Sunday, February 10, 2013

Languages

After reading Tolkien's "English and Welsh" lecture and feeling entirely inferior because I only speak one language fluently, I am interested to hear about my classmates' language experiences. What languages are you fluent in? What languages do you dabble in? What's your favorite thing about studying a "foreign" language?

I regret to say that I only really speak English. I've a basic knowledge of French and Spanish after studying both in school for a time. I am, however, fluent in Ubbi Dubbi (anyone who watched PBS's show ZOOM as a kid knows what I'm talking about!). My favorite thing about studying languages is the beauty of the sound of "the ordinary words for ordinary things" as Tolkien calls them. For some reason, Spanish and French names for common objects sound so much better to my ears!

5 comments:

Megan said...

This was/still is the scariest thing about my decision to become a medievalist. You simply cannot be one without multiple languages in your tool belt, and things like Latin are proving difficult! I used to think I could be good enough at other things to avoid it or make up for it, but it's really not the case. So I'm resigned to it I guess.

On the other hand! Language learning is a rewarding, enriching experience! If nothing else, the grammar you learn in other language classes teaches you about English grammar. And it also builds character, and I mean that!

And it eventually even can become fun! I think it's like a muscle that you exercise, and learning new languages becomes easier as you go? So I feel that's how Tolkien felt about languages--it came easily for him because that "muscle" was always strong--and it was, additionally, fun! He clearly enjoyed learning languages, otherwise he would not have learned so many and made up so many of his own!

Ashley Cauley said...

Sarah, I can empathize with you. I too am fluent only in English (although I have taken Spanish through 202). Currently, I am taking Greek 102 and will have to go to 202 with that as well (so scary!) For me, languages are extremely difficult and bothersome, but I attribute that to the fact that learning a language is easiest in the early toddler years, not college. However, I like being able to use words or even small sentences in languages other than English. Languages have moods, so to speak, for me. They all sound so different and have amazingly inventive grammer. I can see how Tolkien could have become immersed in them at a very young age. Even though I don't speak any form of elvish, when you read it in Tolkien's works you can still get the "mood" or "feeling" of the words.

Anna Adams said...

I'm glad you made this post so that I can brag about my language skills. (Just kidding.) I am double majoring in English and German. I've been learning German for a little over the past five years. I actually am planning to go to Germany for the month of June as a part of that school trip you guys might of heard about. I know enough German that I could have an awkward conversation with a German person. My favorite part about studying another language is pretty much EVERYTHING. I enjoy the way it sounds, I like learning the grammar, and I feel pretty good about myself when I add to my vocabulary. Also, it's interesting how Germans have words for things that we don't.

And I agree with Megan about how learning another language helps you learn English grammar. German has helped improve my English grammar by a lot, such as the difference between who and whom and the difference between lay and lie, which are used the same in German as they are in English.

Richard Wentworth said...

I'm only fluent in English, but I've studied Spanish and am now studying Latin. I think it's fun to translate writing; I have a lot more trouble with speech.

I like the thought about the beauty of ordinary words. I think there's a lot of that in English, too, but I know when I hear English words I tend not to hear the sound of the word first (or at all), but understand the meaning of it.

Lorin said...

Ubbi Dubbi, yesss! Haha, besides that, I'm only fluent in English and know just a bit of Spanish. I think there's something totally enchanting about other languages, though. Every once in a great while when I'm out and about, I'll hear someone speaking something other than Spanish, and I will literally stop in my tracks to listen to whatever it is (even if I have no idea what it is). I love that Tolkien seemed to have felt perhaps the same way about language - that he loved the aesthetic quality of it.