Episode 36 – The Easiest Languages

In this episode I discuss which languages are easiest to learn for native speakers of English, and what factors make languages easy or difficult to learn, including grammar, spelling, pronunciation, vocabulary, the availablity of resources, and so on.

Tunes features in this episode

Hedge Cats / Cathod y Gwyrch

See the score for this tune.

The Happy Hedgehog / Y Draenog Hapus

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Episode 35 – Adventures in Etymology

In this episode I take you on an adventure in etymology, the study of where words come from, and how they have changed over time. I start with the word etymology, and see where I end up.

Tunes features in this episode

Hedge Cats / Cathod y Gwyrch

See the score for this tune.

Push ad Pull / Gwthio a Thynnu

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Episode 34 – Dutch

In this episode I talk about Dutch (Nederlands), a West Germanic language spoken mainly in the Netherlands and Belgium. I talk about the language itself and its history, about my attempts to learn it, and related stuff.

English words of Dutch origin include: Santa Claus, yacht, yankee, wildebeest, wagon, wiggle, waffle, stove, stoop, snack, skate, scone, rover, poppycock, pickle, plug, mannequin, maelstrom, luck, landscape, knapsack, jib, gin, furlough and many more [source].

Dutch pages on Omniglot

Spui, Museum Flehite, Amersfoort, Netherlands - 4363

Tunes features in this episode

Hedge Cats / Cathod y Gwyrch

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Cats on the Shed / Cathod ar y Cwt

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If you would like to support this podcast, you can make a donation via PayPal or Patreon, or contribute to Omniglot in other ways.

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Episode 33 – Giving Up

In this episode I talk about reasons why we stop learning learning langauges. Why we give up on them and quit. This is based on a poll I posted on the Omniglot Fan Club on Facebook.

Top reasons for giving up on a language include losing interest, not having enough time, getting distracted, another language seemed more interesting, and it being too hard.

Tunes features in this episode

Hedge Cats / Cathod y Gwyrch

See the score for this tune.

Lifting the Lid / Codi’r Caead – a tune I wrote on the cavaquinho in 2020.

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If you would like to support this podcast, you can make a donation via PayPal or Patreon, or contribute to Omniglot in other ways.

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Episode 25 – Fishing for Words

In this episode I talk to a friend of mine, Ruth Fischer, about her experiences of learning and using languages. Ruth grew up in Wales speaking English at home, and learnt Welsh, French and German at school. She spent a year in Switzerland as an au-pair, which was good for her German and French, and has learnt bits and pieces of a few other languages, including Swedish, Danish and Icelandic.

I’ve known Ruth for quite a few years – we met at a singing class we used to go to, and have sung and played recorders together in various groups since then.

Here’s a photo of Ruth (in red), our friend Femke (in yellow), and me (in blue) taken in Llandudno. We were taking part in a game devised by Femke for LLAWN – Llandudno Arts Weekend.

The Kaliphones / Y Califfôns

Since January 2019 we have met regularly to talk about songs we’re writing, and to sing and play recorders together. In September 2019 we recorded some of our songs and put them on a CD for a member of our group, Rosie, who was too ill to attend at the time. Sadly she died in October 2019.

More information about SaySomethinginWelsh – courses also available in Spanish, Dutch, Latin, Cornish and Manx.

Tunes features in this episode

Hedge Cats / Cathod y Gwyrch

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The Bells of Hirael / Clychau Hirael – this tune has featured in a previous episode, but this version is for recorders.

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Episode 24 – Volapük

Johann Martin Schleyer playing the harp in 1888 from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Johann_Martin_Schleyer?uselang=de

In this episode I talk about Volapük, an international auxilliary language created in the late 19th century by Johann Martin Schleyer, a German priest. I look at the history of the language and its structure and vocabulary, and also talk a bit about Schleyer himself.

Volapük was the first international auxillary language, or indeed constructed language, to attract a significant number of adherents. At its peak there were an estimated 283 clubs, 25 periodicals in or about Volapük, and 316 textbooks in 25 languages.

Not long after that, however, the Volapük movement began collapse and by the early 20th century few people were interested in Volapük. Many former Volapükists switched their attentions to Esperanto, which was published in 1887. Or tried to improve the language, and create new versions, none of which had much success.

The photo above is of Johann Martin Schleyer and comes from: Wikipedia

Information about Volapük

https://www.omniglot.com/writing/volapuk.htm
http://volapük.com
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volapük
https://wikisource.org/wiki/Gramat_Volapüka/Lafab_Volapükik

Examples of spoken Volapük

Tunes features in this episode

Hedge Cats / Cathod y Gwyrch (played on the guitar)

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The Swallow / Y Wennol


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Episode 23 – Czech (čeština)

In this episode I talk about the Czech language (čeština / český jazyk). I give an overview of the language itself, talk about my efforts to learn it.

Examples of Czech noun cases

  • Nominative: () ji vidím = I see her
  • Genitive: Její květy jsou modré = Her flowers are blue
  • Dative: Dávám květiny = I give her flowers
  • Accusative: Ona vidí = She sees me
  • Vocative: Ahoj Evo = Hi Eva
  • Locative: Jsem doma = I am at home
  • Instrumental: Ona cestuje autobusem = She is travelling by bus

Some Czech tongue twisters without vowels

Source: https://cs.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strč_prst_skrz_krk
Translations and recordings by Rhee Diculous

More Czech tongue twisters

Information about Czech

https://www.omniglot.com/writing/czech.htm
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Czech_language
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Czech_orthography
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Czech_phonology
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Czech_conjugation
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Czech_language

14_08PR5_056

Tunes features in this episode

Hedge Cats / Cathod y Gwyrch (played on the cavaquinho)

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Hajej, můj zlatouškou (a Czech lullaby)

If you would like to support this podcast, you can make a donation, or contribute to Omniglot in other ways.

Episode 22 – Numbers

In this episode I discuss numbers, counting, and some of the other ways to refer to numbers and amounts in English – there are a lot more than you probably realise.

Links

Information about numbers and numerals
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_numerals
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Numeral_prefix
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indefinite_and_fictitious_numbers
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Names_of_large_numbers
https://www.omniglot.com/language/numbers/
https://www.omniglot.com/language/numerals.htm

Origins of hat-trick
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hat-trick

Numbers

Tunes features in this episode

Hedge Cats / Cathod y Gwyrch

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Climbing the Stairs / Dringo’r Grisiau

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Episode 21 – Benefits of learning small languages

In this episode I talk about some of the benefits and advantages of learning minority and lesser-studied languages, focusing particularly on the Irish and other Celtic languages. I talk about my own experiences with these languages, and the benefits they have brought me.

Gleann Cholm Cille
Gleann Cholm Cille

There’s no point in learning small languages, is there? They’re spoken by relatively few people and maybe only in one country or region. So why bother? It would be better to learn a language that has many millions of speakers and that is spoken in many countries, like Spanish or French, wouldn’t it? Perhaps, but whatever language you learn can bring benefits and opportunities, even small, lesser-studied and minority languages.

Scoil Shamraidh 2017

Tunes featured in this episode

Hedge Cats / Cathod y Gwyrch

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The Elephant Song / Cân yr Eliffant

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Episode 20 – Language Families

In this episode I talk about language families – what they are, and how they develop, and I introduce some major and minor language families.

According to Wikipedia, a language family is “a group of languages related through descent from a common ancestral language or parental language, called the proto-language of that family”.

According to Ethnologue there are currently 142 different language families and 7,111 living languages. The ten largest languages families account for about 88% of the world’s population, and 74% of the world’s languages.

Top Ten Language Families

Language FamilyNumber of languagesNumber of speakers
Niger-Congo1,526 519,814,033
Austronesian1,223325,862,510
Trans-New Guinea4783,580,507
Sino-Tibetan4531,385,995,195
Indo-European4453,237,999,904
Afro-Asiatic365499,294,669
Australian20437,032
Nilo-Saharan20053,359,610
Otomanguean1771,715,045
Austro-Asiatic167116,323,040
Total5,2386,143,981,545

Here’s an illustration a the family tree of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Elvish languages:

Elvish language family

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elvish_languages_(Middle-earth)

More information about language families
https://www.omniglot.com/writing/langfam.htm
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language_family
https://www.ethnologue.com/statistics/family
https://www.mustgo.com/worldlanguages/language-families/

The tune featured in this episode

Dancing Donkeys / Asynnod sy’n Dawnsio

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Costa Pacifica

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