What were the Most Popular Free Languages on Glossika in 2018?

In 2018 Glossika had 9 free languages available, and one question we get asked quite regularly was which ones were the most popular on Glossika?

In this article, we include a pie chart to show and also share some introduction and product details about these languages.

The Numbers

In 2018, the free languages on Glossika were Taiwanese Hokkien, Hakka (Sixian dialect), Hakka (Hailu dialect), Wenzhounese, Catalan, Manx, Welsh, Gaelic and Kurdish (Sorani dialect).

The Percentage of Glossika Users Using Free Languages in the year of 2018


Introduction to Glossika's Free Languages

In this section, we'll share with you some fun facts about the language and some product details.

1. Taiwanese Hokkien

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You might think Hokkien is a dialect of Chinese with the expectation that you are able to understand it once you learn Mandarin. However, with the historical events that happened over time since the language first got spread to Taiwan in the 17th century, Taiwanese Hokkien spoken in Taiwan today is different from and is not comprehensible with Mandarin or other Chinese dialects.

Hokkien, or more commonly "Taiwanese", is the vernacular name for Southern Min. It is one of several Min languages that originate in the coastal province of Fujian in southeast China. The Min languages have existed for at least 2000 years, making this branch of Chinese as old as Latin itself. This means that the modern Min languages are as different from the rest of Chinese as the Romance languages are from Slavic, like Russian. So if Mandarin were French, then listening to Hokkien would be like a Frenchman listening to Russian.

A wave of influence came from northern China between 1000-1300 years ago, bringing with it many new pronunciations. Today, Hokkien has its traditional pronunciations (called colloquial) and the new northern pronunciations (called literary), so a single Chinese character can have multiple readings, depending on the word it appears in. Many words in Hokkien don't even have an official Chinese character assigned, so it's difficult to write the language.

Hokkien is a large language spoken by tens of millions in China, Taiwan, and throughout Southeast Asia, including Thailand, Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Some 15 million people in Taiwan understand Hokkien to varying degrees, and at least half that speak it as a mother tongue. Some famous pockets of Hokkien speakers include Medan Hokkien in northern Sumatra, and Penang Hokkien in northern Malaysia. These are slightly different accents compared to Taiwanese Hokkien, but you should be able to communicate with them using Taiwanese Hokkien without too much difficulty.

Southern Min has another dialect called Teochew which originates from Chaozhou in China. This is a completely different dialect of Southern Min and you will not be able to communicate with Teochew speakers using any of the Hokkien varieties mentioned above.

Hokkien is quite difficult to learn, so we recommend previous knowledge of Mandarin or Cantonese before starting. Coincidentally, many words have very close pronunciations to Cantonese or Chinese words borrowed into Korean and Vietnamese. There are eight tones, all of which change in a variety of situations.

2. Hakka (Sixian) and Hakka (Hailu)

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Hakka has several regional dialects including Sixian, Hailu, Meixian, etc. At Glossika, we offer the Sixian and Hailu dialects. According to Wikipedia, there are 48 million Hakka native speakers in the world spread out throughout Southeast Asia as well. Hakka is predominantly spoken in one large block stretching across the border of Fujian, Jiangxi, and Guangdong provinces. Hakka shows up in pockets stretching inland to Guangxi and Sichuan provinces as well.

The name Sixian refers to the four counties surrounding Meixian in northern Guangdong province of China. Sixian was the dialect carried over to Miaoli county of Taiwan by the Hakka settlers. Today, the tones and some word usage differ slightly from today's Meixian accent, but all in all the two varieties are mutually intelligible.

The name Hailu refers to the sea-coast variety of Hakka spoken along the coast of Guangdong south of Chaozhou, and north of Hong Kong. Settlers to the Taoyuan county of Taiwan carried this dialect over from China.

The big question is, can two speakers speaking their own variety of Hakka speak and understand each other? At first, it can be really confusing, but with some exposure, the answer is yes. Sixian has 5 tones, and Hailu 6. Where Sixian tones are high or falling, Hailu is low and rising. So the tones are in opposition. Sixian's high tone turns up as either mid or low in Hailu (maps to 2 tones). Sixian doesn't have any retroflex consonants (z, c, s, y), but Hailu is more like Mandarin with lots of retroflex consonants (zh, ch, sh, r). For more details, see our guide, Tones in Asian Languages.

Glossika's Sixian dialect course is recorded by famous Taiwan TV host 陳明珠 (Chén Míng Zhū), a native Hakka speaker from Miaoli, Taiwan. She hosts a Hakka TV program called 客庄好味道 (Kè zhuāng hǎo wèi dào). If you are interested in learning Hakka culture and cuisine, 客庄好味道 is a must-watch TV show, and it's sure to add immensely to your Hakka fluency.

Glossika's Hailu dialect course was recorded by renowned Hakka expert Mr. 徐兆泉 (Xú Zhào Quán) whose major publication is the Hakka Dictionary of Taiwan, a massive 1800 page tome. He is also the author of the Hakka translation of the Little Prince. Not only that, he won the Hakka Contribution Award in 2011.

3. Wenzhounese

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People joke about Wenzhounese, saying: "天不怕,地不怕,就怕温州人说温州话。Fear not the Heavens nor the Earth, but fear the Wenzhou man speaking Wenzhounese."

Wenzhounese is called the "Devil's Language" for its complexity and difficulty with little to no mutual intelligibility with any other variety of Chinese. The great thing about Wenzhounese is that it is the language of overseas Chinese businessmen. Most of the earliest Chinese immigrants in Europe were of Wenzhou lineage, passing their language down through generations of relatives. If you run into a Chinese family in Europe that immigrated a long time ago, there is a high chance they are of Wenzhou origin. Likewise, there is little chance of any of these family members understanding Mandarin unless they learned it in recent years.

How did Wenzhou diverge to be so different? The language of Wenzhou together with all of the other cities in Zhejiang province are part of the Wu dialect continuum. All of these lects are related in some way to that of Shanghai and Suzhou to the north. Shanghainese represents the northernmost end of this dialect continuun, and Wenzhou the southernmost. A lot of outsiders consider Wu to be a soft-sounding language, with lots of vowels resembling those of French, with many harsh sounds present in other languages having disappeared. The farther south you go towards Wenzhou, many ends of words disappear making the Wenzhou variety the most incomprehensible of all.

Wenzhou is a coastal city surrounded by hills in every direction. In the old days, it would have been easier to access it by sea, so few ventured there giving it any outside influence. In turn, Wenzhou became a city of businessmen who traveled the sea far and wide in search of opportunities.

For such a challenging language, audio training is a must and the written transcription will only help you a fraction. If you have friends struggling with learning Wenzhonese, don't forget to recommend Glossika's free Wenzhonese course to them.

4. Catalan

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As many tourists do, you may one day find yourself walking along the streets of Barcelona. You’ve decided to prepare your trip by learning some survival Spanish so that you can communicate with the locals and understand what’s going on around you a bit better. But much to your surprise lots of the signs, posters, ads and all things written around you don’t look quite the same as the Spanish you’ve been learning... Why? Because it's Catalan!

Catalan is a Romance language which evolved from Latin, just as Spanish, French, Italian, Romanian and Portuguese, to name a few. It is spoken by around 10 million people, mainly in Spain, but also in Andorra, where it’s the only official language, and in a city called Alghero in the island of Sardinia, Italy.

5. Manx

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Manx is the native language spoken by the people from Isle of Man. In the year of 2015, the total numbers of Manx speakers is only 1800 which is about 2% of the whole Manx population, according to Wikipedia.

Source: Isle of Man, Wikipedia

In 2017, Glossika teamed up with the University of Aberdeen to develop Glossika's Manx audio resources. Besides Glossika, you can also find several great resources on Manx Language Network.

6. Welsh

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According to the number shown by the United Kingdom Census in 2011, there were only 19% people able to speak Welsh which is only about 562,000 people. And according to the Annual Population Survey conducted by the Office for National Statistics in June 2018, there were only 29.7% of the population of Wales aged 3 and over were able to speak the Welsh language.

Same as Manx, we collaborated with the University of Aberdeen to develop Glossika's Welsh audio resources.

7. Scottish Gaelic

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Scottish Gaelic is not an official language of either the European Union or the United Kingdom. However, it is classed as an indigenous language under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, according to Wikipedia.

Scottish Gaelic is the 3rd language we collaborated with the University of Aberdeen. The University of Aberdeen has rich resources for these minority languages and also actively promote and passionate about them.  

8. Kurdish (Sorani)

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Kurdish is an Indo-European language as part of the Western Iranian branch with around 40 million speakers worldwide and is spoken predominantly in Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and Iran.

Read more: Learn How to Speak Kurdish Sorani

When talking about the Kurdish language, it is probably more accurate to refer to Kurdish as a language family rather than a single language. While there are nearly 30 different Kurdish dialects, the Kurdish people typically speak one of two major dialects, Central Kurdish (Sorani) or Northern Kurdish (Kurmanji).

Although each of the dialects within the different Kurdish dialect groups are considered to be under the same umbrella of the Kurdish language, they are actually much more different than you might think. Two speakers of different Kurdish dialects might even be mutually unintelligible due to the language, or in this case, dialect barrier.


Team up with Glossika!

Interested in collaborating with Glossika to develop and/or promote minority languages? Get in contact with our Project Manager A-Long at a-long@glossika.com for more details!