Language is the way we communicate with other people. Our language has patterns and rules so that we can understand each other clearly. For example we have set spellings and grammar rules, as well as an understanding on how to pronounce words. Especially the rules on how to pronounce a word can change between regions even in the same country. This is down to differences in accent and dialect.
Language could be defined as “the words that the people from a particular country use when they speak or write.” (Children’s Dictionary, First Racehorse) There are roughly 6,500 different languages spoken in the world today. Check out ethnologue for an A-Z of different languages.
Places and countries have official languages. These are the main languages spoken there. The country with the most official languages is Zimbabwe with 16. In the UK our official language is English. Many countries also have minority languages, a language officially recognised as being spoken by a minority of the population of a territory. Minority languages in the UK are Scots, Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, Irish, Ulster Scots, Angloromani, Beurla Reagaird, and Shelta. Cornish is a regional language. In the UK we also have a number of immigrant languages spoken. These are languages spoken by people who arrived in the British Isles from other countries.
Not all languages are spoken languages. Sign language is ‘spoken’ using the hands. Sign language is not a universal language. Like spoken language, sign languages developed naturally through interaction between different groups of people. This means that there are many different varieties. There are approximately between 138 and 300 different types of sign language used around the world today. In the UK we generally use British Sign Language or Irish Sign Language.
- How many different languages can you name? Do you know at least one place where each of those languages are spoken?
- ‘Languages that start with’ game – Can you think of at least one language for every letter of the alphabet?
- How many languages do you know how to say “hello”? Have a competition between classes – which class knows (or can find out) the most ways to say hello.
- Each pupil in the class chooses a different language. Write/draw and decorate the word “welcome” in that language. Decorate the outside of the classroom door to make it a multilingual welcome.
- Pick a language on Duolingo and complete a few basic lessons. How many words and phrases can you remember at the end? Teach them to a friend.
- Find someone in your class, school, community, or family who speaks another language from English. Find out a bit about that language. Ask them to teach you to introduce yourself in that language.
- Use Google translate to translate an English poem or rhyme into another language. Copy and paste the result and translate it back into English. Does it come out the same? What are the differences? Why do you think it might translate back with some different words or meaning?