Category Archives: Language Spotlight

The Somali Language: Interesting Facts & Resources

Somali books and language

Today’s spotlight language is Somali! We offer some background information and interesting facts about the language, as well as help finding children’s books in Somali.  Interested in learning about other languages as well?  Check out our series of posts on world languages, including Spanish, Nepali, Hindi, Russian and Japanese!

Where is Somali spoken?

Somali is a part of the Afro-Asiatic language family. Somali is spoken by an estimated 16 million people around the world. It’s the official language of Somalia, with several regional dialects, and is also spoken in nearby countries, like Kenya and Ethiopia.

How Many People Speak Somali in the US?

According to the most recent 2010 US Census data, there are about 100,000 Somali immigrants in the US. There are large Somali speaking populations in Minnesota, Ohio, Washington, California, and Washington, DC.

Interesting Facts About Somali

There are multiple writing systems used to express the Somali language, including Arabic, Wadaad and Osmanya.

The Somali language has 20 distinct vowel sounds. It is spoken with three different tones (high, low and falling) that indicate things like gender and number.

Somali has been influenced linguistically by other languages, like English, Italian and Arabic.

Somali Books – Bilingual Children’s Books

If you interact with children who speak Somali, or are learning the language, you may want suggestions on some of the best bilingual Somali kids books and audio books.  Many engaging and popular stories with text in both English and the Somali language are available, including Handa’s Surprise, the Very Hungry Caterpillar, Hansel and Gretel and Pandora’s Box.  There are also Somali book sets that allow for interactive learning via a special Recorder Pen, audio books and an interactive Somali picture dictionary.

Do you speak Somali, or are you learning the language? Comment below and share your interesting language facts!

 

“Aerial views of Kismayo 07” by AMISOM Public Information via Flickr is licensed under CC0 1.0 Universal https://flic.kr/p/dieWvg 

Spanish Language & Spanish Children’s Books: Facts, Figures & Resources

Spanish countryside

Today’s spotlight language is Spanish! We offer some background information and interesting facts about the language, as well as help finding children’s books in Spanish.  Interested in learning about other languages as well?  Check out our series of posts on world languages, including French, Hindi, Russian and Japanese!

Where is it spoken?

Spanish is spoken by an estimated 560 million people around the world. It’s the official language of Spain and Mexico, as well as 20 other countries. It is the second most commonly used language in the world.

How Many People Speak Spanish in the US?

According to the most recent Instituto Cervantes data, there are about 41 million native Spanish speakers in the US, and another 11 million who are bilingual. There are large Spanish speaking populations in New Mexico, California, Texas and Arizona. There are currently more Spanish speakers in the US than in Spain. In fact, only Mexico surpasses the US in terms of number of Spanish speakers!

Interesting Facts About Spanish

In some parts of the world, Spanish is referred to as “español” or “castellano.”

The rolled “r” sound is one of the most challenging aspects of learning to speak Spanish.

In many Spanish speaking countries, when greeting informally, it’s common to kiss on each cheek.

Spanish Books – Bilingual Children’s Books

If the kids in your life speak Spanish, or are learning the language, you may want suggestions on some of the best bilingual Spanish kids books and audio books.  Many engaging and popular stories with text in both English and the Spanish language are available, including Lima’s Red Hot Chilli , Goldilocks and the Three Bears, The Three Billy Goats Gruff and The Giant Turnip.  There are also book sets that allow for interactive learning via a special Talking Pen, audio books and an interactive Spanish picture dictionary.

Do you speak Spanish, or are you learning the language? Comment below and share your interesting language facts!

“SPAIN” by Willy Verhulst via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/AmJNgj

Arabic Language & Arabic Children’s Books: Facts, Figures & Resources

children and adults having a picnicToday’s spotlight language is Arabic. Below, you can find background info and interesting facts about the language, as well as information to help you find Arabic children’s books.  Interested in learning about even more languages?  Check out our series of posts on world languages, including French, Hindi, Russian and Japanese!

Where is it spoken?

Arabic is spoken in a very large area that includes North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and parts of the Middle East. About 185 million people speak it around the world. Arabic has many features in common with the Hebrew and Amharic languages. Muslims consider Arabic to be the divine language of Allah.

How Many People Speak Arabic in the US?

According to the most recent US Census data, there are about a million Arabic speakers in the US. There are large Arabic speaking populations in New York, California, New Jersey and Washington, DC.

Interesting Facts About Arabic

Arabic is written and read from right to left, and each symbol represents a letter.

Formal Classical Arabic, also called Literary Arabic and Fusha, is learned by every Arabic speaker. There are numerous local vernacular forms of Arabic. Dialects can differ greatly from each other in both vocabulary and sounds used.

The Arabic version of Sesame Street uses Fusha.

Arabic Books – Bilingual Children’s Books

If the kids in your life speak Arabic, or are learning the language, you may want suggestions on some of the best bilingual Arabic books for kids and audio books.  Some engaging and culturally relevant stories with text in both English and the Arabic language include: Journey Through Islamic Arts, Samira’s Eid, The Swirling Hijaab and Welcome to the World Baby.  Many popular stories such as The Three Billy Goats Gruff and The Giant Turnip are also available with English and Arabic text, and you may also want to check out the illustrated Arabic-English dictionary with audio for children.

Do you speak Arabic, or are you learning the language? Comment below and share your interesting language facts!

 

“Spring picnic, near Moulay Idriss, Morocco” by Dimitry B. via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/nnz1EK

Chinese Language & Chinese Children’s Books: Facts, Figures & Resources

chinese language

Today’s spotlight languages are Mandarin and Cantonese – two languages spoken in China. Get some background info and interesting facts about the language, and recommendations for children’s books in Mandarin and Cantonese.  Interested in learning about more languages?  Check out our series of posts on various world languages including Hindi, Russian, Japanese and French!

Where is it spoken?

Mandarin (sometimes referred to as Standard Chinese) is the official language of China, Taiwan, and Singapore. Nearly 1 billion people around the world speak Mandarin, more than any other language.

Cantonese (sometimes referred to as Traditional Chinese) is spoken in and around the area of Canton, in southern China. There about 80 million Cantonese speakers in the world. Chinese people living overseas more frequently speak Cantonese than Mandarin.

How Many People Speak a Chinese Language in the US?

According to the most recent US Census data, there are about 2.8 million Chinese language speakers (of all varieties and dialects) in the US. That is a 290 percent increase since the 1980 Census.

There are large Chinese language speaking populations in New York, California, Texas and New Jersey. There are about as many Mandarin speakers as Cantonese speakers in the US, and also many others residents who speak other dialects.

Interesting Facts About Chinese Languages

Mandarin and Cantonese are both tonal languages, meaning intonation and pitch affect the meaning of words.

Chinese languages have no verb conjugation, gender-specific nouns or tenses (past, present, future).

“Pinyin” is a method of writing Mandarin words using the Roman alphabet.

Chinese Bilingual Children’s Books

If the kids in your life speak a Chinese language, or are learning, you may want suggestions on some of the best bilingual storybooks and Chinese audiobooks for kids.  Some popular and engaging stories with text in both English and Mandarin or Cantonese include: Yeh-hsien (A Chinese Cinderella), Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and The Giant Turnip.  You may also want to check out the illustrated dictionary with audio for children, available in Mandarin and Cantonese.

Do you speak Mandarin or Cantonese, or are you learning? Comment below and share your interesting language facts!

“China – Fenghuang” by melenama via Flickr is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/8mf6ET

French Language: Facts, Figures & French Children’s Books

France french languageToday’s spotlight language is French. We have background and interesting facts about the language, as well as information to help you find children’s books in French.  Interested in learning interesting facts about other languages?  Check out our series of posts on various world languages including Hindi, Russian and Japanese!

Where is it spoken?

French is the official language of France, and it is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. There are about 300 million French speakers worldwide. It has official status in 32 countries, second only to English.

How Many People Speak French in the US?

According to the most recent US Census data, there are about 1.3 million French speakers in the US (not including French Creole, which is counted separately). There are large French speaking populations in New York, Louisiana, Washington DC, Massachusetts, Texas and California.

Interesting Facts About French

There are many food-related idioms in French. One example is “En faire tout un fromage,” which translates to “make a whole cheese of it.” This saying is used to when a person is making a bigger deal of something than it deserves. In English, its equivalent is “making a mountain out of a molehill.”

French didn’t become widely used in France until after the French Revolution in the late 1700s.

“Salut” can be used as both a casual hello or good-bye.

French Books – Bilingual Children’s Books

If the kids in your life speak French, or are learning the language, you may want suggestions on some of the best bilingual French storybooks and audio books for kids.  Some popular and engaging stories with text in both English and the French language include: Goldilocks and the Three Bears, The Three Billy Goats Gruff, and The Giant Turnip.  You may also want to check out the illustrated French-English dictionary with audio for children.

Do you speak French, or are you learning the language? Comment below and share your interesting language facts!

“Eiffel Tower, Paris (France)” by Tommie Hansen via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/gEnCEM

Hindi Language & Hindi Books: Facts, Figures & Resources

hindi children's books and resources

Today’s spotlight language is Hindi. Below, we offer background and interesting facts about the language, as well as information to help you find Hindi children’s books.

Where is it spoken?

Hindi is the official language of India (along with English). Hindi is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. There are approximately 425 million speakers worldwide.

How Many People Speak Hindi in the US?

According to the most recent US Census data, there are about 670,000 Hindi speakers in the US. There are large Hindi speaking populations in New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Washington, D.C. and California.

Interesting Facts About Hindi

Hindi is a relatively easy language to read. It is written left to write, is phonetic, and doesn’t include articles like “a” or “the.”

It’s important to use the correct formal or informal style of speech in context, depending on whom you are addressing.

Nouns are either masculine or feminine, and affect adjective and verb use.

The most common greeting in Hindi is “namaste,” and handshakes are only common in certain situations, not in everyday life.

Hindi Books – Bilingual Children’s Books

Teachers frequently ask for suggestions on some of the best bilingual Hindi storybooks and audio books for kids.  Some popular and engaging stories with text in both English and the Hindi language include: The Wheels on the Bus, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and Little Red Hen and the Grains of Wheat.  There is also an illustrated Hindi-English dictionary with audio for children.

Do you speak Hindi, or know someone who does? Comment below and share your interesting language facts!

“India” by Nick Kenrick via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/ojmzob