Language Dream List

Welcome new followers once again!  I hope you continue to find this blog useful and entertaining!

So tonight’s post is going to be a bit self-indulgent, but hopefully my fellow polyglots can relate.

On most people’s bucket list is a series of trips to take and activities to try.  Mine has its fair share of those, but probably the lengthiest section is “languages I want to learn.” I swear this list never shrinks and can be a bit daunting.  At the same time, looking at it in print makes me happy because reminds me just how many different ways there are to connect in the world and how much I want to be a part of those.  So, for your reading pleasure, here is my list- with a few notes on why I picked each language.

Native Language: English

I was born in the States and grew up learning English.  There is no way around the fact that this is a blessing given English’s dominance in print materials.  Don’t get me wrong- all languages are equally valid and valuable, but I imagine it’s much more difficult to find language learning materials that offer Czech or Swahili translations than it is to find English.  Note: This is one of the many reasons I love the Internet, though.  It connects people of multiple languages and anyone can publish material.  People of languages with very few materials in traditional print now have access to hundreds of web pages of material.  Awesomeness.

Languages I’m Fluent In: Spanish  (AKA- Languages I’m married to, going with the metaphor I used earlier.)

I learned Spanish for the same reasons a lot of people in my area do- it was available.  There were classes in high school, there was a high level of Latin American immigrants to practice with, and there was a Spanish language TV channel in our cable line up.  I didn’t plan on making it part of my career initially, but I fell in love with the culture and the verb conjugations, plus it has greatly enhanced my teaching profession.  Guess I’ve always been a bit of a Latina at heart.

Languages I’m currently Studying:  ASL & Japanese  (These would be long-term relationships but not quite ready to put a ring on it yet.)

TECHNICALLY, American Sign Language was the first language I actively studied.  While I played around with a lot of other languages, I was determined to learn ASL after having read biographies on Helen Keller.  I studied many signs, but never got the hang of the grammar from books alone.  In high school, my focus shifted to Spanish due to its availability, but I didn’t forget about ASL completely.  I took a couple courses in college and have found a quality program online now in order to cement my learning.   (For those interested, I’m following Bill Vicars program and highly recommend it.  Here is the link.)

Japanese is the language I loved from afar for many years until I finally decided to introduce myself.  I love the culture, the architecture, the legends of Samurais and spirits- it connected with me on a deep level.  That said, it has been a tumultuous relationship.  We get really close for a while but then one of us gets busy (okay I get busy) and neglectful and we drift apart.  Fortunately, Japanese always takes me back when I show up with index cards and anime in tow.

Languages I Definitely Want to Learn:  German, French, Italian, Mandarin, Arabic, and Swahili. (I feel like I’m dating these languages now but we’re more occasional hookups than coupling at this point.)

German and French made the list because they are heritage languages for me.  The bulk of my Dad’s family is German and the rest is French.  My grandfather’s brother actually spoke no English until he first went to school.  I have played around with German (particularly on an old Rosetta Stone CD, back when those puppies came free with the computers- ah those were the days).  I call my dog a “hund” and check out language resources for these two when I’m in the store, but for now that’s where it ends.  Someday though, my friends, someday we’ll be together and it will be lovely.

Italian made the list purely by sound.  When I took singing lessons, my favorite pieces were Italian Arias.   I LOVE the sound of Italian- the way it flows off the tongue, the rolling “r’s”, the trills, the rhythm- it may be the most beautiful language to my ears.  (Don’t be offended, my other loves- you each have your own internal beauty.)

Mandarin and Arabic made the list for practical reasons.  Both languages are very widely spoken and are becoming powerhouses in the worlds of business and networking.  I have been doubly blessed by making many friends from China, Taiwan, and Saudi Arabia, which means I’ll have lots of mentors and speaking partners when I decide to get serious with them.

Swahili has probably the most unique reason for being on my list.  After looking at the rest of my list, I realized that if I learned the rest of my list, I would speak a primary language on each continent, except Africa.  Therefore, I added Swahili to round out the list.

Languages I’m Creating: JAGIS  (Don’t judge me- synthetic languages are just as loveable! J )

A friend of mine is writing a science fiction book.  After years of listening to me complain about how so few science fiction programs address the obvious language issues, she decided to make it a cornerstone of a series she’s working on.  A girl transported across time and space is forced to learn the new language of her surroundings- of course, to do this, she needed a brand new language.  THUS, yours truly is working on creating one.  It is one of the most fascinating challenges I’ve ever undertaken and also one of the most difficult.

Languages I’m Seriously Considering: Tagalog  (It bought me a drink, gave me its number, I just haven’t made the call.)

Tagalog is a primary language of the Philippines.  Immigration has brought a wave of people speaking this language to my area and a few administrators at different schools have noted how valuable it would be to have someone on staff who spoke it.  I hate when family members of my students feel uncomfortable attending school events due to language difficulties, and so this language is on my definite “to check out” list.  At my current place of employment, it is not a pressing need so it ranks fairly low right now, but populations shift regularly so it may move back up the list at some point.

Languages I’ve Got my Eye On: Quichiwa and Arapaho  (I keep checking them out but neither of us have made a move.)

These are Native American languages.  Quichiwa is from Ecuador and Arapaho is from the Southwest.  Both appeal to me on many levels.  I love Native American culture and feel it has been minimized far too often.  Both are endangered languages with only  hundreds of speakers left and therefore are in need of more users to keep them alive.  I’d like to be part of that.

So there is my list and my reasons.  Lord knows it’s long and I know it’ll probably only get longer.  But that’s okay.  Even if I don’t become fluent in every one of these, just dabbling in them makes me happy.  Feel free to share what languages are on YOUR list- I’m curious why you picked the languages you did.  Plus, perhaps our little Tumblr community can help each other find resources and practice partners, particularly for those tongues with less resources.



Original Article Posting can be found here.  Originally posted 04/22/14.

Loving Languages or A Wordy Romance

If I had to blame someone, I guess it would be Muzzy.

Those simple commercials with the green, furry, and friendly monster where the girl just a wee bit older than myself spoke perfect French?   They managed to ignite a fire. 

It started off innocently enough.  I’d go to the library every week in the summer and check out dozens of books and among them would be something language related.  Which language didn’t matter really- some weeks it was American Sign Language, others it was Spanish, on more than one occasion it was Japanese.  We lived in a small town and therefore the language learning options weren’t exactly plentiful, but I made my way diligently through what WAS available, poor pronunciation be damned. 

Then came an ACTUAL language class- high school Spanish I.  I found out languages weren’t a simple “take Spanish word A and replace English word A” process.  They were living, breathing organisms complete with unique grammatical structures and nuances of inflection and pragmatics and different body language and more!  I’d always loved grammar (I was that weird kid who LIKED diagramming sentences) and the complexity of my passion just endeared it all the more to me.

My language list was growing out of control, seemingly headed for a heartbreaking crash.  In my late teenage years, I knew I wanted to speak over half a dozen languages and that that number would likely only increase with age.  But I lived in a small town with a small library with only one shelf dedicated to foreign languages (ASL among them) and almost none of those came with grammar explanations or pronunciation tapes.  Surely it was all a pipe dream…

Enter “The Internet.”

Thousands…. Millions of free resources at the click of a button.  Entire websites and databases dedicated to learning languages.  Soundclips and video and native speakers to practice with- I had entered linguistic nerdvana.  Languages I had never heard of suddenly became “must haves” on my list to learn and I gave myself over to the notion that speaking 15 languages before I died was no longer impossible, though possibly improbable.

So here I am at age 29 with a list of 2 mastered languages, 2 in-progress languages, another 8 must-learn languages, and a few more on the “well if I get time…” list.  I have a Bachelor’s in Spanish Education and a Master’s in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) which really should be called a pedagogic linguistics degree.  I’m a polyglot, a linguist, a lover of foreign tongues, and an admirer or accents.  And I want to offer whatever help I can to others like me.  Because while the vast number of resources now available to us linguaphiles is incredible, it also can be intimidating and overwhelming.

The goal of this blog is to help equip our kind with knowledge to wade through the resources and find the ones best suited to our task.  It is also to hold discussions and even rants about language learning and cultural competence and all the myriad of concepts that play into it.

I’m not a believer in “experts.”  I’m a believer in a shared community of learning and resources.  And I’m a believer that learning each others’ languages is the best way to start learning each others’ hearts.

Muzzy stole my heart with a few words in French a long time ago.  Which language has stolen yours?


Original Article Posting can be found here.  Originally posted 03/03/14.