Have you ever thought about what are the oldest languages in the world? Before the formation of writing, people expressed themselves in a variety of ways. In this way, gestural languages and spoken languages were among the earliest forms of communication. They slowly developed into simple carved patterns, symbols, signs, and other methods of communication and transmission of information!
When exactly did humans “learn” to use language, this is one of the most “headaches” for all anthropologists and ancient historians. But it is certain that language made man truly human – a complete farewell to the hominids – and evolved gradually.
Among the long history, some languages gradually die out and some were reserved. Today we will introduce you to the ten oldest languages that are still used by people today.
Egyptian: 2000 BC – present | widely spoken in Egypt and the Middle East
Sanskrit: 1500 BC – Present | currently spoken in India, South Africa, Nepal
Greek: 1450 BC – Present | widely spoken in Greece and Cyprus
Chinese: 1250 BC – Present | widely spoken in Mainland China, Taiwan, Hongkong, Macao and Singapore
Aramaic: 1100 BC – Present | mostly spoken in Iraq and Syria
Hebrew: 1000 BC – Present | widely spoken in Israel and Jewish communities
Farsi: 522 BC – Present | mostly spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan
Tamil: 300 BC – Present | mostly spoken in India and Sri Lanka
Latin: 75 BC – Present | mostly spoken inVatican City
Arabic: 100 CE – Present | the lingua franca of the Arab world
10 Oldest Languages Still in Use Today
Latin: 75 BC – Present
Latin dates back to the Roman Empire in 75 B.C. and was originally the language of the city of Rome and the Latin region. It belongs to the Indo-European family of languages (found in Europe and South Asia) and is one of the classical languages that has stood the test of history and is the source of many contemporary languages. It is still used as an official language in the Vatican today.
Sanskrit: 1500 BC – Present
Sanskrit belongs to the Indo-European family of languages and is one of the oldest languages in this family. Like Latin, Sanskrit has become a specialized language belonging to academia and religion. For nearly two millennia, Sanskrit has deeply influenced South, Central, and Southeast Asia, and its influence has even penetrated into East Asia. Although there are very few native speakers of modern Sanskrit, it can still be found everywhere in the modern Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain classics.
Interestingly, efforts to revive the oral use of Sanskrit in India have intensified since the 1990s. Some secondary schools have started offering Sanskrit classes.
Greek: 1450 BC – Present
Greek is arguably the oldest language, dating back to 1500 B.C. It is still spoken by 13 million people living in Greece and Cyprus. Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, the famous ancient Greek philosophers in the history of human civilization, all thought, talked and wrote in this language.
The Greek language in use today is not the same as the ancient Greek spoken in the 9th century B.C. Most of the words and sentences in modern Greek have been simplified. However, Classical Greek is indeed a linguistic treasure trove, and the naming of many things in modern times is still borrowed from Classical Greek.
Chinese: 1250 BC – Present
The oracle bone Chinese character is one of the three oldest writing systems in the world. Among them, the sacred script of ancient Egypt and the cuneiform script of the Sumerians have been lost, and only the Chinese characters are in use today.
Chinese is the language that has been in common use for the longest time and is one of the most populous languages in the world today, with a history so long that it would take all day to tell!
Aramaic: 1100 BC – Present
Aramaic is a language of the Semitic language group, along with Hebrew and Arabic. It is 3,000 years old, one of the few ancient languages in the world that has survived for thousands of years, and is considered to be the everyday language of the Jews at the time of Jesus Christ.
In the 12th century B.C., the Aramaic-speaking Aramaic people began to migrate in large numbers into what is now the Middle East. Along with Jewish immigration, Aramaic was brought into North Africa and Europe, and Christian missionaries brought it into Persia, India, and even the Great Tang Dynasty. But from the middle of the 7th century onwards, Arabic replaced Aramaic as the lingua franca of the Middle East.
Hebrew: 1000 BC – Present
The history of the Hebrew language goes back more than 3,000 years. In the 3rd century B.C., the Aramaic language of the West took the place of Hebrew, after which Hebrew circulated only as a literary language in the 4th century A.D.
In the last 200 years, with the growth of the Zionist movement, Hebrew has once again spread. It is now spoken by over 9 million people worldwide and is also the religious language of Christianity and Judaism.
Farsi: 522 BC – Present
Persian is an Iranian language in the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European language family. Its main speakers are found in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and in countries with historical Persian influences.
Many people mistakenly believe that Persian is close to Arabic because of the look-alike. But in fact they are not even one language family. Persian is an Indo-European language like German and French, and Arabic is an Afro-Asian language like Hebrew (also known as Semitic).
Tamil: 300 BC – Present
Tamil emerged before Sanskrit and is still widely spoken, especially in the southern part of the Indian peninsula (Tamil Nadu), where it is the official language of many Asian countries, such as India, Singapore and Sri Lanka. It has a literary tradition of over 2,000 years, and unlike the Latin and Romance languages of Europe, this tradition has remained unbroken. As with the Chinese language, ancient Tamil continues to be used in everyday life today.
Arabic: roughly 100 CE – Present
Arabic, derived from the ancient language Semitic, is one of the most spoken languages and one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. It originated in the Syrian desert in the 5th century, and ancient Arabic has been written since the 6th century A.D. The expansion of the Arab Empire from the 7th century A.D. saw Arabic completely replace the languages previously spoken in Iraq, Syria, Egypt and North Africa.
During the medieval period, a large proportion of important religious and intellectual works were written in Arabic, and as Islam spread from country to country, Arabic rose significantly in stature and became the political, scientific and literary language for centuries during the Islamic empire.
Egyptian : 2000 B.C – present
Egyptian, a language spoken in ancient Egypt, belongs to the Afro-Asian family of languages and is closely related to Semitic languages (e.g., Hebrew and Arabic). The language is still spoken by a few Copts today.
Do you think Egyptian is still spoken in Egypt today? Then you are wrong. The national language of Egypt today is Egyptian Arabic, which gradually replaced Coptic Egyptian as the language of everyday life after the Muslim conquest of Egypt.