Whenever I hear an unfamiliar language, I try to guess which language it is, or least which language family it belongs to. I base my guesses not just on the language itself – the sounds, intontation and any words I recognise – but also on the appearance of the people speaking it, and the way they interact with one another.
There are currently many people from Eastern Europe in Brighton, particularly from Poland and the Czech Republic. As a result, I can usually identify a language as Slavic when I hear it, but can’t always work out which Slavic language it is.
Last week I met some people who were speaking a language I hadn’t heard before among themselves, and English with me. Judging by their appearance, I guessed that the language might be Hebrew or Arabic, though it didn’t sound like either. Yesterday I discovered that it was Farsi/Persian.