Updated: May 29
There are around 6,500 languages spoken around the world today. Sadly, some of the most interesting and unique languages are generally unknown since we only need a few languages—some of us even only one—to live our lives to the fullest. 🚀
In this blog post, we will discover some of the rarest languages from around the world that are still in active use today.
1. Silbo Gomero
This unique language is spoken on the Spanish island of La Gomera, just west of Tenerife. The language itself is as unique and magical as the environment where it was created.
What makes Silbo Gomero unique is the fact that it’s a language that entirely consists of whistling. This might sound funny to you, but in reality, it’s quite useful because the language was created to allow communication from a distance of up to three kilometers through mountainous terrain. And precisely this usefulness, especially for outdoor workers, has helped it to survive into modernity. 😉
In a nutshell, Silbo Gomero is just Spanish transposed into simplified whistling sounds.
Unfortunately, the language started losing popularity in the 1960s. Since it was mainly used by working-class people, many distanced themselves from the language in an attempt to move up the socioeconomic ladder. ☝️
Today, the language is protected as a unique heritage in the La Gomera region, and locals embrace their special language as a cultural asset. Additionally, UNESCO has pledged to preserve the language as an example of cultural heritage.
Here is an example of how Silbo Gomero is used:
Around two million people worldwide speak Esperanto, so you might be wondering why we’ve included it on this list of the most unique languages in the world.
The reason is that Esperanto is a constructed language, meaning that a single person, a Pole named L.L. Zamenhof, invented this language between 1873 and 1887 to create a universal language that would allow people of different cultures to relate to each other more easily. The ultimate goal was to improve international relations and avoid war altogether.
The language was not made up from scratch because it needed to be easily learnable. It is based heavily on Indo-European languages with vocabulary borrowed from Germanic and Romance languages and most of its grammatical structure inspired by Slavic languages. ☝️
In the 1920s, Esperanto found some success but was quickly squashed by authoritarian regimes that were afraid it would be leveraged for resistance. Although Esperanto didn’t achieve its goal—and English is still the world’s lingua franca—it’s a fascinating language to discover.
Here is a video where you can listen to this language:
3. Taa (also known as !Xóõ)
This language is also unique in the way it’s spoken because most of its vocabulary—around 82% of it—starts with a clicking sound. There are between 80 and 160 distinct clicking variations.
Most Taa speakers live in Botswana, but a few hundred live in Namibia as well. This rich language is believed to contain the most phonemes of any living language. Phonemes are the sounds that distinguish one word from another, and Taa has more than one hundred of them, including at least 58 consonants, 31 vowels, and four tones.
The Basque language is something of a mystery. It’s spoken in the Basque Country, a region mostly in northern Spain. What makes this language a mystery is that linguists can’t decide where this language stems from.
And, indeed, it’s spoken in the middle of such language powerhouses as Spanish and French, but it isn’t reminiscent of either of these languages. There are many theories about it, the most prevalent of which is that the Basque language is the only known survivor of a larger family of languages that once covered most of Western Europe.
Be that as it may, the language itself looks and sounds wonderfully strange. Check out the following video to listen to it:
This language, spoken by the Archi people in southern Dagestan in Russia, is unusual because, mathematically, 1,502,839 possible forms can be derived from a single verb root. Well, that makes you thankful that Spanish, French, and other languages that you might be learning have such a small number of verb tenses to memorize, right?
It’s also interesting to note that there was no written form of Archi for the longest time. Only in 2006 was a Cyrillic alphabet created for it. ☝️