This blog post was updated on July 12, 2021.
It is estimated that across the globe, there are over 7,000 languages. Unfortunately, UNESCO estimates that half of these languages will die out by the end of the century. While Spanish, French and German might be here to stay, other areas of Europe speak languages you might not know about, those local tongues that might disappear as time goes on. Here are a few languages across Europe that you might have never heard of before.
If you prefer to whistle to communicate, you might want to move to the Canary Island of La Gomero
. On the island, roughly 22,000 people speak Silbo Gomero. The language is all about whistling in which the Spanish language is replaced by whistled vowels and consonants. Silbo Gomero was created to communicate across the island, especially across its steep mountains, deep valleys and ravines. While they might sound like whistles to the average Joe, Silbo Gomero translates into roughly 4,000 words. It is believed that the language originates from settlers from North Africa. Silbo Gomero is the only known whistling language of its kind in the world.
While a small island, France’s Corsica boasts it own language. If you travel to the French island of Corsica
, you might hear Corsu, otherwise known as Corsican. As most Corsicans known French and speak it fluently, the language isn’t as close to French as you might think. Rather, Corsu is closer to Italian, having Tuscan characteristics. Over 300,000 people speak Corsu.
Spoken throughout Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia, the Sámi languages are rooted in northern Scandinavia
. While it is estimated that around 25,000 people speak Sámi languages, it also boasts a wealth of dialects. If a Sámi speaker is separated by some hundred miles from another, most likely they can’t communicate. Sámi languages are sometimes considered dialects of one language with great variations between one area and another. Sámi languages are sometimes called Lapp languages.
While you might visit Switzerland
and expect to hear Swiss German, a little French or even Italian, the other national language is Romansh. The fourth official language of Switzerland is often described as a Latin dialect. Romansh is actually a direct descendant of the Latin that was spoken in the mountain valleys at the height of the Roman Empire. While always a regional tongue, Romansh is still spoken by around 60,000 people. It was declared an official language of Switzerland in 1998.