If you could wake up tomorrow and be fluent in any language you don’t currently speak, which would it be, and why? What’s the first thing you do with your new linguistic skills?
Language is a touchstone of culture, place, and connectivity. We revert to our native tongue when we are emotional, have the desire to confide secrets and innermost feelings, often to a family member who speaks the same variant, or build rapport with a stranger who might happen to be a fellow speaker.
Speaking one’s mother tongue takes us home, wherever in the world we may physically be. Language recalls elements of our culture: food, relationships, heroes and legends, families, social cues and taboos, customs, and even social station.
Every language is unique, and there are certain phrases that cannot be literally translated word for word into another language without losing importance, context, and sometimes, quite colourful nuances. For example, “Taking credit for someone else’s achievements”, translated into Chinese, is “Wearing someone’s posterior on your face.” My experiences with Google Translator and a couple of the Romance languages has been an equally hilarious one.
Why do we learn languages that can often be a complete 360 of, and have no emotional connection to, our mother tongue? For some, there is certainly a challenge to doing it, but there can also be a desire to embrace the culture that underlies it.
For those reasons (and more, below), I think I’d like to learn Esperanto. There is something unique and appealing about learning a language that has no specific ethnic homebase or geographic concentrations of speakers, and yet embraces the morphological, semantic, phonemic, and lexicological elements of many languages–including Indo-European, Romance (French, Spanish, Italian), Slavic, Germanic, Greek, Russian, Polish, and Germanic1.
Esperanto is a constructed (the most widely spoken in the world2), intuitive and politically neutral language.3 There are as many as 2 million-10 million Esperanto speakers and students around the globe, hailing from a diversity of countries–including many northern and central European countries, China, Korea, Japan, Iran, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and Togo in Africa.3 Studies have also shown Esperanto to be a springboard from which to learn other languages.5
The first thing I’d do with my new linguistic skills? Write a WordPress blog post in Esperanto. 🙂
1,2,3,4,5Statistics have been sourced from the Esperanto Wikipedia profile.
- Daily Prompt: Take That, Rosetta! (dailypost.wordpress.com)