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Language facts: Polish

Polish is a West Slavic language and the official language of Poland. It is most closely related to Czech and Slovak, sharing the region of Central Europe. 

It is spoken by around 55 million people around the world, primarily in Poland (around 38 million), and by immigrant communities in many countries in Europe, the UAE and USA (there are 11 million Polish Americans and a vast diaspora lives also in the UK). It is also one of the official EU languages. 

LANGUAGE OF A COMPLICATED TERRITORY

Polish language appeared around the 10th century as a result of an emerging Polish state. Until accepting Christianity and the Latin script, there was no alphabet to write Polish down so it existed only in spoken form. Despite a very complicated history of Poland and Polish people, and many attempts to suppress the language, its literature still developed. Nowadays, Polish is the second most widely spoken Slavic language in the world (after Russian), even surpassing Ukrainian. 

The language has some quite interesting grammar rules. Polish is highly inflected with seven cases for nouns, pronouns and adjectives. It also has a complex gender system, but uses only three tenses. There are no definite or indefinite articles in Polish. Interestingly, when formally addressing someone (even in direct personal communication), Polish switch from second to third person and use the pronouns pan (Mr.), pani (Mrs.) or panstwo (plural - equivalent to "ladies and gentlemen").

POLISH ALPHABET

In addition to the standard Latin alphabet, Polish uses 9 special characters (ą, ć, ę, ł, ń, ó, ś, ź, ż; Ą, Ć, Ę, Ł, Ń, Ó, Ś, Ź, Ż) and special character pairs (ch, cz, dz, dż, dź, sz, rz) which represent sounds not available in the Latin alphabet. 

A Ą B C Ć D E Ę F G H I J K L Ł M N Ń O Ó P R S Ś T U W Y Z Ź Ż

a ą b c ć d e ę f g h i j k l ł m n ń o ó p r s ś t u w y z ź ż

Language facts: Swahili

Swahili (or Kiswahili) is a language from the Niger-Congo branch, included in the group of Bantu languages. It is spoken in several East African countries, even reaching across the Mozambique Channel to northern Mozambique and is considered a lingua francain the area of the African Great Lakes as well as other parts of Southeast Africa. 

Swahili is the official language in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Comoros. It is spoken by tens of million of people, possibly even by more than one hundred million people, either as a primary or secondary language.  

Lingua franca of Southeast Africa

This language dates back at least 1,000 years, being in fact the first language of the Swahili people, and originally spread mainly in coastal region by fishermen. During the colonial period, it has been much influenced by German, English, Portuguese, French and even Arabic. It was in fact the German colonists who declared Swahili as the general administrative language in mainland Tanzania (back then Tanganyika). English colonists had similar plans with Swahili in Kenya, but without any official conclusion. However, after the British took over Tanzania – the former colony of the defeated Germany – they instituted Swahili as a common language for lower levels of education and administration in all British colonies in the area (while secondary education and governance would be in English only).

Since 1928, when a conference in Mombasa was held in order to standardize Swahili language and provide it also with a written form (the language uses the Zanzibar Swahili dialect Kiunguja as a basis for standardization), the language has been regulated by the National Swahili Council in Tanzania. Today, Arabic language is gaining influence in Swahili language evolution due to the large amount of Arabic-speaking Muslim inhabitants in the region's east coast.

Alphabet

Swahili has two writing systems: Latin and Arabic. While it used to be based on the Arabic scripts, Latin script is common today.

Latin version:

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

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

Language facts: Bengali

Bengali (or Bangla) is an Indo-Aryan language used in the area of Bengal in eastern South Asia including the Andaman and Nicobar islands. The language is the second most spoken language in India and the seventh largest language in the world with approximately 230-250 million native speakers (300 million worldwide), and it dates back at least 1,000 years, some say more. 

Many different variations of Bengali exist, however, the main and generally accepted dialect is the West-Central one, called Nadia, spoken in West Bengal and Bangladesh. Bengali is the official language in Bangladesh and enjoys official language status in West Bengal, Tripura and Barak Valley (in India).

Bengali vs. Hindi

While the above-mentioned languages both belong to the Indo-Aryan language family, both are spoken widely in India, with  origin from Sanskrit, but there's number of differences that make Bengali and Hindi mutually unintelligible. However, in regions where Bengali and Hindi speakers are exposed to each other's speech, they understand both. As Bangla speakers are more frequently exposed to Hindi, they are more likely to understand Hindi than vice versa. 

Alphabet

Similar to different dialects, Bengali also has different scripts of which today Cholito bhasa is the generally accepted script and is the standard for written Bengali (another Bengali script is called Sadhu bhasa). Bengali is assumed to include some 100,000 separate words. 

The letters in the Bengali script run from left to right. It uses the same punctuation as in western scripts, however the full stop is represented by the down stroke (|). Bengali still lacks a uniform sorting order, although attempts are underway to solve this. 

 

Vowels:

অ, আ, ই, ঈ, উ, ঊ, ঋ, এ, ঐ, ও, ঔ

 

Consonants:

ক, খ, গ, ঘ, ঙ; চ, ছ, জ, ঝ, ঞ; ট, ঠ, ড, ঢ, ণ; ত, থ, দ, ধ, ন; প, ফ, ব, ভ, ম; য, র, ল, ব; শ, ষ, স, হ; ড়, ঢ়, য়;

Language facts: Hungarian

Hungarian (Magyar) is an official EU language and has about 14.5 million native speakers, mostly in Hungary and the diaspora – mainly in seven neighboring countries (e.g. Romania, Serbia, Ukraine or Slovakia, the latter where Hungarian even has a status of second language in the areas inhabited by Hungarian minority), but also worldwide. 

Hungarian is a non-Indo-European language, a member of the Finno-Ugric group (like Finnish and Estonian, though not mutually intelligible) and Uralic family of languages. Hungarian is therefore related to languages like Khanty or Mansi, used by people living in Western Siberia, Ural region or around the Ob river (Russia). 

Nomadic language

Ural is in fact considered the homeland of Hungarians, who (although formerly settled) slowly turned into nomadic people. Because of the history of Hungarian people (nomadic background plus the era of the Hungarian empire), the Hungarian vocabulary has borrowed quite a lot of words from Turkic languages, Slavic languages, German and even old Persian (possibly due to early contacts with Iranian nomads).

Hungarian is an agglutinative language – words consist of morphemes determining the meaning, but remain unchanged after forming a word – opposite to fusional languages represented by most of the European languages. Hungarian uses suffixes and prefixes extensively instead and features vowel harmony. 

Alphabet 

Hungarian uses the Latin alphabet, with several extra letters: accented vowels (á, é, í, ó, ö, ő, ú, ü, ű), digraphs – two characters representing a single letter (cs, dz, gy, ly, ny, sz, ty, zs) and even a trigraph (dzs). Characters with diacritical marks are considered separate letters. Vowels that differ only in length are treated the same when ordering words. Example: O and Ó are not distinguished in ordering, neither are Ö and Ő, but the latter two follow the O's. 

 

A Á B C Cs D Dz Dzs E É F G Gy H I Í J K L Ly M N Ny O Ó Ö Ő P (Q) R S Sz T Ty U Ú Ü Ű V (W) (X) (Y) Z Zs a á b c cs d dz dzs e é f g gy h i í j k l ly m n ny o ó ö ő p (q) r s sz t ty u ú ü ű v (w) (x) (y) z zs

How to drown your brand in one click

Ever wondered what makes global brands successful? 

Well, it's actually many factors, but to name just a few, let's go for authenticity, consistency and professionalism. These are "those things" that sometimes induce nightmares to marketers, but make people willing to convert into (loyal) customers. On the other hand, business is primarily about making money, and the success is related also to the general economy. It is only logical that brands need to make compromises to find a balance between what's desired and what's feasible. But do they?

First impression REALLY matters

The outcome of your compromises can have serious negative impact on your brand's perception, although meant to do no harm (or even worse, to do good). Mainly if venturing into unknown waters – e.g. when expanding the brand to new international markets, the "let's save $500 now in order to miss $50.000 in the future" approach can make you fail in the moment of truth – the first impression towards local customers. To prevent this, you need to invest in proper localization of your content. Not just your packaging, guidelines or manuals, but also your website. It's the multi-channel approach in communication and localization that makes you authentic and consistent and what makes the difference in seizing or losing the market. This surely would be common knowledge to most everyone.

So why are there still so many businesses out there, who think they will impress and win local customers with machine-translated websites?

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Google doesn't like machine translation

Ironic as it may sound at first, the very company that powers the largest machine translation platform in the world fights against auto-generated content including machine translated websites. After all, with browsers having built-in features for automatic machine translation, it goes against logic to pretend that you care about local clientele and went the extra mile with "real translation" of your website, while you merely clicked a button.

When Google algorithms can see through it, so can your potential human customers. And while search engines may forgive you your SEO sins within several months, your disappointed customers won't forget the negative first impression. After all, why should they, if they already give their money to your competitor who seized the chance and fluently speaks their language... 

Indeed, the Internet is a tough jungle, where seconds matter. The free machine translation tools that allow you to translate the content in one click (seemingly saving time and money), take their real price in the very first seconds of interaction with potential customers. Professional localization really matters and it's much less of an expense than trying to repair a destroyed brand image and to reengage lost, potential customers.

Don't let that one click destroy your brand perception in international markets. It's just not worth it.

Language facts: Korean

Korean is one of the Far East Asian languages, but is a so-called "language isolate" and the only remaining member of the Koreanic language family (all relative languages have been long extinct).

Korean has around 80 million native speakers, and it is the official language in both South and North Korea and also one of the official languages of the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in China. 

Torn language 

There is number of differences between South and North Korean due to historical reasons and the isolation of North Korea. Spelling is slightly different between the two nations, but pronunciation is in fact the same (in South Korean the language is based largely on the Seoul dialect, while in North Korea spoken Korean is influenced by the dialect of Pyongyang). The two countries also have slightly different grammar and vocabulary (mainly due to political reasons). For instance, there's number of loan words in both Koreans, but while in South they are taken from English, in the North the vocabulary is "deliberately" influenced by Russian terms (e.g. the expression for "friend" used to be chingu (친구 / 親舊) in the entire Korea, but after the division of the peninsula, the North adopted the translation of the Russian term comrade, tongmu (동무 / 同務).

Even if some English words have been adapted in the North, they are usually transliterated into Korean differently from the practices in the South. Interestingly, for names of places, countries and nations, South Korea uses the English version of the term as a base for transliteration, while North Korea uses the word form in its original language as a base (e.g. Poland in the South is transliterated as Pollandeu (폴란드), but Ppolsŭkka (뽈스까) in the North, based on the Polish original name – Polska). 

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The division into two parts of a once single great nation is visible also in such should-be-common and historically important words as the name of the Korean Peninsula itself (hanbando (한반도 / 韓半島) in the South and chosŏnbando (조선반도 / 朝鮮半島) in the North), or the very reason for the division: the Korean War (hanguk jeonjaeng 한국 전쟁 / 韓國戰爭 in the South vs.choguk'aepangjŏnjaeng 조국해방전쟁 / 祖國解放戰爭 in the North).

Unusual Alphabet

Korean has its own, unique alphabet system – Hangul – established under the rule of Sejong the Great, and used since the 15th century (however, it did not become an official script in Korea until the 20th century). Today, Hangul is used both in North and South Korea, and it can be written from left to right or in columns from top to bottom starting from the right. 

The Korean writing system also uses Hanja, the Korean name for Chinese characters and traditionally used for words of Chinese origin. These can  be mixed in to write Sino-Korean words. South Korea still teaches 1800 Hanja characters in its schools, while the North abolished the use of Hanja decades ago. In the past, Hanja was the core of the Korean writing system.

 

Consonants:

ㄱ, ㄴ, ㄷ, ㄹ, ㅁ, ㅂ, ㅅ, ㅇ, ㅈ, ㅊ, ㅋ, ㅌ, ㅍ, ㅎ, ㄲ, ㄸ, ㅆ, ㅃ, ㅉ

 

Vowels: 

ㅏ, ㅑ, ㅓ, ㅕ, ㅗ, ㅛ, ㅜ, ㅠ, ㅡ, ㅣ

Language facts: Khmer

Khmer, also known as Cambodian, is an Austro-Asiatic language and it is the official language of Cambodia. Khmer is spoken by 15 million native speakers, 12.6 million of whom live in Cambodia.

As old as the Khmer empire

Khmer has been influenced by Sanskrit and Pali through Hinduism and Buddhism as well as the Southeast Asian languages of Thai, Lao and Vietnamese, but unlike those it is NOT a tonal language (in tonal languages, changing a tone of speech changes the meaning of words, with otherwise intact spelling. Many Asian languages, including Chinese, Vietnamese and Thai, are tonal, while most languages in Europe are not, although in some European languages the meaning of words can be changed using pitch accent on certain syllables).

The language developed under the Khmer Empire, dating back to the 9th century, but goes back even further. It underwent turbulent change from the 14th to the 18th century. Modern Khmer as used today cannot be used to interpret Old Khmer. Several dialects of Khmer exist with a significant amounts of speakers in both Thailand and Vietnam. The majority of speakers use the Central Khmer dialect though. 

Khmer is an analytical and isolating language, which means there are no inflections, conjugations or case endings used.

Alphabet

Khmer is written in the Khmer script, from which both Thai and Lao have developed. This script also has its own numerals.The Khmer alphabet consists of 33 consonants supported by vowels represented by diacritics written above, below and/or alongside on either side of the consonant to modify it. This example shows consonants without the vowel diacritics:

ក ខ គ ឃ ង ច ឆ ជ ឈ ញ ដ ឋ ឌ ឍ ណ ត ថ ទ ធ ន ប ផ ព ភ ម យ រ ល វ ឝ ឞ ស ហ ឡ អ

 

Khmer numerals (0 to 9):

០ ១ ២ ៣ ៤ ៥ ៦ ៧ ៨ ៩

Language facts: Irish

Irish is a Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family. It originates in Ireland, and was historically spoken by the Irish, but today only a small part of the population speaks the language. 

Irish has status as the national and first official language of the Republic of Ireland, it was voted an official language of the European Union in 2005, and it is recognized as a minority language in Northern Ireland. Irish is spoken as a native language only in parts of Ireland, mostly on the west coast. Native speakers are estimated at between 20,000 and 30,000.

An "emigrated" language

Due to various reasons, Irish language experienced a decline in use of such proportions that it almost stopped existing as a live language. The British rule as well as adopting English by the Irish catholic church and a good part of the middle-class was, interestingly, not the eventual catalyst of the Irish language decline – just some of the factors. The final "killer" turned out to be less ideological and in fact purely practical: during massive emigration of Irish folks to United States in the 19th century, speaking English simply ensured a greater variety of job opportunities (aside from farming). 

Irish as a symbol

In today's Republic of Ireland, Irish has largely lost out to English in common usage, but it remains a required subject of study in schools, while all official documents issued by the Irish government must be published in both Irish and English or only Irish. Since the 1920s, there has been an incline in use of the language (while it is considered by Irish themselves as having more of a symbolic, than practical value) and there are movements trying to promote Irish and its use not just in official communication.

Alphabet

A Á B C D E É F G H I Í L M N O Ó P R S T U Ú
a á b c d e é f g h i í l m n o ó p r s t u ú

Language facts: Uyghur

Uyghur belongs to the Turkic language family and  is derived from Old Turkic language with its origins in Mongolia and Xinjiang. This is the autonomous territory in northwest China, sometimes also referred to as East Turkestan, or Uyghurstan (although actively discouraged by Chinese government), in historical context even Moghulistan – the land of Mongols where the descendants of Genghis Khan actually ruled. As a member of the Turkic language family, Uyghur is related to languages like Turkish, Azerbaijani, or Turkmen. Uyghur has somewhere between 10 and 15 million speakers nowadays. 

Formerly known as Eastern Turkish, it is today a language spoken by the Uyghur people in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region where its status is that of official language. Uyghur is widely used in public life and in official settings as well as in print, radio and television. Apart from  Xinjiang, the language is spoken also in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey and Saudi Arabia by Uyghur diaspora. 

Three different scripts

Generally, Uyghur has three main dialects, Central, Southern and Eastern, where the Central dialect is clearly the dominant one and spoken by 90% of the population. Like the other Turkic languages, it has vowel harmony. Uyghur has been influenced to a large degree by Persian and Arabic, and more recently also by Russian and Chinese. The Old Uyghur writing dates back to the fifth century and its writing system is based on the Arabic script. This writing system still dominates today, although Uyghur also can be written in two different Latin alphabets (classic Latin – Uyghur Latin Yëziqi, and a blend of Latin, Turkic and Pinyin* – Uyƣur Yengi Yeziⱪi – abandoned after 1982, when the original Arabic-based script was reintroduced) as well as Cyrillic. In Xinjiang, the Uyghur Arabic script is adopted as the official writing system, while the other alphabets are primarily used in areas outside Xinjiang. 

Alphabet 

ا ئە،ە ب پ ت ج چ خ د ر ز ژ س ش غ ف ق ك گ ڭ ل م ن ھ ئو،و ئۇ،ۇ ئۆ،ۆ ئۈ،ۈ ۋ ئې،ې ئى،ى ي

* Pinyin = The official writing system for transcription of Mandarin pronounciation of Chinese characters into the Latin alphabet

Language facts: Tamil

Tamil is spoken in southern India, Sri Lanka and Singapore and by many migrant groups in Malaysia, South Africa, and even Canada, USA and parts of West Europe. It is the official language in Sri Lanka, the south Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and Puducherry, with around 85 million native speakers. It is also one of the official languages of Singapore.

Tamil is based on the Dravidian vocabulary and has received strong impact from Sanskrit, however, the pure Tamil movement in the 20th century has sought to remove this influence, and there is now a movement to build expressions and words on Tamil roots, while in this process also replacing many loan words from English and other languages. 

One of the longest surviving languages

In India, Tamil is one of the 22 scheduled languages and as such, like the other languages, the tongue is subject to official measures to further develop the language. Tamil has existed for more than 2,000 years and can be traced back to the 3rd century B.C. It is regarded as one of the longest surviving classical languages in the world, and as such offers a wealth of classical traditions. There is a huge variety of literature written in Tamil script, moreover the earliest manuscripts found in India were in Tamil. Thanks to Christian missionaries, who published a book of Tamil prayers, it has become also the first Indian language to be printed. Modern Tamil was also influenced by contacts with European culture (e.g. use of European-style punctuation or consonant clusters, or a more rigid word order, which resembles the syntax of English – due to understandable historical reasons). 

Alphabet

Vowels:

அ ஆ இ ஈ உ ஊ எ ஏ ஐ ஒ ஓ ஔ

 

Consonants:

க் ங் ச் ஞ் ட் ண் த் ந் ப் ம் ய் ர் ல் வ் ழ் ள் ற் ன்

 

Tamil numerals (0 to 10)

௦ ௧ ௨ ௩ ௪ ௫ ௬ ௭ ௮ ௯ ௰

Language facts: Turkish

Turkish is predominantly used in Turkey and Cyprus. It has approximately 63 million speakers many of which can also be found in Greece, Bulgaria and other parts of Eastern Europe. Modern Turkish language has been highly influenced by Ottoman Turkish and has expanded as the Ottoman Empire grew. Turkish is also spoken by several million immigrants in Western Europe, mainly Germany, where a major Turkish diaspora exists. 

Not so common language family

Turkish belongs to Turkic language family (as its most significant representative), namely to the group of Oghuz languages. Oghuz Turkic languages – such as Azerbaijani, Turkmen, Qashqai, or Gagauz – are characteristic with a high degree of mutual intelligibility.

Some features of Turkish language, such as lack of genders in grammar, no noun classes, vowel harmony, or agglutination (the process in which complex words are comprised of combining various morphemes in a string) are common throughout the entire Turkic language family. Turkish also features a considerable amount of loanwords from Arabic and Persian, due to the adoption of Islam by Ottoman ancestors, the Seljuq Turks. In fact, the Ottoman Turkish was a blend of Turkish, Arabic and Persian (not really compatible with today's Turkish).

"Republican" language reform

The establishment of Modern Turkish language in everyday use resulted from the foundation of the Republic of Turkey and was strongly supported by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (interesting fact: "Atatürk" is not a real surname of the first Turkish president, but an honorary title that directly means "father of all Turks". Turkish parliament even banned the name to be used in connection with any other person – by law). As the Ottoman language (that was used as administrative language of the empire) consisted of too many loanwords of Persian and Arabic origin, the aim of the language reform was to replace these terms with original Turkish expressions. It's quite funny though that Atatürk himself often used Ottoman terms in his speeches, which resulted in his 1927 speech to the new Parliament being repeatedly translated into Modern Turkish to make it comprehensible to younger generations.

Alphabet

In 1928, as a result of Atatürk's reform, the original Ottoman script was replaced with a phonetic variant of the Latin alphabet, but with some additions. 

A B C Ç D E F G Ğ H I I J K L M N O Ö P R S Ş T U Ü V Y Z

a b c ç d e f g ğ h ı i j k l m n o ö p r s ş t u ü v y z

Language facts: Persian

Persian – also known as Farsi, although this term is considered as incorrect by many academics – is an Indo-European language of the Indo-Iranian branch. Persian and its varieties have official-language status in Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan. And Farsi has been called Dari in Afghanistan, due to political reasons only. Historically Persian (as a direct descendant of Old Persian) is a more widely understood language in an area ranging from the Middle East to India. Significant populations of speakers can be found in other Persian Gulf countries (Bahrain, Iraq, Oman, the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen, and the United Arab Emirates), as well as large communities in the USA. 

There are approximately 80 million native speakers of Persian in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and about the same number of people in other parts of the world speaks Persian, at least as a second language.

Persian vs Arabic

Persian language was continuously preserved and developed through centuries and its own evolution phases, from Old Persian via Middle Persian to New Persian (the modern version of Persian spoken today). The New Persian actually is the direct follower of Old Persian and Persian language is among the oldest ones with preserved original texts. Due to its script, it is commonly mistaken for Arabic, or considered a variation of Arabic language. This is far from truth, as the alphabet set is actually the only resemblance of the languages. Persian sounds much different, with its own grammar and syntax. Similar to comparing e.g. German and French, both share the alphabet set, but are not mutually interchangeable. In fact, Arabic and Persian do not even share the language family, as Persian originates from the Indo-European language tree, while Arabic belongs to Afro-Asiatic (or Semitic) family.

Alphabet

Interestingly, words in Farsi are written from right to left, but numbers are written from left to right. And all is written in cursive only. The modern Persian alphabet is based on Arabic script, but has 32 letters - 4 more than Arabic. One variety of Persian, the Tajiki (spoken in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan) is written in Cyrillic script.

ا، ب، پ، ت،5.ث، ج، چ، ح، خ، د، ذ، ر، ز، ژ، س، ش، ص، ض، ط، ظ، ع، غ، ف، ق، ک، گ، ل، م، ن، و، ه، ی

Language facts: Ukrainian

Ukrainian is the state language of Ukraine, the national language of Ukrainians. It belongs to the Slavic languages (the Eastern-Slavic group), being a part of the Indo-European language family, and is currently emerging from a long period of decline. The total number of the Ukrainian speaking population is estimated to around 39 million people. Ukrainian language is also spoken in Russia, Poland, Canada, Slovakia, Byelorussia, Argentina, Brazil, Australia and Transdniestria (Moldova).

Language fighting for survival

Historically, Ukrainian originates from Old Russian language. Until the 20th century, the language was even called "Little Russian", or Rusyn language in Poland and Slovakia.* 

The vocabulary of the language is based on words with common Slavic origin, but it also contains a great number of words formed during the period of its own historical development. Ukrainian includes a number of borrowed words that originally come from German, Polish and other languages. This was mainly due to political reasons, as Ukraine has undergone various levels of influence from  Poland, Lithuania, Austro-Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Germany and, of course, Russia.

The official approach to the use of Ukrainian in modern Ukraine has gone from complete neglect and even suppression and bans to popularization (mainly in the 19th and at the beginning of 20th century), and there has even been "ukrainization" (e.g. after the communist putsch in Russia, and now today once again) – seemingly as a result of current needs, trends, and development. 

Face of the nation

The complicated face and nature of the Ukrainian lands and nation are very strongly reflected in the complicated face and nature of Ukrainian language while the language itself has become one of the strongest symbols of Ukrainian statehood.

Since 1991, independent Ukraine has made Ukrainian the only official state language and implemented government policies to broaden the use of Ukrainian (often replacing Russian). Lately, this has been viewed as controversial, predominantly in the eastern parts of the country, where a strong enclave of Russians opposes the policy and demands equality of the Ukrainian and Russian languages.

Alphabet

The Ukrainian alphabet is based on the Cyrillic alphabet and has 33 letters. 

А Б В Г Ґ Д Е Є Ж З И І Ї Й К Л М Н О П Р С Т У Ф Х Ц Ч Ш Щ Ь Ю Я

а б в г ґ д е є ж з и і ї й к л м н о п р с т у ф х ц ч ш щ ь ю я

*There are many disputes over the classification of Rusyn. While it has its own ISO code, is spoken by the minority of Rusyns in Eastern Europe (mainly Slovakia and Serbia), and is even one of the official languages of the Vojvodina autonomy, it is also considered only a dialect of Ukrainian – interestingly enough, by Ukraine itself.

Language facts: Hebrew

Hebrew is a Semitic language and belongs to the Afroasiatic language family. Biblical Hebrew is closely related to Arabic and Aramaic, which are spoken around the territory where many of the biblical stories are focused – the Middle East. Hebrew is one of the two official languages of the State of Israel, along with Arabic. Modern Hebrew is spoken by some six million people inside Israel and one to two million people outside the country. Liturgical Hebrew is used by quite a few more people, in both Jewish and Christian religious settings.

Resuscitated after centuries

Liturgical Hebrew that was preserved in ancient religious heritage, but vanished from everyday use around 4th century, was actually revived. Modern Hebrew was invented as an adjunct to the Zionist movement in the 19th century. One of its first and most avid innovators was Eliezer Itzchak Perlman of Belarus, who created much of the modern vocabulary between 1885 and 1922. Mr. Perlman is renowned for raising the first “Hebrew-speaking” child – he forbade anyone to utter a word in any other language around his firstborn son, Ben Zion (who later changed his name to Itamar). 

Modern Hebrew is governed by an official committee – The Academy of the Hebrew Language. Decisions by the Academy are enshrined in law and frequently ignored by speakers of the language. It is interesting, though, that Hebrew is a native language of less than 49% of Israelis – other major native languages of Israel inhabitants are Russian, Arabic, English, French and Yiddish (though similar to Hebrew by using the same alphabet set as well as similar expressions, the two languages have very different origin and history. Yiddish is a fusion language originating in Liturgical Hebrew and Armaic, but mixes with High German and Slavic languages). 

Alphabet

Hebrew is read from right to left using a distinctive 22-letter alphabet. 

בּ ב ג גּ ג׳ ד דּ ד׳ ה ו וּ וֹ ו׳ ז ז׳ ח ט י ִי כּ ךּ ך כ ל

/ ם מ ן נ ס ע פּ ףּ פ ף ץ צ ץ׳ צ׳ ק ר שׁ שׂ תּ ת ת׳

Language facts: Arabic

Arabic belongs to the Afroasiatic language family and is a Semitic language of the Arabo-Canaanite subgroup – therefore closely related to Hebrew or Phoenician. 

With approximately 290 million speakers (of Modern Standard Arabic), it ranks in sixth place among the world’s major languages. In today's form, Modern Standard Arabic happens to be an official language of 27 states. Only English and French score higher. As the Arabic world is very large, it is not surprising that a large number of Arabic dialects have developed – counting all these, the number of Arabic speakers rises to an estimated 420 million. Arabic is the language of the Holy Quran, poetry and literature as well as an official UN language. As a liturgical language of Islam, it is used by an astonishing 1.6 billion Muslims.

Complicated language of complicated society

Arabic is a so-called sociolinguistic language, which means that from a purely linguistic view it's actually a group of familiar languages. For cultural (e.g. religious) or socioeconomic reasons it is considered as one language, though, despite that there are branches of Arabic that are mutually unintelligible. Arabic can be sub-classified as follows: Classical Arabic, Modern Standard Arabic and Colloquial Arabic. Obviously there's also a large number of dialects.

Classical Arabic (or Quranic Arabic) is used as the language of prayer and recitation throughout the Islamic world. Modern Standard Arabic, a constituted version of the language, is, though intelligible, much distinct from the spoken variants of Arabic dialects (with no observable boundaries or rules). The official constituted form of Arabic actually co-exist in common usage with various Arabic dialects while covering different social situations.

The language of culture

Because of Muslim expansion in the past, Arabic has influenced a lot of the world's languages, including Indian languages such as Urdu (which is in fact a Muslim influenced version of Hindi – that was actually also previously influenced by Arabic), Punjabi or Bengali. Also Roman languages, mainly Spanish, Catalan or Portuguese, borrowed many expressions from Arabic in the middle ages, when the Muslim world represented the cultural and scientific drive in then decimated Europe.

Alphabet

The Arabic alphabet has twenty-eight (28) letters. Arabic differs from Latin languages in that it is written right to left, but sequences of digits, such as telephone numbers, read from left to right.

أ ب ت ث ج ح خ د ذ ر ز س ش ص ض ط ظ ع غ ف ق ك ل م ن ه و ي



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