Language facts: Thai

Thai, also called Siamese, is the official language of Thailand, a country in Southeast Asia with a population of 63 million people. However, only about 20 million of the people in Thailand are native speakers.
Thai is a tonal language. Different tones give different meaning, which makes it quite difficult to learn the language in the beginning. In spoken form, Thai is very similar and in fact mutually intelligible with Lao (the language of Laos). Both Thai and Lao belong to the Kra–Dai language family that covers dialects in the area of southern China, northeast of India and parts of Southeast Asia. 
There are various dialects of Thai used in Thailand and while scholars and linguists consider these to be separate, albeit related languages, the native speakers tend to perceive it as one language with regional dialects. 

‘Corruption’ in Thai vocabulary

Thai vocabulary consists of many foreign expressions, and paints a picture of historical development in the region. The Chinese influence, mainly until the 13th century when the Chinese script was replaced with Sanskrit and Pali scripts, caused there to be a good deal of words from Middle China. Trade relations with the West has also influenced the language considerably. Notably, basic trade-related and religious words were taken over from Portuguese, as that was also the first European nation to arrive in Thailand in the 16th century (words such as padre for a priest, carta for paper or real for a coin, etc.). English has become the most influential language since the 20th century, mainly when it comes to technical, scientific and modern society terms (such as computer, graph, government, technology, visa, taxi, diesel, and even corruption and wreath). 

Alphabet includes tone forms

The Thai alphabets were first introduced in the 13th century by an ancient great king. Over time, the characters have changed in appearance. Today the language contains 44 consonants with 42 that are still in use, and 21 vowels in 32 combinations.
Thai words are often – although not always – composed of characters. That means in one single column, there may be up to three characters including consonant, vowel, and tone composed together. 
When it comes to transcription of the Thai alphabet into Latin, there is no universally accepted method to follow, resulting in Thai words being transcripted differently. In fact, an ISO standard for Thai-Latin transcription exists since 2003 and is even used by Google Translate, but yet not very common in daily use (e.g. in textbooks or instructional texts).
For this reason, it is highly recommended to learn the Thai script in order to master the language itself.

Consonants:
ถ ท ธ น บ ป ผ ฝ พ ฟ ภ ม ย ร ล ว ศ ษ ส ห ฬ อ ฮ ก ข ฃ ค ฅ ฆ ง จ ฉ ช ซ ฌ ญ ฎ ฏ ฐ ฑ ฒ ณ ด ต

Vowels:
ะ ั า ํ ิ ่ ่ ่ ุ ู เ โ ใ ไ ็ อ ว ย ฤ ฤๅ ฦ ฦๅ

Tone forms: ่ ้ ๊ ๋

Language facts: Azerbaijani

Azerbaijani, also known as Azeri (or Azeri Turkish), belongs to the Turkic language family and is spoken by some 25-35 million people. There are two variants of the language, North and South, and it is used by the Azerbaijani people in southwestern Asia (also referred to as Transcaucasia, or the South Caucasus region). 

North Azerbaijani is the official language of Azerbaijan and is spoken mainly in Azerbaijan, southern Dagestan and along the Caspian coast. South Azerbaijani is spoken in East and West Azerbaijan and in parts of Iran and Kurdistan, Iraq, Syria and Asian Turkey. 
Azerbaijani is closely related to Turkish, Qashqai and Turkmen. There are various levels of mutual intelligibility between each of the named languages. Turkish and Azerbaijani speakers are actually able to communicate with each other quite easily, not only due to historical reasons, but also due to being exposed to each other's cultures via radio and television. 

Lingua franca of Transcaucasia

From about the 16th to 20th century, Azeri served as a lingua franca of the Transcaucasia region, which could also be a reason why it adopted so many loan words and expressions from the Persian, Arabic, Ottoman Turkish and Russian languages. After the region was conquered by the Russian empire in the 19th century, there was a split in the development of the language, as the Azeri-speaking community was divided between two states (Russia – later the Soviet union, and Persia – now Iran). The Soviets, albeit promoting the language development, made two significant changes to the language by changing its script two times in a relatively short period of time, from the Persian script to the Latin script and later to the Cyrillic one. The Azerbaijani community in Iran kept using the Persian script. Azerbaijani did not become an official language until 1956. 

Alphabet

The country decided to abandon Azbuka and switch to the Latin Script after gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1990's. The language and its variants are practically still using 3 writing systems: Latin, Cyrillic, and Perso-Arabic. The North Azerbaijani use both Latin and Cyrillic scripts, while South Azerbaijani have adopted the Perso-Arabic writing system.
This is the Latin alphabet:

A Ə B C Ç D E F G Ğ H X I İ J K Q L M N O Ö P R S Ş T U Ü V Y Z a ə b c ç d e f g ğ ı i j k q l m n o ö p r s ş t u ü v y z

Language facts: Flemish

Flemish, or Vlaams in Dutch, is the standard Dutch variant spoken in the Belgian region of Flanders by around 6.1 million speakers, sometimes also referred to as Southern Dutch. It includes several dialects, all of which (depending on who you ask) are interrelated with the southwestern dialects of Dutch. 

Differences between Flemish and Dutch

Flemish, or Vlaams, is actually highly similar to the Dutch language used in the Netherlands. The official language in Belgium's Flemish region is indeed Dutch, and along with German and French you then have the country's three official languages. In essence, the Dutch languages are the same, and the only main differences are in pronunciation and frequency of some words. Because certain expressions (around 3-4,000) are more frequent in Belgian Dutch, many people refer to the language as Flemish, however, the words are really part of standard Dutch. There are no spelling differences between Dutch in Belgium and Dutch in the Netherlands.

Dutch pride

However, in actual practice, many Dutch nationals often question Dutch text content when they find it 'suspicious' or slightly off. This is probably a natural reaction and similar to what Germans things of Austrian and Swiss German: it simply sounds wrong.

Loan words in Dutch

In case of loan words, interestingly, Flemish speakers tend to apply Dutch pronunciation, whereas speakers in Netherlands maintain the original foreign pronunciation. Compared to Dutch, Flemish has also adopted many more loan words from French. The main difference between the languages is exposed in informal usage though. The pronunciation, slang expressions, and also common phrases can be very different, so different that Dutch television programs are sometimes even subtitled in Belgium and vice versa.

Alphabet

The Flemish alphabet is identical to the Dutch alphabet. The most frequently used letter is "e". Also, notice the unique IJ character.

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y IJ Z

a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y ij z

Language facts: Portuguese and its spelling reform

Portuguese is the official language of Portugal and Brazil, a number of African nations, as well as an official EU language. Portuguese is a Romance language that originated in what is now Galicia (Spain) and northern Portugal. It is derived from the Latin language spoken by the Romanized Pre-Roman peoples of the Iberian Peninsula around 2,000 years ago. The language spread worldwide in the 15th and 16th centuries as Portugal established a colonial and commercial empire. It is one of the world's major languages, ranked 6th according to number of native speakers (approx 180 million). Together with Spanish, Portuguese is the fastest growing language in Europe. 

One language, two separate spellings

After the Portuguese Republic was established in 1911, a lot of efforts were put into standardisation of Portugal's orthography, for a very noble reason of increasing literacy of its people. It's rather interesting that unlike French and Spanish, Portuguese actually had no official spelling until 1911, and people literally wrote at will. After the new standard became official in Portugal, it was adopted also in the (then Portuguese) overseas territories of Angola, Cape Verde, East Timor, Moçambique, São Tomé and Príncipe,Guinea-Bissau, Macau, and Portuguese-controlled Indian territories.

However, the country with most Portuguese native speakers in the world, Brazil, was never consulted about the 1911 reform, and thus did not accept it. After decades-long negotiations, Brazil finally introduced its own orthography in 1938, based on an agreement with Portugal from 1931 that defined the general orthographic principles.

Nevertheless, it soon became apparent that the orthographies, albeit similar, were not identical. In some cases, there was different spelling between the two language variants due to differences between Brazilian and European Portuguese pronunciation.

In 1990 (sic!), after a series of failed negotiations, The Portuguese Language Orthographic Agreement was reached. Ratified in 2004 in Brazil and in 2008 in Portugal, the Agreement has been mandatory since January 1st, 2015 in all Portuguese-speaking nations in the world.

Stark reality, however, suggests the two countries have not managed to meet the goal of merging their languages. The peoples of Brazil and Portugal still use different words and expressions for the same ideas, concepts and things. Especially in technical translation, where idioma is very active, the expressions differ. Despite the good intent of the language reform mediators, it is indeed difficult to make two countries merge into a common language and apply it 100%. Brazil and Portugal are still not there, and all the other other Portuguese enclaves are probably even further afar, many of them, like Moçambique, taking in loanwords from neighboring countries.

Alphabet

Portuguese uses 23 letters of the Latin alphabet with five types of diacritics, as Portuguese also recognizes Á, Â, Ã, À, Ç, É, Ê, Í, Ó, Ô, Õ, Ú. These are not regarded as independent letters and do not have separate entries in dictionaries. 

A B C D E F G H I J L M N O P Q R S T U V X ZAdobeStock 118004314

a b c d e f g h i j l m n o p q r s t u v x z

Language facts: Serbian

Serbian is a member of the South Slavic group of languages and is the official language of Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. There are about 6.5 million speakers of the language in Serbia, and also 500,000 speakers in Montenegro plus 1.6 million speakers in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Serbian is also recognized as a minority language in Croatia, Macedonia, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, and Czechia (partly due to immigration during the Balkan war in the 1990s).

War of languages

Serbian language actually shares it's base with Serbo-Croatian, the official language of former Yugoslavia, from which also Standard Croatian, Bosnian and Montenegrin were derived. During the existence of the socialist Yugoslavian federation, there was a fierce emphasis on the "One Language" policy pursued by the federal government. This language policy was in line with the general "Unification" policy of Yugoslavia, aiming for suppression of the historical division lines between the regions, as well as nationalistic tendencies in Croatia, Bosnia and Montenegro. In fact, the now-accepted stand-alone languages in the separate national states of the former Yugoslavian federation were considered merely regional variants of the same Serbo-Croatian language that simply served to "enrich" the constitutional version. 

After the breakup of Yugoslavia in the early 90s and the ensuing war, the language differences became one of the subjects of the conflict between the former federal nations and one of the biggest symbols for individual national identities.

Alphabet

Serbian is the only European language that practically uses two different writing systems, and can be written in both the Serbian Cyrillic script and Serbian Latin. Both writing systems were promoted in Yugoslavia. The Cyrillic script has official status under the 2006 Constitution of Serbia, but the Latin script continues to gain ground as a result of its popularity among the business community and urban population. The basic principle of Serbian is “Write as you speak and read as it is written”. 

Cyrillic

А Б В Г Д Ђ Е Ж З И Ј К Л Љ М Н Њ О П Р С Т Ћ У Ф Х Ц Ч Џ Ш

а б в г д ђ е ж з и ј к л љ м н њ о п р с т ћ у ф х ц ч џ ш

Latin

A B C Č Ć D Dž Đ E F G H I J K L Lj M N Nj O P R S Š T U V Z Ž

a b c č ć d dž đ e f g h i j k l lj m n nj o p r s š t u v z ž

Language facts: US Spanish

To begin with, it is interesting to know that according to the Instituto Cervantes' study, there is actually more Spanish speakers in the USA than in Spain itself. Wow!

With more than 40 million native speakers and 11 million bilinguals (mostly children of Spanish-speaking immigrants), the USA is, in fact, the world's second largest Spanish-speaking country, right after Mexico. 

For real facts, according to the US Census Office estimates, the USA will become the largest Spanish-speaking country by 2050 with around 138 million of speakers, that means approx. 1 in 3 Americans (and not counting on any Wall building). 

Status of the Spanish language in the USA

Since 1980, the number of Spanish-speakers in the US has almost quadrupled in absolute numbers, while their share of the population went from 5 to 13%. Most Spanish-speakers are concentrated in states bordering with Mexico (California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas) and the havens for immigrants on the East coast, mainly Florida, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts. However, it's the long history of Mexicans vs. Americans as well as the general immigration that puts Spanish into its current standing. The USA do not have any language constituted as an Official Language, although the most dominant working language used by institutions is obviously English, and on top of that the American version. In states with a large distribution of Spanish speakers, such as New Mexico or California, official documents are issued bilingually. The exception is Puerto Rico, which, despite being part of the US Commonwealth, uses Spanish as the official primary language. 

US Spanish dialects

Spanish used around in the US can be distinguished by dialects and origin, mainly Mexican, Caribbean and Central American Spanish. The English language influenced the Spanish used in the US (and vice versa), while it is quite common for the Latino community to mix Spanish and English, resulting in a fusion called Spanglish (popular mainly among younger generations). The environment is also a factor here, while the US Spanish-speakers tend to color the language with local US English accents and convenient English words thrown in.

Spanish is also by far the most common foreign language included in American school plans from elementary schools up to university level, and with following generations of Spanish-speaking immigrants, there is a strong will to preserve the background and speech of Spanish language.

Translation into Spanish for the U.S.

Is there a need to translate into Spanish for residents in the United States? Probably not. There are so many Spanish "languages", all with their flavors and idiosyncrasies. Standard Spanish is understood by just about any Spanish adept around the world, for Spanish in the USA, Mexican Spanish with a dash of American words are probably acceptable for local incentives.

Addressing a population of millions of speakers will require "standard" Latin American Spanish. We are all ears on this. After all, in the translation industry, we have so many flavors of Spanish on the American side. Everyone understand each other, but somebody chose to chop up American Spanish into ethnic groups, each with their own language code.

Today this is overwhelming, and there should be no need to serve local Spanish flavors to the Americas.

Language facts: Belarusian

Belarusian, or White Russian (or White Ruthenian), is an East Slavic language spoken by somewhere between 7 and 9 million people, most of them residing in Belarus. It is an official language in Belarus and parts of Poland. Belarusian is most closely related to Ukrainian, and it is indeed also a minority language in Ukraine. 

Belarusian, Russian and Ukrainian are in fact mutually intelligible to a certain extent (due to their connection to the Ruthenian language, the form of Old Slavonian spoken in the region).

Officially unofficial language

While Belarusian has had a troubled past and originally was regarded as a rural language for peasants, even assuming the second role to Russian in years after the Second World War, it has survived as a national and official language of Belarus. It shares this position with Russian. Surprisingly, out of a population of 9.5 million people, only about half are able to write in the language, while ten percent of the population does not understand Belarusian at all. According to an analysis of the official 2009 Belarus census, more than 70% of the Belarus population declared to speak Russian at home, which is perceived as a mother tongue by the majority. After all, as many other languages of the East-European area, Belarusian has also been formed within the clashes of geopolitical power games, where linguistics and politics often go hand-in-hand. 

Alphabet

Belarusian uses the Cyrillic alphabet, but previously also made use of the Latin alphabet. In the 16th century, Belarusian was even written in the Arabic script (so-called Belarusian Arabic alphabet) and was used by the Lipka Tatar settlers who were invited to the Belarusian lands. In the course of about two centuries of assimilation, the Tatars resumed speaking their original language and switched to Old Belarusian. 

А Б В Г Д Е Ё Ж З И Й К Л М Н О П Р С Т У Ф Х Ц Ч Ш Ы Ь Э Ю Я 

а б в г д е ё ж з и й к л м н о п р с т у ф х ц ч ш ы ь э ю я

Language facts: Malay

Malaysian (sometimes called also Malacca) is the official language of Malaysia and Singapore. The language is also known as Standard Malay and is closely related to Indonesian. It is the native language of some 10 million people but is spoken by many ethnic minorities and the overall number of speakers is now estimated to about 290 million, making it a major world language.

Language with mixed heritage

Malaysian was declared the official language of Malaysia in 1957 and is today officially known as Bahasa Melayu. While Malaysian is the sole official language of Malaysia, English is still widely used throughout the country, especially in professional and commercial fields, and also in superior courts. In fact, the language can be said to be a mixture of many languages as it has borrowed many words from Arabic, Indian dialects, Persian, Dutch, Portuguese, Chinese dialects, and lately English in the colonial era. In the field of science and technology, many English terms have been adopted. It is then heavily influenced by the Indonesian language. Around the 15the century, Malay was even a lingua franca of the Malacca Sultanate during which time the language evolved fast, mainly thanks to the big influence of Islamic texts. Malaysia being bordered by seas on the east and west coasts as well as in the south, Malay has also been widely used also as a language of trade.

Alphabet

Malaysian uses the standard 26 letters in the Latin alphabet without any diacritics.  

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Language facts: Latvian

Latvian is the official state language of Latvia and an official EU language. There are about 1.5 million native Latvian speakers in Latvia and about 150,000 abroad.

Latvian is one of the two living languages of the Balts (the other being Lithuanian), a group of its own within the Indo-European language family. Latvian is an inflective language with several analytical forms, three dialects, and German syntactical influence (as the ruling class in the Baltic region were Germans until the 19th century). In German, the language is actually called Lettish, which is also an older English term for Latvian. 

Language as a living relic

It is still a bit of a mystery how the Baltic languages really developed in early stages when evolving from the Proto-Indo-European language, the common ancestor of the largest language family in the world (the Indo-European). Both Latvian and Lithuanian contain linguistic features supposedly characteristic of the early stages of the proto-language, which makes the Baltic branch particularly interesting to academics. In fact, Latvian and Lithuanian used to be just dialects of one common language in the Baltics and started to differentiate more only after the 8th century AD. Mutually intelligible dialects still existed in modern history (estimates go back as late as to the 17th century). 

Apart from German, also the Russian language had its say in modern Latvian language evolution. (It's actually very interesting to observe the outlines of historical conflicts and battles for influence zones mainly on minor languages of Central and Eastern Europe, based on the German and Russian linguistic impact). The first wave of Russification in the late 19th century, followed by almost 50 years of Soviet occupation (from 1941 to 1990) as well as Stalin's intent for Russia to colonize the Baltic region diminished the ethnic Latvian population (from 80% before World War II to only 52% in 1989). After massive deportations of Latvians, the area was populated by immigrants who kept Russian as their mother tongue. After the Soviet union collapsed in 1991, Latvia introduced policies to strengthen the use as well as education of the Latvian language and the number of native Latvian speakers increased to more than 60% in Latvia accordingly.

Alphabet

The modern standard Latvian alphabet uses 22 unmodified letters of the Latin alphabet (all except Q, W, X and Y). It adds a further eleven letters by modification. Latvian spelling has almost perfect correspondence between graphemes and phonemes. Every phoneme has its own letter so that a reader need not learn how a word is pronounced, but simply pronounce it. 

A, Ā, B, C, Č, D, E, Ē, F, G, Ģ, H, I, Ī, J, K, Ķ, L, Ļ, M, N, Ņ, O, P, R, S, Š, T, U, Ū, V, Z, Ž

a b c d e f g h i k l m n o p q r s t v x y z

Language facts: Vietnamese

Vietnamese belongs to the Austroasiatic language family (that also includes Khmer, which is spoken in Cambodia). It was heavily influenced by the Chinese due to centuries of Chinese rule and as a result around half of the Vietnamese vocabulary consists of naturalized Chinese expressions. Later, as a result of the French occupation and strong cultural influence from the West, a lot of new words were added (such as "tivi" for TV).

An emigrated language

Vietnamese is the national language of Vietnam, spoken by approximately 70 million people in Vietnam and about another 3 million mostly in East and Southeast Asia, as well as the United States and Australia as a result of vast Vietnamese emigration. Vietnamese-speaking communities and their cultural influence that surprisingly integrates Vietnamese minorities has caused the language to be recognized in very surprising parts of the world. In the Czech Republic, for example, Vietnamese even has an official status. It is recognized as one of the minority languages that entitles Czech citizens from the Vietnamese community to use Vietnamese language in communication with the public authorities as well as courts. In those municipalities where Vietnamese exceed 10% of population, the language is used also in public information channels (including election information), and the minority is entitled to require assistance in its language.

Alphabet

Vietnamese uses the Latin alphabet (quốc ngữ), but with frequent use of diacritics, and has borrowed a large part of its vocabulary from Chinese. Formerly until the 20th century, the language was written using the modified Chinese writing system set (chữ nôm). 

 

A Ă Â B C D Đ E Ê G H I K L M N O Ô Ơ P Q R S T U Ư V X Y

a ă â b c d đ e ê g h i k l m n o ô ơ p q r s t u ư v x y

Language facts: Slovenian

Slovenian (or Slovene) is a Slavic language from the South Slavic group, most closely related to Croatian and a distant relative of languages such as Russian. Slovenian should NOT be confused with the Slovak language, which does not have much in common with Slovenian, apart from both being Slavic languages. Interestingly, both languages call their own language by the same expression – slovensky/i, sloven(s)cina – which literally means Slavic in the old Slavonian. Slovenian is spoken by about 2 million people in Slovenia – a small country, but with both high mountains (Alps) and a sea (the Adriatic sea), as well as Slovenian communities in neighboring countries and immigrants around the world. Slovenian is also an official EU language.

The least homogeneous Slavic language

Slovenian is a heavily inflected language with some ancient grammatical peculiarities, such as the dual grammatical number. Despite the small number of speakers, the dialects are heavily diversified and strong dialects from opposite sides of the country, influenced by neighboring languages, are practically mutually unintelligible. This was due to the fact that compulsory schooling was in other languages than Slovenian (mainly German and Italian). Standardized Slovenian as a national language was formed in the 18th century based on the Upper and Lower Carnolian dialects. 

Alphabet

Slovenian uses the Latin alphabet, without the letters Q, X, Y, W and with the addition of a few extra letters. The letters Q, X, Y, W, however, are used as independent letters in encyclopedias and dictionary listings (and as such are included in the alphabet here). 

A B C Č Ć D Đ E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S Š T U V W X Y Z Ž

a b c č ć d đ e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s š t u v w x y z ž

Language facts: Estonian

Estonian belongs to the Finno-Ugric group of languages, which has its roots somewhere behind the Ural Mountains (together with Hungarian, Finnish, etc.). Today, there are several dozens small Finno-Ugric populations settled in North Europe, in the Volga and Ural region, and in Siberia and the Russian Far North. 

Closest to Estonian are the Finnish languages, first of all Finnish itself. Estonian is, in fact, currently spoken by less than a million people in Estonia where it is the official language, and smaller communities scattered throughout the world. Estonian is also one of the official EU languages.

Two languages in one

Historically, there were actually two Estonian languages used in Estonia: the Northern and the Southern Estonian. The reason for this differentiation is quite interesting, as it results from the two main separate migration waves of the old ancestors of today's Estonians. The migration waves were not apart from each other just in terms of time, but also the separate groups used considerably different vernaculars. The modern version of Estonian is derived from the Northern Estonian dialects. Due to historical reasons (e.g. Northern Crusades, World War Two and the Soviet expansion), Estonian was quite neglected in the area, mainly in terms of literature. The first written form of Estonian is not older than the 13th century. Estonian is also heavily influenced by the languages of nations who took over the rule over the Estonian lands at various points in time, namely Sweden, Germany and Russia.

Alphabet

In addition to the standard English alphabet, Estonian includes Š Ž Õ Ä Ö Ü. Loanwords can include F, Š, Z and Ž, while C, Q, W, X and Y are used in writing foreign proper names. These letters are not considered part of the Estonian alphabet, though. It is also worth mentioning that Estonian uses up to three degrees of phonetic length (not just short and long, but also "overlong"), thus one word can have three different meanings based on how much effort (length) is put into pronouncing it.

 

A B D E G H I J K L M N O P R S T U V Õ Ä Ö Ü a b d e g h i j k l m n o p r s t u v õ ä ö ü

Language facts: Tagalog

Tagalog (also known as Filipino or the native Pilipino) is one of the two official languages of the Philippines, the other being English. Tagalog is an Austronesian language and as such related to Malay, Javanese and Hawaiian. Tagalog is the first language of one third of the Philippines with about 21.5 million speakers, and the second language of the remaining two thirds (approximately 70 million speakers) who use other regional languages such as Ilocano, Cebuano, Waray, Bikolano, Bisaya, etc. The language is also spoken by many ethnic minorities (including 1.5 million diaspora in the United States).

Mysterious language ruled by the Spanish

Very little is known about Tagalog that most likely has its origins in Mindanao (the second largest island in the Philipines). Literally Tagalog means “river dweller”. It was declared the official language by the Philippines’ first constitution in 1897. Today, Tagalog is concentrated to the central and southern parts of Luzon, but is also spoken on many other islands. 

Tagalog's first written record dates back to 900 AD, while the first book known to be written in Tagalog – the Doctrina Christiana – came to light by the end of 16th century (1593) and used also Spanish alongside Tagalog.

The Spanish colonists and the strong Christian culture they brought upon the islands heavily influenced evolution of (not just) the languages of the Phillipines. It was, after all, Spanish monk Pedro de San Buenaverture, who wrote the first dictionary of Tagalog. Interestingly, another and much more substantial dictionary (Vocabulario de la lengua tagala) was written by Czech Jesuit, Paul Klein, who published several other books in Tagalog.

Alphabet

Until 1987, Tagalog was based on a writing system consisting of 20 Latin letters, the so called ABAKADA alphabet. Today it adopts 28 letters under the official name Filipino.

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N Ñ NG O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

a b c d e f g h i j k l m n ñ ng o p q r s t u v w x y z

Endangered languages: Will your mother tongue survive?

Welcome to the extinction era! You may not be aware of it since it seems the human race is thriving, but Earth is experiencing yet another mass extinction. Scientists have lately suggested defining a new epoch, Anthropocene, as it may be us, humans, who have contributed our bit to the current unfolding of events. Human impact is endangering the animals and plants, but in truth they are not the only ones endangered. 

Migration killing unique cultures?

96% of the world's languages are spoken by only 4% of the global population according to the Sorosoro foundation. Globalization and mass migration in the 21st century have caused adoption of a dominant language in many areas to the detriment of original, local languages (what a paradox in terms of multiculturalism). It is now estimated that a substantial part of the world's presently known languages and dialects will cease to exist in written or spoken form and even become extinct in the not-so-distant future.According to UNESCO, unless this trend is reversed, half of today's 7,000+ languages will disappear by the end of this century. Columbia University linguist John McWhorter's predictions are even more gloomy with the outlook that 90% of today's existing languages will be displaced on a global scale by simplified versions of culturally dominant languages. Given that one of the important defining factors of a culture – if not the most important one – is its language, such development would irreversibly deprive us of our world's most important cultural heritage. New languages simply don't come into existence in amounts that wouldcompensate this trend. And by definition, they cannot compensate the loss of languages that have developed through the course of human history.

These languages should begin to worry us

Despite many arguments and disagreement on the definition of a language vs. a dialect, in terms of extinction, both a language and a dialect are equal. Hundreds of languages literally waiting to cease to exist as their last living speakers pass away. In Europe, we see dialects such as Bavarian (Germany, Austria), Gordiol (Italy), Istriot (Croatia) and Cornish (UK) that are likely heading toward their terminal days. Also Walloon, spoken in a good part of Belgium, Yiddish, and Romani – the tongue of Romani (Gypsy) people across Europe – are on the endangered list. 

AdobeStock 52177435

How to preserve a language

Systematic efforts are being made to document as many languages as possible and preserve them at least in artificial form. It is in fact feasible to revive a language suppressed or existing in "lab conditions" only, and history has shown us many an example. One is modern Hebrew, which was revived to a living official language from ancient religious texts. Also Irish and Greenlandic languages were resurrected from near-death thanks to social and political development, and they are now slowly beginning to spread. And in terms of language documentation, preservation and popularization, the translation industry can in fact help a lot :)

Language facts: Croatian

Croatian is a South Slavic language used primarily in Croatia (where it is an official language) by Croats living in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in neighboring countries where Croats make up autochthonous communities (e.g. the Serbian province of Vojvodina, Molise in Italy, or Burgenland in Austria), and generally the global Croatian diaspora. 

It is sometimes classified as belonging to the Central South Slavic diasystem (also referred to as "Serbo-Croatian"). Croatian is spoken by 4,800,000 native speakers and approx. 6.5 million people around the world and uses a three-letter code: HRV (= hrvatska/i) for international recognition. It is also one of the official EU languages since Croatia became an EU member in 2013.

Croatian: a language with mixed origin

The modern Croatian standard language is a continuous outgrowth of more than nine hundred years of literature written in a mixture of Croatian Church Slavonic, or worded differently the Serbo-Croatian variant of Church Slavonic (i.e. Old Slavonic that was, for a brief period, also an official recognized language of the liturgy) and the vernacular language. Croatian Church Slavonic was abandoned by the mid-15th century, and Croatian as embodied in a purely vernacular literature (Shtokavian dialect literature) has now existed for more than five centuries.

Nowadays the Croatian language is an important symbol of national identity, but suggesting that Croatian language equals or is fully intelligible with Serbo-Croatian is still a sensitive subject to bring up. In fact, the differences between Serbian, Bosnian and Croatian language are (sometimes much too intensively) highlighted due to political reasons. The fact is that Croatians, Bosnians and Serbians generally understand each other, similarly to or even better than Czechs and Slovaks.

Alphabet

The Croatian alphabet is based on the Latin alphabet with special characters ć, č, đ, š, ž, dž; it does not have q, w, x, y.

A B C Č D Dž Đ E F G H I J K L Lj M N Nj O P R S Š T U V Z Ž a b c č d dž đ e f g h i j k l lj m n nj o p r s š t u v z ž



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