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Oldest Languages in the World


Around 400 BC, Hebrew fell out of common usage but remained in a preserved state for Jews across the world. But when Zionism rose to dominance in the 19th and 20th centuries, Hebrew went through a revival, eventually becoming Israel’s official language and the oldest spoken language. The modern version is not the same as the Biblical version, but Hebrew’s native speakers are able to understand what’s written in the Old Testament.


Tamil, which attracts 78 million speakers, has gained recognition as one of Sri Lanka’s and Singapore’s official languages. It is the only classical language that has managed to survive into the modern world. It is a part of the Dravidian language family which takes in several languages, mostly in southern and eastern India. It is classified as the official language of Tamil Nadu. Several researchers have discovered inscriptions in Tamil dating to the 3rd century BC, but it has been used continually ever since. Tamil is now ranked 20 as one of the most spoken languages in the world.


Basque is one of the oldest spoken languages and its speakers are the Basque people of Spain and France. Basque is not related to any of the Romance languages, like Spanish and French. Linguists haven’t found any close relatives to Basque but what they do know is that it existed in the area a long time before Romance languages arrived. This is way before the Romans arrived with their Latin that over time would develop into Spanish and French.


Farsi, as a most spoken language in the world, can be heard in modern Iran, Tajikistan, and Afghanistan. It descends directly from Old Persian, which used to be the language spoken in the Persian Empire. Modern Persian began around 800 BC, and it’s quite different from some modern languages because it has changed much over time. Speakers who speak Persian these days could choose some writing from 900 BC and read it far more easily than a speaker of English could read, for example, Shakespeare.


Icelandic is an Indo-European language, originating from the Northern Germanic branch, while English is a Germanic language too, but it comes from the Western Germanic branch. Some of the Germanic languages may also share the status of being the first spoken languages in the world. Over time, they have lost some of their earlier features, but Icelandic as one of the world’s languages is quite different and has kept many of its key features. When Iceland was ruled by the Danish between the14th and 20th centuries, this didn’t have much influence on the then Icelandic language. Therefore, overall, it has stayed much the same since Norse settlers brought it with them into the country.  Icelandic speakers don’t have much trouble reading texts written even centuries ago.


The Slavic family of languages of the world includes Croatian, Polish, Russian and Czech, and is quite young. They began to split off from Common Slavic their commonly shared ancestor when the two people Cyril and Methodius went about standardizing the language, which resulted in Old Church Slavonic. They subsequently in the 9th century took the language north in order to convert the Slavs into Christians. They originated from just north of the country of Greece most likely to what today is called Macedonia.  Macedonian, along with the Bulgarian language, is today closely associated with Old Church Slavonic which is one of the oldest spoken languages.


Much of what we know today about the first spoken language in the world is mere guesswork and not scientific fact. However, it’s clear that some languages have survived more in their natural states from long ago than others.