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What Language Do They Speak in Mongolia?

What Language Do They Speak in Mongolia

Key Takeaways:

FactDescription
Official LanguageMongolian
DialectsKhalkha, Buryat, Oirat, and more
Writing ScriptCyrillic script (primarily), Traditional Mongolian script
Secondary LanguagesRussian, English (widely taught in schools)
Number of SpeakersApproximately 5 million native speakers worldwide

Introduction

Mongolia, a landlocked country located in East and Central Asia, is known for its vast steppes and rich history. The country played a pivotal role in shaping the world’s history, especially during the reign of the Mongol Empire. But when it comes to its language and culture, there is a lot more than meets the eye. Let’s dive deep into the linguistic landscape of Mongolia.

Official Language: Mongolian

Mongolian is the official language of Mongolia and the native tongue of about 95% of the population. This language is a member of the Mongolic language family, which has various dialects and sub-dialects spread across Mongolia and its neighboring regions.

Major Dialects:

  1. Khalkha: This is the standard form of Mongolian and the dialect spoken by the majority in the country, especially in and around the capital city, Ulaanbaatar.
  2. Buryat: Predominantly spoken in the Buryatia region of Russia.
  3. Oirat: A group of dialects spoken by the Oirat people residing in the Western part of Mongolia, as well as parts of China and Russia.
DialectRegionNumber of Speakers
KhalkhaCentral Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar3 million (approx.)
BuryatBuryatia region of Russia300,000 (approx.)
OiratWestern Mongolia, China, Russia500,000 (approx.)

Writing System: A Blend of Tradition and Modernity

Historically, the Mongolian language was written using the Traditional Mongolian script. Derived from the Uighur script, this writing system was vertically oriented and read from top to bottom. It was widely used across the Mongol Empire and played a pivotal role in documenting its history and literature.

However, in the 1940s, Mongolia underwent a significant transformation. Influenced by its close ties with the Soviet Union, Mongolia adopted the Cyrillic script as the primary writing system for the Mongolian language.

Current Writing Systems:

  • Cyrillic Script: Predominantly used in Mongolia. It’s the official script for government, education, and daily communication.
  • Traditional Mongolian Script: Still used by ethnic Mongolians in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of China. In recent years, there’s been a revivalist movement in Mongolia to reintroduce the script into daily use.
ScriptUsage RegionAdoption Year
CyrillicMongolia1940s
Traditional MongolianInner Mongolia, ChinaAncient times

Secondary and Foreign Languages

While Mongolian reigns supreme in the country, it’s not the only language spoken or understood.

  • Russian: Due to historical ties with the Soviet Union, Russian is spoken and understood by many Mongolians, especially the older generation. It was widely taught in schools during the 20th century.
  • English: With globalization and increasing international ties, English is now widely taught in schools. Many young Mongolians are fluent in English, making it the second most popular foreign language after Russian.

Language Preservation and Revival

In recent years, there has been a concerted effort to preserve the linguistic heritage of Mongolia. Here’s how:

  • Reintroducing Traditional Script: As mentioned earlier, there’s a movement to reintroduce the traditional script in schools and public places.
  • Promotion of Dialects: Efforts are being made to preserve and promote regional dialects, ensuring they don’t get lost in the tide of modernization.
  • Language Festivals: These festivals celebrate the rich linguistic history of Mongolia, showcasing its dialects, scripts, and literary treasures.

Conclusion

Mongolia, with its diverse linguistic landscape, offers a blend of traditional and modern influences. From the vast steppes to the bustling streets of Ulaanbaatar, the Mongolian language stands as a testament to the country’s rich history and cultural pride.