Quiz on languages

Joy Bhattacharjya | Updated on January 11, 2018 Published on July 14, 2017


On July 15, 1799, French officer Pierre-François Bouchard found a large rock slab in the village of Rosetta that finally helped decipher the Egyptian hieroglyphic script.

For the love of language

1 India has 22 ‘scheduled’ languages, but Hindi and English are the only official ones. Which nation has the maximum number of official languages, a total of 16?

2 In which South American country is there a large Welsh settlement, with more than 5,000 Welsh speakers. In 2004, the Welsh speakers in that country requested BBC Wales for access to their programmes.

3 Louise Fletcher in 1976 and Jane Fonda in 1978 were two of the three actors to express themselves in this language in their Oscar acceptance speeches. Which language? Not giving the third one’s name as it would be a giveaway.

4 According to the Oxford English Dictionary, ‘take’ with 343, ‘go’ with 368 and ‘run’ with 396 are the words which have the fourth, third and second most different definitions in English language. Which word comes first, with over 450 definitions?

5 If Quenya, Sindarin and Khuzdul are languages created by JRR Tolkien for his stories, for which television series did David J Peterson develop a complete language, taking inspiration from the author of the original work and languages such as English, Swahili, Turkish and Estonian?

6 Another question on similar lines. Which two countries have the maximum number of Spanish speakers?

7 From which language did the English words sugar, candy, and jaggery originate?

8 The English ‘sheriff’ and the Arabic ‘sharif’ are a perfect example of ‘false cognates’. What are false cognates?

9 What is unique to the Silbo Gomero, a language used by the residents of Canary island, developed specially to communicate across deep ravines and narrow valleys?

10 Which of India’s scheduled languages, literally meaning ‘hill region’, has the largest number of letters — 52?


1. Zimbabwe. Shona, English and Ndebele are the most widely used, with approximately 70 per cent of the population speaking Shona

2. Argentina; in 1865 a large group of Welsh people migrated to Patagonia, ostensibly to protect and preserve Welsh culture

3. American Sign Language. The third was hearing impaired actress Marlee Matlin, who won it for her role in Children of a Lesser God

4. Set, which has 464 definitions

5. Game of Thrones, the language of the Dothraki

6. Mexico, with 121 million, and the US with 50 million. Spain has around 46 million

7. All three are believed to derive their origin from Sanskrit. Sugar from ‘sharkara’ via Persian, Latin and French; candy from ‘khandakah’ and jaggery from ‘sarkara’

8. Words that seem to have the same sound and meaning, but completely different etymologies. Both may mean legal officers, but ‘sheriff’ derives from the reeve of the shire, while ‘sharif’ originated from the term for an honest person

9. It is totally composed of whistles. Speakers are called silbadores

10. Malayalam. It is also the only language whose name is a palindrome

Joy Bhattacharjya is a quizmaster and Project Director, FIFA U-17 World Cup; Follow Joy on Twitter @joybhattacharj

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Published on July 14, 2017
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