On languages

Fri 04 March 2016

One of the things I’ll be covering here will be languages.

I’m currently learning a number of languages, though I’m taking some more seriously than others. The ones I’m currently taking seriously, in order of importance, are:

  • French
  • Spanish
  • Dutch

I would actually like to be able to speak all of these with some degree of fluency. I used to have reasonable French, though it’s degraded quite a bit since I did my Leaving Certificate, and would like to get up to B2 or so again, or even up to C1 or C2. I’d like to have enough Dutch to have a conversation with a native speaker and get by without having to resort to English. With Spanish, I’m aiming for a similar level of proficiency as French.

I’m also doing the following, but not quite so seriously:

  • Norwegian
  • Portuguese
  • Esperanto

I’m learning Portuguese to try an get a two-for-one: the langauges are close enough that having one should make having the other easier. Esperanto is something I’m learning purely for fun, and don’t think I’ll ever have any practical use for. And with Norwegian, I’m doing it purely out of curiousity to see how it contrasts with English and Dutch.

Conspicuously absent from that list is Irish. I’ve a funny relationship with Irish, just as many Irish people do. While from a purely technical perspective, I’ve a certain degree of proficiency, I can’t say I speak the language: I can pronounce it, I understand the grammar and syntax, I know how to spell it, and I’ve plenty of passive vocabulary. However, speaking and writing the langauge or even claiming to do so is a wholly different matter.

I’m also attempting to get my level of Irish up. I’d taken a break from practicing it on Duolingo for quite a while because I wanted to focus on the langauges that would have a more practical benefit, but I’ve started it again.

The idea of becoming properly proficient in Irish is for me more a matter of personal pride than anything else. My grandmother on my mother’s side was a gaeilgeoir (a native Irish speaker), but she never passed the now extinct dialect she spoke down to her kids, and by the time she had grandchildren, she felt it was too late, and it’s something she regretted. So, for me, there’s no patriotic motivation behind it, but purely one of wanting to honour somebody.

Given my technical proficiency, I’ve tried helping learners on Duolingo. Going forward, I’m going to be turning those notes into blog posts here. There’s not going to be a set order to these things, so please don’t expect it to turn into a tutorial on the Irish langauge. However, I’m hoping they eventually can be put in some kind of coherent and useful order. At the very least, it’ll give me something useful to link to!

And in the meantime, I’ll be trying to improve my actual proficiency, possibly to the point where maybe I’d have a decent level of Irish.

I also might put up notes on other languages here too. I know I’ve a lot to get off my chest about the design of Esperanto…

Category: Language