My languages

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Preface

How many languages can a man speak? An outstanding book about this subject was published in 2013:

Babel No More: The Search for the World's Most Extraordinary Language Learners by Michael Erard

There is a set of people whose members can speak up to 65 languages, however, even those people usually evaluate themselves very humbly. Most experts who have this kind of knowledge consider being able to "speak" a language only if they are able to enjoy poems, and have access to the subtle features of that language.

Few people have that ability in more than 2 languages. That puts me smack in the middle. But there are also the language professionals, e.g. the professional interpreters. At least one person in the European Parliament is certified to interpret in 15 languages, including obscure ones like Hungarian. Only a lifetime of devotion as a language professional can accomplish that.

Indo-European languages

Low and high German languages

German

My mother tongue, even though by now there are many subjects in which I prefer to think in English. I also have to say that my generation probably will never adopt to the massacre that the spelling reform did to German.

Nonetheless, I think it is a huge advantage to be a native German speaker from Anglia.

As a German from Flensburg, I speak German, low German, and some Danish, since my mother is a native Danish speaker.

English grammar is largely - at least to me - a combination of low German and Danish, with some French vocabulary that is not necessary to speak it fluently. The few oddities (progressive tense) are apparently derived from Celtic, but the language will work without it. The American English flavor is especially easy to learn, it comes almost naturally.

Plattdeutsch

Plattdeutsch was the language that all my relative spoke when I grew up. To me it is so similar to English that I think an English speaker (especially from the US) could have a conversation with a country gent who speaks Plattdeutsch.

Dutch

I have taken the Michel Thomas beginners and advanced language courses, and it is so similar to Plattdeutsch that I am able to get around, and understand pretty much everything.

Anglo-Frisian languages

English

What can I say, I have pretty much topped out my English skill level. It is far from perfect, but I don't think that there is any more room left for improvement for me.

Scandinavian languages

Danish

I can talk about everyday subjects, I can read and understand native speakers, and I can follow conversations. Writing - of course - is a different matter, as it is in most languages.

Norwegian (Nynorsk):

My Nynorsk is a little worse than Danish, but I am still able to understand a lot. Nynorsk is pretty much Danish, just pronounced differently. Since I grew up with Danish, it sounds foreign to me. I am a member of the Norwegian's seaman's church, and thus I have a chance to read it and sometimes to hear it.

Swedish:

It is easier to understand than Danish or Norwegian, but I can only get exposure via TV shows that I rent or buy on Apple TV.

Latino Fascian and Romance languages

French

I love French, but then - who doesn't? I can speak much better than I write, but then - who doesn't? I have met many French people who cannot get the accents right. I can speak about most subjects, however the problem is that I don't have enough practice to train my French listening skills.

Spanish

My Spanish is definitely worse than my French and my Danish, but I am still able to communicate somehow. I have to look up the words, but the simple sentence structure is not too difficult. I had taken a Spanish class in college, and went through the tape (sic!) course of the American Foreign Language Institute.

Latin: Latinum (4 years of Latin)

Well, 4 years of Latin gets you the Latinum, and I got it. During high school I had little interest, but just lately I enjoy translating some obscure texts.

Slavic Languages

Polish

My Polish is better than my Russian, as I was able to go through the Michel Thomas beginners and advanced courses. At least Polish doesn't require the cyrillic alphabet.

Russian

I have some basic knowledge, more than nothing. And I am able to read and write the cyrillic alphabet. I like Russian, it is a very elegant language, but it is also very hard.

Austronesian languages

Tagalog

I have some very basic knowledge, as I am able to use some key phrases. The verbs are the problem! They change their structure depending on if a person or a thing is referred to by the verb. Now, who can keep that straight? It is though a very beautiful language but since it is of the Oceanic language family, it is also the most difficult one for me.

Altaic languages (controversial)

Japanese

Again, I have some very basic knowledge. I am able to use some key phrases, but I can't read, and probably never will. Some experts advice to learn Kanji first, and there are about 4,000 Kanji characters with multiple meaning to learn. I don't see how I can do that without living in Japan.

Nonetheless, it is a very beautiful language, and easy in many ways, if there just wouldn't be the writing. I wonder how it would be to be able to speak, but to be pretty much illiterate in a country.

Sino Tibetan

Mandarin

I am barely scratching the surface here, but my goal is to pass at least the HSK Level 1 exam.

Language Proficiency Test

  • "English for Commerce" by the London Chamber of Commerce
  • Latinum

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Date: +0

Author: robertbwise@gmail.com

Created: 2017-08-21 Mon 10:43

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