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Language learning adventures

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I have always been fascinated by language. I currently speak five languages fluently, six semi-fluently, and have a basic knowledge of fifteen or so others.

This page gives a summary of the languages I have studied in more or less chronological order of when I first started playing with them.

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English

English is my native language, and was the only language I spoke until the age of 11. I grew up in Lancashire in the north west of England, and acquired an R.P. accent from my parents, and some aspects of other accents and dialects from other people. My accent tends to change depending on who I'm talking to, and I enjoy mimicing different regional accents, which is possibly one of the reasons why I developed such an interest in languages.

Information about English | Phrases | Numbers | Time | Tongue twisters | Tower of Babel | Articles | Books | Links | Find English tutors

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Welsh (Cymraeg)

Welsh was probably the first other language I encountered. My mother, a non-Welsh-speaking Welsh woman* who grew up in England, and has tried to learn Welsh a number of times. So there were Welsh language materials around the house and I picked up some odd words and phrases, and I always wanted to learn the language. I studied some Welsh in 1998, did courses in Wales in 2007 and 2008, and since 2008 I have lived in Bangor in North Wales, and regularly use Welsh. I can now speak, understand, read and write and sing in Welsh.

* This idea is much easier to express in Welsh: Cymraes di-Gymraeg.

More about my Welsh learning adventures

Information about Welsh | Phrases | Numbers | Family words | Terms of endearment | Colours | Time | Weather | Idioms | Tongue twisters | Comparison of Celtic languages | Celtic cognates | Songs | Tower of Babel | Braille for Welsh | My podcast about Welsh | Links | Learning materials

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French (français)

I started learning French at secondary school in 1981 at the age of 11. It was compulsory for the first three years, and as I found it interesting and had a vague idea that I'd like to work abroad one day, I decided to continue studying it after that. After finishing school in 1988 I spent a year working in various places, including three months in France, and became fluent in French. After that I only used my French occasionally and it became somewhat rusty, until I started going to a French conversation group every week in Bangor. My French is now more or less fluent, I can understand and read it, and write it quite well.

More about my French learning adventures

Information about French | Phrases | Numbers | Family words | Terms of endearment | Idioms | Colours | Telling the time | Weather words | Tongue twisters | Tower of Babel | Articles | Links | French learning materials | Find French tutors

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German (Deutsch)

I started learning German at secondary school in 1982. It was an option that I chose because I thought it would be interesting, and because I seemed to have some talent for languages. I continued learning it for six years. Since leaving school I rarely used my German and it became somewhat rusty. However when I meet German speakers I find that I can get by in German and understand most of what I hear.

More about my German learning adventures

Information about German | Useful phrases | Silly phrases | Numbers | Colours | Family words | Time | Weather | Tongue twisters | Tower of Babel | Articles | Links | Learning materials | Find German tutors

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Icelandic (Íslenzku)

During my year off between school and university (1988-1989) I had a vague notion of trying to find a job in Iceland. Why Iceland? Well it seemed like a good idea at the time. I bought a Linguaphone Icelandic course and had a go at learning the language. After struggling with a few lessons I gave up, and didn't go for a job in Iceland.

In September 2017 I decided to learn some Icelandic in preparation for the Polyglot Conference in Reykjavik in October of that year. I bought Colloquial Icelandic, and tried to study every day. When I went to Iceland, I was able to understand and speak a little Icelandic.

Information about Icelandic | Phrases | Numbers | Colours | Family words | Telling the time | Terms of endearment | Idioms | Tongue twisters | Tower of Babel | Learning materials

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Italian (italiano)

I learnt a little bit of Italian in 1988, and learnt some more in 2002 before going on holiday to Sicily. Since then I've learnt a bit more, and find I can understand and read the language quite well, though my speaking and writing abilities are limited.

More about my Italian learning adventures

Information about Italian | Phrases | Family words | Terms of endearment | Colours | Numbers | Time | Weather words | Tongue twisters | Tower of Babel | Articles | Links | Learning materials | Find Italian tutors

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Japanese (日本語)

I dabbled briefly with Japanese in 1988 with a Linguaphone course, then I studied it, along with Chinese, at the University of Leeds from 1989 to 1993. During my second year at university I spent a semester (4 months) studying Japanese language and history at a university in Osaka. After graduating I spoke Japanese quite well, but as I haven't used it much since I've forgotten a lot. I can still have a basic conversation and understand the language to some extent.

More about my Japanese learning adventures

Introduction to Japanese | Hiragana | Katakana | Kanji | Rōmaji | Phrases | Numbers | Colours | Telling the time | Family words | Tower of Babel | Articles | Links | Learning materials | Find Japanese tutors

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Portugese (português)

While working in a hotel in Jersey in 1989 I picked up a bit of Portuguese from my colleagues, most of whom were from Madeira. I learnt some more Portuguese before going on holiday to Madeira in 2002, and to northern Portugal the following year.

Thanks to my knowledge of French and Spanish I can understand written and spoken Portuguese to some extent, and can have a basic conversation.

More about my Portuguese learning adventures

Information about Portuguese | European Portuguese phrases | Brazilian Portuguese phrases | Family words | Numbers | Time | Tongue twisters | Tower of Babel | Articles | Links | Learning materials

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Mandarin Chinese (普通话/國語)

From 1989 to 1993 I studied Mandarin Chinese (and Japanese) at the University of Leeds. During my second year I spent four months studying Chinese in Taipei, and I returned to Taiwan after graduation to study Chinese for another year. By the end of that year my Mandarin was more or less fluent and I got a job with the British Council in Taipei, where I worked for four years. Since returning to the UK in 1998 I've maintained my fluency in Mandarin and use it whenever I can.

More about my Mandarin learning adventures

Information about Mandarin | Phrases | Numbers | Family words | Time | Tongue twisters | Video lessons | Tower of Babel | Articles | Links | Learning materials | Find Chinese tutors

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Cantonese (廣東話)

While studying in Taiwan in 1990 and travelling in China in 1991 I learnt some Cantonese from friends and from books. I learnt some more after I returned to Taiwan in 1993, and have studied the language a bit since then. I can understand it to some extent and have a very basic conversation.

More about my Cantonese learning adventures

Information about Cantonese | Phrases | Numbers | Family words | Time expressions | Tower of Babel | Learning materials

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Taiwanese (台語)

I learnt some Taiwanese while working in Taipei from 1994-98. At first I tried to learn from friends entirely by ear without making any notes. This didn't work very well, so I tried learning it from books as well. I became familiar with the sounds of the language as I heard it every day, but have yet to learn more than the basics.

More about my Taiwanese learning adventures

Information about Taiwanese | Phrases | Numbers | Family words | Time expressions | Tower of Babel | Learning materials

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Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig)

I first got interested in Scottish Gaelic through music while at school, and finally got round to learning it in 1996 while I was in Taiwan. Before then I'd tried to learn some Gaelic songs, and since then I've done a number of courses in Gaelic songs at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, the Gaelic college on the Isle of Skye. I can understand, speak and read Gaelic quite well, and write it to some extent.

More about my Scottish Gaelic learning adventures

You can also hear about my experiences with Scottish Gaelic on episode 2 of the Radio Omniglot Podcast.

Information about Scottish Gaelic | Phrases | Numbers | Family words | Terms of endearment | Colours | Time | Comparison of Celtic languages | Celtic cognates | Tower of Babel | Songs | Links | My podcast about Scottish Gaelic | Learning materials

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Spanish (español)

I started learning Spanish in 1998 while I was in Taiwan as I had a plan to go travelling in South America. Since then I've learnt bits and pieces of Spanish now and then, and have acquired a large collection of Spanish language material. I have been to Spain, Mexico, Guatemala and Cuba and can speak Spanish at a basic level, and understand and read it quite well.

In 2019 I started learning a bit of Spanish every day on Duolingo, and am gradually improving my grasp of the language.

More about my Spanish learning adventures

Information about Spanish | Phrases | Idioms | Family words | Time | Weather | Tongue twisters | Video lessons | Tower of Babel | Articles | Links | Learning materials | Find Spanish tutors

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Esperanto

In 1999 I started learning Esperanto out of interest and to see if it was as easy as people claim it to be. It is relatively easy to learn, and I can understand and read it, and speak and write it quite well. I use it mainly at the polyglot events.

In 2018 I learnt some Esperanto every day on Duolingo, which helped improve my knowledge of the language. After completing the course, I decided to focus on other languages.

More about my Esperanto learning adventures

Information about Esperanto | Phrases | Numbers | Time | Family words | Video lessons | Tower of Babel | Articles | Learning materials

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Irish (Gaeilge)

I first got interested in Irish through music while at school, and started learning it in 2004. Before then I'd tried to learn some Irish songs, and since 2005 I've studied Irish in Donegal in Ireland for a week or two every summer. I can now understand, speak, read and write and sing in Irish well.

More about my Irish learning adventures

Irish language | Gaelic script | Ogham alphabet | Phrases | Numbers | Colours | Family words | Terms of endearment | Time | Weather | Proverbs | Comparison of Celtic languages | Celtic cognates | Tower of Babel | Tongue twisters | Songs | Learning materials | Books about Ogham | My podcast about Irish | Links

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Czech (čeština)

I started learning Czech in 2006 as I had some Czech friends and I thought it would be interesting to learning a bit of the language. Since then I've studied Czech every so often and can now have a basic conversation in it and understand it to some extent.

In 2019 I started learning a bit of Czech every day on Mondly and Duolingo, and am gradually improving my knowledge of the language.

More about my Czech learning adventures

Information about Czech | Useful phrases | Silly phrases | Numbers | Family words | Colours | Weather | Idioms | Tongue twisters | Tower of Babel | Learning materials

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Russian (Русский язык)

I first started learning Russian in 2007 as I wanted to try a Rosetta Stone course in a language I didn't know, and because part of my job involved putting together websites in Russian. Since then I've studied Russian every so often, and since April 2017 I have studied a little every day on Duolingo. In 2018 I started doing Russian lessons on Memrise as well.

I can now understand, speak, read and write Cornish at a basic level.

More about my Russian learning adventures

Information about Russian | Useful phrases | Silly phrases | Numbers | Colours | Time | Family words | Terms of endearment | Weather | Idioms | Tongue twisters | Tower of Babel | Articles | Links | Learning materials | Find Russian tutors

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Manx (Gaelg)

I first started learning Manx in 2008. As I already spoke some Irish and Scottish Gaelic by then, I was curious to learn about the other member of the Goidelic / Gaelic branch of the Celtic language family. I used various courses, including Abbyr Shen!, Bun-Choorse Gaelgagh and Y Coorse Mooar, and later online courses on LearnManx.com and apps.

In 2009 I wrote a dissertation entitled "A study of language death and revival with a particular focus on Manx Gaelic". As part of my research I visited the Isle of Man, met Manx speakers and learners and learnt a lot more Manx. Since then I've been to the Isle of Man a number of times, and have become fairly fluent in Manx.

Information about Manx | Phrases | Numbers | Colours | Family words | Colours | Time | Proverbs | Terms of endearment | Comparison of Celtic languages | Celtic cognates | Songs | Tower of Babel | The decline and revival of Manx | My podcast about Manx | Links | Learning materials

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British Sign Language (BSL)

In 2009 I started learning BSL mainly out of curiosity. I used online courses and other resources, and some books and DVDs. I found the language fascinating and would like to learn more.

More about my BSL learning adventures

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Breton (Brezhoneg)

I started learning Breton in 2012, having previously only dabbled with it briefly. This was partly because I hosted some Breton-speaking couchsurfers at that time, and because I was curious to know how Breton is similar and differs from Welsh. I completed most of an Assimil course, and got to the stage where I could read and speak the language at a basic level.

More about my Breton learning adventures

Information about Breton | Phrases | Numbers | Family words | Colours | Time | Weather words | Comparison of Celtic languages | Celtic cognates | Tower of Babel | Learning materials

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Dutch (Nederlands)

I started learning Dutch in 2013 partly out of interest to see how it compares to German and English, and because I have a number of Dutch and Dutch-speaking friends. Thanks to my knowledge of English and German I can understand written and spoken Dutch to some extent, and can speak a little.

Information about Dutch | Phrases | Colours | Numbers | Time | Family words | Weather words | Tongue twisters | Tower of Babel | Learning materials

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Cornish (Kernewek)

In 2016 I decided to have a go at learning in Cornish. I had dabbled with it a bit before, but hadn't learnt much. I used SaySomethinginCornish, mainly. Even before I started I could understand odd bits and pieces, thanks to my knowledge of Welsh and Breton, and have noticed that Cornish has more in common with Breton than Welsh. In 2018 I decided to learn some more Cornish, mainly using Memrise this time, in preparation for a trip to the Lowender Peren Interceltic Festival in Cornwall in November of that year. I can have a very basic conversation in Cornish and understand, read and write it a bit, though am far from fluent.

Information about Cornish | Phrases | Numbers | Colours | Family words | Terms of endearment | Colours | Time | Weather words | Comparison of Celtic languages | Celtic cognates | Tower of Babel | My podcast about Cornish | Learning materials

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Swedish (Svenska)

I was first inspired to learn Swedish after meeting some Swedish speakers at the Polyglot Gathering in Berlin in 2015. I used Babbel, then later got a copy of Teach Yourself Swedish. I didn't learn very much then, but since April 2017 I have studied a little every day, with Duolingo and Memrise. I can know understand, speak, read and write Swedish at a basic level.

Information about Swedish | Useful phrases | Silly phrases | Numbers | Idioms | Family words | Telling the time | Tongue twisters | Tower of Babel | Learning materials

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Romanian (limba română)

I start learning Romanian in July 2017, mainly out of interest to see how it compares to the other Romance languages I know. I also wanted to see how much I could learn just using Duolingo. I completed the course in April 2018 and decided to have a break. I can now read and understand Romanian to some extent, and speak a little.

Information about Romanian | Useful phrases | Silly phrases | Numbers | Family words | Telling the time | Tower of Babel | Learning materials

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Slovak (slovenčina)

I start learning Slovak in January 2018, partly out of interest to see how similiar it is to Czech, and also in preparation for the Polyglot Gathering in Bratislava in Slovakia in May/June 2018. Thanks to my knowledge of Czech, I can understand some Slovak, and can have a basic conversation.

Information about Slovak | Phrases | Numbers | Family words | Idioms | Tongue twisters | Tower of Babel | Learning materials

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Danish (Dansk)

In 2018 I started learning Danish in preparation for a trip to Denmark. As I already know some Swedish, I can read Danish quite well, but find spoken Danish more difficult to understand. I study every day with Duolingo and Memrise, and hope to acquire at least a basic conversational ability eventually.

Information about Danish | Useful phrases | Silly phrases | Numbers | Family words | Terms of endearment | Tongue twisters | Tower of Babel | Learning materials

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Slovenian (slovenščina)

I start learning Slovenian in July 2018 in preparation for the Polyglot Conference in Ljubljana in Slovenia in October 2018. As I already know a bit of Serbian, and other Slavic languages, I can understand it to some extent. Some of the vocabulary is quite different though.

Information about Slovenian | Phrases | Tower of Babel | Learning materials

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I've also learnt some Hungarian, Turkish, Arabic and Serbian for trips to Hungary, Turkey, Morocco and Serbia, and have dabbled with Latin, Hindi, Urdu and Toki Pona for fun and interest.

In 2017 I started constructed my own languge, Laala, which is a minimalist language like Toki Pona, and has 90 basic words, from which all other words are built. At least that's the plan.

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Formal language study and qualifications

The courses in the Celtic languages were all short - a week or two. I haven't done any formal studies, exams or proficiency tests in other languages.

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Current language use

I listen to radio stations in various languages, read, and sing in a variety of languages. I take part in polyglot events, language courses, and French and Welsh conversation groups, and generally find whatever opportunities I can to use and improve my languages.

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Other languages I've studied

Welsh, French, German, Italian, Icelandic, Japanese, Portuguese, Mandarin, Cantonese, Taiwanese, Korean, Scottish Gaelic, Spanish, Esperanto, Hungarian, Turkish, Arabic, Czech, Irish (Gaelic), Latin, Manx (Gaelic), Russian, Urdu, British Sign Language (BSL), Hindi, Breton

About this site | Omniglot - a potted history | About me | My language learning adventures | My singing adventures | My songs | My tunes | My musical adventures | My juggling adventures


If you need to type in many different languages, the Q International Keyboard can help. It enables you to type almost any language that uses the Latin, Cyrillic or Greek alphabets, and is free.

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