A Random Ramble About Languages

2016 Artwork Languages Ramble

One of the the interesting things that I’ve noticed over the past couple of years is that I’ve actually started occasionally dabbling in learning small amounts of other languages on rare occasions. I think that five years of compulsory French lessons when I was in secondary school probably put me off of language learning for quite a while.

I think that the thing that first made me vaguely interested in languages again was the fact that, when searching for bands on Youtube a couple of years ago, I found a few cool music videos from German-language bands (eg: Equilibrium, Eisbrecher, Blutengel and, surprisingly, Nena too) and have occasionally been curious about what the lyrics actually mean.

The huge irony here is that I went through a phase of listening to a lot of Rammstein about ten years ago, but never really became interested in learning any German back then. Likewise, I actually visited Berlin on a school trip when I was sixteen but, although we were given phrasebooks, I didn’t really have that many chances (I can only remember one) to actually speak any German.

Although I’m certainly not even slightly close to fluent in any other languages, I’ve found that I like the idea of knowing a bit about languages that interest me – even if, when it comes to German or Spanish, I can often only understand every third or fifth word of anything I read.

However, if something is written in French, then I can understand slightly more if I read slowly and think about it a lot. I can even actually speak a bit of broken French too, although I’ve forgotten most of the grammar.

Basically, I like the idea of being able to actually read things written in other languages. And I like to daydream about speaking other languages fluently, even though I’d probably make an absolute mess of it in reality.

And, before anyone says anything, I’m aware that the only reason I can have such daydreams is because English currently happens to be one of the more popular languages in the world- people in most other countries usually have to learn other languages for actual practical reasons.

Usually, I’ll become fascinated by a language for a few days and then pretty much forget about it until weeks or months later. I’ll usually just learn a few random words, a few interesting facts about the language and/or a few expressions though.

Previously, I was mostly interested in German but, a while before I wrote this article, I found myself absolutely fascinated by Spanish again. Although I don’t currently have any plans to learn it extensively, it was surprisingly interesting to read lists of Spanish words and to see how it differed from English.

The interesting thing, from the very basic things that I’ve read about it, is that Spanish actually seems to be an easier language to learn than French (from what I can remember of my GCSE French), however I also read somewhere that it becomes more difficult to learn after a while.

Even so, the gender system for Spanish nouns makes slightly more sense to me, and quite a few Spanish words sound similar to either French or English words – due to the fact that they all come from the same Latin words. And, no, I haven’t tried to learn any Latin.

It’s kind of like how a few of the German words I know sound a lot like their equivalent English words when spoken aloud (eg: the German word for chair, “stuhl”, sounds like “stool”). Of course, in this case, it’s because both the English and German languages share extremely old historical links that pre-date the introduction of Latin into the English language.

Another really that I like about Spanish is the pronunciation. Don’t ask me why, but pronouncing “j” as “h”, or pronouncing “ll” as “y” just makes any word sound about three times more interesting. I guess that it probably sounds drearily mundane if you’re a native speaker though.

It’s kind of like how, in Welsh, “dd” is pronounced “th” (and I really should know more Welsh than I actually do, given that I lived there for several years….). Of course, English certainly has it’s own share of intriguing pronunciations too (eg: “ph” etc..), but these just seem kind of ordinary and mundane to me.

But, like with all other languages, Spanish grammar just seems perplexing. If languages consisted entirely of vocabulary, then I’d probably have a lot more of an interest in learning them. Memorising vocabulary can be kind of fun but, as soon as I see a grammar table, my mind just goes blank in pretty much the same way that it does whenever I see any computer code. I dread to think how ridiculously complicated English grammar is to anyone who hasn’t learnt it from an early age.

The interesting thing about reading about all of these other languages is that it makes me think more about the English language too. Although it can be a bit disconcerting to speak English after spending a while reading about another language, I suddenly find myself paying more attention to what I’m saying and – in comparison to my very limited abilities with any other language – I suddenly feel much more articulate than I usually do.

But, the most important thing about learning a little bit about other languages is that it makes you realise how foolishly ignorant a lot of the “everyone should speak English” brigade actually are. Seriously, if English is even half as difficult to learn as any other European languages are, then I really don’t blame people for not learning it.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

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