Language challenges and experiments

One Keith Brooks over at the 37languages blog runs an interesting experiment. He is ‘speed dating’ the said number of languages, ie. learning a little bit about each to determine which are interesting/worth further study/whatever and then narrowing his choice. Interesting, even if the analysis is not particularly in-depth (how could it be?). Bonus points for embedding this lovely video. I mean, Great Albania and UCK and Mother Theresa and pop divas all in the same clip… wow.

I guess I could say I’ve been ‘speed-dating’ languages (and you can bet that there were more than 37 of them) for quite a number of years. Only in my case the break-up part  wasn’t done on purpose – I never meant to only test them, I sincerily wanted to learn – but because of…. I dunno, call it language wanderlust, short attention span, laziness, whatever. Needless to say those days are (or should be) long gone – with the scarce amount of free time I have now, it would be foolish to triffle it away. But then again, everybody’s a fool sometimes.

Another thing I always wanted to try, and sort of never did, was taking up a challenge of learning a language up to a certain degree of fluency, in a limited period of time, say, three months. Hard to do if don’t have the patience and nobody’s watching (having an audience motivates).

There’s also a language-challenge of mine which is still on-going . There’s a couple of languages, either completely obscure or just underrepresented on the English- and Polish-language Intertubes, that I decided to build up an Internet presence for. I’m sort of happy with my efforts on Lezgi (for English-speaking audience) and Persian (for Poles), even though they have both had their ups and downs.

But then there’s a couple of more languages I am quite fond of and for which I would like to do the same thing, more or less, but find it difficult due to lack of knowledge/resources/contact with native speakers.

So, if you happen to be:

a) a linguistically-inclined fluent speaker of: Albanian, Bahasa Indonesia, Chuvash, any Daghestani language, Hawrami or any other Kurdish variety, any Iroquian language, Kabardian, Malagassy, Mari, Oromo, Pashto, Somali, Tetum, Wolof, Yoruba, Xhosa or Zulu

b) interested in creating Internet-based learning material geared towards Anglo- and/or Polonophones

… drop me a line. If b) applies and a) doesn’t – not a problem, write me, too.

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  • eskandarj  On April 17, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    While I don’t think I’ve quite covered 37 languages, I definitely suffer from language wanderlust as well. In my defense, I very rarely abandon a language completely; more often, I put it on the back-burner and slowly (passively) absorb more knowledge over time until I feel like returning to it.

    How did you pick Hawrami out of all the Kurdish dialects? Contact while you were in Iran? I’m interested in Kurdish (particularly Sorani, for practical reasons) as well as Pashto and Somali, though I don’t have much time to dedicate to serious study of them, as I’m trying to stay focused on other languages.

  • peterlin  On April 17, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    I don’t abandon them completely either, at least not the ones I’d covered an entire textbook-worth of – once in a while, conscience strikes and I return to, say, Hungarian or Georgian, but to little avail.

    Hawrami is because I had this forehead-slapping ‘how stupid I am’ moment in Kermanshah when I asked people which Kurdish varieties were spoken in the town and around it. At that time I thought I knew all I needed to know about Kurdish ‘dialects’ (Kurmanci/Sorani/Gorani division plus Zaza/Dimli controversy plus some Laki/Feyli fuzziness on the transition towards Lori). But they threw back at me two names I had never heard before: Kalhori in Kermanshah proper and (H)awram(an)i westwards from it.

    Of these I’m more interested in the latter because of the Yarsanis. Like Yezidis, but better, because even less people have heard about them. I’m kidding a bit, but I am indeed ‘interested’ (as in, would like to know but won’t bent over backwards to learn) in these religions and the language is under-documented.

  • eskandarj  On April 17, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    I’m interested as well – much of my senior thesis had to do with minority religions in Iran, though it focused more on the larger minorities and their emigration into diaspora.

    By the way, how’s your Armenian coming along? Yes shad uzum em sovorel hayeren, but I haven’t made much progress (and I’m sure I made a bunch of errors just in that sentence).

    • peterlin  On April 20, 2009 at 8:20 am

      My Armenian is one of the things you best not ask me about these days :) I’m trying to stay afloat – my goal for the next week(s) is “try not to forget too much” and not “try to learn”. Very busy time it is. I can guarantee that you’ll notice when I’m back to Armenian.

      (Re)turning to Kurdish – the only variety I’ve ever tried to learn is Sorani (I was using Thackston’s grammar) and I may be coming back to that (Suleimani, to be precise) in the indefinite future. BTW, have you seen this site? Quite a number of books available for free download.

  • eskandarj  On April 20, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    Be sure to post if you do return to Kurdish, maybe I’ll be motivated to play around with it a bit in my free time. Thanks for the link, I hadn’t seen it before!

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