Episode 39 – What a Year!

In this episode I look back at 2020 and talk about what I’ve been up to this year in terms of work, language learning and other stuff.

Music featured in this episode

Hedge Cats / Cathod y Gwyrch

See the score for this tune.

Goats / Geifr

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Episode 38 – Success and Failure

In this episode I discuss success and failure, particularly in relation to learning languages. Are they just different ways of look at the same thing? At what point can you say that you have succeeded to learn a language, or have failed? Does it matter?

I was inspired to make this episode by a video in which Jack Conte, the CEO of Patreon shares his most epic failures.

Here’s an example of a ‘real’ polyglot – a friend of mine called Richard Simcott, who runs the Polyglot Conference and similar events.

Music featured in this episode

Hedge Cats / Cathod y Gwyrch

See the score for this tune.

You can also listen to this podcast on: Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, Podchaser, PlayerFM, podtail and or via this RSS feed.

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 37 – The Hardest Languages

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:

https://www.fluentu.com/blog/hardest-languages-to-learn/
https://www.languagedrops.com/blog/10-hardest-languages-to-learn
https://www.lingholic.com/hardest-languages-learn/
https://effectivelanguagelearning.com/language-guide/language-difficulty/
https://bestlifeonline.com/most-difficult-languages/

Tunes features in this episode

Hedge Cats / Cathod y Gwyrch

See the score for this tune.

You can also listen to this podcast on: Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, Podchaser, PlayerFM, podtail and or via this RSS feed.

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 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

You can also listen to this podcast on: Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, Podchaser, PlayerFM, podtail and or via this RSS feed.

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 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

You can also listen to this podcast on: Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, Podchaser, PlayerFM, podtail and or via this RSS feed.

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 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

See the score for this tune.

Cats on the Shed / Cathod ar y Cwt

See the score of this tune

You can also listen to this podcast on: Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, Podchaser, PlayerFM, podtail and or via this RSS feed.

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 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

See the score for this piece

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

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

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

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

Episode 10 – Languages & Dialects

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

Apparently he wasn’t the first person to say this, but heard it from an audience member at one of his lectures, and liked it [source] and used it in an article published in 1945 [source].

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

More details of German and Latin
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_language
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_dialects
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Latin

There is more discussion about this topic on: Quora, The Atlantic, Aeon, and in these videos: