Language is human speech, either spoken or written. Language is the most common system of communication. It allows people to talk to each other and to write their thoughts and ideas. The word language may be loosely used to mean any system of communication, such as traffic lights or Indian smoke signals. But the origin of the word shows its basic use. It comes from the Latin word lingua, meaning tongue. And a language still is often called a tongue.
Wherever there is human society, there is language. Most forms of human activity depends on the cooperation of two or more persons. A common language enables human beings to work together is an infinite variety of ways. Language has made possible the development of advanced, technological civilization. Without language for communication, there would be little or no science, religion, commerce, government, art, literature, and philosophy.
Scholars have determined that there about 3000 languages spoken in the world today. This number does not include dialects (local forms of a language). Many languages are spoken only by small groups of a few hundred or a few thousand persons. There are more than a hundred languages with a million or more speakers each: Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, English, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Maly-Indonesian, Marathi, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, Tamil, Telugu, and Urdu. Hindi and Urdu are sometimes grouped together as Hindustani. People in many countries use some of these major languages, including English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Arabic. Other major languages have little use outside their own areas.
Most people learn their own language without fully realizing what is taking place. Young children feel a need to communicate their particular needs and they begin listening to older persons and imitating them. They gradually learn to select and to make the sounds used in the language spoken around them. They also learn to disregard other possible sounds that their voices could make. At the same time, children learn to connect individual words with objects, ideas and actions. Their responses become automatic. For example, upon seeing a dog, an English-speaking child automatically calls it a ‘dog’. Youngsters also learn, largely by imitation, to arrange words in certain ways. By the age of 5 or 6, most children have learnt the patterns of their language fairly well. They can then communicate well enough for most of their own practical purposes. In school, the language learning process becomes continues and deliberate. Children become aware of how the sounds and words of their language are arranged in systems. They can learn to speak or write precisely about more complex matters.