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What Is the World’s Most Mysterious Language?

Updated May 17, 2024
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Even the most intrepid traveler would be wise to avoid North Sentinel Island, a remote island in the Bay of Bengal.

The inhabitants are typically unwelcoming to visitors, and even if you could make it safely onto the island, you wouldn't know what to say: The Sentinelese speak a language unknown to the outside world and thought to be largely unrelated to anything spoken on the islands around them.

Considered the last pre-Neolithic people on Earth, the Sentinelese -- who are believed to number between 50 and 150 -- live a hunter-gatherer lifestyle and usually want to be left alone. This shouldn't be hard to achieve, as it's actually against the law to get within 3 nautical miles of North Sentinel Island.

If all that isn't enough to warn you away, consider this: In 2018, missionary John Allen Chau paid some fishermen to tow him to the island. His hope of converting the islanders to Christianity ended in his own death, only a few days after his arrival.

More about North Sentinel Island:

  • North Sentinel Island is only about 37 square miles (60 sq km) in area and lies more than 745 miles (1,200 km) from India, which has owned the island since 1947.

  • It wasn't until 1980 that outsiders heard the language spoken by the Sentinelese, leading them to believe that it is unique to the island.

  • Despite the devastating toll it took on nearby areas, the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami did little damage to the Sentinelese, possibly because they moved to higher ground before it struck.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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