Oxford Updates Dictionary

May 3, 2016

Language is the skill we learned from birth, your first language pretty much determined by which country you were raised in, or what your parents have taught you. 

 

It's estimated that up to 7,000 different languages are spoken around the world, around 6,300 of them are used by less than 0.000013% of the world population, hence, around 700 languages cover the remaining 99.99998%.

 

What is the most spoken language in the world? It is not difficult to guess, just think of the most populated country on the planet - China. The language they use is “Mandarin” - a dialect of Spoken Chinese.

 

In second place, interestingly enough, is not the language used by the second most populated country - India, it's actually English. According to Wikipedia there are 339 million native speakers and 603 million non-native speakers in the world (2015). India did help on the non-native part, as you can imagine.

 

Whether you are native English speaker or not, to look up an English word, dictionary is still number one choice. And even today, the most popular English dictionary is still the Oxford English Dictionary a.k.a “OED”. English language is evolving all the time, every year roughly 6,000 new English words are created, it can be a word for the latest technologies, foreign words or even names from popular culture literature, like books and movies. For example, the words Jedi and Yoda are from the Star Wars movies.

 

Out of the 6,000, only around 1,000 will make it to the latest edition of the OED. This year, 13 new Hong Kong English words and 14 from Singapore have been added, some of the Hong Kong English words are loanwords from Cantonese, such as Char Siu (barbecued pork) and Siu Mei (generic name given to roasted meat). Others include formations in English that you will only see in Hong Kong, such as sitting-out area and wet market. Interesting right? But this is not a new idea, in fact you would find over 1,500 words already added. Including “Feng Shui” (study of spatial arrangement to increase wealth and luck) and “Wonton” (a small round dumpling).

 

Why would the Oxford Dictionary introduce English words from Asia, you may ask?

 

Language is a tool for people to communicate, and adding new words to reflect cross-culture descriptions improves communications for everyone in our new global village.

 

So, try ordering some Wonton and Siu Mei next time you are at a Chinese restaurant, surely the waitress will be impressed.

 

(Photo Credits: smuconlaw)

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