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Languages

I love different languages. In another life, I may have studied linguistics and become a translator. Even though linguistics is not my profession, it is my interest, and I’ve learned a bit about English from each language I’ve spent time studying.

French

I took French in middle school, high school and at college. It is my next best language, although I’m still not fluent. I’ve been to Montreal and Paris. In both places, I realized my biggest hurdle is hearing what they have to say. Now, I listen to French pop music and watch streaming shows and movies in French.

I’ve learned a lot about verb tense, mood, overall grammar and subtle pronunciation through French. We have lost a lot of sophisticated speech. French has shown me some interesting ways people can communicate that hardly appear in English anymore.

Russian

I took Russian at college as an elective course. I’ve been fascinated with it since mid-teen years, but back then, it was a lot harder to learn. After I took a year at college, I finally understood some basic Russian grammar. I now listen to Russian pop music and whatever else I can make time for.

The biggest lesson so far from Russian is how we form sound. In Russian, we learned about hard and soft sounds, such as “buh” and “puh”, “guh” and “kuh”, or “zee” and “see”. The best way to convey this concept is to have people pronounce Azkaban (as in JJ Rowling’s Prisoner of Azkaban from the Harry Potter series). You’ll notice people pronounce it one of two ways. Either they say “Askaban” or “Azgaban”. This is because the hard z and soft k clash. You either have to soften the z to an s or harden the k to a g.

German

I recently studied the tiniest bit of German before taking a trip to Berlin. I bought Rosetta Stone for German, and I enjoyed it greatly. I didn’t get nearly as far in it as I would have liked before the trip, but I learned so much about how closely English is to German.

I learned words like apfel, which is apple, grĂ¼n, which is green and woche, which is week. I definitely had a harder time trying to speak German, but I also had the least investment in being wrong. I knew I was limited and my only option was to try. I even picked up a few new words and managed to muddle through ordering food every day. It was liberating and fun.