February 21 is World Mother Language Day. We asked people from around the world to share popular expressions in their mother tongue.
There are more than 7,000 languages spoken around the world today.
English is the most widely spoken, with approximately 1.35 billion speakers. Two out of every 10 English speakers are native, while the remaining 80 percent speak English as their second, third or higher language, according to Ethnologue.
Mandarin Chinese is the second-most spoken language in the world with 1.12 billion speakers but has the most native speakers globally with 921 million people speaking it as their mother tongue.
Hindi is the third-most spoken language globally (600 million), followed by Spanish (543 million), and Arabic (274 million).
Scripts in the world’s most popular languages
There are 294 known scripts – sets of graphic characters used to write a language – according to The World’s Writing Systems. As many as 161 scripts are still in use today, while 133 historical scripts, including Egyptian Hieroglyphs and Aztec pictograms, are no longer in use.
The Latin script, which is used to write English, French, Spanish, German and more, is used in at least 305 of the world’s 7,139 known living human languages.
Idioms in different languages
In English, when something is easy, you would say “it’s a piece of cake”, while Polish people would say a “bread roll with butter”, and Koreans say it is “eating cold rice porridge”.
Language is full of idiosyncrasies that define the uniqueness of cultures.
To capture this uniqueness on World Mother Language Day, we asked people from around the world to share expressions in their languages and what they mean. Listen here and see if you recognize any.
A special thank you to all those who lent us their voices for this story. Made with flourish