Well here I am. A throwaway comment from my parents saying that they were thinking about taking me to Fiji later this year has blossomed until TWO full language learning missions about to reach wondrous heights in the coming two weeks.
Well here I am. A throwaway comment from my parents saying that they were thinking about taking me to Fiji later this year has blossomed until TWO full language learning missions about to reach wondrous heights in the coming two weeks.
Many of you will have the feeling of beginning to learn a new language in which you recognize almost nothing. Vocabulary you know is scant, the grammatical patterns are different and you feel that the path of least resistance is to give up.
I highly recommend you don’t give up…because learning a language highly dissimilar to your own (whether it be your own native language[s] or ones you’ve already learned as an adult) IS possible. You will need to adjust your ways of thinking ever-so-slightly.
The good news is that you can harness various skills you have used to acquire your native language (or other languages you know) to learning your new language that seems as though it belongs on another planet.
Given that my native language is English, let’s look some of my languages in terms of “how different they are” from English on a scale of 1 to 5. 1 is very similar to English, 5 is very different. Keep in mind that this is NOT the same thing as difficulty per se.
1: English Creole Languages, Languages of Mainland Scandinavia, Spanish, German, Yiddish
2: Icelandic, Fiji Hindi
3: Hungarian, Finnish, Fijian, Hebrew, Irish
4: Kiribati / Gilbertese, Palauan, Tuvaluan, Burmese
5: Greenlandic, Lao, Khmer, Guarani
The further you get away from the West, the more likely you are to encounter languages that go up the scale. The languages in (1) are very tied to the west on multiple fronts (e.g. Atlantic Creoles, German, Scandinavian Languages and Yiddish all influencing American culture to profound degrees) the languages in (3) have all been profoundly impacted by Germanic-speaking cultures but still maintain a lot of distinctness. With that said, the English influence (add German in the case of Hungarian and Swedish in the case of Finnish) is undeniable in a language like Fijian or Hebrew (given that both were under British rule).
A friend of mine was diving into Korean and he found himself struggling to remember words. And that’s NORMAL. I had that experience with all the languages 2 and higher with the higher numbers requiring more of it.
That said, there ARE ways to remember words in languages highly different from your native tongue EVEN if it seems impossible now.
Instead of looking OUTSIDE the language for connections to words you already know (as would be the standard practice in Romance or Germanic Languages if you’re a native English speaker, or even Indo-European Languages further afield), look INSIDE the language.
In Hebrew I encourage my students to look out for “shorashim” (or root words). These are sets of letters that will encapsulate similar meanings when seen in a sequence. Like in Arabic, the letters will dance around various prefixes, suffixes and vowel combinations that will change the meaning ever-so-slightly.
A more concrete example is with Fijian. The prefix “vaka-“ indicates “possessing the characteristics of, possessing …”. As such, you can collect additional words by looking at words with this prefix and then learning the form of the word without “vaka-“ in the front. Let’s have a look:
Wati – husband, wife, spouse
Vakawati – married (vaka + wati -> possessing a spouse)
To find words that are similar in this respect, one method you could use is to have an Anki Deck of an extensive vocabulary (what is “extensive” would depend on your short- and long-term goals with the language). Look up a root in the deck and you’ll see all words that have it:
The folks at Transparent Language have said that, minus memory techniques, you would need to see a word anywhere between five to sixteen times in order to remember it permanently. A huge advantage is that you can get exposed to one root and its derivatives very quickly in this regard.
Even with a language like English, you can do the same with a verb like “to take” which is idiomatically rich when combined with prefixes (to overtake), suffixes (to take over) or direct objects (to take a break).
Out of all of the languages I have learned, the same principle holds and can be taken advantage of.
Let’s take the Lao phrase ຂໍ ໂທດ (khɔ̌ɔ thòot). It would mean “I’m sorry” but it literally means “request punishment”.
Various languages don’t have a very “to have”, instead they would say something like “there is upon me” (Finnish) “there is by me” (Russian), “there is to me” (Hebrew, although Hungarian also does something similar sometimes) or “there is my X” (where X is a noun – Fijian, Kiribati / Gilbertese and Hungarian do this)
Arcane sentence structure can actually be an ADVANTAGE in some respects. Greenlandic’s mega-long words can be a great conversation starter AND something for you to remember.
Words, phrases and idioms tell stories in your native language too, but chances are you probably won’t be aware of them and if you do eventually, it may be after a decade or two of speaking it, if not more.
Scene: a synagogue event.
I got “Colloquial Hungarian” earlier that day. I met a Hungarian girl and the only thing I know is a basic greeting. I ask how to say “pleased to meet you” and she says “örülök hogy megismertelek”. You can imagine how much I struggled with this simple sentence on day one, much to her laughter and those looking on.
The fact is, I never forgot the phrase since. Because I associated it with that incident.
You can also do the same with individual words and phrases that you may have heard through songs, song titles, particularly emphatic scenes in movies, books or anything else you consume for entertainment in your target language.
The over-dramatic style of anime actually helped me learn a significant amount of Finnish phrases as a result of “attaching” them to various mental pictures. Lao cinema also did something similar. Pay attention ever-so-slightly to the texture of the voice and any other details—these will serve as “memory anchors”. It’s a bit like saving a GIF to your brain, almost.
The Fijian word for a sketch / painting is “droini”. Do you see the English cognate?
It’s the word “drawing” –Fijianized.
Do be aware, though: some English loan words can mutate beyond their English equivalents in terms of meaning. Japanese is probably infamous for this (in which a lot of English loan words developed lives and meanings of their own, much like Hebrew loan words in Yiddish sometimes found themselves detached from their original meanings in Hebrew).
Another example: Sanskrit and Pali words in languages of Southeast Asia in which Theravada Buddhism is practiced. Back to Lao. The word ປະເທດ (pa-thèet) may be foreign to you as the word “country”, but you’ve probably heard the word “Pradesh” before in various areas of India, even if you know nothing about India too deeply (yes, it is the same word modified for Lao pronunciation). The second syllable in particular may be familiar to you as the “-desh” from “Bangladesh”.
Which brings me into another point…
Tuvalu is a country in the South Pacific. It means “there are eight”. The Fijian word for to stand permanently or to be built is “tu” and the word for eight is “walu”. Fijian and Tuvaluan are not the same language but they are family members. You can recognize various other words by determining what place names mean or even names of people you know (whether well-known historical characters or your personal friends).
Another example: Vanuatu. Vanua in Fijian is a country or a place. Tu is the SAME root that we have in “Tuvalu” (yes, the “tu” in “Tuvalu” and “Vanuatu” mean THE EXACT SAME THING!) Vanuatu roughly means “here is our country” (or “country here”)
Again, this is something you can do for many languages. I remember doing in in Germany as well.
I was amused by the fact that the Tuvaluan word for “to understand” is “malamalama”. I posted it in a small polyglot group. A friend of mine who studies mostly languages from Western Europe and the Middle East asked me to conjugate it.
Tuvaluan doesn’t have verb conjugation. It instead puts particles before a verb to indicate tense. “Au e malamalama” -> I understand -> I present-marker understand.
Surprisingly this system (not entirely foreign to me because of having studied other languages in that family) was not foreign to me. But I learned to like it. A lot.
Feel free to tell interested friends about what makes your different language very different in terms of grammar. Some may even be intrigued about the fact that many languages don’t have an equivalent of “to have”.
There are some things that are a bit difficult to embrace, such as Greenland’s verb conjugation that has transitive forms for each pair (in normal English, this would me an I X you form, an I X him / her / it form, an I X all of you form, an I X them form, a you X me form, a you X him / her / it form … FOR EVERY PAIR).
That said, your love of your new language will find a way.
I’m sure of it!
The last post of the month!
Because of work that I’ve been doing on “Nuuk Adventures” as well as other commitments, I haven’t been making videos or writing blog posts as often as I used to. I do love what languages give me, but the biggest dream in my life right now is to get my first video game published and popular and while there have been difficulties with that, I will need to make sacrifices in other areas of my life. And that’s okay.
Anyhow, for June 2018 I imposed a challenge on myself to not write two consecutive posts in the same language for a whole month.
Here are some things that I realized as a result of the experience:
Hungarian and Fijian were my primary focuses in June and will continue to be so in July (when I revive my Fiji Hindi as well). Devoting a serious amount of time to three languages every day will be difficult, but I’m not one to be afraid.
I don’t have a single Facebook friend who speaks Fijian (even though I do know some who can read Fijian words out loud and pronounce them correctly). That said, I often wrote posts in Fijian with English translations in the comments.
I have a substantial amount of Hungarian friends and Hungarian-speaking friends from other places (the U.S. and Israel, mostly). Between that and machine translations for Hungarian (despite the fact that they translated the word “Fijian” as “fiancé” in a recent post of mine), I didn’t need to translate them into English.
I struggle with Hungarian sentence structure (although I’m getting used to the cases better every day).
In line with that thought…
Learning Hungarian for me has proven to be MUCH, MUCH easier than learning any language from Oceania. Hungarian is all over the internet in comparison to languages like Fijian or Gilbertese.
As a result, my motivation for Fijian somewhat slumped because sometimes I felt that I couldn’t find interesting content as much (although maybe I’m…not looking hard enough! Yo, I’m always open for suggestions…)
Gilbertese was also an issue because “comprehensive input” (describing something that Olly Richards is currently using with his Italian project) has been…non-existent…except for my YouTube series on Gilbertese which is helpful but it’s clear that I’m a non-native and that my pronunciation in the earlier entries needed improvement. (the ‘ in the b’a combination is pronounced as “bwa”, and in some Gilbertese orthographies is written as such).
Actively translating things into rarer languages was helpful.
That said, sometimes I worried that I was “doing it wrong” and sometimes I realized that my vocabulary retention wasn’t too high.
But the key is to do something that helps, even a little bit, and to keep doing it.
Machine Translation or not, most people would see something in Finnish and scroll past it if they don’t have a solid ability to read it.
I saved my longer, eloquent posts for being written in English and then had quaint observations and jokes in other languages. This doesn’t reflect my skills, but rather my audience.
My posts are open and so when people saw what I was doing they were immediately intrigued. With growing skepticism of polyglot culture for a number of reasons, the fact that I was writing posts in many languages, some of which haven’t been touched by machine translation at all, was a clear marker that I was genuine (which I know that I am).
A lot of people in the online Facebook groups added me as a result. Yes, I have following enabled, but I’m always glad to help others in any way I can. Granted, I get hundreds of messages a day and it has been hard for me to keep up. But I do try.
I’m not going to lie, I genuinely enjoyed this, it made me project a more interesting version of myself and it cemented my vocabulary in many languages significantly.
I also got two corrections over the course of the month (one from a Hungarian speaker and another about word choice from a Swedish speaker). I’m grateful for your input and I don’t take it personally.
JULY 2018 Challenge:
July 2018’s challenge (I’m probably going to make the weekly challenges a habit, inspired by the legendary Ari in Beijing):
– I must translate ALL Facebook posts I write into either Fijian or Fiji Hindi. This is true regardless of source language. (Posts in Hungarian, Hebrew, Danish, English, etc. are affected)
– Exceptions include emergencies and life-changing announcements (including “Kaverini” announcements)
– I can write the translation in a comment instead (for example, if I want to write a very powerfully worded political piece, I may opt for doing this).
– I may use any orthography for Fiji Hindi.
– I may use as many English loan words in Fiji Hindi as necessary for it to feel genuine (e.g. the way an Indo-Fijian would speak). The same is true for English loan words in Fijian.
– For the sake of balancing translating into the two languages, I have to alternate between Fijian and Fiji Hindi with each post. If I translate into both, it serves as a wild card and I can choose which of the two to do for the next post.
– Instagram is unaffected, but if I share any Instagram photos or videos to Facebook, I must translate the caption into one of the two languages in a comment (or both).
– The challenge will be suspended in the event of me going abroad. (Foreshadowing?)
CAN I DO IT? We’ll see!
From years ago. My language list is a bit different now.
A friend of mine, an English / German / Spanish / Japanese / possibly other languages I forgot / possibly I taught him a few words of Hebrew once asked me to write this post. Thank you, Mitch, with great wishes for your continued success!
Do YOU have a topic you’d like me to write on? Let me know!
I’m recovering from an illness so I hope that this will be good nonetheless.
Many people have told me that they sometimes intend to say one thing in one language and end up saying something in another, or otherwise the general mix-up that many polyglots, even veterans, know all too well.
Believe me, even native speakers sometimes suffer from this. This is why code-switching is a thing, as well as the fact that many people from India / Oceania / Israel / Northern Europe / American Hispanics mix in English with their native languages. Even in the Arab world this is common with French words instead (in various Arabic varieties spoken in former French colonies, such as with Lebanese Arabic).
That said, there are some people who feel as though they have an “unhealthy dosage” of it, to the degree in which they want to speak Hebrew or Japanese and then Spanish comes out instead, not also to mention those who study similar languages may also suffer from this as well.
Here comes the solution:
Among “dialect continuum” areas (in which the boundaries between languages are unclear and there is a large amount of variance between a language as spoken in a particular country or geographical area), as well as areas of the Internet dedicated to the culture of these areas, you’ll notice something: some people flaunt their national flags with what could almost be described as aggression.
There’s a reason that Norwegian flags are commonly featured on clothing (especially coats and winterwear), and that’s to distinguish their wearers from Swedish or Danish people (the former of whose language closely resembles spoken Norwegian and the latter of which closely resembles the written variety).
In Crown Heights, which I believe is the largest Afro-Caribbean expatriate community in the world, I see Jamaican, Trinidadian, Grenadian and Barbadian flags (among others) VERY commonly. The reason why? So that people don’t mistake them for one from belonging to one of the other nations (despite the fact that many of them share many aspects of culture).
Listening to music from Melanesia, I’ve noticed that a lot of music from Vanuatu tends to show the Ni-Vanuatu Flag in the thumbnail and Solomon Islands music does the same. Bislama and Pijin (their national creoles) resemble each other very closely.
What’s the point I’m trying to make here?
The same way that these people anchor their native identity with imagery and mementos, YOU need to be doing that with the languages you speak as well.
The first time, which is the easiest one, is find “mentors” for each of your languages. No, I’m not saying “go find a private tutor for each one”, but rather a certain native speaker or a set of native speakers whose voice you tend to imitate most. These could be friends, radio hosts, YouTubers, or even voices from an online app.
Here are some of the “mentors” I’ve had:
For your native language, you sort of don’t have any choice for your mentors—they were your parents or guardians. But for languages you learn in adulthood you’ll need to find “adoptive parents” for them.
Obviously if you have a LOT of friends who speak the language (as is the case with languages like Yiddish and Polish for me), your “mentor” will be sort of a blend of all of them although mostly the influence of one or two will overshadow all of them.
I couldn’t imagine Baruch speaking Vincentian Creole English (although maybe one day he’ll learn it, I have no idea). Similarly, I can’ t really imagine the “Vincy” narrator speaking Yiddish or even standard English for that matter (although the latter I would imagine he certainly would know).
Another thing that you very much can do is have different vowel and consonant textures for your languages. Once you get a mentor for any language and start imitating him or her, this will come naturally. Think about the automated voices in your language course—how do they pronounce “a” or “l” differently from the way you do in your native language? Investigate these feelings in detail and mimic them accordingly.
People who are often praised for their accent often do exactly this, and note the differences as to what they hear between speakers of various languages. Once you get good at it, you’ll even be able to keep extremely close languages separate. While I encounter with dogged consistency people who mix up Spanish and Portuguese way too often (precisely because they haven’t gone through this), I can keep straight German and Yiddish, the Scandinavian Languages, and very similar Creole languages—granted there are rare occasions in which I mix them up, but overall I’m in a good place because my “mental discipline” is very honed.
We all have separate identities. Jared the teacher is very flamboyant but he has to tone it down when he’s Jared the student. Similarly, you’ll have to do the same with your languages—allot each one a different set of feelings and a role, as well as, most importantly, ways of talking.
Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Daoibh! (Happy St. Patrick’s Day to All of You!)
Having spent my adolescence in New England and the week before my freshman year of college in County Kerry (including walking through areas of the Gaeltacht), Ireland has always had a warm place in my heart (including countless attempts to learn Irish with mixed results and yes, conversations in Irish throughout the year. )
I myself am of Irish-American heritage (although sadly I don’t know which county my ancestry stems from). The Kerry Way and rural Connecticut clearly have similar architectures and layouts, much like rural Sweden and rural Wisconsin seem eerily similar to each other.
My parents, having met in New York City, never found Hiberno-English foreign or even strange. When I began my studies of Irish in 2014 (with the Duolingo course and Transparent Language, for better and for worse, guiding me through the pronunciation), I realized exactly how much influence this language had on English as well as the American brand thereof in particular. (Yiddish also had a similar feeling as well, not also to mention when I studied Italian before my “polyglot awakening” in 2013 / 2014).
As an Ashkenazi Jew I realize how the Irish-American and the Jewish-American stories are so SIMILAR. Large diaspora communities and profound influence on American culture as a whole, systematic discrimination throughout the 20th century as well as having ceased to be a minority in many respects (as far as the United States was concerned), having posters of our holy lands throughout our classrooms, mixing our ancestral languages with English, prizing our music and our religious traditions and, of course, the debate about to what degree our victimhood narratives really serve us and cultural intricacies and narratives so deep that most foreigners will never understand how much of a “minefields” our internal politicking really is.
The Irish Language, despite being increasingly accessible with each coming year, is also a point of many, MANY heated debates, including alarmism of “the language is dying!” and some people saying “why keep it alive anyway?” not also to mention countless, COUNTLESS debates with a lot of hurt feelings and confusion.
That said, I think that, contrary to what many scholars think, if there is a future for ANY language, it will likely be in part because of L2 Learners. I think that Irish-Language learners the world over have the possibility to provide the salvation this language needs. The fact that the Duolingo Course, warts and all, became the SECOND language course to be released from the community (ahead of languages like Russian, Swedish, Japanese and even Mandarin Chinese) and also reached more than FOUR MILLION learners deserves to be celebrated.
The most likely reason, however, that I haven’t become fluent in Irish yet, despite all of this time, is…well, my self-discipline actually.
But I think that if the Irish language were easier to rehearse, then we would NOT have a system in which place in which people learn Irish and school and then forget it.
How many people have you met that learned English and school and then forgot it entirely? That’s because the MEDIA in which English is used are readily available. And in addition to creating Irish-language resources (of which there are plenty), there also need to be a multitude of ways to engage with the language.
Here are some ideas:
Yes, I’ve used TG4 before, but often a lot of the sentences eluded me. I think that if there were the possibility to add subtitles (as, for example, is common and REQUIRED in Norway) and possibly even vocabulary lists (as what the Yiddish Forward does—you can highlight any word to see its English meaning), these TV shows would become VERY accessible and people would flock to learn the language and try it out with cartoon shows.
No doubt it already exists, somewhere, but often what is readily available when one searches “Ceol as Gaeilge” in YouTube is a number of covers of English-Language pop songs. I’m EXTREMELY grateful for that, but the world of Irish music also needs to expand into re-interpreting old classics in novel ways (much like Faroese music has done), and also venture into realms like Gangsta Rap and Techno (Burmese music got me hooked just because of the sheer variety—also because the albums were about $10 for 100+ songs, but that’s another story).
The music should also come with translated lyrics as well as, yes, you got it, vocabulary lists for learners.
There IS a threat to the language, and no one is denying that in the slightest. However, playing it up for clicks is not helpful nor does it even motivate most people to learn the language (except for altruists such as myself).
Believe me, if the Irish Language had material that was even one-fifth of what a language like Spanish or even Turkish had in regards to websites and books and apps to learn it, no one would be fretting about its future.
More games, more interactive materials, more unique ways to engage with the language for ALL levels of learners, and we’d be in for many, many problems solved.
Do I really need to discuss this point any more than I already have on this blog?
This was even referenced on Ros na Rún several times. Only today did I read a post decrying the idea that many Swedes seemed to be discouraging of people wanting to learn their language (I’m addressing this in a point next week—don’t worry, it is VERY encouraging!). With most Irish speakers, you won’t encounter this at all.
Much like secular Yiddishists helped me learn Yiddish at every opportunity and in every possible way, Irish speakers have given me very much the same. (I have a feeling that the rest of the world, especially in the west, will be on track for that as English continues to expand in its usage. I don’t mean to imply that languages of Northern Europe will be endangered much like Irish or Yiddish is now, by the way).
A language like Finnish or German was easy for me to learn in comparison to Irish (despite the grammatical difficulties with both) given how EASILY I could find videos related to pretty much any topic in either. That, and also a lot of very popular videos would have Closed Caption Subtitles in these languages. Irish doesn’t even come close to having that luxury. Or, at least, not yet.
Within the past few years I’ve noticed Welsh-language gaming channels popping up and even some in Irish (although sometimes they fall out of use after some times). We need to get these projects going (and given YouTube’s new monetization guidelines instituted in February 2018, it is more of a battle).
I’ve seen it over and over again with people choosing their languages – the more opportunities they have to use it in some capacity, the more alluring that language is. Every video, post or song in Irish helps!
New York City has a lot of Irish speakers. I know because I’ve met many of them. But sometimes the Meetup groups fall out of usage because their owner can’t pay the fees anymore, or if they do exist they post events about once a year.
With apps like Amikumu and HelloTalk in the fray, it seems that we can create these opportunities. Sometimes we as individual language learners are held back. We don’t need to be scared. The world needs us. Now more than ever!
Have YOU ever learned Irish or any other Celtic Languages? How did it go? Let us know in the comments!
I’ll be posting something about my underaccomplishment with the 30-Day Challenge in Greenlandic in the coming days, but I thought it would be very humorous for me to try something else for a change.
By the way, my Fijian is getting FANTASTICALLY better with each coming day (I still have some blind spots that will be weeded out in the coming weeks, not also to mention the fact that I’ve been focusing mostly on speaking rather than listening or reading right now, given that I’ll be doing most of THAT when I’m in Fiji. Listening, reading and writing will no doubt follow, and I’m not even sure if writing exercises for Fijian would be effort ideally paid off because the only people I know who have lived in Fiji have been expats that only know a few words / sentences of Fijian.)
My list to be cleared with Fijian includes:
– numbers up until 1 billion
– FULLY mastering the complication plural pronouns (they come in four persons, singular, dual, paucal and plural — indicating 1, 2, a group and a BIG group)
– Family member words (significantly more complicated than in the languages of Western Europe)
– Grammatical kinks to be ironed out (especially politeness tiers and transitive suffixes on verbs).
Anyhow, you’ve come for humor so that’s what you’re getting. Please don’t take any of these too seriously 🙂
English – Even if you speak me natively, there will always be one proper noun that throws you off–so deal with it!
Ancient Hebrew – the closest a language ever got to resembling the mechanics of alphabet refrigerator magnets.
Bislama – Most people found out about this language through either a friend, a phrasebook or most likely of all…a Polandball meme!
Pijin – It’s Bislama without any French interjections. 🙂
Tok Pisin – What do you get when you cross Australian English with 800+ languages?
Trinidadian Creole English – Good luck trying to find written resources for this one.
German – The language that you realize is dangerously similar in many ways to Shakespeare’s English, but you only realize it if you’re beyond the intermediate stage.
Spanish – How many layers of slang would you like with your language? (I almost wrote “the language that people learn to say that they’re learning a language.”, but I decided against it. Or did I?)
Yiddish – you’d be surprised how much American English slang borrowed from me, but you’ll never know unless we spend quality time together.
Norwegian – exactly the linguistic kaleidoscope you would expect from a country that is 96% uninhabitable land.
Swedish – be prepared to learn EVERYTHING about syllable stress if you expect to be friends with me!
Danish – rumors of my difficulty have been very greatly exaggerated.
Icelandic – the language whose future everyone likes to freak out about.
Salone Krio – it’s like what American English would be if it were grammatically consistent, had regular spelling and made sense.
Hebrew – the language of the Bible, sprinkled with influence from French teachers, Russian emigres and American TV, among others.
Finnish – don’t let the big tables intimidate you, a lot of those forms you’ll almost never use in conversation.
Fijian – Wait, if there ARE enlongated vowels, how come they’re not written out? What do you mean, you’re just supposed to know? WHY?!!!?
Jamaican Patois – If you want to find out how open-minded someone REALLY is, mention the fact that you’re either learning this language or speak it fluently as an L2….be prepared!
Hungarian – Native speakers will love you for this…100% guarantee or your money back!
Polish – one of two langauges that caused me to nearly throw my computer in rage (the other one is below this one)
Greenlandic – How long do you like your words? 15 letter? 26 letters? 62 letters?
Lao – we disguised our Indo-European loan words really well. Come and find ’em!
Kiribati / Gilbertese – And you thought Dominican Spanish was fast.
Irish – Frightening learners with its orthography since time immemorial.
Myanmar / Burmese – There are four tones. Make that three tones. Make that two tones.
Tajik – Contrary to popular belief, Tajikistan is NOT a fictional country…Farsi’s little sibling lives there!
Palauan – Consonant jumble jamble!
Vincentian Creole English – I’m actually not a tonal language.
I’ve noticed that whenever the seasons are on the verge of changing I seem to think about what sort of languages I am enjoying (or not) and I make changes accordingly.
Some languages like Dutch and Northern Sami I used to have impressive command of but now they seem to have dwindled to nothing. Others I really enjoyed learning but it occurred to me that, for whatever reason (some of which couldn’t be articulated), I didn’t really feel as though I “had the spark anymore”. Faroese, Estonian and Russian were all obsessions of mine that fell by the wayside as a result (although I still speak a bit of all languages in this paragraph and, if the need arises, I could revive them).
So I’ve decided to clear my list of all of the following. The most noteworthy clearances are Breton and French just…don’t do it for me anymore. And French I mostly learned for peer-pressure reasons anyhow. It would be one thing if I were actively planning to go to the Ivory Coast or French Polynesia instead of Fiji in the summer (and if I were even headed to Vanuatu I would make it a priority). But right now, I’m just not feeling it. Same with Breton, and I’m glad for the times we’ve had together, but for some odd reason I feel as though I need a break. (Cornish I’m still undecided about, given that St. Piran’s Day is coming up on March 5. Cornish is probably the one language that I’ve been on-again off-again the most).
I also really need to start focusing on quality, especially as I continue to enter the global spotlight with both my polyglotism AND my video games being released later this year. I’m already getting more messages than I can humanly deal with… a day that I DREAMED of seeing as a high school student.
Anyhow, on my languages page I reduced it to 31, and all of my fluent languages (B2 or higher) got to stay except for Breton which I hadn’t been practicing too much as of late anyhow. Also while Spanish and German get to stay, they are, along with English, the ones that I have the least amount of emotional attachment to (sorry).
Anyhow, let’s go through my list from A0 (a few words) to B1 (intermediate plateau) and I’ll go through the reasons I decided to keep those ones in particular.
First off, Guarani is my opportunity to glimpse an indigenous culture of South America (Paraguay) that may be under siege. I devoted a lot of time on my YouTube Channel last year and I actually met a fluent speaker in Fall 2017 who absolutely refused to use it with me for some reason (I’m not going to lie, I felt snubbed and borderline offended. In an age of mass language death, you should be sharing with anyone willing to partake of your culture.)
Despite that, I shouldn’t let one bad interaction with a speaker get me down and I’m gonna be up again because it occurs to me that I need to know more about indigenous South American than I already do (it’s probably the one continent that I know the least about, actually, even if you include Antarctica).
Given that I’m headed to Fiji later on this year, Fiji Hindi is also a priority despite the fact that I’ve struggled with this one more than any other Indo-European language that isn’t Celtic. Resources are scarce and ways to rehearse it are difficult, but I’ll attempt an “attack plan” once I feel as though I’m a solid B2 in Fijian, which may be sooner than I think (a “Why Fijian is Easy” post is coming soon!)
Given the relations between the native Fijians / iTaukei and the Fiji Indians have been difficult at times, it behooves me to learn about them both, especially given that I’ll get to see close up hand. I’ve heard that Fiji Indians are prominent in the tourist industry and my chances to interact with them will be many.
Next up on the A0 list is Uyghur. I’ve gotten so much fantastic feedback from attempting this language on YouTube, not also to mention the deep pride that many Uyghurs have for their culture, that I’m going to continue it. It would be, in a sense, one of my first Chinese Languages (and I still haven’t forgotten about Mandarin quite yet but I’ll reveal everything in good time. With both my one surviving grandparent coming from a Hungarian family and my Oceania venture, I feel time-crunched from multiple sides. It seems that Uyghur is not going to be too much of a serious investment in the near future, but I’ll see what I can do with it and I have no plans to drop it completely).
Last among the A0 list is Tuvaluan. While Tongan has been dropped for the time being (too close to Fijian for me to actively work on both at the same time, as is Tuvaluan), Tuvaluan is something I want to at least be able to use in SOME capacity before heading to Fiji (if I even end up going there at all) by virtue of the fact that Fiji’s only endangered language is Tuvaluan (y’know, the expatriate community). Also given that Tuvalu is in a similar situation to Kiribati with the whole climate change thing, it’s something I believe is a moral duty. If only there were readily available good textbooks for it, otherwise I’ll have to write my own from dictionaries, grammar books and Bible translations, not also to mention help from the Tuvaluan sub-Reddit (I believe the Kiribati sub-Reddit is by invitation only. I applied to join. No answer. Hey, mods at Kiribati, can you approve me? Kam raba! [Thank you guys!])
Probably the language for which I have been lauded by native speakers the most, Palauan gets to stay and will be a constant feature of my programming. You guys have fantastic music and have given me very concrete and useful advice and not a DROP of discouragement! Also that Palau Pledge and that movie with the giant is probably the most beautiful thing I’ve read / seen all year!
Probably not at A1 anymore because of months of not practicing, but I’ll have African languages in part represented by Mossi (Krio’s still on my list, don’t worry). My first tonal language from outside Asia, I think I really need to learn more about Burkina Faso, given how Christian and Muslim traditions (not also to mention elements of traditional African religions) really blend together. There’s a lot on my plate right now so no actively working on Mossi now, but at least you get to stay on my radar as opposed to the many languages that I decided to drop.
Probably my favorite Caribbean Creole is that of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. I discovered Vincentian Creole through Bible recordings and one of these days I’ll make sure to spend more time with you. You’re probably the one Caribbean nation most Americans know the least about. Can’t wait to start spending more time together!
Lastly among the A1 category (I dropped Arabic but I’ll probably be putting it back later this year when my Fijian and Fiji Hindi is secure), Tajik. Everything about you is fascinating and also very distinct from the Western Culture I experience every day in the United States. You and Uyghur will be my Central Asian projects for the not-too-distant future.
Burmese music is something I have in huge doses and that I’m fascinated with. Also the Burmese-American community here in New York City, not also to mention plenty of professional opportunities with politics and translation work should I choose to get good enough. Alongside Tok Pisin, Burmese really gave me a glimpse into a country that was severely wrecked by imperialist meddling (you could pretty much say this for…well, almost everywhere on the planet, which is why I believe learning languages from these areas of the globe is a morally correct decision for all of us who want to learn some).
Irish is a language of my ancestors and one I’ve dreamed of learning well for a decade. I used to be better but I slumped terribly in progress leading up to the Polyglot Conference in 2017. I still don’t consider myself that good despite the fact that I remember having some manageable conversations in it. Probably my most poorly managed language learning project.
Gilbertese of course gets to stay. As does Fijian.
Greenlandic is the language I’ve struggled with the most and STILL the hardest I’ve attempted. But given that I’m working on a video game set there I’m going to continue this fantastic relationship I’ve had with my favorite language (even though it is now tied with Gilbertese for my favorite).
Despite the fact that I SERIOUSLY need good music that I like in it, Lao is staying around too. I’ve seen heartbreaking homemade films in Lao that I will never forget for as long as I live, and this is the first language I’ve learned from a genuinely communist state. A truly meaningful experience…besides, I really like the sound of the language despite the fact that the tones still “get me”.
Lastly, Hungarian and Polish get to stay around. Hungarian is an ancestral language of mine and my deepest regret in my polyglot life is having not chosen to study it earlier. But luckily I still have time…as long as I focus. Among European Languages, Hungarian has THE most supportive native speakers (although I’ve met one or two who gave me a hard time on the surface but then gave me vaguely reluctant support…sort of?) Polish is the second-most commonly used language on my Facebook feed. Being able to speed-reed it is something I should really learn sooner than later.
So my current list reads like this:
A0 – Guarani, Fiji Hindi, Uyghur, Tuvaluan,
A1: Palauan, Mossi, Vincentian Creole, Tajik
A2 – Burmese, Irish, Gilbertese, Fijian
B1 – Greenlandic, Lao, Hungarian, Polish
B2 – Hebrew, Finnish, Krio, Jamaican Patois, Icelandic
C1 – Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Yiddish, Spanish (EU), German, Trini
C2 – Bislama, Solomon Islands Pijin, Tok Pisin
Native: English, Ancient Hebrew
I haven’t been having the best month and so I may have under-practiced some of these but I think a good dosage of focused Saturdays should get me in shape, especially with my priorities straightened out.
February is almost on its way out, and with it my Greenlandic 30-Day challenge (cut to 28 days, or so it seems) in addition to Fijian. Next month is more Fijian and another language on this page that I haven’t decided yet!
May you only know fulfilled goals!