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If I could have my time over againhow many times do we hear people say that – but if I could, being able to speak many languages would be near the top of the wish list.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Talk the talk ... When humans are together, they love to talk. However, the astonishing number of languages we use for conversation is quite a talking point in itself. Photo by Matt Lamers on Unsplash, with many thanks.
It is strange that our species can't get by with just one common language.

It's amazing, staggering, the number of tongues we use.

Sparrows nor eagles, camels or calves don't seem to tweet or grunt or roar in different ways depending on their locations.

Same breath

In the same breath, one could almost ask if we need a language at all.

For instance, Adam didn't seem to suffer much of a handicap with Eve.

Staying with fantasy for a moment, when I meet up with family Up There, I'll ask my mother why she didn't pass on her excellent French.

It seems that up to the age of about seven, little humans can pick up additional languages really quickly.

The top five languages we use to talk ...
1. Chinese/Mandarin — 37 countries, 13 dialects, 1,284 million speakers
2. Spanish — 31 countries, 437 million
3. English — 106 countries, 372 million
4. Arabic — 57 countries, 19 dialects, 295 million
5. Hindi — 5 countries, 260 million ...
Of course, you only have to listen in Lidl's or Aldi to hear toddlers switching easily between English and their mother's language and even ones that sound as if they have no background in Latin.

I did learn schoolboy French once, and in of all faraway places Central Otago, the heart of the fruit-growing district in southern New Zealand.

I expect the accent would have been decidedly more Kiwi than, well, Calais.

How many, do you think?

If we met over coffee in Caffe Nero, where there are often low-priced specials – at least, so their promotional messages report – and I asked you to number the languages we humans have, what would be your guess?

You might offer German and Polish and Gaelic and English and … But would you be likely to guess the actual number?

If I tried, I'd have been out by a mile. Believe it or not, but as writer Matt Rosenberg reports in Thought Co that there are 6,909 languages.

Nearly 7,000! Isn't that extraordinary? And what a revelation that many of us can speak just one seven-thousandth of human languages.

Schoolboy French

Once I did have an interesting second tongue, Polynesian, but now I can't manage even in the language of our closest neighbour, schoolboy French, cobber.

ThoughtCo doesn't name each of that vast collection of tongues. Interestingly, though, it gives us the top 10.

If I guessed what they might be, I'd have put English first, then German, and perhaps Spanish a little further back.

Surprisingly, German isn't part of the top ten. There's a shock for our tongue, too. Apparently, 372 million of us manage English, but three and three-quarters more speak Chinese.

Here's the top ten human tongues:

1. Chinese/Mandarin — 37 countries, 13 dialects, 1,284 million speakers
2. Spanish — 31 countries, 437 million
3. English — 106 countries, 372 million
4. Arabic — 57 countries, 19 dialects, 295 million
5. Hindi — 5 countries, 260 million
6. Bengali — 4 countries, 242 million
7. Portuguese — 13 countries, 219 million
8. Russian — 19 countries, 154 million
9. Japanese — 2 countries, 128 million
10. Lahnda — 6 countries, 119 million

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