Monday, December 22, 2008


Over the weekend, I was downloading the movie "The Passion of the Christ" - a 2004 Mel Gibson's epic about the crucification of Jesus Christ. I have watched it many times and I still find the movie somehow inspiring and touching. Sad case to say that this is Christmas season, not some Lent or Good Friday season top watch this movie - but I found out something interesting. The story is originally goes without subtitles while the actors are uttering in some foreign languages. They are Latin, reconstructed Aramaic and Hebrew. However, you still get subtitles when watching on cinema, DVD or downloaded version.

After a long hiatus, I decided to write about some simple linguistic facts - the study of language. A language is a dynamic set of visual, auditory, or tactile symbols of communication and the elements used to manipulate them, considered as an exclusive way for human to communicate. All languages must define the structural relationships between these symbols in a system of grammar and their symbols are arbitrary. An estimates of between 5,000 to 10,000 languages are thought to be exists worldwide.[1]


"Then they said, 'Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.'" (Genesis 11:4)

Language in human are developed from ancient need of a medium to communicate to each other. Bible verses tell us that human has different languages following an event after the Noah's famous Great Flood. According to Chapter 11 of The Book of Genesis, the human built a tower called Tower of Babel (Babylon) to unify all human around the world that spoke a single common language, the home of King Nimrod and as a symbol of human achievement. The tower was not used to praise the God, therefore gave each person a different language to confuse them and scattered the people throughout the earth.[2]


The ability of human to develop language is merely a great accomplishment of human's brain complexity. The human brain has several area that helps to process a language.[3]
  • Broca's area (blue) - language production, speech and sign production, and ability to understand.
  • Wernicke's area (green) - language comphrehension
  • Supramarginal gyrus (yellow) or Brodmann area 40 - activates human's imitation
  • Angular gyrus (orange) or Brodmann area 39 - written word is translated to internal monologue and understanding metaphors
  • Primary auditory cortex (pink) - sounds development

In the course history, there are several artificial languages were developed especially when literature played a part of our life. For example, JRR Tolkien created his fantasy language with his ultimate collection on The Middle Earth and Lord of the Rings. These languages are called constructed languages, serve to enable a person to learn a certain language easily (Esperanto language) or to facilitate logical thinking (Lojban language). Today, many books are published and translated into other languages to cater the readers from other countries.


Following is the top languages most-widely spoken in the world according to the native speakers and the secondary users. The list is highly varied but I use the compilations of Ethnologue, Encarta and other sources for the reference.

  1. MANDARIN (1120 - 1210 million)
  2. ENGLISH (510 million)
  3. HINDI (490 million)
  4. SPANISH (425 million)
  5. ARABIC (255 million)
  6. RUSSIAN (254 million)
  7. PORTUGUESE (218 million)
  8. BENGALI (215 million)
  9. MALAY-INDONESIAN (175 million)
  10. FRENCH (130 million)
  1. ENGLISH (431 million)
  2. CHINESE (276 million)
  3. SPANISH (125 million)
  4. JAPANESE (94 million)
  5. FRENCH (68 million)
  6. GERMAN (61 million)
  7. ARABIC (60 million)
  8. PORTUGUESE (58 million)
  9. KOREAN (35 million)
  10. ITALIAN (35 million)


According to the World Atlas of Language Structure, they enlisted 23 languages that are spoken in Malaysia. It's here. However, the list seems to contain those languages that originated from Malaysia-land, rather than did it includes those Chinese or Indian dialect languages that were also spoken in Malaysia.[4]

Those languages are:
ASLIAN - Mah Meri, Semai, Semelai, Jahai, Temiar
BORNEO - Biatah, Narom, kadazan, Kayan (Baram), Begak-Ida'an, Timugon, Kelabit, Mentuh Tapuh, Malanau, Tatana'
CHINESE - Fuzhou
SUNDIC - Malay (Kuala Lumpur, Ulu Muar, common), Iban
Hmmm...I seriously never heard of some of the languages there.


Now, say "I Love You" in other languages. Don't just limited yourself for some English, Mandarin or Malay. Try other as well. [6]

MANDARIN - seriously if you don't know - Wuo ai ni
ENGLISH - seriously if you don't know - I love you
HINDI - Mein Tumse Pyar Karta Hoon
- Te amo, Te quiero ARABIC - Ana Behibak (to a male), Ana Behibek (to a female)
RUSSIAN - Ya lyublyu tebya
PORTUGUESE - Eu te amo
BENGALI - Ami tomAy bhAlobAshi ???
MALAY - seriously if you don't know - Saya cintakan kamu
FRENCH - Je t'aime
JAPANESE - Kimi o ai shiteru GERMAN - Ich liebe Dich
KOREAN - Tangsinul sarang ha yo
ITALIAN - Ti amo
DUTCH - Ik hou van jou
GREEK - S'ayapo
IRISH - taim i' ngra leat TAGALOG - Mahal Kita
SWEDISH - Jag a"Iskar dig
THAI - Phom Rak Khun

Well, Enjoy!!!

References: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] all pictures are courtesy of Wikipedia


Brian Barker said...

The Tower of Babel reigns, still, today unfortunately.

I hope will therefore be interested that the international language, Esperanto is making.

During a short period of 121 years Esperanto is in the top 100 languages, out of 6,000 worldwide, according to the CIA factbook. It is the 17th most used language in Wikipedia, and in use by Skype, Firefox and Facebook.

Native Esperanto speakers, include George Soros, Nobel Laureate Daniel Bovet, Ulrich Brandenberg, the new German Ambassador to NATO, and World Champion Chess Player, Susan Polger

Further arguments can be seen at - and a glimpse of the language can be seen at

Cher Linn Tang said...

for Nepali, to say /I love you/ is: /ma timilai maya garchu/ :)

Jordan said...

In german,

Ich Liebe Sie!

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