Monday, June 29, 2015

Country Profile: The Languages of Guatemala

Somehow we've managed to never have done a country profile on a Central American country before, so we thought we should rectify that problem. Today we'll be looking at the linguistic diversity of Guatemala, the most populous country in Central America!

The Official Language

Guatemala City, the beautiful capital of Guatemala.
As is true of many other countries in the Americas, the sole official language of Guatemala is Spanish. The Spanish language was first brought to the area during the Spanish conquest in the 16th century, and is still spoken by over 90% of Guatemalans.

Before the Spanish took over much of the continent, a large geographical area that extended from Mexico through Guatemala to El Salvador was the home of the Mayan civilization. As a result, Guatemala is also home to 25 indigenous languages, most of which belong to the Mayan language family.

Indigenous Languages

After Spanish, all of the most spoken languages in Guatemala are Mayan languages. The most prominent Mayan language in the country is K'iche', which boasts approximately 1 million native speakers and is used in schools and on the radio. It is followed by Q'eqchi' and Kaqchikel, which are both closely related to K'iche'. Q'eqchi' is spoken by about 800,000 Guatemalans, while Kaqchikel is used by nearly 500,000 people. The Mam language, which is from a different branch of the Mayan language family, has around 500,000 native speakers as well.

There are several other Mayan languages that are spoken by between 50,000 and 100,000 Guatemalans. We certainly don't know how to properly pronounce their names, but they are: Poqomchi', Tz'utujil, Achi, Q'anjob'al, and Ixil. Finally, there's the Garifuna language, which has around 16,000 native speakers. Spoken near the Caribbean coastline, it is the only member of the Arawakan language family that is spoken in Guatemala.

Friday, June 26, 2015

"Do the Dew" and Yod-Coalescence

Dew, one of the most common subjects for macro lenses.
I was watching television the other day when I spotted an advert for Mountain Dew, a beverage that I tend to avoid like the plague as I have no interest in carbonated beverages except when using them as mixers with strong spirits. However, this post isn't about my intense dislike for adding gases to liquids, it's about the advertising slogan that Mountain Dew was using.

American readers will undoubtedly be familiar with Mountain Dew and their "Do the Dew" slogan. However, the one thing they seemingly overlooked was how British people pronounce "dew". The words "do" and "dew" are both pronounced /duː/ across the United States, while many accents across the British Isles differentiate between the two words, pronouncing "do" as /duː/ and "dew" as /dʒuː/.

This pronunciation of "dew" in various accents of British English makes it a homophone with the words "due" and "Jew", which rendered their "do the dew" slogan as a homophone for Semitic fornication when I first heard it. While I don't find this suggestion offensive, I certainly wasn't thinking of Mountain Dew when reading the tagline.

Lawn over dew.
While this is just an unfortunate coincidence of the differences between British and American English, linguists have obviously looked into this phenomenon, which goes by the name yod-coalescence.

Yod-coalescence is the term given when a particular set of sounds undergoes a process of sound change known as palatalisation, whereby a palatal or palatalised consonant occurs. This can happen when the pronunciation of two words together sounds different to when they are pronounced in isolation, while yod-coalescence refers to when the sounds [dj], [tj], [sj] and [zj] end up becoming [dʒ], [tʃ], [ʃ], and [ʒ]. This makes the British pronunciation of "Tuesday" sound like "chews day" to Americans, while it sounds like Americans say "twos day" to British ears.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Slavic Languages: From Belarusian to Ukrainian

Back in May, we took a couple of days to explore the fascinating Germanic and Romance language families. Today we thought we'd continue learning about the world's languages with a look at the Slavic languages, which include several of the most spoken languages in Europe.

You've undoubtedly heard of languages like Russian and Polish before, but you might be surprised to learn that there are actually 19 Slavic languages in total. Let's take a brief look at all of them!

Veliki Vrh, Slovenia
East Slavic Languages

The Slavic language family is generally divided into three groups: East, West, and South. The East Slavic languages have the most native speakers, primarily because the group includes Russian, which has around 150 million native speakers. It is the most spoken Slavic language, as well as the eighth most spoken language in the world.

The second most prominent language in this group is Ukrainian, which is the third most spoken Slavic language. It is closely related to Rusyn, also known as Ruthenian, which is one of those tricky language varieties that some linguists consider to be a language and others consider to be a dialect, in this case a dialect of Ukrainian. Either way, there are about 600,000 native speakers of Rusyn, primarily in Slovakia, Serbia, Poland and Ukraine.

The final member of this group is Belarusian, the official language of Belarus. Interestingly, all four of these languages are primarily written in Cyrillic script, which is certainly not the case with many other Slavic languages.

West Slavic Languages

The West Slavic languages are often divided even further into three groups: Czech-Slovak, Lechitic, and Sorbian languages. We bet you can guess the two languages in the Czech-Slovak group. They are of course Czech and Slovak, which are so closely related that they are largely mutually intelligible.

A street sign in both German and Sorbian.
The Lechitic languages include Polish, the second most spoken Slavic language. It is joined by Kashubian and Silesian, which are both recognized as minority languages in Poland. Both languages are so closely related to Polish that they are often considered to be dialects of the language.

Then there are the Sorbian languages, Upper Sorbian and Lower Sorbian. Sadly, both of these languages, which are spoken in Germany, are in decline. There are approximately 13,000 speakers of Upper Sorbian and about 6,000 remaining Lower Sorbian speakers.

South Slavic Languages

Finally, we've reached the South Slavic languages, which are geographically separated from all of the other Slavic languages by areas where German, Hungarian, and Romanian are primarily spoken.

There are two living languages that belong to the East branch of this group: Macedonian and Bulgarian. As usual, they are so closely related that linguists like to dispute as to whether they are even separate languages.

Last but not least, there are the languages that belong to the West branch: Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian, Slovene, and Slavomolisano. The first three are standardized forms of the macrolanguage known as Serbo-Croatian, which are official languages in their respective countries. There's also Slovene, the official language of Slovenia, which has over 2 million native speakers, and Slavomolisano. Slavomolisano is a language spoken in Italy by descendants of Croatian refugees. Unfortunately, the language is dying with less than 1,000 speakers, but it is still taught in schools.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Country Profile: The Languages of Malawi

For the third week in a row, we're exploring the linguistic diversity of an African country. Last week we investigated the languages of Niger, and today we're moving southeast to the tiny nation of Malawi, one of the smallest countries on the continent.

The Official Languages

Lake Malawi, which covers nearly a third of the country's area.
The official languages of Malawi are English, which remains important due to its history as a British colony, and Chichewa, an indigenous language also known as Chewa or Nyanja. Chichewa is the most spoken language in Malawi, where it is the native language of about half of the country's population. English, on the other hand, is more often used as a second language, particularly in areas such as government and media.

Other Languages

Unlike many other African countries, Malawi's linguistic landscape doesn't feature hundreds of languages. In fact, Ethnologue lists just 16 languages in Malawi, many of which have very few speakers, which is why today's country profile is shorter than usual. A few of the most notable languages include Tumbuka, Yao, Malawi Lomwe, Nyakyusa-Ngonde, and Malawi Sena, all of which are Bantu languages.

The Tumbuka and Yao languages both boast over 2 million native speakers, followed by Malawi Lomwe with 850,000 speakers, which is spoken in southeastern Malawi. In northern Malawi, the Nyakyusa-Ngonde language is used by around 300,000 people, while Malawi Sena is spoken by a similar percentage of the population in southern Malawi. There are also small numbers of Malawians who speak Afrikaans and Zulu, two important languages in nearby South Africa.

Friday, June 19, 2015

How We Describe Languages

The proverbial ouroboros, the cyclical snake eating its own tail.
Languages are fascinating. If they weren't, I wouldn't have spent years learning about them and then writing about them. However, an odd thought popped into my head the other day. Without languages, I wouldn't be able to talk about languages, nor would I have anything to talk about. While we could sit and debate the ouroboros nature of language and thought for years (which people have already done and it's fascinating!), I would rather look at which words in English are commonly used when talking about language to see how we like to refer to this wonderful phenomenon.

I reckoned the best place to start would be with the words that commonly collocate with the word "language" in English in order to see if there were any patterns related to which words we use to talk about the fact that we talk.

Time and Place

When we describe languages, we are seemingly very interested in the time and place occupied by a language. We have to describe when the language was being spoken and whether it is still being spoken today. When discuss whether a language is still commonly used today, we either speak of a dead or a living language.

In the case of dead languages, we like to describe them according to the historical period in which they were used, calling them either ancient or classical languages, for example. Of course, languages that are living are often called modern languages.

Where a language is spoken is also key. Languages, like peoples, can be indigenous to an area since people like to bring their languages with them when they migrate. Sadly, the term "indigenous" is often used to describe languages that are endangered due to replacement by more prestigious languages in their areas.

Use

How much a language is used seems to be another common trend when referring to languages. We can talk about international and national languages, or on the other end of the scale, minority languages.

Use in terms of speakers isn't the only way we talk about languages and their speakers. We also like to know how information is being communicated. We can talk about spoken language, written language, and, in the event of corporeal communications, body language.

Situation and Context

In addition where and when languages are used, we're clearly interested in the situation and context in which languages are used. Some of the most common collocations include formal and informal language. The discussion of domain is also very common, such as referring to flowery, literary, and poetic language. Unfortunately, other commonly mentioned contexts include racist and sexist language, unless we're often condemning them.

Bad Language

Bad, crude, offensive, obscene, offensive, and strong language are all used regularly in English and make up some of the most common collocations. It seems that as much as we hate bad language, we can't stop talking about it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Uselessness of Back-Translations

A back-translation (BT) is when a translation or target text (TT) is translated back into its original source language (SL). When the back-translation is completed, it is then compared to the original source text (ST) in an attempt to gauge the quality of the translation, which I believe is incredibly stupid. While it's true that gauging the quality of translations is very difficult, I don't believe for one second that BTs are a viable way to do it.

The idea of BTs is based on a premise similar to that of mathematics, but is foolishly founded on the concept of a number of assumed exact equivalents between languages, be they lexical, syntactic, semantic, etc.

In maths, the equals sign indicates that the equations on either side of the symbol are the same. However, even this logic seems to be flawed, since if you imagine that numbers are words, you could easily say 7 = 7, but also that 7 = 6 + 1 or 7 = 5 + 2, etc.

If you can express sums in multiple ways, you can certainly express almost any sentiment in plenty of different ways. This is the problem I have with back-translations, as they assume that there is only ever one "correct" way to translate any given phrase and translating it back should yield exactly the same results.

Another issue I have with BTs is the assumption that discrepancies between the BT and the ST are due to mistakes by the first translator and issues in the TT. Comparing the ST and BT to one another completely ignores the TT and therefore the entire work of the first translator, as the BT is simply a derivative work of the BT.

Valet parking wasn't really necessary 100 years ago.
Imagine you give your car to a valet to park it while you have a meal. Later, when you collect your car, a different valet is driving your car and the car has a huge scratch down the side of it. Who scratched your car?

If you use the logic of BTs, the first valet definitely damaged your car as it has changed since you left it. However, without seeing the car's journey to and from the parking space, there's no way of telling who caused the damage.

What do you think of BTs? Is there a better way to gauge translations? Tell us your opinion in the comments below!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Country Profile: The Languages of Niger

In this week's country profile we're going to take a brief look at the languages of Niger, the largest country in West Africa. However, before we get started we thought we'd answer a related lexical question: If a person from Nigeria is Nigerian, what do you call a person from Niger? It turns out that their demonym is Nigerien, which we can only imagine leads to constant confusion.

The Official Language

Just like the nearby countries of Burkina Faso and Côte d'Ivoire, the sole official language of Niger is French, which dates back to its time under French colonial rule. Niger gained independence from France in 1960, but French remains an important administrative language in the country.

However, most Nigeriens speak French as a second language instead of as a native language. According to Ethnologue, there are under 10,000 native French speakers in the country, but over 1.2 million second language speakers.

A pair of scimitar oryx, an animal native to Niger
that is currently extinct in the wild.
Indigenous Languages

The most commonly spoken languages in Niger are several indigenous languages that have been recognized as national languages. This list includes Hausa, Zarma, Tamajaq, Fulfulde, Kanuri, and Dazaga.

Hausa, a member of the Afro-Asiatic language family, is the country's primary trade language. It is also the native language of nearly 5.5 million Nigeriens, which makes it the country's most spoken language. It is followed by Zarma, a Nilo-Saharan language spoken by over 2 million people in southwestern Niger.

The next most spoken languages are Tamajaq and Fulfulde, which each boast nearly 500,000 native speakers. Tamajaq, also known as Tuareg, is a Berber language that belongs to the Afro-Asiatic language family. Fulfulde, on the other hand, is a Niger-Congo language also known as Fulani that is spoken throughout West Africa.

Last but not least there's Kanuri and Dazaga, both of which are Nilo-Saharan languages. Kanuri is spoken by approximately 280,000 Nigeriens, while Dazaga has around 50,000 native speakers. Niger is also home to several other languages with much smaller numbers of speakers, including several varieties of Arabic.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Putting Up With Phrasal Verbs

Many native English speakers have probably never considered or even heard of the term phrasal verb, much like the many other nuances of languages that native speakers don't give a second thought. However, it's these nuances that learners of a language can struggle with, and in my experience, phrasal verbs are a pain in the proverbial arse of many people trying to learn English. So what exactly are they?

As you should know, verbs make things happen. However, they're quite awkward for language learners since you often need to learn a whole host of things just to use them correctly. In order to use a verb in English, you first need to learn the grammatical person, which usually dictates who is the active participant of the verb.

Once you know who the verb's about, you need to know when it took place and its grammatical tense. Sometimes the tense doesn't indicate time exactly, but we won't get bogged down in that just now.

This nebula is only slightly more complex than phrasal verbs.
So you think you've got verbs all mastered? Not quite! In English, phrasal verbs can change the entire meaning of a verb just by adding a word or two. For example, looking is not the same as looking for or looking after. The first indicates viewing or watching, while the second indicates searching, and the third indicates being responsible for something.

It's sort of crazy that sitting down and sitting up are different things in English (with the first referring to taking a seat and the second to adjusting your posture). How can putting be completely different if you put up with rather than put out (and take care with the latter!).

The thing about phrasal verbs is that the words they're composed of cannot work in isolation: you need the verb and either a preposition (words that usually indicate a place or time) or a particle (a word that requires the other word to have any meaning).

Despite phrasal verbs being useless in isolation, they also are incredibly versatile when used. The order of the words that make up phrasal verbs is not entirely fixed, meaning that they might not always appear in the order that you learned them. In fact, the phrasal verb "to put up with" is famous for being used awkwardly in order to avoid ending a sentence with a preposition. While the quote isn't really from Winston Churchill, I still enjoy this syntactic monstrosity:

"This is the sort of English up with which I will not put."
- Not Winston Churchill

This flexibility is the kind of awkwardness that non-native speakers find horrendously difficult to wrap their heads around, and who could blame them? It's absolutely ridiculous!

Are you learning English as a foreign language? What do you think of phrasal verbs? What is your favourite phrasal verb? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Prestige: The "Best" Way to Speak Languages

As a native English speaker, it always amuses me when I travel abroad and come across bars, clubs, and restaurants that use English names as a gimmick to appear fashionable. That said, I've also noticed French being paraded around the UK to make places sound cool.

When businesses use languages in this way, they're trying to make more money by having a cool image. But does a language have an image? We'll leave marketers give you their spiel about various demographics and how they relate to your brand image. We're far more interested in the linguistic side of things.

The root of this phenomenon in linguistics (sociolinguistics to be precise) is prestige. Just like certain restaurants, bars, and clubs, languages can also be prestigious. Depending on your culture, some languages can hold more prestige than others. It's also been found to be true that most cultures afford the highest prestige to the languages spoken by the most prestigious parts of their society. This means that if you're part of a prestigious group, odds are your language is also quite prestigious.

Money seems to bring prestige with it.
Interestingly, in addition to languages, dialects within languages (and dialect continuums, of course) are also subject to prestige. Much like with languages, the most prestigious dialects tend to be those spoken by the members of the society with the most prestige. It seems that prestige often goes hand in hand with wealth and political power.

It is thought that prestige dialects are related to, and the cause of standardized dialects. Standardized dialects are the dialects of a language that are considered to be the easiest to understand by most speakers of the language. For languages with a regulatory body, the standardized dialects are usually regulated by these academies.

That said, there's nothing that inherently makes prestige dialects or prestigious languages the "best" way to speak. In fact, it may even be beneficial to speak less prestigious dialects in certain situations. One example of this is the Geordie dialect of English which is spoken in my hometown. While it is likely considered to be one of the least prestigious dialects in England, it is often labelled as the "friendliest", which is why marketing of all kinds, from television adverts to telemarketing, features the voices of Geordies. There are undoubtedly countless other examples around the world that demonstrate how a non-prestige dialect may be more beneficial in certain situations, so if you don't speak the most prestigious dialect of your area, don't worry!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Country Profile: The Languages of Burkina Faso

A couple of weeks ago we looked at the languages of Angola, and today we're back in Africa once again to learn more about Burkina Faso, a landlocked country in West Africa that is home to approximately 17 million people.

The Official Language

French is the sole official language of Burkina Faso. It has been used in the country since the 1890s, when it fell under French colonial rule. Although Burkina Faso gained independence from France in 1960, French has continued to be the country's primary language.

While the French language may dominate the country's linguistic landscape, Burkina Faso is also the home of many other languages. According to Ethnologue, there are 70 living languages that are used in Burkina Faso, including several prominent languages used by large percentages of the population.

Other Languages

The majority of the dozens of indigenous languages used in Burkina Faso belong to the Niger-Congo language family. This includes the country's most spoken indigenous languages: Mòoré, Jula, Fulfulde, Gourmanchéma, Northern Dagara, and Bissa.

Monument des Martyrs in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.
Burkina Faso's most important indigenous language is Mòoré, also known as Mossi. It is the language of the Mossi people, the country's largest ethnic group. There are approximately 5 million native speakers of Mòoré in Burkina Faso, primarily in the areas surrounding the capital, Ouagadougou.

Another important language is Jula, which is used as a trade language in the western part of the country. About 3 million people in the country speak Jula, including 1 million native speakers. It is followed in number of speakers by Fulfulde, also known as Fula or Fulani, which is spoken throughout West Africa.

Finally, there's Gourmanchéma, Northern Dagara, and Bissa. Gourmanchéma is spoken by approximately 600,000 people in eastern Burkina Faso. Northern Dagara, also known as Dagaare, has nearly 400,000 speakers in Burkina Faso, and is closely related to Southern Dagara, which is used in nearby Ghana. Bissa is also spoken in Ghana, as well as being the language of around 350,000 people in southern Burkina Faso.

There are dozens of other languages that are used in Burkina Faso, though we don't have enough time to cover all of them today. Most have them have very small numbers of speakers, but do continue to thrive in the villages and towns where they are spoken.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Star Craving Mad Eggcorns

If you've been following language news lately, you might have seen that one of the latest additions to the Merriam-Webster dictionary was the linguistic term "eggcorn". Merriam-Webster defines it as "a word or phrase that sounds like and is mistakenly used in a seemingly logical or plausible way for another word or phrase either on its own or as part of a set expression". While that is a perfectly reasonable definition of the word, it's much easier to understand the concept with a few examples.

One of the most popular examples of an eggcorn is the phrase "for all intensive purposes". If you think that looks correct, then you've been using an eggcorn! The correct phrase is "for all intents and purposes", but there are huge numbers of people that use "for all intensive purposes" who probably misinterpreted the phrase the first time they heard it used or have simply learned it from someone else who was using it incorrectly.

On the hunt for a delicious "eggcorn".
Another great example is the term "eggcorn" itself, which is an eggcorn for "acorn". In fact, the term got its name due to this post on the wonderful Language Log back in 2003.

Everyone has probably used an eggcorn at some point in their life, since it is quite easy to mishear something and then naturally fill in the blanks, albeit incorrectly. It can also be quite embarrassing when you find out that you've been using a term incorrectly for ages.

My worst eggcorn was back in high school, when I was expected to play the school's fight song at every football game since I was in the marching band. During a drum break in the song, we were all expected to chant "Fight team, fight team, fight! Win team, win team, win!" before resuming playing. All I can say in my defense is that the words were never written down anywhere for us to see (probably because they were obvious) and that they were said quite quickly, but I thought we were chanting "Fighty, fighty, fight! Winty, winty, win!". Suffice it to say that my friends were very amused when they found out I'd been saying this for ages.

In celebration of such crazy linguistic errors, here are some of our favorite eggcorns:

"bear-handed fight" should be "bare-handed fight"
"Cadillac converter" should be "catalytic converter"
"cut to the cheese" should be "cut to the chase"
"doggy dog world" should be "dog-eat-dog world"
"expresso" should be "espresso"
"holidays sauce" or "Holland days sauce" should be "hollandaise sauce"
"star craving mad" or "stark raven mad" should be "stark raving mad"

If you're fascinated by the seemingly endless array of eggcorns in the world, we recommend that you check out The Eggcorn Database, which has an impressive list of them and their usage "in the wild". We'd also love to hear from you in the comments if there are any embarrassing eggcorns that you've used in the past and later found out about, or have heard others use.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Opa! - Interjections, Exclamations, and Ejaculations

If you've visited Greece or have done anything remotely Greek in the past, you're probably familiar with the expression "opa!" (or "Ώπα" in its native writing system). I recently spent some time pondering the meaning behind the word and discussing it at length with a number of people who all struggled to explain exactly what it means. Everyone seemed to know when to use it and the general sentiment it was expressing, but nobody could really pinpoint a definition.

When I looked the word up online, Urban Dictionary provided the following definition: "A word that Greek people use for no apparent reason at all". While this definition amused me, it certainly didn't help me at all.

Mount Ida in Crete, Greece. The kind of landscape that helps
inspire interjections as positive as "opa!".
It turns out that "opa!" is both an interjection and an exclamation. Interjections are used to express an emotion or feeling on behalf of the speaker and are often exclamations (since emotion has that kind of nature). However, not every interjection is an exclamation. For example, filler words such as uhm and er are also considered interjections. Interjections generally have no syntactic relationship to other words.

Exclamations are emphatic interjections and strongly express emotions. Thanks to the existence of the exclamation mark "!", exclamations are generally very easy to spot when written. In speech, the volume of the utterance tends to give them away.

In linguistics, a short exclamation such as "opa!" is actually known as an ejaculation. Sadly, this is a very difficult linguistic term to safely search for on the internet since Google's algorithm tends to provide a very different type of results to the linguistic ones I was looking for.

The difference between exclamations and ejaculations is that ejaculations don't usually need to follow the grammatical rules of a language and are used independent of clauses and sentences. However, there are some ejaculations that do make use of grammatical elements, which are known as either clausal exclamations (if they contain a subject and verb) or phrasal exclamations (if they contain other grammatical elements of speech).

Another Greek landscape to make you exclaim "wow!".
Some English ejaculations can express a wide range of emotions. The exclamation "ouch!" denotes pain, while "yay!", "woohoo!", and "hooray!" are used in celebration, just like "opa!" in Greek. "Wow!" can indicate amazement and wonder, while "phew!" is used to express relief.

If you're interested in ejaculations, exclamations, and interjections, I would highly recommend checking out the wonderful work of James Chapman on his Tumblr. You might also be interested in our recent post on whimsical interjections like "Good gravy!".

Do you speak a language other than English? If so, what are your favourite interjections, exclamations, and ejaculations in your language? Tell us in the comments below and don't forget to provide an explanation!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Country Profile: The Languages of Chile

In previous months we've looked at the linguistic landscapes of South American countries such as Colombia, Argentina, and Peru. Today we're shifting our focus to the continent's southernmost country, Chile.

The Official Language

Torres del Paine National Park, Chile
Chile's sole official language is Spanish, the Romance language that dominates most of South America. It is the native language of the vast majority of the country's population, though there are several indigenous languages that are spoken by small numbers of Chileans.

The variety of Spanish spoken in Chile is known as Chilean Spanish. It can be distinguished from other varieties of Spanish due to phonetic differences and the use of distinctive vocabulary, especially slang. Chilean Spanish contains a large number of loanwords from Quechua, as well as several expressions from French, German, and English. Many of the features of Chilean Spanish are thought to have evolved from Castúo or Andaluz, the varieties used in the Spanish autonomous communities of Extremadura and Andalusia.

Indigenous Languages

As we mentioned earlier, several indigenous languages are spoken in Chile, albeit by small percentages of the country's population. The most spoken indigenous language in Chile is Mapudungun, a language isolate. Also known as Mapuche, it is spoken by approximately 250,000 people in Chile. The closely related Huilliche language is also used in Chile, though the number of speakers is unknown.

Other indigenous languages spoken in Chile include Aymara, Quechua, and Rapa Nui. There are approximately 8,000 speakers of Quechua in Chile as well as 19,000 speakers of Aymara, which are the two most widely used indigenous languages in the Americas.

Finally, there's Rapa Nui or Pascuense, an Austronesian language spoken on the island of Rapa Nui, which you probably know by the name Easter Island. The island is home to approximately 6,000 people, though the number of speakers of Rapa Nui is currently unknown. Sadly, the language is threatened since most children on the island grow up speaking Spanish.