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

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.

See the score of this tune

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 31 – Talent

In this episode I talk about talent, particularly talent for languages. Do some people have an innate talent for learning languages? Do others lack such a talent? If you don’t have a talent for languages, can you learn one anyway?

Further reading:
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/is-innate-talent-a-myth/

Tunes features in this episode

Hedge Cats / Cathod y Gwyrch

See the score for this tune.

Little Red Boats / Cychod bach coch – a tune I wrote on the cavaquinho in 2017.

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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Epsiode 30 – Gibberish

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

Hedge Cats / Cathod y Gwyrch

See the score for this tune.

Dancing on Custard / Dawnsio ar Gwstard – a tune I wrote on the harp in 2016.

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

Blubrry podcast hosting

Episode 29 – Language and Music

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.

Links

Languages and Music
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3338120/
https://www.frontiersin.org/research-topics/133/the-relationship-between-music-and-language

Edinburgh Language Event
https://edinburghlanguageevent.com/

Tunes features in this episode

Hedge Cats / Cathod y Gwyrch

See the score for this tune.

The Whistling Windows / Y Ffenstri Sïo – a tune I wrote on various instruments in 2017.

See the score for this tune.

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.

Sesiwn Cymreig yn y Glôb

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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)

See the score for this piece

The Swallow / Y Wennol


See the score for this piece

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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

See the score for this piece

The Elephant Song / Cân yr Eliffant

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

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

See the score for this tune

Costa Pacifica

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Episode 19 – Pidgins and Creoles

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

Bislama

Tok Pisin

Haitian Creole

More information about Pidgin and Creole Languages

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pidgin
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creole_language
http://www.omniglot.com/writing/langfam.htm#creoles

Costa Pacifica

Details of the Polyglot Cruise 2020 – remember to use the code OMNIGLOT to get US$50 off!

Tunes featured in this episode

Time To Play / Amser i Chwarae

The Frog’s Excuse / Esgus y Llyffant

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