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).
A kind of language occurring chiefly in casual and playful speech, made up typically of coinages and figures of speech that are deliberately used in place of standard terms for added raciness, humor, irreverence, or other effect.
Language peculiar to a group; argot or jargon.
Source: wordnik (from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition)
colloquial words and phrases which have originated in the cant or rude speech of the vagabond or unlettered classes, or, belonging in form to standard speech, have acquired or have had given them restricted, capricious, or extravagantly metaphorical meanings, and are regarded as vulgar or inelegant.
language (words, phrases, and usages) of an informal register that members of particular in-groups favor (over the common vocabulary of a standard language) in order to establish group identity, exclude outsiders, or both.
The origins of the word slang are not known. It was first used in writing in 1756 to refer to the language of “low” or “disreputable” people, or the “special vocabulary of tramps or thieves”. It possibly comes from the same root as sling, from the Old Norse slyngva (to hurl) [source]
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].
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.
This episode of the Radio Omniglot Podcast is about the Irish language, or Gaeilge, as it’s known in Irish. I talk about my own Irish learning journey and adventures. Then look at the history of the language and its current state, and talk a bit about the language itself, with examples to illustrate its structure. It features some Irish tunes, played by me, on the tin whistle, mandolin, low whistle and harp, and one of my own compositions, played on the melodica. It is mostly in English, with some bits of Irish.
You can find music for Sackow’s / Tripping Up The Stairs, the jig I play on the whistle at the beginning of this episode, here.
The slow air I play on the low whistle, Amhrán na Leabhar (The Song of the Books), was written by Tomás Rua Ó Súilleabháín (1785-1848), a school teacher and poet who lost all his possessions, including his books, in a storm when they were being ferried between Derrynane Bay to Valentia Harbour. He wasn’t in the boat at the time, and wrote this song afterwards. It is also known as Cuan Bhéil Inse [source]. You can hear it, with words, at: