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!
So here I am with a deadline quickly approaching. I’ve been devoting much of my year to Fijian and it occurs to me that I am solidly B2 in terms of speaking (probably where I am with a language like Hebrew or Finnish).
This would be a great situation but…as it turns out, Fiji also has Fiji Hindi as well, and I’ve read in multiple places that Indo-Fijians play prominent roles in the tourist industry.
And concerning Fiji Hindi, I am NOWHERE NEAR where I want to be.
What I can do:
(1) Very simple sentences
(2) Order stuff in restaurants
(3) Ask for directions
(4) Speak quite slowly
What I CANNOT do:
(1) Read most texts.
(2) Significantly understand naturally spoken speech (even though I can “get the gist”)
(3) Have anything resembling an intellectual conversation at all.
I’m not going to lie, 2018 has been a hard year for me, probably one of my hardest is recent memory. Luckily things are looking up.
That said, I have one chance to get Fiji Hindi to shine courtesy of this blog and my YouTube channel, and so I’ll have to set a plan in motion.
(1) COMPLETE the Peace Corps book in the language learning series (I think I’m slightly more than half-way-done)
(2) NO ENGLISH AUDIO for news or almost anything unless absolutely necessary while I’m at home. Fiji Hindi except for things related to business, or maintaning Fijian or other languages I may need for classes or business.
(3) I have to listen to Fiji Hindi audio on the street constantly. Luckily I have that.
(4) Maintain my Fijian (which I want in ship-shape) by translating every Facebook post I write into Fijian…until I leave.
(5) Truly build an immersive environment during what time I have left.
Fiji Hindi has been hard for me just because of the whole “not many resources” and “no standard” thing. Most South Asians I have encountered been very supportive, even if they didn’t even know that Indo-Fijians existed until I told them.
I am in panic mode right now. And on top of that I’m working on translations AND “Nuuk Adventures”.
But I guess this post will be something hilarious for me to look back on. Especially if I succeed.
I will make a prediction: I will have managed better with Fijian and POSSIBLY Fiji Hindi than I did with Burmese last year. I have learned much since the last time.
Leave me encouraging messages! 🙂
Happy 4th birthday, World With Little Worlds!
To honor all of my readers and those who have provided me praise and constructive feedback throughout the years, these are your questions, answered with love and consideration by yours truly.
What do you look for in a mentor?
How learn any language from scratch in my own?
The first thing to ask yourself is how much you can PRONOUNCE, how much you can READ (and understand what you’re reading), and how much you can UNDERSTAND. Depending on which combination of the three you have, your approach will have to be different. However, the more prior knowledge you have in a related language, the easier it is to get “lazy”.
Generally, I would start with “hello, how are you? What is your name? My name is… Where are you from? I am from…” and then go onto “I have, you have…” “Do you have…?” and then the same with “to want”, “to go”.
I’ve spoken about this in the interview I did with Luke Truman of Full Time Fluency a few months back:
This should help.
What was the catalyst for your interest in languages of the Pacific in general and Palauan in particular?
Climate change in the case of Oceania in general, a childhood fascination with that area of the world, and, in the case of Palau, the sound of the language as well as how it looked on paper. Oh, and the flag. Who could forget the flag? As a kid I could look at it for hours. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating.
How much Japanese do you understand with your Palauan knowledge?
Same as how much Latin you would understand from English.
Apart from Yiddish and Hebrew what other Jewish languages have you studied?
A tiny bit of Ladino in college and a handful of words from Jewish Languages of Azerbaijan in the early 2010’s, but aside from that, pretty much nothing seriously.
Have you ever looked into Krymchak or the Udmurt-influenced dialect of Yiddish?
Now I may have to!
When studying Breton, do you prefer the artificial French-influenced “standard” or one of the dialects?
The KLT (Kerne-Leon-Treger ) variety used in the Colloquial Breton book and in the Kauderwelsch book is my go-to. It seems fairly consistent with what is used on Wikipedia although there are some songs that have “curveball” elements for those overly accustomed to KLT.
Apart from Northern Sami, Finnish, and Hungarian, do you plan on learning any other Uralic languages?
I never say I won’t plan on it. Right now I do feel “overloaded”, however.
When you were in Israel, did you encounter any Circassians or Hungarian Jews? If yes, did they speak their ethnic languages?
Possibly and yes respectively. My Hungarian was limited to a few words in 2009 but my efforts were appreciated. What’s more, do keep in mind that I had heavy limiting beliefs about language learning back in those times. Odd, because my experience in the Ulpan should have actively proved those beliefs wrong.
How often do you encounter peoples of the Pacific in real life apart from the times you actually go there?
Hawaiians about once every three months or so, same with people who have been expatriates in places like Fiji and Samoa. Aside from Hawaii, Australia and New Zealand, I haven’t met anyone in person from Oceania yet. That will change this year, I hope.
Will your RPG “Kaverini: Nuuk Adventures” be playable in Greenlandic?\
I’m going on record: YES.
Have you ever written poetry in the languages you learn?
I believe I did once or twice in Yiddish at the National Yiddish Book Center. I also have done improvisational singing in Tok Pisin. I may have also written a piece or two in Hebrew while at Wesleyan University but I have no recollection of it. I did write an absurdist play about talking jellyfish in that same Hebrew class that makes most internet memes look tame by comparison.
How do you deal with the blurry boundary between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation?
Cultural appropriation is, in my view, taking one element of a culture (let’s say, clothing) and claiming it as your own without having a basic understanding of where, why and how that culture or cultural element exists.
If I were to wear a national costume in public with holy significance, that would possibly be breaching a boundary in that culture that I may be unaware of. But obviously me wearing a shirt with a Greenlandic flag on it despite not being Greenlandic or Inuit (or any Native American at all) does not make me a cultural appropriator. It is a mark of solidarity and appreciation.
On this note, I would like to say for the first time that I am fully aware of the fact that there are people who are prepared to call “Kaverini: Nuuk Adventures” cultural appropriation despite the deep involvement of actual Greenlanders at every stage of its production. I look at the Greenlandic story as a whole in a way that contemporary American pop culture and its sad legacy of cartoonish national caricatures will probably never do otherwise.
If you would prefer Greenlandic culture would remain a virtually unknown mystery in much of the rest of the world instead of appreciated for the wonderful slice of the human story that it is, then I have nothing to say to you.
What was, to you, the most easily graspable non-Latin orthographic system in any non-L1 language you’ve studied? What was the least?
From Easiest to Hardest:
Have you ever SAVED SOMEONES LIFE with language?
The answer is: yes. And surprisingly, my own. Several times.
For one, my decision to become a tutor of several languages actually ended up saving my life. Shortly after graduating from JTS, I fell ill for a while. My own parents, who hold medical degrees, misdiagnosed me several times.
What ended up saving my life was one of my students of Swedish, who casually recommended based on my symptoms that I had Lyme Disease. Thanks to his suggestion, the disease was caught in time and my life was saved.
There is also the story about how Greenlandic saved my life, but I will relate that in future interviews when “Kaverini: Nuuk Adventures” is released. There is a specific reason I chose Greenland as the setting for my first video game (well, one of several specific reasons) and one of them in particular may come as a shocker to many of you.
Speaking of which, I’m going to continue doing character sketches for Nuuk Adventures right now!
Happy Birthday, O Beloved Blog of Mine!
A few days ago (four days ago, to be exact), I had grown significantly burned out from studying languages of Fiji and Rotuman proved to be a heavy challenge for me with even the most basic level seemingly out of reach (as things stand).
I decided I needed a break from my routine of having my studies of Fijian eat up any gains any of my other weaker languages would have had. I yearned for something more, a language that didn’t feel like it was a “chore” or an “obligation”. I tried to improve Kiribati and Burmese but I sort of “wasn’t feeling it” for either…not right now, at least.
Then, after having a feeling that I couldn’t shake, and a certain infatuation with a language I haven’t felt in a wrong time, I knew I made the right choice when I began to study Hawaiian (as of four days ago).
I do remember my promise to not learn any new languages for 2018. Well, the promise was to not learn any language not related to business, travel or romance. But as a game designer and someone who hasn’t played the seventh generation of Pokémon games yet (set in “Alola”, heavily inspired by Hawaii), I’m going to need to play through the games with some knowledge of Hawaii / the Hawaiian Language first. After all, I’m also designing a game set in a real world location and I’d like to see what Nintendo / Game Freak / the Pokémon Company do(es) well.
Hawaiian fit the bill. After Fijian (which I’m continuing to improve), Hawaiian seems more approachable with the sentence structure and many aspects of grammar no longer foreign at all.
What is odd, however, is the fact that there are so few letters. 13 letters (one of which is the glottal stop “ ‘ “, known as the “ ‘okina”). So “credit card” would be “kāleka kāki”. Personal names are also localized as well, and many traditional English names familiar to most Americans have been morphed into something not even remotely recognizable (Fijian had more letters so it didn’t really have this problem).
I really admire the community of Hawaiian speakers for bringing this language so far with communities and harnessing technology in every sector. I can imagine that, despite the fact that it is still listed by UNESCO as “severely endangered” (It is the least safe language in Google Translate, I believe), Hawaiian will continue to survive and proliferate contrary to all expectation.
Upon hearing speakers from universities and schools speak, they don’t speak of Hawaiian as “dying” but rather in a constant surge of revival. It seems that, from the sheer looks of it, that Hawaiian speakers seem to be more hopeful about the future of their languages than, let’s say, Icelanders would be about theirs (that said, I think that the reports of Icelandic’s “decline” are heavily exaggerated).
Hawaiian, unlike many other languages of the Pacific, has a TON of resources to learn and, I would imagine, many ways to find speakers in New York City and many other places. The amount of loan words founds in English from Hawaii is staggering (luau, kahuna, hula, wiki, etc.) The idiomatic similarities it has with Fijian also make it a lot less stressful experience and a more enjoyable one. I can imagine that future languages from Oceania will come with ease to me.
I should also say that, at this point, it seems that my true language “loves” lie with Oceania, Scandinavian and the Jewish Languages (not also to mention languages of my heritage like Hungarian, which I sadly haven’t been focusing on as much as I could have been but I was sidetracked by Fijian for travel reasons quite early into 2018. Late 2018 will get Hungarian handled, this I promise.)
I also can’t keep on picking up new languages forever and maintenance is already starting to become an issue. That said, perhaps I need to be more inventive and hopeful and silence voices in my mind telling me that I can’t. Or I need to think more deeply about what I want.
That said, at the very least 2018 brought me Fijian. It seems that Fiji Hindi (a small amount), Hungarian, and maybe Hawaiian and Kiribati can also be mine by the time 2019 comes in. Maybe deep improvements in Greenlandic and Lao as well. If I try. I had a long list of languages that I wanted to improve or at least sample in 2018, but with several new games coming out this year and changes in my life it doesn’t seem likely.
That said, I encourage you to follow your dreams in any capacity you can. Your life belongs to only you and you deserve your best shot. End of story.
The most commonly spoken language of the country in the world with the most languages, Tok Pisin is a language that unites Papua New Guinea and its manifold ethnicities. My first English Creole Language, Tok Pisin was described by a friend of mine as “Jamaican Patois that seems completely unintelligible to the native English speaker”.
Let’s head over to Glosbe, a fantastic resource that combines the dictionary and sentence database in many languages of the world, and look at a sample sentence to see how much of it you can understand:
“Em i nambawan gutpela pasin bilong laikim ol narapela, olsem God Jehova yet i kamapim.”
Rendered by the English translation as:
It is the highest form of love, as exemplified in Jehovah God himself.
But try looking at it this way:
“Him is number one good fellow fashion belong like him all ‘nother fellow all same God Jehova yet is come up him”
And let’s try the sentence after that (I looked up “love” in Glosbe and that’s where I’m getting these sentences from)
6 Ol gutpela wasman i wok strong long tingim olgeta wan wan sipsip long kongrigesen.
(6 Loving Christian shepherds endeavor to show personal interest in each sheep in the congregation.)
“Six all good fellow watch man is work strong long think him altogether one one sheep sheep long congregation”
If you’re learning a language from the developing world, as thing stand, you’ll encounter a LOT of materials for Christian missionaries. Tok Pisin is no exception to this.
Tok Pisin is a fascinating language and the first one that I acquired a C2 level in (which is denotes being able to understand pretty much everything and use very, very well). My interest was sparked in it as a result of my father’s travels in Papua New Guinea (in Port Moresby and Madang in particular).
Various opportunities that Tok Pisin provide include:
So let’s introduce you on how to start the journey, shall we?
For one, a book I would highly recommend for beginners is the increasingly available Lonely Planet Pidgin Phrasebook, which includes Tok Pisin and its grammar explained in detail, not also to mention cultural notes, as well as other sections in that book on Bislama (Vanuatu) and Pijin (Solomon Islands)
These two languages, while more closely related to each other, are also more closely related to English and use slightly more complicated prepositions. In Bislama the verb system has an element of vowel harmony as well that Tok Pisin doesn’t have. Bislama also has more French influence than either Pijin or Tok Pisin. Tok Pisin also has notable German influence as well, and so to say “even though” or “it doesn’t matter” you say “maski” which is a form of “macht nichts” (“never mind”, or “don’t do anything”)
German missionaries were in the process of standardizing Tok Pisin and spreading its usage but then World War I happened which through a wrench in the whole process. (Yes, Germany had a colonial empire in that area of the world, Nauru also was one of their holdings as well).
Anyhow, the Lonely Planet Book doesn’t have a dictionary but will provide very useful phrases as well as the most essential and clear grammar guide that you can ask for.
The Live Lingua Project also has its own Tok Pisin textbook that is written in more detail.
After that you can put “Redio Tok Pisin” into YouTube and rehearse your skills, not also to mention various materials for governments, industries and yes, missionaries:
An essential resource as well as is a Tok Pisin Memrise course that has 2400 words which are essential for having fluid conversations. This course was ESSENTIAL for me becoming fluent in the language. You can find it here: https://www.memrise.com/course/135215/tok-pisin-2400/
(You can access this course from the desktop and then if you connect the Memrise app to your account, you can access it [and all other user-made courses] in the app as well).
I also have the Anki Version of this course as well (ask me if you want me to send it to you).
What’s more, Tok Pisin also has a “website” (https://www.tok-pisin.com/).
Other resources would include Wantok Niuspepa, the one Tok Pisin Language newspaper still remaining in Papua New Guinea and EMTV Online (which broadcasts smaller things more readily accessible for beginners).
You’ll notice that in some materials, especially distributed in cities or towns, that there is a bit of a “hopping” between English and Tok Pisin, and the usage of English is, obviously, spreading. That said, Tok Pisin is still a very important element of PNG culture and still the most commonly spoken language in Papua New Guinea.
Lastly, Wikipedia has a Tok Pisin edition at: https://tpi.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fran_pes
Keep in mind that while native speakers of Tok Pisin exist, most speakers of the language will speak it fluently as a second language (as some people of Papua New Guinea may also know English). This means that already you have a chance to be on equal footing with most people who speak it.
Mi hop olsem bai yu laikim Tok Pisin tumas! (I hope you will like Tok Pisin a lot!)
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.