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Language Sounds Around the World

There are roughly about 6,000 languages spoken in the world today, with estimates ranging somewhere between 5000 and 7000. About half of the people on the planet conduct their lives in only about a dozen of these languages, while the rest of the world population, a very sizable number of about 3.5 billion people, communicate in a variety of other languages. As the globalization of world economy and associated communication needs promote the spread of the most populous languages, many of the less common languages face an uncertain future, with fewer and fewer native speakers remaining. Efforts are underway in many academic and nonacademic communities around the world to preserve language diversity and access to the many intellectual and cultural riches that it brings.

You can get a glimpse into this tremendous variety by listening to the sounds of different languages spoken around the world. Simply click on any marker on the map below and click play to hear the sounds of that language. Or to have a feel for the tremendous variety of sounds found in human languages, take a listen to Taa, a language spoken in Botswana and Namibia.

You can hone your ears for languages by playing this game, which tests how well you can recognize different languages by their sounds, or click here for another interesting map of languages around the world.