Rare language fact file: Andamanese languages


At The Language Shop we like to shine a light on some of the rarer languages spoken across the world, many of which have long and fascinating histories. This month we take a closer look at the Andamanese languages.

Native to: The Andaman Islands

Number of native speakers: Approximately 344

Spoken by: People living on the Andaman Islands

Learn some: Despite being tiny, the islands are home to very distinct languages. Bengali is the most widely spoken language across the islands, so a safe bet for greeting people is nomoshkar, which is the Bengali for hello.

Interesting facts:

  • Great Andamanese is unlike any other language on the planet and is believed to be one of the very few remaining palaeolithic languages. This language is distinct from those spoken by other tribes on the islands, the Jarawas and the Onges; for example, eye in Jarawa and Onges languages is ejebo, whereas in Great Andamanese it is ulu.
  • The British built a penal colony on the Andaman Islands in the second half of the 19th century. Prior to this, there was no written record of the Andamanese, but indications are that as many as 5,000 islanders lived there. With an influx of foreigners on the islands, by 1961 there were just 19 Andamanese left, due to disease and poor living conditions.
  • Possibly in response to this, the Sentinelese islanders, whose homes lie to the west of the main Archipelago, are extremely resistant to any contact with the rest of the world. They are known to have killed people for coming near to their island, including a Christian missionary as recently as 2018. As a result, almost nothing is known about them or their language.

The Language Shop provides support in any language you may need, including many of the rarer ones. Get in touch with us to find out more.

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