Writing systems were independently invented at least four times.
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Writing systems were independently invented at least four times.

Much human innovation is a collective effort — scientists, innovators, and artisans building off the work of predecessors to develop some groundbreaking technology over the course of decades, or even centuries. But in the case of writing systems, scholars believe humans may have independently invented them four separate times. That’s because none of these writing systems show significant influence from previously existing systems, or similarities among one another. Experts generally agree that the first writing system appeared in the Mesopotamian society of Sumer in what is now Iraq. Early pictorial signs appeared some 5,500 years ago, and slowly evolved into complex characters representing the sounds of the Sumerian language. Today, this ancient writing system is known as cuneiform

Half the world population is multilingual.
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It's a Fact
Experts estimate that at least half of the human population can speak two languages or more. However, the U.S. is drastically behind compared to other countries. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 20% of Americans speak another language, whereas that number is 56% in Europe.

However, cuneiform wasn’t a one-off innovation. Writing systems then evolved in ancient Egypt, in the form of hieroglyphs, around 3200 BCE — only an estimated 250 years after the first examples of cuneiform. The next place that writing developed was China, where the Shang Dynasty set up shop along the Yellow River and wrote early Chinese characters on animal bones during divination rituals around 1300 BCE. Finally, in Mesoamerica, writing began to take shape around 900 BCE, and influenced ancient civilizations like the Zapotecs, Olmecs, Aztecs, and Maya. Sadly, little is known about the history of many Mesoamerican languages, as Catholic priests and Spanish conquistadors destroyed a lot of the surviving documentation.

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Numbers Don’t Lie
Estimated minimum number of word families someone needs to know to be fluent in a language
Number of languages 1943’s “Le Petit Prince” has been translated into, the most of any book except the Bible
Year Cherokee polymath Sequoyah created the Cherokee written language
Number of letters in the Khmer (Cambodian) alphabet, the longest alphabet in the world
“Hieroglyph” comes from ancient Greek words meaning “_______.”
“Hieroglyph” comes from ancient Greek words meaning “sacred carvings.”
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Think Twice
There are many ancient languages that have yet to be deciphered.

Discovered in July 1799, the Rosetta Stone is perhaps the most famous linguistics discovery in human history; it turned out to be a 1,600-pound key that unlocked the ancient mysteries of the Egyptian language. However, many other lost languages haven’t been so lucky, including tongues such as Meroitic from Sudan, Linear A from Crete, and Proto-Elamite from Iran. But the most famous undeciphered written language is the Indus script, which is the oldest written language on the Indian subcontinent and dates back to around 2600 BCE. Because this script has no bilingual text like the Rosetta Stone (at least not so far), the language has remained incomprehensible — a major reason why the Indus Valley Civilization is one of the least-known major civilizations in ancient history. It’s even possible that the Indus script is a fifth example of independently evolved language, though it’s impossible to know for sure without deciphering it.

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