"Absolutely nothing is so important for a nation's culture as its language."
— Wilhelm von Humboldt, Philosopher and Diplomat

Languages at Northwestern

There are 23 languages offered at Northwestern…

Language and link  Speakers Worldwide Interesting Fact
Arabic • العربية 180 million When meeting someone for the first time, use the greeting السلام عليكم [assalamu a’alaikum], peace be upon you.
Bosnian • Bosanski jezik/Босански језикCroatian • Hrvatski jezikSerbian • Српски језик/Serpski jezik 20 million The continuum of Slavic linguistic varieties known today as Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian was the most widely spoken language in the former Yugoslavia, then called Serbo-Croatian. Today these distinct varieties are written in Latin and Cyrillic and are based on different dialects. Some still consider the languages as a unit called “BCS” because of their close similarities.
Chinese • 中文 1.2 billion Korean and Japanese both have writing systems employing Chinese characters (hanzi), which are called Hanja and Kanji, respectively.
Czech • čeština 12 million 90% of Czechs have completed at least secondary education – one of the highest scores in the EU.
French • le français 68 million The word “déjà vu” means “already seen” in french.
German • Deutsch 95 million German is the most widely spoken language in Europe.
Ancient Greek • ελληνικά Unknown number Ancient Greek was the language in which many of the foundational texts of Western philosophy — such as the Platonic dialogues and the works of Aristotle — were composed.
Hebrew • עִבְרִית 8 million The core of the Torah (the first five books of the Hebrew Bible), and most of the rest of the Hebrew Bible, is written in Classical Hebrew.
Hindi • मानक हिन्दी 550 million The most common word for greetings in Hindi is नमस्ते (namaste).
Italian • lingua italiana 80 million According to recent research, the longest Italian word has 29 letters: esofagodermatodigiunoplastica and refers to surgery following the removal of the stomach and oesophagus.
Japanese • 日本語 127 million Perhaps the best-known Japanese literary form outside Japan is the Haiku, which has a 5-7-5 syllabic structure.
Korean • 한국어 76 million There are various theories about how King Sejong invented Korea’s writing system. Some say that he created the letters to look like the shapes that the mouth makes when it’s pronouncing the sounds.
Latin • lingua latīna Unknown number Latin originated in the Italian peninsula and was spoken in Ancient Rome.
Persian • فارسی 110 million Persian, also known as Farsi, is spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan.
Polish • Język polski 45 million You might have heard of Solidarność, Poland’s trade union federation and social movement. The meaning of the word is easy enough to guess – solidarity.
Portuguese • língua portuguesa 252 million During the times of Portuguese exploration, some words entered the English vocabulary, such as cobra, flamingo, and piranha.
Russian • Русский язык 270 million The Russian alphabet consists of 33 letters. Even after 20 some years after the break-up of the Soviet Union, Russian is still the lingua franca for many former republics, including Belarus, Ukraine, the regions of Central Asia and the Baltics as well as elsewhere in parts of Central and Eastern Europe.
Spanish • español 900 million Mexico contains the highest number of Spanish speakers, followed by the U.S.
Swahili • Kiswahili 41 million Some Swahili vocabulary is derived from Arabic through more than twelve centuries of contact with Arabic-speaking inhabitants of the coast of southeastern Africa.
Turkish • Türkçe 70 million Apart from Turkey, Turkish is also spoken in Germany, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Northern Cyprus, Greece, and other parts of Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
Yiddish • אידיש 13 million Yiddish developed as a fusion of Hebrew and Aramaic into German dialects with the infusion of Slavic and traces of Romance languages. It is spoken in many Orthodox Jewish communities around the world.

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