Thursday, September 20, 2007

languages

Today I was poking around linguistics sites and discovered that I had never heard of one of the top 10 languages in the world. I find this highly embarrassing. Also, I had no idea Bengali was bigger than Hindi. (This is first languages - they say English would probably be number one if they were counting second languages.)

My linguistic exploration eventually led me to this awesome site: Ethnologue. It's The Giant Repository of languages, and it has this totally cool thing where you can click on a map of the world, pick a country, and get a list of every language spoken in that country.

I checked out the two I'm most familiar with. First, Norway - I figured, ok, there's two official Norwegian languages (Nynorsk and Bokmål) and there's Sami, so that should be three. No - it turns out there are four Sami languages spoken in Norway and three gypsy languages. Then I looked at Japan - thinking, ok, Japanese and Ainu, that should be about it. Yeah. There are like a dozen languages spoken in the island chain that includes Okinawa. Plus Norway and Japan each has its own sign language.

So, basically, there are way more languages than I realized. I always get kind of upset when I read things like this, because I've only learned seven or eight. (I'm defining "learned" as "at some point in my life, have been able to form a sentence in.") I have a lot more to go!

Next I'm thinking about maybe tackling Polish. I'm thinking about going to Poland for my Ridiculous 2008 Adventure.

11 comments:

Coloradan said...

Let me guess--you'd never heard of Wu? Me neither, and I was an Asian Studies minor. But hey, you knew that there were lots of varieties of Chinese, right? I say that counts.

I'm not quite sure what to say about this:

"I always get kind of upset when I read things like this, because I've only learned seven or eight. (I'm defining "learned" as "at some point in my life, have been able to form a sentence in.") I have a lot more to go!

Next I'm thinking about maybe tackling Polish. I'm thinking about going to Poland for my Ridiculous 2008 Adventure."

except *cough*(showoff)*cough*

I mean, you go!

towwas said...

I know, I know. But I want to learn more languages! Like, all of them! Last night I spent a long time drooling over the website of a language school in Krakow. I think I should've been a linguist, except I have this suspicion that the actual work they do may not be that interesting.

Yep, Wu's the one. I knew there was a lot of Chinese, but I thought it was, like, Mandarin, Cantonese, Other.

Sophist said...

Life's not complete until you learn Manx or Cornish.

(my life is obviously not complete).

oooh Poland - my dad used to go there every year for some huge conference. What would you do there?

David J said...

Ah, but can you speak Bocce, the binary language of moisture vaporators?

towwas said...

I don't! Dammit, now I have to add that one to my wish list, too?

Sophist, I don't know what I would do...general tourism? Seek out primeval forest? Watch MTV Europe?

J-Vo said...

You should come visit ME instead. There's an awesome Polish restaurant around here. Plus you should probably check out the location prior to Reunion 2008....

BASSO said...

..hey, no fair counting Wu - Chinese is Chinese ain't it? Oh, then there is the Norwegian thing, once again ... never mind.

BASSO said...

I had to think about the Russian and Portuguese numbers, hmmm - BRAZIL - UKRAINE

towwas said...

I know, bad Westerner that I am, I do tend to think Chinese is Chinese. But then, despite there being two written forms, I also think Norwegian is Norwegian. :) And Norwegian is Swedish. And Danish. As they [who?] say - a language is a dialect with an army.

grrrbear said...

If you want to practice Polish before you go, come to Chicago and I'll take you to Norridge. Because of all the Polish immigrants and small businesses, it's like being in Poland except they use dollars.

Joanna said...

I totally did not know there were two forms of Norwegian. What are the differences? Are they more like dialects, or actually different languages?

However, I am pacified by looking at that list of the 10 most widely-spoken languages, and I too recognize all of them except Wu (and did know that 'Chinese' is actually multiple languages).