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.
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
Lifting the Lid / Codi’r Caead – a tune I wrote on the cavaquinho in 2020.
In this episode I talk about, and in, Gibberish – what it is, where it comes from, how I learnt it, and possible reasons why some people find it difficult to learn.
How to speak Gibberish:
Tunes features in this episode
Dancing on Custard / Dawnsio ar Gwstard – a tune I wrote on the harp in 2016.
If you’re good at languages, does it follow that you’re good at music, and vice versa? In this episode I talk about links between languages and music. I explore similarities and differences between learning and using languages, and learning and playing music, based mainly on my own experiences.
Edinburgh Language Event
Tunes features in this episode
The Whistling Windows / Y Ffenstri Sïo – a tune I wrote on various instruments in 2017.
Here’s a video I made at a music session in Y Glôb, a pub in Bangor. Musicians from Wales, England, Singapore and France were there that night.
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 Family||Number of languages||Number of speakers|
Here’s an illustration a the family tree of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Elvish languages:
More information about language families
The tune featured in this episode
In this episode I talk about pidgins and creoles – what are they, how they develop, what they sound like, how they are structed, and so on.
Here’s how a pidgin or pidgin language is defined on Dictionary.com:
1. an auxiliary language that has come into existence through the attempts by the speakers of two different languages to communicate and that is primarily a simplified form of one of the languages, with a reduced vocabulary and grammatical structure and considerable variation in pronunciation.
2. (loosely) any simplified or broken form of a language, especially when used for communication between speakers of different languages.
The definition of pidgin in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is even simpler:
a simplified speech used for communication between people with different languages
In the 19th century a form of pidgin, known as Chinese Pidgin English, developed between European and Chinese merchants in China. Pidgin was the way the Chinese pronounced business, and referred to this form of language. Later it was used to refer to all such contact languages. It was first used in writing in 1807 [source].
Dictionary.com defines a creole language:
a creolized language; a pidgin that has become the native language of a speech community
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a creole language as:
a language that has evolved from a pidgin but serves as the native language of a speech community
The word creole was first used in the 17th century, and comes from the Portuguese crioulo (a slave born in one’s household, person of European ancestry born in the colonies), probably from criar (to bring up), from the Latin creāre (to create) [source].
Examples of Creoles being spoken
More information about Pidgin and Creole Languages
Details of the Polyglot Cruise 2020 – remember to use the code OMNIGLOT to get US$50 off!
Tunes featured in this episode
In this episode I bring you news from the 2019 Polyglot Gathering, an annual get-together of polyglots and language lovers from all over the world. This year the Polyglot Gathering took place in Bratislava, Slovakia for the third time – it started in 2015 in Berlin, and was there for three years, then moved to Bratislava. The next Gathering will be in Teresin, near Warsaw in Poland from 26-30 May 2020.
I was planning to interview people at the Gathering, and to keep an audio diary, but was enjoying myself too much and decided to give you a flavour of the event after I got home. So this is the story of my Adventures in Polyglotland.
My badge from the Polyglot Gathering showing the languages I speak fluently, or at least fairly well:
N = native language, C = advanced level, B = intermediate level, A = basic / elementary level, en = English, cy = Cymraeg (Welsh), zh = 中文 [zhōngwén] – (Mandarin Chinese), ga = Gaeilge (Irish), es = español (Spanish), de = Deutsch (German), eo = Esperanto, gd = Gàidhlig (Scottish Gaelic), ja = Japanese, gv = Gaelg Vanninagh (Manx Gaelic), ru = Русский [Russkij] (Russian), cs = český (Czech), sv = Svenska (Swedish), da = Dansk (Danish).
Information about polyglot events: http://www.omniglot.com/events/
Music featured in this episode
In this episode I look into the differences between languages and dialects, and talk a bit about where they come from and how they develop.
Max Weinreich (1894-1969), a Russian linguist who specialised in sociolinguistics and Yiddish, popularised the saying,
אַ שפּראַך איז אַ דיאַלעקט מיט אַן אַרמיי און פֿלאָט
(a shprakh iz a dialekt mit an armey un flot)
A language is a dialect with an army and navy
There are various definitions of language. This is one from the Free Dictionary:
- Communication of thoughts and feelings through a system of arbitrary signals, such as voice sounds, gestures, or written symbols.
- Such a system including its rules for combining its components, such as words.
- Such a system as used by a nation, people, or other distinct community; often contrasted with dialect.
Merriam-Webster defines language as:
- the words, their pronunciation, and the methods of combining them used and understood by a community
- a systematic means of communicating ideas or feelings by the use of conventionalized signs, sounds, gestures, or marks having understood meanings
There are also different definitions of dialect. The Free Dictionary define it as:
- A regional or social variety of a language distinguished by pronunciation, grammar, or vocabulary, especially a variety of speech differing from the standard literary language or speech pattern of the culture in which it exists.
Merriam-Webster defines dialect as:
- a regional variety of language distinguished by features of vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation from other regional varieties and constituting together with them a single language
Tunes featured in this episode hear
In this first episode of the Radio Omniglot Podcast, I talk about my own language learning adventures. About the languages I’ve learned, and how and why I learned them.
You can also read about my language learning adventures on Omniglot.
If you would like to take part in this podcast, you can contact me via Omniglot.
The music in this episode is a tune I wrote in January 2018 called Apple Blossom / Blodau Afal, played on the cavaquinho: