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.
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.
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:
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.
This epsiode is about polyglottery and was partly recorded at the 2018 Polyglot Conference in Ljubljana in Slovenia.
I talk about what is a polyglot, how many languages you have to speak to call yourself a polyglot, and discuss what polyglots get up to, including the Polyglot Conference and other polyglot events, such as the Polyglot Gathering and LangFest. There are also some sound bites from participants in the conference in a variety of languages.
Definitions of polyglot:
“A polyglot is a person who speaks or understands many languages; a person with a command of many languages” [Collins English Dictionary].