Saturday, 16 November 2013
Even the most casual reader of this blog will know that languages are my passion. Learning languages, fiding out abot diffrent gradated shades of meaning in different languages, picking up some hilarious (and inappropriate) slang in a language you already know quite well (wouldn't recommend it in an unfamiliar language as things can easily go pear-shaped), punning in all sorts of languages - and of course being able to read literature in the original - is that not a joy? I certainly love it.
And it isn't even (sadly!) as if I was an absolute language genius, one of those people who can converse fluently in almost every European language, plus of course Mandarin...
I have three languages where I'd say I feel comfortable in. But not to the same degree, and not in the same way. My languages are English, German, and Dutch. All not so dissimilar, but still totally different in the registers they offer - and sometimes of course their very similarity can be confusing. The thousands of "false friends" in Dutch and German are known to all speakers and very real pitfalls, even for near-native speakers.
Those three are my languages because I've lived in the respective countries and picked them up there. I didn't "learn" them. Saying this reminds me that I could do with adding a massive load of Dutch vocabulary - that would certainly do me a world of good! For being able to speak a foreign language is an ongoing and never-ending process. It's much like a sporting skill where you can get ever better, refine your technique, try different approaches, and experiment. Which again is something I love doing in a foreign language.
My love of languages is definitely not limited to those three - at the moment I feel I'd like to learn Norwegian and Italian, the latter I'm alread quite familiar with but nowhere near fluent. I also suspect that Germanic languages just suit me better. Much as I like French, I've never been very good at it. There's something about the pitch and speed which I can't quite seem to master... I think everybody develops a feeling as to which languages suit them and which don't. But of course there are all sorts of fascinating languages - Hungarian being the one that always tempts me. I really really wish I was better at it - my grandmother was Hungarian, and I feel a special obligation to master it. And wouldn't it be fantastic to be able to read and speak Russian properly, rather than just treat every Cyrillic letter like a personal challenge? I wouldn't stop anywhere actually... Navajo? Icelandic? They certainly sound intriguing! And one doesn't absolutely have to master them all, sometimes you just sort of dip in - I gave up on Japanese and Irish for example, both brilliantly challenging but somehow I got completely flummoxed by them.
I think you get the idea... I will never stop being fascinated by languages.