My languages

My native language is English, I studied French and German at secondary school, and Chinese (Mandarin), Japanese and linguistics at universities in the UK, Taiwan and Japan. I’ve also taken short courses in Welsh and Irish, and in Scottish Gaelic and Irish songs. I’ve taught myself a few other languages as well.

Here’s a summary of my current language knowledge:

  • Fluent: English, French and Welsh
  • Fairly fluent: Irish, Mandarin Chinese, Scottish Gaelic, Japanese and Spanish
  • Intermediate: German, Manx, Esperanto, Swedish, Czech, Russian, Danish, Dutch
  • Beginner: Breton, British Sign Language, Cantonese, Cornish, Faroese, Icelandic, Italian, Latin, Portuguese, Romanian, Scots, Taiwanese and Finnish

I know odd bits and pieces of several other languages, but not enough to have more than a very basic conversation.

Since 2007 I’ve sung in various choirs in Brighton, London and Bangor, and attended singing courses and workshops in Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Cornwall and the Isle of Man. I’ve learnt songs in many languages.

Current language use
The languages I speak most often are English, French and Welsh. I sometimes have opportunities to use my other languages as well. I go to a French conversation group every week. I regularly speak Welsh with friends at the folk music sessions I go to. I use my Irish in Ireland, and speak Scottish Gaelic when I visit Scotland, and Manx when I visit the Isle of Man. Apart from that most of my language use involves listening and reading.

Language goals
Ultimately I’d love to be fluent in all the languages I’ve studied or dabbled with, and in many others. I know that this is perhaps overly ambitious so am concentrating on maintaining and improving the ones I already know reasonably well.

Since April 2017 I have been using Duolingo and other language learning apps every day. I’ve completed courses in Swedish, Russian, Danish, Esperanto, Czech and Spanish, and learnt some (more) Japanese, Scottish Gaelic, Dutch, Romanian, Finnish, Slovenian, Slovak, Icelandic, Cornish, Faroese and Dutch.

More details of my language learning adventures

32 thoughts on “My languages

  1. I like your idea of studying one a month. My wife calls me fickle about languages. I rarely spend too much time on just one. I am at the 2-3 level (ACTFL) in Russian, Serbian/Croatian, Esperanto, and lower (1-1+) in Cornish and German, with a smidge of Irish. I might be missing some. My Czech reading is about a 1, as is my Slovene.

    I think I’ll steal your idea. Perhaps this month I’ll try to get my Croatian back up?!

  2. Dear IronMike,

    if you need any help with Croatian, feel free to contact me, since I am a Croat and would love to help anyone who is interested. My email is:


  3. Mike: you pretty much covered my ethnic background, all of it, with your chosen languages! I’m learning Croatian, too. I am a beginner, but I love THINKING in Croatian.

  4. Hi there,

    A friend on Facebook told me about Wikitongues, and as I was looking through it, I landed here!
    I am teaching the language of my city (Penang, Malaysia) online. The language is called Penang Hokkien. If you have the chance, please check out what I have at:

    Learn Penang Hokkien

    Love to hear from you.

    Take care and thank you (or as we say in my language, kam1siah3 lu4 ce3-ce3!)


  5. Croatian doesn’t exist as a language. It is politics in the Balkans messing with science, Croatian is an extinct language and Croats use a Serbian dialect called Kaikavian. The other dialects in Croatia are mostly spoken by Catholic Serbs who have been indoctrinated either during communism or by the pressure of medieval Venice.

  6. Always get drawn back to language studies. But also need to make a living. Any suggestions besides greeter @ Walmart? I love computers but want more people contact. I also DON’T care much for the idea of being a programmer. Right now my focus is on Italian. Through my years I’ve also studied Spanish, Latin, German, & French. My Japanese & Chinese is extremely limited. I even have some on Nintendo DS for fun.

  7. Just reading about all the languages you speak, conversationally speak and are learning makes me happy. I love langagues. I stumbled on your site last night and spent 3 hours browsing and reading.

    I haven’t touched my languages in awhile. English and American Sign Language as first languages. Know German, Spanish. Learned Japanese, Latin. Dabbled in Chinese, Korean, Dutch, Hebrew, Arabic.

    I have interest in learning to read different language scripts.


  8. What an amazing journey and work Simon. I have stepped in and out of your website from time to time, and always find something interesting to read and think about. Those of us who studied Chinese and Japanese starting back in the late 80s now have such diverse lives and careers. I think yours has to be up there with the most interesting and unimaginable at the time (given that there was no internet back in those days!). Astounding that you manage to make a living from this and that you keep up your passion. I’ll try to be even more diligent with those podcasts in Chinese and Japanese from now on! Cheers. Dean

  9. Dean – it has been an amazing journey so far, and it’s wonderful that I can make a living from something I enjoy doing, and have time for my other interests, particularly music.

    The people I met at the East Asian Studies alumni reunion in Leeds last year have certainly ended up with very diverse lives and careers. Some involve China or Japan, but many don’t. From what I seen on Facebook, you’ve strayed quite a way from Chinese and Japanese, and it looks like you’ve found an interesting niche.

    I try to keep my Chinese and Japanese ticking over by using them whenever I have the chance, and my Chinese is still fairly good, but my Japanese is very rusty, and never got to the level of my Chinese in the first place.

  10. Hiya…I’d like to just add my two pen’orth…I lived in Holland in the 1980s and while there had a bad road crash while riding a motorcycle resulting in hospitalization and several months convalescing. ..I had a basic understanding and vocabulary and could converse albeit very limited. ..the basic grasp waa acquired through picking up bits during previous visits and also I studied a little in a course. ..anyway. ..during my two months in hospital and several months lodging with a middle aged dutch couple (neither of whom spoke English) I was thrust in tbe deep end and had to learn out of necessity. ..although I really enjoyed it once it all came together as I dutch speaking English persona is quite a rarity. I would agree that if its a matter of necessity then one can pick up another language in adulthood

  11. I came across your site looking up Farsi as I have a friend who is Iranian. I even know a smidge of Deridja or Moroccan Arabic and the Arabic alphabet. I can make mistakes in just about any context in French as well!

    One of the fun things to come out of the North African experience (expats of all kinds) was playing Omniglot Scrabble. This is a friendly game and line refs were not employed terribly much.

    You lay down your word and if it was spelled the same in a different language you could double and triple your triples on the condition you knew the meaning in all the languages you are claiming.

    It was fun.


  12. Wow, you’re fluent in Mandarin Chinese and semi-fluent in Japanese! It is amazing what people can accomplish with so much passion, motivation and effort. I’m a beginner in Japanese and it’s my first Asian language. I’m fascinated by its writing system and its culture. I can’t wait to discover more about it and I want to enjoy every step of my journey 🙂

  13. Hello there… I’m from Malaysia. My native speaker is Kadazandusun. I’m fluent in English and Bahasa Malaysia. I’m learning basic Chinese, Cantonese, Japanese and Korean.

  14. As a matter of interest, allow me to introduce a recently evolved language – Singlish (Singapore English). It is not exactly a language but a mixture of languages and dialects. I thought it may be an interesting addition on this site… Singlish has evolved so much over the years someone has compiled a dictionary for it as well – 🙂

  15. I can’t hold claim to any other language but English, but I enjoyed studying French and Spanish in school. Without a great memory basic reading was as far as I ever got. I used to love a magazine called Quinto Lingo published many years ago by Rodale Press. They had side by side translations of articles in French,Spanish, English and German and also wrote about many other languages. It was a delight, as is your website. I haven’t visited in a long time and I miss the home page and the wonderful examples of alphabets you used to highlight. Some were very beautiful and I used them in art projects.

  16. Hi Simon, I hope your foot is healing well and that you’re up and about as usual! I noticed in today’s Omniglot RSS feed that you said there were few visitors to the website … and for myself I can say that it’s mainly because I get the RSS feeds and your tweets, so I thought I’d stop by and say ‘HI’ … I am not fluent by any means, but enjoy languages of all kinds and can get along with French, Spanish, Italian and German. I’ve lately been wanting to lear ASL (American Sign Language) as there is a group that meets at a restaurant that I frequent and I’m curious about what they are saying 😉 … Best regards and thanks for the updates and all the great info on the website!

  17. Simon,
    My dad knows Slavomolisano,
    a language marked as Critically endegered (or seriously, I’m not sure which) by UNESCO.

    I also was raised in one of the three villages which still uses it.
    Only 2,000 speakers remain, and almost none of them are children. In fact, a lot of them are older than 50.

    Quite amazing, right? But its also scary to see this language disappear.

  18. Hi Simon, I am a Chinese student from Xi’an.I am really happy to know that you can speak Chinese.Now our school is teaching English, and I am learning Spanish by myself.I like to know the languages in the world or man-made language(also called constructed language).If you haven’t come to China or Xi’an,I am glad to welcome.

  19. Hi
    It is Gods gift if you can learn so many languages, not everyone can
    And Chinese is definitely not the easiest language on the word 😉

  20. hello, you should start learning Indonesian, it’s very simple and all. and which language do you think is easy besides indonesian

  21. Salut,
    Wo shi faguoren et je parle couramment anglais. I can talk in Finnish, I’m still learning it. I know a few basics in Chinese. And then I have knowledge in several other languages (few words and sentences).

    I think Finnish is an amazing language. Do you want to learn it? It would be great, we could help each other!

  22. I have been learning Amharic and Tigrinya through business interactions with folks who need help filling out forms and responding to official business correspondence.

    Your website has been one of the most consistently useful sites for on-the-go phrase book reference for pretty much any language I encounter here in the USA “melting pot,” so I sent you a small monetary gratuity.

    I have a very low income, but I am grateful that you provide this site, and will happily support its continued existence by reporting any bugs, errors, or other potential improvements I have to offer going forward.

    Thank you for your efforts!

  23. Hello
    How do you feel about (new) Persian and other old languages such as Sanskrit and Greek. Using of the word ‘Farsi’ is a big mistake. after or during learning so much languages what interesting things have you faced to?

  24. I have no plans to learn Persian, Sanskrit or Greek. Studying ancient languages is interesting, I’m sure, but I am focusing on modern ones at the moment.

    Every language presents you with a variety of challenges. The grammar might be the most difficult aspect, or the pronunciation, or remembering the vocabulary, or any combination of these things. For example, I find the grammar, vocabularly and pronunciation difficult in Slavic languages such as Russian and Czech. In Danish, on the other hand, the grammar and vocabulary are not too difficult, but the pronunciation is.

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