Who’s that language (for you)?

TrollGroupIn my life, languages are characters, with different roles and personalities. I’m sure that this reflects my particular experiences with each of them more than anything else, but it is how I perceive them.

What’s English to me? A smart and funny colleague, though unfortunately a bit self-obsessed. German is a close pal, Spanish a kind and valued neighbour. Dutch is my lover, Limburgish my Mum. French and I largely ignore one another, as if we never met. With all others – half-forgotten, known only by sight or complete strangers – I am on nodding terms at best.

How is this for you? I would love to know your associations and connotations with the languages you speak, or have tried to learn. Are they characters, as they are for me? Colours perhaps? Tools, tastes, textures? Or perhaps you have no idea what I’m talking about – that too would be interesting to know.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you! I will publish the answers I receive in a new blogpost. If you understand Dutch (or don’t mind reading a machine translation), you can find more answers here.

6 thoughts on “Who’s that language (for you)?

  1. I love this post; I’m glad there are others who feel the same way about languages. To me, Chinese is a kind grandparent who’s sometimes hard to understand, Taiwanese a funny friend, Russian my mother, Polish my first love, Spanish the friend who shows me everything I did not know about the world. Japanese is a celebrity crush, Korean a kind acquaintance, German someone intimidating I’d really like to get to know better, and French a long-time neighbor I have not spoken much to. I do not have an association for English. Perhaps within these associations, I am English.

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  2. Russian is an ocean to me — no limits, no end in sight — an absolute immensity both in width (inherent expressive tools of the language) and in depth (bottomless vocabulary). Polish means elegance and politeness. Ukrainian is made to sing it.

    Yiddish (which calls itself ‘màme-lošn’ — ‘Mom’s language’) and Belarusian taste home, bread, warm milk and fireplace — so sweet and cozy.

    Baltic languages are my distant relatives, but Lithuanian lives in a countryside, he is a farmer and loves to sing; and Latvian lives in a town, he is a school teacher and he loves to preach.

    Flemish Dutch tastes comfort and tranquility. And easiness too — the only Germanic language (along with Yiddish, though) that you pronounce as if you were speaking Italian: no effort, no tension, just speak naturally as you breathe or swim. NL-Dutch seems a parody of the clear Flemish Dutch (sorry, Gaston) — why do you twist the word “uitgegroeid” so that I can’t recognise any single sound and ask to write it down? 🙂 Luxembourgish may seem a joke, but it isn’t. And it’s cool when you get used to it: http://kobzar.be/audio/luxemb_lang-lekzioun.mp3

    German is an impregnable citadel I can’t seize. German means hopelessness.

    Persian (Fārsi) is Italian written in Arabic script, but with a thick layer of sugar above. Italian itself is a non-stop aria. Sometimes I think that Italian should be declared the official language of the humanity because of its universality and softness.

    Hebrew and Arabic are professional soldiers: they march keeping step, they can only turn 90°. Alternatively, I compare them to the Periodic Table with the same degree of sturdiness and absolutism.

    Serbo-Croatian is a time machine: I feel like travelling to the original proto-Slavic language 12 centuries back in time. And guys — you have won the Pan-Slavic competition of romanisation: your gajevica is the best variant. Another high five is for the full equivalency between Latin and Cyrillic systems — bravo for having harmonised the two worlds.

    Bulgarian/Macedonian means paradox: you guys gave us a big part of the vocabulary and you can’t even decline nouns and adjectives?! Having cases is great, bring them back, you will appreciate!

    Hungarian doesn’t belong to our galaxy. Is it a language after all or is it just a chaotic sum of random sounds and characters?

    European Spanish looks like the Prodigal Son of the Romance family. European Portuguese is so weird that you finish by loving it.

    What colour is French? I consider French as the default language that everybody should speak. It is so habitual, so commonplace, obvious and omnipresent that it became colourless for me. I forgot how French was.

    English is Latin for me — the ultimate lingua franca (in case they unexpectedly don’t speak French). A language of science, computer interface, business, Wikipedia, web pages, manuals and reference books. Best choice if you want to be clear, precise and swift. Best fit to communicate with an air controller; probably not a best fit to make a declaration of love. I don’t know how English is. It is, that’s all, so thank you very much.

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  3. To me, my Italian language is like a musically gifted mother; the ancient Latin and Greek I learnt at school and I still fondly remember are one a wise, reassuring Grandfather, the other his elder, less familiar brother.
    English is a friend, an amusing, ever interesting friend, while French is my mother’s elegant cousin: I visit her every now and then. As for German, he is a serious, complicated uncle, one I didn’t really get to to know. Spanish is that funny neighbour who always makes me laugh because he reminds me of my Venetian dialect!
    FZ –

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  4. Italian is my warm and comfy slippers, English my functional and trusty everyday tool, French my romantic love, German my nemesis, Spanish a distant cousin, Japanese an inscrutable and unapproachable stranger, and Russian a passing acquaintance I wish I could get to know better.
    Anna R,

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