A while back I made a video translating dance songs into English. In that video, I asked Nerdfighters to go to this thread and post what language they speak. Then, an amazing thing happened. A linguist and nerdfighter named Hedvig compiled a quite complicated spreadsheet of all the languages spoken in Nerdfighteria. Hedvig can say it better than me though so…In case you’re interested, the languages spoken by members of nerdfighteria are roughly 110, most of them belong to the some of largest language families of the world: indo-european, afro-asiatic, niger-congo (only bantu), sino-tibean or austronesian.
The third largest language family in terms of number of languages is Trans-New-Guinea and no language was represented from that group (no wonder, it doesn’t have that many speakers).
These six families cover 64% of all languages and are spoken by 85% of the worlds population, as native tongues that is.
In this case most nerdfighters speak one language from these six families that is very big (like russian, malay or portuguese), so even though we don’t speak all languages in these five families we still represent roughly 72% of the worlds population. This is interesting when we think about the fact that we speak 1.6% of the languages, but still we cover so many speakers. Languages of the world are distributed a big like Zips Law, most have extremely low number of speakers and a few are extremely huge.
So Cool! Thanks so much to Hedvig for putting this together. You can see the full spreadsheet here, and if you speak a language that is not on the list, just let us know in the chat.
What does English sound like to foreign ears?
We’ve all heard examples of fake Chinese or German from speakers who lack familiarity with either language. While typically cringe-worthy, these examples do raise interesting questions regarding our own language. What does English sound like to non-English speakers? After more than 40 years, Adriano Celentano’s “Prisencolinensinainciusol” remains one of the most illuminating examples.
The entire song is nonsense verse, neither English nor Italian, but the sounds are meant to resemble English. Linguist Mark Liberman wrote an interesting post about this sort of thing over at Language Log discussing yaourter, the French word for an attempt to speak or sing in a foreign language that one doesn’t know all that well. This often involves trying to sing a foreign song with nonsense or random words filling in the blanks. Liberman shares this wonderful quote from a random Internet user:
Just for the story, in France, when we don’t speak English and we want to imitate the sound, we call it “yaourter”(to yoghourt), the imitation sounds like a very nasal language, kind of like a baby crying. It mostly imitates the “cowboy” accent.
jesus christ this is actually reALLY FRUSTRATING IT SOUNDS LIKE ENGLISH BUT IT DOESNT MAKE WORDS
Oh man, don’t even get me started on languages. I can talk for HOURS about how amazing languages are, and the differences and similarities between English and other languages, and the misconceptions, and and EVERYTHING
Oh this is awesome.
It’s our new favourite super hero - and he wears a cape!
[click image for the original]
Dutch Oven Bread (by Kinfolk)
God give me grace to make all my work and waiting this beautiful.
I just laughed incredibly loud.
In the curriculum lab.
THE SOUND I AM MAKING.