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.
Most people know, or at least have some idea what an alphabet is, but many people might not be so familiar with abjads, abugidas, syllabaries and other writing systems. In this episode I explain what these words mean, and how these writing systems work. I also talk a bit about the history of writing.
Here are some definitions:
Alphabet – a set of letters or other signs, usually arranged in a fixed order, used to represent the phonemes (sounds) of a language [source].
Abjad – a type of writing system where each symbol stands for a consonant, leaving the reader to supply the appropriate vowel [source]. Also known as a consonant alphabet. Long vowels can be indicated by consonants, and short vowels can be indicated by lines, dots and other squiggles added to the consonants letters. When written with the short vowel symbols, they are said to be ‘vocalised’. Normally they are written ‘unvocalised’.
Abugida – a segmental writing system in which consonant–vowel sequences are written as a unit: each unit is based on a consonant letter, and vowel notation is secondary [source]. Also known as a syllabic alphabet or alphasyllabary.
Syllabary – a set of written symbols that represent the syllables or (more frequently) moras which make up words [source].
Logograph – a single written symbol that represents an entire word or phrase without indicating its pronunciation [source].
Ideograph – a graphic character that indicates the meaning of a thing without indicating the sounds used to say it [source].
Pictograph – a picture representing a word, phrase, or idea, especially one used in early writing systems. A picture or symbol standing for a word or group of words [source].
The development of the Chinese character for horse
The tunes featured in the episode are:
The Blackbird’s Tail / Cynffon yr Aderyn Du
The Dragon’s Fancy / Mwmpwy y Ddraig
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].
- “person who knows and is able to use several languages” [English Oxford Living Dictionaries].
Definitions of polyglottery:
- “The knowledge or use of several languages, polyglot character” [English Oxford Living Dictionaries].
Other takes on polyglottery
Websites of some of the people who took part in the episode
- Foreign Language Expertise with Alexander Arguelles
- How to get fluent, with Dr Popkins
- Lindsay Does Languages. Lindsay is also co-host of the Fluent Show podcast
- The Intrepid Guide – Language Guides & Travel Tips from Around the World
- LinguaMaterna – Learn a New Language Without The complications
- Wouter Corduwener’s YouTube channel
If you took part in this podcast and have a website, blog, YouTube channel, etc that you’d like to see included here, let me know in the comments.
Videos from Polylgot events
My photos and videos from polyglot events