Languages have evolved so much over the course of human history, even the obscure languages. And today, there are more than 7000 of them. It’s believed that New York alone is home to 800 different languages!
Many of the most fascinating spoken languages are in danger of going extinct, mainly due to globalization and assimilation. So, if you’re wondering which language to learn next, an obscure option might just be your contribution towards language preservation. Here’s a look at some of the most fascinating yet fading languages under the sun!
Uncovering the Most Obscure Languages Spoken Around the World
Xhosa is a native South African language that’s spoken by some 8 million people, but not everyone speaks this Bantu language as their mother tongue. Xhosa was Nelson Mandela’s native language. Even though the figures might make it seem like it’s thriving, 8 million is a small number compared to Mandarin, which has more than 900 million speakers.
Characterized by clicks and tonal variations that differentiate the meaning of words, Xhosa has several meanings for the same words, all depending on the tone it’s pronounced in.
If you’re ever in Belarus, this is where you’ll encounter unusual languages like Belarusian. This Eastern Slavic language is closely related to Russian and Ukrainian, and in a sense, the three languages are mutually intelligible. With roughly 3 million speakers, there are more people living in London than speakers of Belarusian.
Fascinatingly enough, the language didn’t have standardized grammar until the early 1900s when Cyrillic became the alphabet used for official writing. There has been an increase in public support to make Belarusian part of the culture in recent years, and with continued support, this age-old language might just make it through the test of time.
Spoken in the United States and Canada, Michif is a spoken language that has less than 1000 native speakers, mainly due to the fact that it’s classified as an impossible language. As the official language of the Metis people, descendants of European fur traders, Michif is a mix-up of Cree and French. Some believe this is one of the European languages born out of a desire to establish cultural identity.
According to linguists, it’s impossible that two very different languages can work together, but conceptually Michif is simple because it merely combines French nouns and Cree verbs. And these are said to be neighboring languages. But when you consider the fact that Cree is to French like apples are to fax machines, it makes sense that this language is hard to understand and even harder to learn.
Spoken by some 970 native speakers, Archi is a language you’ll find in Archib, Russia. The Northeast Caucasian language is one of the most complex languages in the world. Until recently, there was no written form of Archi, that was until Cyrillic characters saved the day.
The Archi alphabet has 26 vowel phonemes and 82 consonants. They also use four noun classes, and a single verb in this language can have over 1.5million forms. All things considered, Mandarin doesn’t seem that hard when compared to Archi, right?
Koro is spoken by roughly 800 native speakers in Northeast India and was only discovered by linguists in the mid-2000s. But this Tibeto-Burman language is as distinct from its language family counterparts as Greek is from Vietnamese.
Researchers believe Koro was formed by a group of people that were enslaved in the region, which is why the language is strongly linked to the valley in which the language was born. Just like most other endangered languages, an entire group of people would lose their heritage if Koro went extinct. Koro is the only surviving dialect of this dying language and isn’t widely spoken anymore.
Know Any Other Obscure Languages that Fit this Field?
Our journey around the globe has come to an end, and we hope that exploring these five obscure languages has inspired you to learn a language off the beaten track. If you’re keen to explore more fascinating language facts, be sure to check out the Day Translations blog for all things linguists! If you know other language facts that you’d like us to dive into, be sure to let us know!