Language facts: Bosnian
Bosnian is a variant of Serbo-Croatian. It is the official language in Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as Montenegro and a native language of a little over 2 million people.
The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina officially has three languages: Bosnian, Croatian and Serb. All three languages are mutually understandable. For various reasons, Bosnian is in wide use throughout the Balkans. The Serbo-Croatian concept, as well as the separate variants of the language (Serb, Croatian, Bosnian), was in fact based on the most wide-spread dialect in the area, the Shtokavian one from Eastern Herzegovina.

Bosniak is (not) Bosnian 

It is not uncommon for Bosnian being also referred to as Bosniak. This is actually one of many things considered controversial on the Balkan Peninsula – while Bosnians insist the only correct name for their language is Bosnian, the Croats and Serbs insist on Bosniak being used to refer to the language within the country of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Bosnian as a term to include also Bosnian Croats and Serbs living outside of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It went even as far as Serbs refering to the Bosnian language as "the Language spoken by Bosniaks" in official documents, only to not having to recognize the language at all. Symbols and details really do matter in these lands, and based on previous experience, it won't be easy to overcome these disputes (mainly if the tensions are being deliberately encouaged, as seen in latest efforts in destabilizing Bosnian society through stirring debate about the Republika Srpska national day in 2018, etc.). 
Internationally and within the language and translation industry, as well as here at idioma, the recognized name is Bosnian, though. 

Not interested elites, no codified language

Since the 1990s, Bosnian has developed considerably, integrating literary traditions from the 20th century and adopting loan words from the Islamic and Oriental worlds. Arabic, Persian and Ottoman words differentiate the Bosnian version of Serbo-Croatian vocabuly from its siblings noticably, due to the religious ties with the Islamic world. In fact, due to this close bond of the Bosnian elite to Oriental cultures and lack of true emancipation of the Bosnians, the language failed to be codified in the 19th century, unlike Serbian and Croatian.

Alphabet

Bosnian originally used the Cyrillic alphabet, but today also the Latin alphabet is in use due to the influence of Serbo-Croatian when Bosnia was part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Both alphabets are equal, but Cyrillic is used increasingly less today. Cyrillic, however, has greatly influenced the development of the Bosnian language and remains a link to the past. 
 
Latin
A B C Č Ć D Dž ĐE F G H I J K 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

Cyrillic
А Б Ц Ч Ћ Д Џ Ђ Е Ф Г Х И Ј К Л Љ М Н Њ О П Р С Ш Т У В З Ж
а б ц ч ћ д џ ђ е ф г х и ј к л љ м н њ о п р с ш т у в з ж
Language facts: Thai
Bangkok (Source: Adobe Stock)

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: Finnish

Finnish is a member of the Finno-Ugric language family (Uralic languages) and is closely related to Estonian and Saami (also known as Lapp). It is one of the two official languages in Finland (the other being Swedish) as well as one of the official EU languages. Additionally, it is used by Finnish-speaking minorities in Sweden and Estonia. The majority (more than 90%) of Finland’s population speaks Finnish, while the remainder speaks Swedish and Sami. Overall, Finnish is spoken by a little more than 5 million people.

Thanks to the existence of Nordic Language Convention, Finnish-speaking citizens can interact with governments and official bodies in other Nordic countries in their native language.

A language with a few relatives but many phonemes

Finnish is related also to some other of the few Uralic languages (such as Hungarian for example) in many aspects, including shared morphology, similar grammar, as well as basic vocabulary. The origin of Uralic languages is not entirely clear even today, but the most widely accepted theory is that this branch originated in the boreal forests around the Ural mountains and around the middle Volga river. Actually, Uralic languages, such as Finnish, are believed to be the proto-language of the area.

The Finnish language gained its official status no sooner than in 1863, after the rise of the Finnish nationalistic movement. The first Finnish writing system was, however, created already in the 16th century by a Finnish bishop Mikael Agricola, who wanted to translate the Bible, and thus needed to standardize the Finnish dialects into a comprehensive system. He failed to do so, as he wasn't able to unify the signs with different phonemes (the intent was for each phoneme to have a corresponding one letter). Later, Finnish actually lost several phonemes from the standardized language due to this unification.

Alphabet

In the Finnish alphabet, 'Å’ is carried over from the Swedish alphabet and is redundant in Finnish; it is merely retained for writing Finland-Swedish proper names.

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

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

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: The difference between French and Canadian French

French. The stereotype language for romantic souls and fancy chefs. And one of the few languages in the world with the richest vocabulary. It is also an umbrella name for a whole range of French language variants, e.g. Canadian French. The latter is spoken by around 12 million speakers, being a native tongue to 7 million, mainly in the Quebec province. This is due to historical reasons, as the Quebec city and settlements in its surroundings were established by French colonists in 16th and 17th century (originally, the French were up to find a new trade route to China, while they "stumbled" upon North America instead...). As new settlers poured to the "New France" from Europe, they naturally brought a piece of home with them – including European social customs and values, and the bubbly French language. 

However, as the mixture of arrivals originated from different regions with different accents (especially the Parisian French are worth mentioning here), the Canadian French language was created as a fusion of classical French and regional dialects of the first-comers. 

This development naturally caused the most visible difference of the classic vs. Canadian French as we know it today: the accent. Mainly vowels pronunciation is more "nasal" in Canada.

The difference is so obvious, that native Canadian French speakers who haven't come across the European (or Metropolitan) French before actually admit having trouble understanding the language and vice versa. Metropolitan French is "cleaner" in terms of pronunciation (maybe similar to standard British English and American English). There even is a term joual used to describe the working-class Canadian French, in a rather derogatory way. 

Another observable difference even to non-native speakers is the vocabulary used in Canada in comparison to France. Canadian French, mainly in the Quebec region, is heavily (and quite naturally) influenced by English – a phenomenon actively resisted in France (walkman, computer, and NATO could tell stories..). Maybe this inherited overprotectiveness of the language determines a tendency of Canadian French to balance the English influence by trying to preserve the "original French", often to the amusement of European French (e.g. the STOP sign that says simple "STOP" in France reads "ARRÊT" in Quebec...). Interestingly, this approach affected Canadian French swear words, some of which have a religious context and are only offensive in Quebec, while having a regular meaning in France (obviously, most swear words used in France apply in Quebec).

Indeed, in many aspects Canadian French is considered quite traditional, while the actual words used can be right out of its closeness to the United States.

Similar to British vs. American English, Canadian French goes easy on formality as well as grammar in comparison with Metropolitan French. The informality of the language is what mostly causes the misunderstandings by Metropolitan French speakers. It is also the reason why Canadian French don't like to consume European French shows and movies and prefer home production. 

Nevertheless Canadian French is not a standardized language in itself, the grammatically correct form is standard French. The fact of the world, however, is that Canadian French exists as a separate French version. When we translate to Canadian French, we use French Canadian speakers – and the result is truly different from standard, European French.

Go with the locals, and write as the locals do.

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: Romanian

Romanian is a Romance language, primarily used in Romania and also Moldova, being an official language in both countries, as well as of the European union. It is closely related to other Latin languages, such as Spanish, French, Portuguese and Italian, and evolved from Vulgar Latin. It is also related and very similar to Moldavian language, used in Moldavia. Romanian has around 24 million native speakers.

Romanian or Moldavian?

Romanian and its grammar rules were constituted in the second half of the 18th century. Interestingly, the first Romanian grammar was published outside Romania, in Vienna. As with most of the East European and Balkan languages, Romanian also got formed by wars, conflicts, and nationalistic brawls of Romanians and Moldovans and, obviously, the Russian and Ottoman influence in the region. In fact, Romanian and Moldovan are merely two names for the very same language (the only real difference is the script – Moldavian is written in Cyrillic, while Romanian in Latin). 

After the Russians annexed the Bessarabia region (the part of Moldova that used to be under the Ottoman rule) in 1812, "Moldovian" was established as an official language, while the area itself became de facto bilingual, with Russian being the language of the higher class. Romanian was, however, banned from official administrative use and was taught as a foreign language only. This subsequently led to the awakening of a Romanian national movement that asked for the Romanian language to be reinstated in schools as the main language of education.

During the Soviet era, the term "Moldovan" was forced through to describe the Romanian language, which was meant to destabilize the Romanian nationalist movement and try to marginalize Romanian as merely a dialect.  

Alphabet

In addition to the standard English alphabet, Romanian has specific sounds …Ă, Î, S, Ţ.

A Ă Â B C D E F G H I Î J K L M N O P Q R S Ş T Ţ U V W X Y Z a ă â b c d e f g h i î j k l m n o p q r s ş t ţ u v w x y z

Language facts: Norwegian

Norwegian is a Scandinavian language and a branch of the Germanic languages that has slightly more than 4 million native speakers. Two standard varieties of Norwegian exist, Bokmål and Nynorsk (literally "new Norwegian"). 

Nynorsk is used primarily in the western regions and is spoken by around 0.5 million people. Bokmål is used by the rest of Norway and remains the preferred variant when writing Norwegian, although the spoken Norwegian resemble Nynorsk more than Bokmål. 

Nynorsk vs. Bokmål conflict

Today Nynorsk and Bokmål both have equal legal status in Norway, though the private and commercial sectors of Norway's economy are dominated completely by Bokmål, while all public bodies uphold both variants. Interestingly, both Bokmål and Nynorsk are just writing standards, yet don't provide guidelines on the spoken form of the language. In result, a mixture of dialects is used in everyday (even official) communication and no spoken form considered as "incorrect".

The main difference in the two forms is based in their historical origin. While Bokmål is a Norwegianized version of Danish used by the elite and upper class, as Danish used to be the standard for writing Norwegian from 16th to 19th century, Nynorsk resulted from opposition to the Danish language and tried to established the language on "pure" Norwegian rural dialects. These two writing standards and their use turned into a fundamental political controversy in Norway mainly throughout the 20th century.

The decades-long efforts to merge Norwegian writing standards into one common language (called Samnorsk) failed after series of language reforms, and the policy was eventually abandoned in 2002 due to strong public resistance, keeping this interesting linguistic schizophrenia very much alive.

Alphabet

The Norwegian alphabet consists of 29 letters. In addition to the standard English alphabet, Norwegian ends with … X Y Z Æ Ø Å. Certain letters can be modified by diacritics (é, è, ê, ó, ò, ô and occasionally also ì and ù and ỳ in Nynorsk). 

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 Æ Ø Å

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 æ ø å

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



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