first language, with the sole aim of keeping it alive. -- ChrisBrooking?

The USA has no OfficialLanguage? (thank the Good Lord above!)...

While the U.S. may not be "officially" English-speaking in the same sense that Canada is officially English and French, this has little practical effect (e.g., there is a much language diversity in Canada as the U.S.). In other words, you may not have a de-jure standard, but you certainly have a de-facto one. The "official" language(s) of a country are those in which the government does its business. I certainly doubt that you can fill in your taxes or get congressional documents, for example, in Farsi.

The Pro-Hate movement in the U.S. wants to have an official language (beyond the simple fact our Declaration of Independence and Constitution are written in a language that our historians tell us later evolved into modern English) to further disadvantage those who don't speak it.

Sorry, but not everyone who wants an official language for the U.S. is motivated in this way. Agreed. Many want an official language so that the immigrants will have an incentive to learn a common language so that they can communicate with both native-born and other recent immigrants. Otherwise how will the Korean shopkeeper find common ground with the Guatemalan day laborers who frequent his store? It seems that the Korean shopkeeper already has an incentive to learn the common language. How would making the language "official" intensify that incentive?

Here in NewYorkCity, you can take your driver's license exam in Spanish. I believe that there are all other kinds of government forms that are available in Spanish as well. I think there are similar measures taken in California, for people who speak Spanish, Korean, Chinese, etc., etc. ...

Some statistical data on U.S. citizens-former immigrants http://www.visa2003.com/citizenship/dual.htm and the impact of bilingual U.S. citizens on the concept of "official" language.

The Sears company once promised that you could send in your order in any language and they would try to fill it.

Texas also has a lot of spanish speakers, and here, in the heart of the AmishPeople, there are enough SpanishSpeakers? to mandate having government services in spanish, and knowing spanish is a strong incentive for many area businesses to hire you. --JoshuaBoyd?

We were pleasantly surprised to hear a Latino station in Lancaster (though I prefer classical myself :-))

Myself, I don't really care that much for any of the surounding radio stations. I'll listen to NPR sometimes, or the sanitized, studioized, thing that passes for an Alternative station, but the mostly only play junk. I'm glad I bought myself a car CD player.

BTW, if I remember correctly, 51 percent of the people in the city limits are either hispanic or black. However, the city is a small part of the county. Look at the county and the numbers swing the other way, but it is also changing rapidly, because around here, the suburbs are also really cheap to live in.

How is "official language" of a country defined? Does it refer to the language used in "official" situations (i.e. government transactions, court proceedings, etc), or does it mean all citizens of the said country must know that language? OTOH, what does The USA has no Official Language means? Can a lawyer use whatever language he pleases in the US courts? Can new citizen swears in e.g., Korean, when he attains US citizenship? Can you submit tax forms in Chinese to US IRS dept?

I recently heard that France hosts 75 distinct "language communities", and is not atypical in this regard; where a "language community" is any one large enough for daily use of the language in question. The list included Occitan, Persian, Spanish... -- LaurentBossavit


The UnitedKingdom example is misleading.

>English, Scots Gaelic, (Irish) Gaelic, Cornish, (plus several from India...)

Welsh is spoken by a significant proportion of the population as a first language in some parts of Wales, but not elsewhere. It used to be more widespread but the English authorities tried to stamp it out, by banning its use in schools etc. This process has been in reverse for some time - you now cannot teach in Wales unless you speak Welsh. It is particularly strong in the North West, where it never really died out.

Scots Gaelic is only spoken in small parts of Scotland, especially the islands in the West. I would hazard a guess that most Scots do not speak it at all. English has been the first language in the major cities for centuries. It is however experiencing a revival.

Many in Scotland used to speak Lallans, which is even rarer than Scots Gaelic now. As might be guessed from the name it was spoken in the lowlands and borders of Scotland - which incidentally cover many of those major cities.

The last native Cornish speaker died in the 18th century. The language has been revived by academics and enthusiasts by I can't imagine that anyone speaks it as a first language. There were riots in the early 17th century in Cornwall (Kernow) (the far South West of England) when the Bible was first made available in English under King James I. People were protesting that it was in English not in Cornish. Yet within 150 years the language was effectively dead.

Even in the RepublicOfIreland? (not part of the UnitedKingdom) Gaelic, although an official language, it is only spoken as a first language in areas in the South West of the country. It is a requirement that people in official posts pass a test in Gaelic, but it has long been commented upon that postmen are more likely to know it than Government ministers.

Northern Ireland (Ulster or the North of Ireland, depending on your political leanings) is English speaking, with only Republicans using Gaelic.

There are obviously lots of imigrant communities who speak other languages as a first language, but these languages are typically lost by second or third generations.

In England we suffer from the same problem as the people of the U.S. - knowledge of other languages is poor compared to other European countries. The UnitedKingdom cannot be compared to countries like Belgium which truly use more than one language. It is really only in North West Wales that another language has any prominence.
Languages in India
The Indian languages belong to four language families: Indo-European, Dravidian, Mon-Khmer, and Sino-Tibetan. IndoEuropeanLanguages and Dravidian languages are used by a large majority of India's population. The language families divide roughly into geographic groups. Languages of the Indo-European group are spoken mainly in northern and central regions. The languages of southern India are mainly of the Dravidian group. Some ethnic groups in Assam and other parts of eastern India speak languages of the Mon-Khmer group. People in the northern Himalayan region and near the Burmese border speak Sino-Tibetan languages.

Speakers of 54 different languages of the IndoEuropeanLanguage family make up about three-quarters of India's population. Twenty Dravidian languages are spoken by nearly a quarter of the people. Speakers of 20 Mon-Khmer languages and 98 Sino-Tibetan languages together make up about 2 per cent of the population.

Hindi is the principal official language of India. Sanskrit and 16 regional languages are also official languages. English has the status of an "associate" language. Hindi is the native language of more than a third of India's people, and many others speak Hindi as a second language. Only about 2 per cent speak English but it serves as a common language among most educated Indians, and people use it for many official and administrative purposes.

- from http://www.abhishek.mybravenet.com/languages%20of%20india.htm . An excellent page about Indian languages and scripts is at http://www.cs.colostate.edu/~malaiya/scripts.html .


CategoryNaturalLanguage

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