7 of the world’s least-known languages

7 of the world’s least-known languages

by Andrea Byaruhanga

Updated November 9, 2022

How many of the world’s languages do you think you know of? 

With over 7,100 languages spoken around the globe, there are probably thousands that most of us don’t even know about. 

We all know about the most commonly spoken languages, but what are the least-known languages? 

In this article, we’ll examine seven of the least-spoken languages in the world. We’ll discuss where they’re spoken and how many people speak them. We’ll also include a few words so you can get a better sense of each of these languages.

  1. Njerep
  2. Ongota
  3. Paipai
  4. Satawalese
  5. Taushiro
  6. Tsuut’ina
  7. Wymysorys

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1. Njerep

Language family: Niger-Congo

Spoken in the Adamawa region of Cameroon, Njerep is known as a Mambiloid language. It only had four speakers in 2007. At that time, the youngest speaker was around 60 years old. Njerep is classified as critically endangered: It’s no longer spoken regularly and none of its speakers know it fluently. 

Njerep vocabulary

  • person – noro
  • tree – tú 
  • come – ze
  • name – yila

2. Ongota

Language family: Unclassified 

Ongota is a traditional language of the Ongota hunter-gatherer community of southwestern Ethiopia. While the Ongota tribe is composed of about 100 people, only 12 Ongota elders were reported to be able to speak the language in 2009. It’s largely been pushed out by Ts’amakko, a Cushitic language spoken in surrounding regions. 

Ongota vocabulary 

  • laugh – muˈχɛːta
  • hungry – kaˈgaːʃɪ
  • cut – kaˈgat
  • give – kanːˈa

3. Paipai

Language family: Yuman

Papai, also known as Jaspuy Pai, is a Yuman language spoken by indigenous peoples living in Baja California in northern Mexico. As of 2015, there were roughly 200 Paipai speakers. The use of Paipai will continue to decline, as it isn’t being taught to the younger generations, who are instead learning Spanish

Paipai vocabulary

  • sun – enya
  • moon – hülû’
  • man – pa’hami
  • woman – mimusi

4. Satawalese

Language family: Austronesian

With nearly 700 speakers, this is one of the more widely spoken languages on our list. Satawalese is a Micronesian language, mainly spoken in the Federated States of Micronesia on the island of Satawal. You’ll also find this language on some other islands, such as Lamotrek and Pulusut. 

One big reason that Satawalese is not more widespread is the fact that the official language of Micronesia is English, which is spoken by most of the population. 

Satawalese vocabulary 

  • person – manewe
  • tree – wanwan
  • sun – aenet
  • mountain – rhug

5. Taushiro 

Language family: Unclassified 

Also known as Pinche or Pinchi, Taushiro is a language that was once widely spoken in the Peruvian Amazon near Ecuador. Due to an epidemic in the 1960s as well as Taushiro speakers marrying Spanish and Quechua speakers, the language is now one of the least-used languages in the world – only one speaker remains

Taushiro vocabulary

  • big – ho´hua
  • child – iva´
  • day – ichi´curo
  • fire – honto´

6. Tsuutʼina

Language family: Athabaskan

Tsuut’ina, which translates to “many people,” is an Athabaskan language spoken in Alberta, Canada, mainly on the Tsuu T’ina Nation Indian Reserve 145. According to Canada’s 2016 census, there were 90 first-language Tsuut’ina speakers. However, other sources claim that the number of native speakers is closer to 50, in addition to several “partial” speakers. The use of Tsuut’ina, previously known as Sarcee, decreased when children were sent to residential (boarding) schools and forced to speak English. 

There have been revitalization efforts to preserve the language: In 2011, the First Nation partnered with the University of Calgary to start a Tsuut’ina teacher training program

Tsuut’ina vocabulary

  • thank you – siyisgaas
  • eat – yísno
  • sing – idjín
  • leave – xàya

7. Wymysorys

Language family: Indo-European 

Also known as Vilamovian or Wilamowicean, Wymysorys is a West Germanic language that developed from Colonial Middle High German. It’s spoken in Wilamowice, located in the southern province of Silesia in Poland. 

Until the early 1900s, Wymsysorys was the main language of Wilamowice. After the Second World War, it was banned by the government until 1956, forcing many people to switch to Polish instead. As of 2017, there were fewer than 20 native Wymysorys speakers in the Polish town of 3,000. There have been recent revitalization efforts, including the creation of a Wymysorys dictionary.

Wymysorys vocabulary

  • help – hyłf
  • summer – zumer
  • child – kynd
  • world – wełt

Get to know the least-known languages

Now that we’ve discussed seven of the world’s least-known languages, we hope we’ve made them a little bit better known. While many of these languages—and thousands of others—may sadly be extinct one day, you can help them live on by learning more and sharing their history and origins. 

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Andrea is a Canadian freelance writer and editor specializing in English, e-learning, EdTech, and SaaS. She has a background as an ESL teacher in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia. In her free time, Andrea loves hanging out with her husband and children, creating recipes in the kitchen, and reading fiction. She also loves camping and jumping into lakes whenever possible. Learn more about Andrea on LinkedIn or check out her website.

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