Thursday, August 16, 2012

25 Most Significant Languages in the World

Human language is unique among the lifeforms of Earth because its complex structure affords a much wider range of possible expressions and uses than any known system of animal communication. Language acts as medium to communicate people around the world. There are over 6,000 languages in use today and roughly 30% are spoken by 1,000 people or less. If any of you have planned to learn a foreign language and you are confused to choosing which one. Then here is a list to make your job easier, in this list we have ranked the 25 most significant and influential languages in the world.

However, in this list some languages with relatively few speakers ( like Italian ) will outrank languages with hundreds of millions of speakers ( like Bengali ). This is because the rankings are not just done according to how many people speak the language but also the language influence over the today's economy. Of course this is taken into consideration but so is how many people speak it as a second language, its impact on global commerce and trade, and its lingua franca status around the world. Now take a look at the list...

25. Korean

Although it is spoken by almost 80 million people in North Korea, South Korea, and China, it has not achieved a significant level of influence beyond the borders of the Korean Peninsula. It is also one of the hardest languages for foreigners to learn and the U.S. government classifies it as a category IV language along with Arabic and Japanese. This means that it requires at least 63 weeks of instruction to achieve a workable level of fluency as opposed to only 25 weeks for Spanish or French.

24. Cantonese

Despite having only 1/20th the number of the speakers as its counterpart (60 million), Cantonese has a much more global reach than Mandarin. Not only is it spoken in southern China and Hong Kong, but also in Chinese communities around the world.

23. Thai

While it is technically spoken by around 25 million people, the official language of Thailand has a number of mutually intelligible dialects that brings the total number of speakers to around 60 million.

22. Punjabi

With approximately 90 million speakers Punjabi is the 10th most spoken language in the world and although it is the primary language of the Indian state of Punjab most of its 90 million speakers reside in Pakistan. As far as having global influence, Punjabi hardly compares to some of the other languages on this list but with so many speakers it was bound to end up here somewhere.

21. Javanese

Not to be confused with Japanese, Javanese is also the primary language of an eastern Asian island. Java, found in Indonesia, is the worlds most populous island which gives Javanese a total number of native speakers numbering close to 90 million.

20. Polish

As the second most widely spoken Slavic language after Russian, Polish speakers stand at about 46 million strong. Although there are numerous communities of Polish speakers living abroad, Polish is not nearly as influential a language as some of its other European counterparts.

19. Vietnamese

Spoken by roughly 90 million people, Vietnamese doesn’t rank any higher due to the fact that it is used almost exclusively in Vietnam. The language has, however, begun to propagate beyond the country’s borders as immigrants take it with them to Europe and America.

18. Turkish

As the language of the most dominant power in the Middle East and one of the largest economies in the world, Turkish is spoken by 83 million people primarily in Turkey but also in various regions around Central Asia.

17. Bengali

With over 200 million speakers, Bengali is the sixth most spoken language in the world. The only reason it is so far behind the other 5 (who rank much higher on this list) is because it is primarily spoken in only one very small geographical region – the extremely densely populated country of Bangladesh.

16. Dutch / Afrikaans

With a total of around 50 million speakers, the mutually intelligible languages of Dutch and Africaans ( Africaans is a daughter language spoken in South Africa that formed out of Dutch dialects ) find significant usage everywhere from Europe to South America to Indonesia.

15. Italian

In the European Union it has 65 million speakers but if you count the numerous regions abroad where it is spoken as a second language then the number gets closer to 90 million. Of note, it is the official language of the Vatican and carries considerable weight in the worlds of music (particularly opera), international sports, and design/fashion.

14. Tamil

Spoken primarily in several southern Indian states, Tamil also holds official language status in Sri Lanka and Singapore. It is one the oldest languages still in use today and has around 80 million total speakers.

13. Swahili

Used extensively along the east coast of Africa as the language of trade, Swahili has upwards of 100 million speakers (only a small portion are native) and is the official language of several countries. It’s influence is steadily growing and many major international news outlets now feature Swahili language broadcasts.

12. Farsi ( Persian )

With over a hundred million speakers, Farsi holds official status in Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan and has a long history of being regarded as a “prestigious cultural language” throughout Central Asia.

11. Malay

In Malaysia its known as Malaysian while in Indonesia it is known as Indonesian. Although the nomenclature can get a bit confusing, Malay as a whole is spoken in numerous countries throughout the region accounting for hundreds of millions of speakers.

10. Hindustani ( Hindi  / Urdu )

These sister languages are very closely related and really only differ in their writing system. Urdu, the official language of Pakistan, is written using Arabic script while Hindi, the official language of India, is written in Devanagari script. Although neither has significant influence outside of the Indian Subcontinent, they have a combined total of over 200 million native speakers and hundreds of millions more that speak them as a second language. It should be noted, however, that a multitude of languages are spoken throughout India and although Hindi is the official language, certain regions like the Dravidian south prefer English which is often seen as an “associate official language”.’

9. Japanese

Spoken by about 120 million people, most of its speakers reside within the borders of Japan. It is a notoriously hard language to learn, which has probably in part contributed to the fact that it hasn’t been picked up in many other countries. Japan is, however, one of the worlds reigning economic powers and as a result its language does hold significant influence in the realms of business and trade.

8. German

With about 120 million speakers German has undergone some wild fluctuations over the course of the last century. Typically, it has been the language of science and industry with technically oriented students around the globe having to learn it in order to pursue their careers. Although after the World Wars it inevitably lost influence, as one of the worlds strongest economies Germany still exerts considerable influence.

7. Portuguese

Spoken by about 200 million people world wide, Portuguese is actually the most popular language in the Southern Hemisphere and along with English, French, and Spanish, it is considered a “world language” due to its global reach. With Brazil emerging as a world power look for Portuguese to come along for the ride.

6. Russian

With around 200 million native speakers, Russian is understood throughout Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The reason we say understood rather than spoken is due to the fact that many former Soviet nations, having a “bad taste” left in their mouth from Soviet occupation, tend to avoid using the language although it is still widely understood. In spite of that, and a vastly decreased global influence, Russian is still a major player in the global arena.

5. Mandarin

There are two reasons that Mandarin is #5 on this list. First, it has close to a billion native speakers, which is almost three times as much as any other language. The truth is, however, that it really isn’t spoken anywhere beyond Southeast Asia other than in Taiwan or Chinese communities in other parts of the world. So, although at present it is not very influential in a global sense, due to a robust economy it very well may begin to flex its muscles in the near future.

4. Arabic

Apart from English and French, Arabic is arguably the most international language largely due to its position as the language of Islam. It can be hard to quantify the exact number of speakers however, because modern standard Arabic, although spoken as a second language by hundreds of million people around the globe, can be very different from the dialects spoken in the roughly twenty countries where it is used as the primary language.

3. Spanish

Although no where near English in terms of global influence, Spanish is rapidly gaining on French. It has almost 400 million native speakers, is the lingua franca of close to twenty countries, and is spoken all over the world as a second language. Also, as Latin America comes into its own on the world stage Spanish will inevitably gain influence.

2. French

Although it has lost considerable ground to English over the course of the last century, French is still the second most influential language in the world. With official language status in 25 countries it is the most popular lingua franca after English and is used by many international groups and organizations.

1. English

Although it only has about 500 million native speakers there are almost 2 billion people in the world that communicate in English on a regular basis. But most of those English speakers live in the same country whose primary language is Mandarin.

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Worldwide Obsession For Pursuit of Gold - 36 Photos

The pursuit of gold medals has athletes and fans focused on the Olympic games in London, but the pursuit of gold is a worldwide obsession that extends far beyond the realm of sport. Investors and speculators drove the price of gold to dizzying heights a year ago as they sought refuge from volatile markets. Seeking gain in an uncertain recession, millions of people trade old jewelry as cash-for-gold businesses flourish. Throughout the ups and downs, gold extraction continues far from the glory of sports and the frenzy of markets.

Gold is dredged, mined, and panned in operations large and small, often at great risk to miners. Processing gold with cyanide and other chemicals involves dangerous environmental hazards. What results is undeniably beautiful. Gathered here are 36 images of people extracting, processing, refining, buying, selling, celebrating - and all of them going for gold. Take a look...

1. A small-scale miner holds his gold that was melted together at a processing plant north of Ulan Bator on April 5, 2012. Mongolia is home to some of the world's biggest unexploited mineral deposits, and has become one of the hottest destinations for billions of dollars of mining investment. ( Image Source: David Gray/Reuters )

2. Reynaldo Elejorde, a former farmer and now a small-scale miner, shows a gold tooth made from particles he and his family gathered at a mining site in Mt. Diwata in Mindanao, Philippines. The Philippines is believed to have some of the biggest mineral reserves in the world -- the government estimates the country has at least 840 billion USD in gold, copper, nickel, chromite, manganese, silver and iron ore deposits, but the minerals have been largely untapped, partly because of a strong anti-mining movement led by the influential Catholic Church. ( Image Source: Ted Aljibe/AFP/GettyImages ) 

3. An informal gold miner is roughed up by Peruvian riot policemen during clashes in the town of Puerto Maldonado, Peru on March 14, 2012. More than sixty people were arrested,at least three people killed, and 29 injured during protests against a new government decree that criminalizes illegal mining activity. ( Image Source: STR/AFP/Getty Images ) 

4. The gold and copper mine of US giant Newmont in Indonesia's Sumbawa island dominates the landscape in a file photograph from April 4, 2007. ( Image Source: Sonny Tumbelaka/AFP/GettyImages ) 

5. Polluted water flows from an abandoned gold mine in Rosia Montana, Romania on September 20, 2011. A Canadian company wants to build a controversial open pit mine that would use large amounts of cyanide. ( Image Source: Daniel Mihailescu/AFP/GettyImages ) 

6. The cloudy spots on an undated chest X-ray shows the effects of silicosis on a gold miner. In 2011, South Africa said gold miners with silicosis could sue for compensation, and thousands plan to do just that. ( Image Source: NIOH/NHLS/Handout/Reuters ) 

7. Miners Jacinto Pariona (right) and Edwin Sarmiento eat at a public hospital after being rescued from the Cabeza de Negro gold-and-copper mine in Ica, Peru on April 11, 2012. Nine miners were trapped inside for six days. ( Image Source: Martin Mejia/Associated Press ) 

8. Residents inside a funeral parlor in Pantukan, Philippines look at the body of a girl killed in a landslide in a remote small community of gold prospectors on January 5, 2012. At least 25 people were killed and about 100 others were missing. ( Image Source: STR/AFP/Getty Images ) 

9. A girl pans for gold in the Irrawaddy River in Myanmar's Kachin State on February 24, 2012, earning from $3-12 a day. A day's work yields an amount of gold roughly the size of a grain or two of rice. ( Image Source: Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters ) 

10. Papuan villagers gather in a river to pan for gold after sludge containing gold leaked from a pipeline of US mining giant Freeport-McMoran in Kwamki Lama, Indonesia. Striking Freeport workers said the leak was due to corrosion and were demanding at least an eight-fold increase in the current minimum wage of $1.50 an hour. ( Image Source: Tjahjono Eranius/AFP/Getty Images ) 

11. Mechanics work on a mining truck at the Newmont Mining Corp. gold quarry mine in the Carlin Trend west of Elko, Nevada on January 25, 2012. ( Image Source: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg ) 

12. An informal gold digger looks for gold in the sand of a creek in the mountains of San Juan Arriba, Honduras on February 7, 2012. ( Image Source: Orlando Sierra/AFP/Getty Images ) 

13. A miner carries a sack of stones containing gold material at the Poboya gold mine in Indonesia on April 19, 2012. Some 1.1 million people are employed in Indonesia's formal mining sector. ( Image Source: Yusuf Ahmad/Reuters ) 

14. Artisanal gold miners pass up pans of sediment from an open-cast mine near the town of Mongbwalu, Democratic Republic of Congo on April 28, 2012. It is one of many areas of the country to have experienced bitter ethnic conflict between rival tribes in recent years. Massacres have left tens of thousands dead. ( Image Source: Jonny Hogg/Reuters ) 

15. Dave Maxfield of Hardwick, Mass. and his wife Christy lift their sluice out of the water while panning for gold in the Twin River in Bath, N.H. on July 13, 2012. ( Image Source: Cheryl Senter for the Boston Globe ) 

16. A man repairs a damaged water pump at a gold mine in Madre de Dios, Peru on August 25, 2011. Perhaps nowhere else in the Amazon is the battle between mining's economic possibility and environmental impact more apparent than in the state of Madre de Dios, where thousands of people depend on the industry to survive and a majority of miners operate illegally. ( Image Source: Dado Galdieri/Bloomberg ) 

17. Miners push a trolley loaded with ore materials for processing at a mining site in the village of Mt. Diwata in Mindanao, Philippines on July 17, 2012. ( Image Source: Ted Aljibe/AFP/GettyImages ) 

18. A worker walks through the Pueblo Viejo mine in Sanchez Ramirez province in the Dominican Republic on March 20, 2012. One of the world’s largest gold mining operations, run by a joint venture of Canadian companies Barrick Gold and Goldcorp, is about to open in the Dominican Republic, where the industry has a toxic legacy of pollution that stained rivers a searing red and failed to lift the fortunes of this largely poor country. ( Image Source: Manuel Diaz/Associated Press ) 

19. An employee of KCM pours molten gold while reprocessing it near Plovdiv, Bulgaria on October 20, 2011. ( Image Source: Stoyan Nenov/Reuters ) 

20. Gold is poured at Agnico-Eagle's Meadowbank Mine near Baker Lake, Nunavut, Canada on August 24, 2011. ( Image Source: Chris Wattie/Reuters ) 

21. Gold bars are displayed at a jewelery shop in Chandigarh, India on May 8, 2012. India is the world's biggest buyer of bullion. ( Image Source: Ajay Verma/Reuters ) 

22. Indonesian police clash with striking workers of US gold and copper mining company Freeport McMoran in Timika, Indonesia on October 10, 2011 where police shot and killed one protester and wounded another after the striking workers pelted them with stones, injuring seven policemen. ( Image Source: Tjahjo Eranius/AFP/Getty Images ) 

23. Andean people protest against Newmont's proposed $4.8 billion Conga gold mine near the Cortada lagoon in Cajamarca, Peru on November 24, 2011. Protesters and farmers say the mine would cause pollution and hurt water supplies by replacing a string of alpine lakes with artificial reservoirs. ( Image Source: Enrique Castro-Mendivil/Reuters ) 

24. Traders work in the gold and silver options pit at the New York Mercantile Exchange in New York on August 24, 2011. Gold plunged in the biggest drop since December 2008. ( Image Source: Jin Lee/Bloomberg ) 

25. Javed Maseeh sweeps the pavement as he searches for gold at a gold market in Peshawar on July 3, 2011. When shops close, Pakistan's gold scavengers sift through dirt and sewers for precious dust particles. ( Image Source: A. Majeed/AFP/Getty Images ) 

26. Security guard Gus Rodriguez stands outside "El Palacio de Oro" jewelry store in downtown Los Angeles on August 25, 2011. ( Image Source: Damian Dovarganes/Associated Press ) 

27. A shop assistant sells gold bars at a gold shop in Beijing on October 26, 2011. ( Image Source: STR/AFP/Getty Images ) 

28. Locals stand on the Phaung Daw (Royal Boat) during the annual 18-day Phaung Daw Oo festival at Inle Lake, Myanmar on October 4, 2011. The boat houses five statues of Buddha gilded with gold leaf, which are believed to have been brought there by one of the kings of Bagan in the 11th century. ( Image Source: Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters ) 

29. An Oscar statuette is dipped in an electrically charged tub as it is plated with gold at the R.S. Owens factory in Chicago on December 6, 2011. ( Image Source: Mira Oberman/AFP/Getty Images ) 

30. Buddhist monks pray as worshippers put gold leaves onto a seated Buddha image at the Mahamuni temple in Mandalay, Myanmar on February 4, 2012. ( Image Source: Christophe Archambault/AFP/Getty Images ) 

31. Angelito "Karat Chef" Araneta Jr. looks at his edible water dragon sculpture made of gum-paste icing inside a restaurant in Manila on January 20, 2012. The sculpture is coated with 24k gold leaf and adorned with 17 Mikimoto pearls and two diamonds on the eyeballs. Angelito made the sculpture, which costs around 600,000 pesos ($13,863), for the Lunar New Year. ( Image Source: Romeo Ranoco/Reuters ) 

32. Goldsmiths craft ornaments at a workshop in Kolkata on March 26, 2012. ( Image Source: Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters ) 

33. Old jewelry made from gold is melted down at Zorka, a jewelry factory in Minsk on April 26, 2012. ( Image Source: Vasily Fedosenko/Reuters ) 

34. Jewelry and silver and gold coins dating back to the Roman period that were recently discovered at an excavation site near kiryat Gat, in Jerusalem are displayed on June 4, 2012. ( Image Source: Sharon Gal/AFP/GettyImages )

35. A client whose face is covered with gold is seen at the Viet My beauty salon in Hanoi on February 13, 2012. Viet My is one of a small number of salons in Vietnam that provides 24k gold leaf face mask therapy, said to help make skin whiter. A single facial costs 1.8 million Vietnam dong ($86.41). ( Image Source: Kham/Reuters )

36. South Korea's Oh Jin Hyek bites his gold medal during the victory ceremony for the men's individual archery event at the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Lord's Cricket Ground on August 3, 2012. ( Image Source: Suhaib Salem/Reuters )