One of the interesting words that came up in my Finnish lessons recently is iloinen [ˈilo̞i̯ne̞n], which means happy, cheerful, glad or merry.
It comes from ilo (joy, happiness, delight, pleasure, love, lover) from the Proto-Finnic *ilo (joy, delight, happiness), and the adjective suffix -inen [source].
Some related words include:
iloisuus = joyfulness
iloista = to be happy, glad, cheerful
iloiesti = happily, merrily, gaily
iloistua = to become delighted
iloittelu = frolicking
iloistutta = to delight, cheer up
ilottomuus = joylessness
iloton = gloomy
Related words in other languages include: ilo (joy, happiness) in Ingrian, ilo (fun, joy) in Veps, ilo (joy, elation, happiness, celebration) in Votic, and illu (happiness) in Northern Sami, which was borrowed from Finnish [source].
A related word in Estonian, ilu, used to mean joy delight, happiness or glee, but now means beauty, splendor or ornament [source].
Incidentally, the word ilo (tool) in Esperanto is completely unrelated [source]. It’s a back-formation from the suffix -ilo, which means an instrument or a tool for performing the action of the root. For example, tondilo (scissors) comes from tondi (to shear), and komputilo (computer) comes from komputi (to count, compute) [source].
Ilo can be combined with other suffixes to make words such as ilaro (a set of tools), ilujo (toolbox), and ilarujo (a toolbox for a toolset) [source].
If you’d like to learn some Finnish, you could try FinnishPod101 [Affiliate link], which looks pretty good, and you can try it for free. Here’s a sample:
Yesterday I added details of a language called Akawaio (Ka’pon) to Omniglot. It’s a Cariban language spoken mainly in northern Guyana, and also in northern Brazil and eastern Venezuela, by about 6,380 people.
You may be wondering why I mention this. What’s so special about this language? Well, it just happens to be the 1,500th language I’ve written about on Omniglot, and it feels like a significant milestone to me. There are many more languages out there: 7,139, according to Ethnologue – so only another 5,639 to go! That should keep me busy for a while.
It’s becoming increasingly challenging to find information about languages that don’t yet appear on Omniglot. About 4,065 of the world’s languages have a written form, although many are rarely written, and the remaining 3,074 are probably unwritten [source]. There is little or no documentation for many languages, and what documentation there is can be difficult to find. Inspite of this, I will continue to add new language profiles to Omniglot, and appreciate any help you can offer.
I’ve been working on Omniglot on my own since 1998 – there are no minions or other assistants to help me. However, many other people have contributed to Omniglot, by sending me corrections, new material, suggestions, donations and so on, and I am profoundly grateful to all of them.
This is the 3,414th post I’ve written on this blog since launching it in March 2006. At first I tried to write something every day, but soon realised that was too much. At the moment I aim to write two posts a week, plus the language quiz on Sundays.
In April 2007 I started uploading videos to YouTube. Some of the videos feature silly little conversations in languages I’m learning. Others involve music-related events I’ve taken part in, and tunes and songs I’ve written. In 2021 I started uploading videos more regularly, particularly videos about words and etymology, and some songs as well. As well as the Adventures in Etymology videos I upload on Sundays, I plan to make videos featuring alphabets, phrases, etc in a variety of languages. Here’s one I made of the Danish alphabet:
In September 2018 I launched the Celtiadur, a blog where I explore connections between Celtic languages. This is based the Celtic cognates part of Omniglot. So far I’ve written 227 posts, and add a new one every week.
Since 1998 I’ve become fluent in Welsh and Irish, regained my fluency in French, maintained my fluency in Mandarin Chinese, more or less, and have learned enough Esperanto, Scottish Gaelic, Manx, Spanish, Swedish, Danish and Dutch to have at least basic conversations. I’ve also learnt quite a bit of Russian and Czech, and some Romanian, Cantonese, Slovak, Slovenian, Serbian, Icelandic, Faroese, British Sign Language, Breton and Cornish.
I’m currently concentrating on Spanish, Swedish, Danish and Dutch, while trying to maintain my other languages, particularly French and Welsh. For the past 4 years or so I’ve studied languages every day on Duolingo – my current streak reached 1,369 today. I’ve also been using Mondly and Memrise. [More about my language learning adventures].
While not working on Omniglot or learning languages, I like to sing, play musical instruments and write songs and tunes. My musical adventures started long before Omniglot, but for many years after leaving school I only really listened to music. In 2005 I started going to Ireland every summer to learn Irish language, and also Irish songs, tunes and dances. This inspired me to take up music again. Since then I’ve learnt to play the guitar, mandolin, ukulele, cavaquinho and harp, and started playing the recorder, piano and tin whistle again. I’ve learnt songs in many different languages, and written quite a few songs and tunes.
Here’s a song I wrote in 33 different languages:
Enough of this shameless self-promotion. What about you? Have you reached any significant milestones recently?
Recently I was sent a copy of a new book by Alex Bellos – The Language Lover’s Puzzle Book: Lexical complexities and cracking conundrums from across the globe, and agreed to write a review of it.
According to the blurb:
Crossing continents and borders, bestselling puzzle author Alex Bellos has gathered more than one hundred of the world’s best conundrums that test your deduction, intuition and street smarts.
The first chapter focuses on computer-related puzzles, including a regex-based crossword, soundex codes and a bad translation puzzle. To find out what these things are, you could buy the book. I had to read the explanations several times to understand them.
Other chapters contain puzzles based various languages, writing systems and counting systems from around the world. Some give you some examples words or phrases in a particular language, and then challenge you to work out how to write other words or phrases, or to identify aspects of the grammar of that language. There are also number-based puzzles using a variety of number systems.
Ancient, modern and constructed languages and writing systems are included, such as Welsh, Irish, Esperanto, Toki Pona, Javanese, Inuktitut, Egyptian Hieroglyphs, Phoenician, Khipu, Ogham, Linear B, Old Norse, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Georgian, Greek and Cherokee.
Some of the puzzles look relatively easy to me as they involve languages and writing systems I’m familiar with. Others look quite difficult. Fortunately there are answers and explanations for all the puzzles at the back of the book. In fact the answer section takes up almost a third of the whole book.
I think I’ll have fun trying to solve them, and anybody reading this with an interesting in languages and writing might do as well.
You can also find a language quiz every Sunday on this blog, of course, and occasional writing-based puzzles on my Instgram.
It seems that a new year, and indeed a new decade has started, so Happy New Year / Decade!
I’ve noticed that some people are looking back at what they’ve done / achieved, etc over the past decade, so I thought I’d do something similar.
Back in 2009 I was studying for an MA in Linguistics at Bangor University, while working on Omniglot in my spare time, and writing for a couple of other websites. I finished my course in September of that year, though didn’t officially graduate until the following year, and have been working full-time on Omniglot since then.
Over the past decade Omniglot has grown quite a bit – I add something new, or make improvements, almost every day. The site now contains:
Since 2009 Omniglot has been visited by 176 million people, who have made 234 milion visits and viewed 407 million pages. There have been visitors every single country and territory, even Antarctica and North Korea. The top ten countries vistors come from are USA, India, UK, Canada, Philippines, Australia, Germany, Malaysia, Singapore and South Africa. The most spoken languages of visitors are: English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese (Brazilian), Dutch, Russian, Chinese and Polish.
Over the past decade I’ve studied and dabbled with a few languages, including: Breton, BSL, Cornish, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Esperanto, Icelandic, Irish, Latin, Manx, Romanian, Russian, Scots, Scottish Gaelic, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish and Toki Pona. I also started creating my own language: Laala, and made some con-scripts such as Crymeddau and Curvetic.
I joined a French conversation group back in 2009, and have been going almost every week since then. This has really helped to improve my French and I feel a lot more confident about using it now. When I can, I also go to a Welsh conversation group, and for a while I tried to run a polyglot conversation group.
Every summer I’ve been to Ireland to do courses in Irish language, traditional Irish songs, harp and/or bodhrán playing. I’ve also been to Scotland quite a few times to do courses in Scottish Gaelic songs.
In 2012 I started writing songs and tunes, and have written quite a few since then, especially in 2019, when I wrote a new song almost every month and several new tunes. I also started to write out the music for my tunes and songs, and to make new arrangements of them.
The first song I wrote was The Elephant Song, which came to me after going to a poetry writing workshop.
In 2018 I started the Radio Omniglot Podcast, and have made 27 episodes so far. I try to make two episodes per month, but don’t always manage it.
In 2018 I also launched the Celtiadur, a collection of Celtic cognates, where I explore links between modern and ancient Celtic languages. This is an extension of the Celtic Cognates section on Omniglot.
Wow! Putting it together like this makes me realise that I haven’t been entirely idle.
This week I finally completed the Spanish course on Duolingo. I’ve been using it to improve and refresh my Spanish, as I have studied the language with various courses before. I can now understand, read, write and speak a lot more Spanish than before, though need to practise speaking and writing it more.
I first took a placement test on Duolingo to see how much Spanish I already knew, and didn’t start from the beginning. Then I skipped through each level using the tests, rather than working through each lesson individually. Had I done that, it would take a lot longer. For now, I’m not studying Spanish actively anymore, but will use it whenever I get the chance.
Over the past two and a half years or so, I’ve studied languages every day with Duolingo (current streak = 767 days). I’ve completed courses in Spanish, Russian, Swedish, Danish and Esperanto. I also completed the Romanian course, then they added lots of extra levels, and I haven’t gone back to work on those. At the moment I’m focussing on Czech, and will continue to do so, working through every lesson, so it’s going to take quite a while. I don’t plan to start any other languages until I’ve finished the Czech course.
In the meantime, I’ve also been studying Czech, and Russian, on Mondly – Czech for 226 days and Russian for 153 days. I really like their courses and am learning a lot from them.
On Memrise I’m studying Russian, Danish and Swedish. When I started using Memrise nearly two years ago, I already knew some Russian and Swedish. and started Swedish from level 2. I started Danish last year from scratch, although my knowledge of Swedish, and German and English, certainly helps. I’m currently doing level 6 courses in Swedish and Danish, and level 5 in Russian.
By the way, if you sign up to Memrise by 16th September, you will get a 50% discount, and I’ll get a small commission.
I find these apps with the streak counters really encourage me to study every day. It has become a habit to do so, and one I plan to continue for as long as possible.
Apart from these studies, I keep my French and Welsh ticking over by speaking them regularly, and other languages by using them occasionally.
How are your language studies going?
Do you prefer to focus on one language at a time, or to learn two or more simultaneously?
What courses, apps and other resources do you use?
I’m currently in Bratislava in Slovakia for the 2019 Polyglot Gathering, which starts tomorrow, although there was an opening ceremony this evening.
Today I went on a tour taking in three countries – Slovakia, Hungary and Austria. I had conversations in English, French, German, Mandarin, Spanish and Irish, and spoke odd bits of Czech, Slovak, Russian, Scots, Hungarian, Portuguese, Welsh, Esperanto and Swedish.
I probably won’t have much time for blogging with all the intensive polylgotting that’s going on. Normal service will be resumed next week.
I just registered for the Polyglot Gathering in Bratislava at the end of May / beginning of June. This will be the fifth time I’ve been to the Gathering – the second in Bratislava, and I’m looking forward to it.
I’ll be staying in the same AirBnB as last time, which is close to the Gathering venue, and not too far from the centre of Bratislava. It’s easier that way as I already know my way around the area.
I haven’t decided if I’ll give a presentation or run a workshop at the Gathering. At previous polyglot events I’ve given talks on writing systems, the origins of languages, the origins of words, Manx, and language death and revival, and helped with a Welsh language workshop. Any suggestions for what I could talk about at this and future polyglot events?
At the end of January I’m going to Edinburgh for LingoFringo, a fringe event to the main polyglot conferences and gatherings with a focus on workshops, community and networking events. I’ll be running a workshop on traditional Scottish Gaelic songs there.
So this month I’ll be brushing up my Scottish Gaelic, preparing for the workshop, and continuing to work on other languages. The languages I’m focusing on currently are Swedish, Danish, Russian, Esperanto, Cornish and Scots. This year I also plan to learn some more British Sign Language and Slovak, and maybe some German, Czech and Spanish.
I don’t plan to start any new languages this year – we’ll see how that works out.
What are your language-related plans for this year?
Today my streak on Duolingo reached 500 days. Before then I had a 96 day streak, but lost that one day when I didn’t quite get enough points. So for the past 596 days I have studied a bit of various languages every day. This is the longest continuous period of study I’ve managed, and I plan to maintain it for as long as possible.
Back in early 2017 I started studying Swedish and Russian on Duolingo. Later I added Romanian to the mix, and this year I added Danish and Esperanto. I’ve finished all the Swedish and Russian lessons, and am continuing to study them on Memrise. I decided to take a break from the Romanian last year, and am currently working on Danish and Esperanto. When I finish them I may add other languages I want to improve, such as Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and German.
I can’t say that I’ve become fluent in any of these languages, but my knowledge of them certainly has improved. I’ve made more progress with Swedish and Danish than with Russian or Romanian, which I find more challenging.
On Memrise I’m currently studying Swedish, Danish, Russian and Cornish, and have learnt bits of Icelandic, Slovak and Slovenian over the past year or so. I may start Slovak again in preparation for the Polyglot Gathering in Bratislava next year.
What’s your longest streak on Duolingo, or other language learning apps?
The word kabei [ka.ˈbe.i] appears in one of the Duolingo Esperanto lessons I did today in the sentences, “Mi ne volas kabei” and “Neniu kabeos pro tio”.
From the words available for the translation, I worked out what it meant, but it’s not obvious. In order to understand this word, you have to know something about the history of Esperanto.
Kabei means “to leave the Esperanto movement”, so the first example means “I don’t want to leave the Esperanto movement”, and the second means “Nobody will leave the Esperanto movement because of that”.
This word is based on the pseudonym, Kabe, which was used by Kazimierz Bein (1872-1959), a Polish ophthalmologist and prominent member of the Esperanto movement. He wrote prose in Esperanto, translated novels into the language, and produced one of the first Esperanto dictionaries. At least until 1911, when he left the movement, without saying why. In 1931 Bein said that he didn’t think Esperanto was a viable solution for an international language.
Not long after he left the Esperanto movement his pseudonym became a Esperanto word meaning “to fervently and successfully participate in Esperanto, then suddenly and silently drop out”.
Another word that’s very specific to Esperanto that came up in today’s lessons is krokodili (lit. “to crocodile”), which means “to speak among Esperantists in a language besides Esperanto, especially one’s native language or a language not spoken by everyone present” [source], for example “Ne krokodilu!” (Do not speak your native language when Esperanto is more appropriate!).
The origins of this word are uncertain. It may be related to crocodile having large jaws, and to the action of flapping one’s jaws carelessly. Maybe is was used to refer to noisy non-Esperantists who disturbed an Esperanto group in Paris in the 1930s. Or it may come from Andreo Cseh, an Esperanto teacher who’s students had to speak Esperanto when holding a wooden crocodile he always had with him [source].
The antonym of krokodili is malkrokodili, which means “to speak Esperanto among non-Esperanto speakers”.
You could use both words together perhaps: “Li ĉiam krokodilis, kaj pro tio li devis kabei.” (He always spoke his native language instead of Esperanto, and therefore he had to leave the Esperanto movement).