In this episode I discuss which languages are hardest to learn, and what makes some languages more difficult to learn than others. It’s not possible to provide a definitive list of the most challenging languages as it depends on a variety of factors. This hasn’t stopped people from doing this anyway. Here are some examples:
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.
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.
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
Number of languages
Number of speakers
Here’s an illustration a the family tree of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Elvish languages:
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).
In this episode I talk about Manx (Gaelg), or Manx Gaelic (Gaelg Vanninagh), a Celtic language spoken in the Isle of Man. I look at the history of the language, its decline and revival, and its current situation. I also talk about my own experiences with the language, and play a few Manx tunes, and a song I wrote in Manx and English.
Here are some of the bits of Manx featured:
Failt dys yn çhiaghtoo cur magh jeh’n podcreeley Radio Omniglot. Welcome to episode 7 of the the Radio Omniglot podcast.
Mish Simon Ager, as bee’m laoyrt mychione y Ghaelg, ny’n Ghaelg Vanniagh, çhengey Cheltiagh ta goll er loayrt ayns Mannin. I’m Simon Ager, and I will be speaking about Manx, or Manx Gaelic, the Celtic language spoken in the Isle of Man.=
Tra haink ny skibbyltee boghtey stiagh hie yn Ghaelg magh. When the tourists came in, the Manx language went out.
Cha jean oo cosney ping lesh y Ghailck You will not earn a penny from Manx
Gura mie mooar ayd son eaishtaght, as slane lhiat Thank you very much for listening, and good bye
I mention that the Manx Tynwald (parliament), which is Tinvaal in Manx, comes from the Old Norse word Þingvǫllr (meeting place of the assembly), and that the modern Icelandic parliament has a similar name: Þingvellir (Thingvellir). The Icelandic parliament is in fact called the Alþingi (Althingi), and Þingvellir is the place south of Reykjavik where the parliament was held from 930-1798.
This is a photo I took of Þingvellir in Icelandic in October 2017.