30 Facts about 30 European Languages

30 Facts about 30 European Languages by ialja

This article was written by Global Graduates, published on 26th September 2014 and has been read 7136 times.

To mark the European Day of Languages and to celebrate the linguistic diversity we have in Europe, we've decided to create a list of 30 random facts about 30 different European languages! But which language has a word that means 'I accidentally ate the whole thing'? And which language nearly replaced English as the official language of the USA? Read on to find out...
The longest single word palindrome in Italian is onorarono ('they honored'). In Albania, shaking your head means ‘yes’ whilst nodding means ‘no’ (occasionally people do it the other way around, which makes it even more confusing!) There is a special grammar tense in Bulgarian that is used only when a person is retelling a story that he/she hasn’t personally witnessed but just heard. The tense can be used even if the person was a main participant in the story but can’t really remember it. Czech has many words that are made up entirely of consonants; for example krk ('neck'); prst ('finger'); smrk ('pine tree'); smrt ('death'). Danish was the official language of Norway until about 1830 and of Iceland until 1944. Around 1% of English words are of Dutch origin: e.g. 'boss', 'coleslaw', 'cookie', 'dam', 'dock', 'easel', 'frolic', 'gas', 'landscape', 'luck', Santa Claus (from Sinterklaas), 'skates', 'snoop', 'splinter', 'spook', 'stove', 'waffle', 'walrus' The longest word in the Finnish language, that isn't a compound word, is epaejaerjestelmaellistyttaemaettoemyydellaensaekaeaen. In English it means 'even with their lack of ability to disorganize’. French is also the only language, (along with English), that is taught in every country of the world, with 100 million students and 2 million teachers – 20 % of whom are outside of Francophone countries. A word with no translation. The Georgian word Shemomedjamo means 'to eat past the point of fullness because the food tastes so good'. It roughly translates to “I accidentally ate the whole thing“. German almost became the official language of the United States of America. The Continental Congress, convened in Philadelphia during the Revolution, at one time considered adopting a new language for the future of the United States, with the aim of cutting off all ties with England. Among the languages suggested were German, Hebrew and French. When it finally came to a vote, English narrowly won – just by one vote! There are no words for 'yes' or 'no' in Irish, but that doesn't mean there's no way to answer a question. You communicate "yes" and "no" with a verb form. The answer to 'did they sell the house?' would be '(they) sold' or '(they) didn't sell.'  Latvian and Lithuanian are the only two living languages from the Baltic languages family. There is an abundance of nature words in Lithuanian, probably because the people are so fond of the outdoors. This is particularly evident in traditional personal names such as Rūta ('Rue'), Aušra ('Dawn'), and Giedrius ('Cloudless'). Luxembourg is a genuine trilingual society. It has three official languages: Luxembourgish, French and German. It also has a education system that is tri-lingual. For the first four years, children are taught in Luxembourgian, before giving way to German, which in turn gives way to French. Likewise, in the country's parliament, debates are held in Luxembourgish, draft legislation is drafted in German, while the statute laws are written in French. In Malta, the baby’s first year is regarded as dangerous, so the first birthday – Il-Quccija – is a happy occasion. On this day the child’s future is suggested when a tray of small objects is carried in and placed on the floor. The baby is then put down and allowed to crawl in any direction it wants. What it picks up from the tray signifies its future. The traditional objects include: an egg (bajda) for an abundance of happiness; a pen (pinna) for a desk job; some coins (muniti) for wealth; a ball (ballun) for sport); rosary beads (kuruna) for the Church; a book (ktieb) –for a lawyer; and these days other items such as a stethoscope (a doctor) or a CD (a DJ). Moldova is one of the few countries in the world that celebrates Language Day. Limba noastră which stands for 'our tongue' or 'our language' is a public holiday observed annually on 31st August.  Whereas many languages opt for a you-thou kind of distinction between younger and older people and formal and informal situations, Polish speakers use titles: Pan and Pani meaning Sir and Lady. During the times of Portuguese exploration some words entered the English language, such as 'cobra', 'flamingo' and 'piranha'. Over a quarter of the world's scientific literature is published in Russian. Russian is also applied as a means of coding and storage of universal knowledge—60–70% of all world information is published in the English and Russian languages. There are around fifty Slovenian dialects, which are sometimes so different that their speakers have difficulties understanding each other Slovene is one of very rare languages to use dual grammatical forms in addition to the singular and the plural. The beauty of it is best seen in the sphere of love and romanticism, because it clearly refers to only two people. Silbo Gomero also known as el silbo ('the whistle'), is a whistled language spoken by inhabitants of La Gomera in the Canary Islands. It is structured in such a way that the islanders are able to mimic the spoken language of the region – Castilian Spanish – through whistles. While there have been reports of other whistling languages in the world, Silbo Gomero is the only one that is fully developed and practiced by an entire community. The language is being taught to small school children in a bid to keep it alive. Sweden is a country that not only values the concept of a lack of extremes but even has a word for it – lagom. In this society, equality is everything and hierarchies are supposed to be non-existent. Everything and everyone is supposed to be just lagom – which is not to say ‘boring’, so much as ‘not too much and not too little', ‘just right’. It is believed that George Gershwin wrote one of the world’s most famous songs, “Summertime”, after being inspired by an old Ukrainian lullaby called “Sleep Is Tiptoeing About” performed by the Ukrainian National Chorus. During WWII, the Dutch would identify Germans by asking them to pronounce the word Scheveningen. Consequently, the word is a well-known shibboleth, a Hebrew term for a word that, if pronounced correctly, distinguishes you clearly as belonging to a certain group. Similarly, the Flemish used to ask people to pronounce Schild en Vriend (meaning 'shield and friend'), when trying to identify French-speaking spies.  Esperanto is an artificial language, but is spoken by about 500,000 to 2,000,000 people, and 2 feature films have been done in the language. Basque, spoken around the Pyrenees in France and Spain, is the only language in Europe not to be related to any other known language. Argentina is the only other country in the world where Welsh is spoken - alongside Wales of course. Welsh immigrants settled in Patagonia in 1865 and kept the language. A new word in the English language is created about every 98 minutes.

Get Involved in European Day of Languages 2014!

Share your language skills by contributing to the Guardian's picture dictionary. Attend the International Translation Day at the British Library Enter the Council of Europe's Europe-wide photography competition  Check out CILT's list for more ideas of how you can celebrate linguistic diversity at school, university or even at home!

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