1. Egyptian – 2690 BC (circa. 4700 years old)
The first known language ever was a proto-language on the African continent, and the first known proto-writing system was created in Nigeria.
So, it is perhaps no surprise that the oldest language on this list is also from and used in Africa – Egyptian. The first known complete sentence in Ancient Egyptian was recorded in roughly 2690 BCE, making it over 4700 years old.
2. Sanskrit – 1500 BC (circa. 3500 years old)
With its oldest texts dating back to around 1500 BCE, Sanskrit is probably the second oldest language in the world still being used today.
Like Coptic, Sanskrit is largely used in religious texts and ceremonies that persist today, with a place in Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism.
3. Greek – 1450 BC (circa. 3500 years old)
Moving forward just a hair in time, Greek is probably the oldest language still spoken as a primary, day-to-day language. While Modern Greek has evolved significantly from the Greek spoken in ancient times, the language of Greece today
is a definitive descendant of the language of Homer and those who came before him way before him. The works of Homer are believed to have been composed between the seventh and eighth centuries BC.
4. Chinese – 1250 BC (circa. 3300 years old)
Another competitor for both oldest written language and oldest spoken language still in use today, Chinese is definitely both useful and backed by a long, rich history.
The first attested Old Chinese goes back to a set of inscriptions on oracle bones dated to roughly 1250 BCE.
5. Aramaic – 1100 BC (circa. 3100 years old)
In the quest for the oldest living language in the world, those not versed in the culture of Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey might not expect Aramaic to appear on the list. However, Aramaic is quite ancient – the Aramaic alphabet was the precursor to both the Hebrew and Arabic alphabets.
But Aramaic, the language spoken by Arameans in ancient Syria and first attested in 1100 BC, has survived well into its 4th millennium. In fact, among these oldest languages in use today, it’s actually more lively of a living language than Sanskrit or Coptic.
There are somewhere between 800,000 and 1,000,000 speakers of Neo-Aramaic languages in the world today. Who knew?