Matt Peperell's Blog

L is for "Languages"

Written: 13 Apr 2024 (Index by date)

Tags: a-to-z  languages  (Index by tag)

Today’s L-word is “Languages”.

I’ve had an interest in languages for as long as I can remember. My mum is good at languages too, so perhaps some of her interest influenced me.

In school I studied French, German and later Latin. I wasn’t overly good at Latin but I did enjoy it. Studying the language taught me plenty about English too, and I’ve found this to be the case with subsequent languages I’ve learned - whether formally or with self-study.

In a previous job (in 2015-6 ish), a colleague taught a series of lunchtime lessons in Spanish. I learned a little, but didn’t really continue. That said, I do remember one lunchtime towards the end of the course when I was buying lunch from a nearby takeaway and one of the servers had a Spanish flag on his name badge. I greeted him and explained that I’d been learning at work for a few weeks. I got given some free food (I think it was a cake, but I no longer remember)

Slightly longer ago (in late 2010) I learned Esperanto. Through that language I’ve made many friends across the world and travelled to many new countries. Often at Esperanto events there are taster courses for the language of the host country. As a result, I’ve toyed with Hungarian (the grammar and phonology of which I love) but haven’t continued it beyond some very basic phrases. (Barely enough to even understand responses!)

Many of the events have been in Poland and Slovakia. Despite having taken several of these taster courses, I’ve not really progressed. It’s weird; despite progressing (with mixed results) in other languages, this family is particularly troublesome for me. The language structure and phonology seems to not stick.

In late 2019 I went to Japan for the Polygot Conferene but extended the trip to spend almost 2 weeks there. Prior to the event I’d planned a head by having a few lessons in Japanese. This helped a little but it was only at a very elementary level. I’ve not continued my Japanese studies.

But the language Esperanto has been a continued theme in my life. I use it almost every day, even if outside of event this is limited to only a handful of short messages sent to friends online.

A recent language that I started studying in January 2022 is Mandarin, one of the languages of China. For almost 2 years I had a couple of lessons per week though a month ago I decided that I needed a break. As is often the case with life, energy levels go up and they go down. I felt like I needed a break. My goal when I set out was to be able to order food - which I can now do. I’m also able to read very basic children stories. I intend to resume lessons when the time is right.

When I speak with people about my interest in languages, a common question is “How many languages do you speak?”. That answer varies depending on what it means to speak a language. For European languages there is the CEFR. Using this a a metric I’d say I have (in addition to my native English) one at C2 (Esperanto), and two at A2 (French, German - years ago these were B1 perhaps bordering on B2) but one forgets through disuse.

Thinking about it, though I’ve had a number of passing interests, languages (along with bellringing and computers) have been pretty constant.

What language(s) do you speak, and to what level?

And unrelated speifically to languages but merely because my last-but-one paragraph touched on the subjet, do you find that your interests are mainly constant, or do they change over time?

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