In spite of some evolutionary speculation in the first pages, The Book of Languages is a fascinating and comprehensive introduction to a neglected subject.
The Book of Languages: Talk Your Way around the World, by Mick Webb. Owl Kids Books, 2015, 63 pages
Reading Level: Middle Grades, ages 8-10
Recommended for: ages 8-12
What language is spoken by the most people? What’s the oldest language? How many alphabets exist in the world today? What are invented languages? How do people communicate without speaking? For only 63 pages, this book has an ambitious title but actually covers the basics well. The opening pages offer speculation of how verbal communication developed, with a heavy evolutionary slant. But after that we enter the world of recorded history, tracing the major language families back to their origins as near as can be determined. Major (and some non-major) languages each receive a two-page spread, including a brief history, where it’s spoken, common phrases, numbers up to ten, peculiarities, and a rudimentary pronunciation guide. Non-verbal languages and animal communication are also addressed.
One feature much appreciated: the text gives full credit to the agency of the church, missionaries, Bible printing and Bible translations for spreading certain languages. Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible, for example, did more to establish German as a major European language than any other factor. Easily accessed and child-friendly, this is a great reference guide for budding linguists.
Overall rating: 4 (out of 5)