all my heroes are weirdos

We're All Mad Here

vernacular spectacular

un homme qui parle trois langues est trilingue
un homme qui parle deux langues est bilingue
un homme qui ne parle qu’une langue est anglais

~ Claude Gagnière

a man who speaks three languages is trilingual
a man who speaks two languages is bilingual
a man who speaks one language is English

Nothing screams colonial arrogance like the British attitude to languages.

There are over 6,500 tongues left but the number is dwindling at a rate so fast that half of them will be gone within the next hundred years. Mandarin still just about ranks number one most spoken but despite hailing from a relatively small landmass, English is continuing to take over the world.

How can we not be spellbound by speech?

J’ai appris le français depuis l’âge de cinq ans, in schola Latine didici, Deutsch seit vierzehn Jahre alt, yo comprende un poquito español y ho imparato un po italiano.

I developed my borderline polyglottic tendencies at an early age when my parents sent me to an after school French for Fun class at the age of five, but the real fascination in languages began when I seven years old, playing in a swimming pool in Sanremo, Italy.

There was a little girl there of a similar age to me with bronzed skin and beach blonde hair. Ihr Name war Sandra, she was German. We couldn’t communicate in words but we managed to play together for hours, her speaking her language, me speaking mine. I remember being captivated by the way her mouth moved, the harsh sounds she made from the rear of her throat and how some of her utterances sounded similar to mine. Sollen wir schwimmen gehen?

I learned Latin for a year at school and although the only two words I really remember are puella cadit {the girl falls}, it’s been the language lego that’s since helped me piece together German, Spanish and Italian and even get a better understanding of English.

To have a second language is to have a second soul

Switching from one language to another genuinely feels like stepping into another cognitive Kingdom. I’ve got a bizarre habit of thinking and dreaming in French presque chaque jour and sometimes when I play scrabble I put down a foreign word without even realising.

Languages change the way you shape your mouth, the way your tongue tickles your teeth and the intonation of your voice but they also have the power to completely shape the way you look at the world around you.

Studies have shown that there are differences in the structure of our cerebral matter. Brains of bilingual people operate differently to those of single language speakers. Multilinguals have a propensity to find innovative solutions to practical problems, our capacity to process information increases and memories improve. Additional uncited benefits include increasing your potential friends base, an easier time whilst travelling and heightened eavesdropping capabilities.

Save Our Speech

A globalised tech-filled world is having an impact on language and it’s both enthralling and sometimes saddening to watch. We’re heading down the route of English becoming a universal language. It’s the official language of seventy countries and the lingua franca of the internet spelling out content on 51% of websites.

Language extinction is real and when a language dies, the knowledge of and ability to understand the culture who spoke it is threatened.

I know it’s more difficult to pick up languages the older you get, so it’s good to hear that more and more schools in the UK have been introducing languages into their core programs from as early as nursery. But it would be ever nicer to hear English-speaking adults making some effort when travelling abroad to learn a little bit of local.

K Arrivederci.

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