Supporting “The World Speaks!”

Recently, I announced that I am publishing my language guides on Amazon, with 25% of the proceeds going to the Akshayapatra Foundation, which sponsors school lunches for underprivileged students in India. This prevents children from dropping out of school early in order to make money for their families, and makes sure that they don’t go hungry.

I’ve decide that I’m going to put the guides back up for download for free. But, as I continue to publish material, I ask that you please purchase the guides from Amazon, not only to donate to Akshayapatra, but also to fund this project. The money helps support the site, as well makes sure that you all have access to more language-related content. I write these guides completely on my own, and I do my own research to bring the content to you. Also, I’m going to be university student soon, and that will take up more of my time. Please be patient with the production of new guides; I’m doing the best I can.

I hope you enjoy using this site to further your own language learning goals, and please buy the guides, either physical or Kindle copies, to support The World Speaks! and the Akshayapatra Foundation!

Song Breakdown – 童話(どうわ)- Fairy Tale (Post by Ineptidude)

This is the breakdown of the Japanese reprise of “Tong Hua,” (meaning Fairy Tale) a popular Chinese song originally by Michael Wong. Click the link below to view the PDF, which has the lyrics in Kanji along with English translations and a list of all the important vocabulary. (Note: This breakdown assumes that you know how Japanese verb conjugations and particles work.)

童話

한국어를 배워! – Hanguk-eo-reul bae-wo! is now available to download!

The Korean language guide is now updated and ready to be used! You can download it from the Language Guides page! The exercises may not be current, but I will be working to get those updated as well. The Portuguese exercises are also coming along. Have fun learning Korean! It was peer-edited by my Korean classmate, so hopefully it’s all correct. Please point out any mistakes, if there are any!

Why Minority Languages Matter

A lot of people will question learning minority languages such as Catalán, Navajo, or Irish. Many believe it is a waste of time, and that language death is inevitable. However, for the languages already mentioned, as well as several others, it is well within that community and other people’s capacity to help revitalize usage. Tom Scott makes a valid point about how if we let minority languages die, there are certain aspects of the human experience and capabilities of the brain that we let die with them. You can watch his video here: Fantastic Features We Don’t Have In the English Language.

Language is intimately linked to the way we live our lives. It is theorized that language evolved out of a method for human mothers to communicate with their children, and as human society became increasingly complex, involving multiple individuals in the process of raising children, it eventually became a medium for communicating with one another. Another hypothesis is that language is a vocal manifestation of one’s ideas. Ideas are apparent to oneself, in one’s mind, but not necessarily in comprehensible language. The idea is that humans needed a way to communicate their ideas and feelings regarding things, and that is why language evolved. Personally, the theory regarding mothers is a lot more plausible. There’s a reason, “motherese,” exists. However, these two hypotheses do point out crucial facts about the development of language. Languages have features based on the particular needs of a people in a certain place.

For example, the aboriginal language in Australia does not have words for left, right, up, or down, but rather assigns cardinal directions. As a result, most of the speakers of this language have an intuitive sense of direction..Some have proposed that due to the lack of landmarks for people to judge physical position in the Australian wilderness, language there had to have less arbitrary ways of describing direction. In a place like the Americas, the landscape is varied enough for people to judge direction based of off the various shapes of the land, and therefore, the language there can assign arbitrary directions, or at least directions revolve around a given point. The ability to distinguish direction in absolute terms is very useful, and demonstrates the capacity of the human brain to evaluate its surroundings as such. If this language dies out, we miss out on a generation of people who have this ability, and completely exclude it from the development of other people in the world.

Now, let’s look at a non-physical example. In Catalán, the construction no… pas is a nuanced one. It negates a predicate, and also indicates that this negation is contrary to a notion held by listener. This is a very useful feature, and is built into only a few words. It is for this reason that some non-native speakers of English can be very verbose, because they’re trying to express an equivalent sentiment of what might be a very short sentence in their native language. Implications and nuance are very important in some languages, especially in minority languages, where they can be unique to those languages. By letting such a language die, you allow a possibly more effective and expressive mode of communication die as well.

Perhaps the most grave loss in the process of language death is the loss of a culture and people. Language, as stated before, contains a great deal of history and knowledge behind the way people communicate. John McWhorter argues that language death and the loss of a culture are not necessarily linked. I refute this point, because of the reasons listed above. Skills and modes of expression that are exclusive to a particular language are part of a culture. A people lose a great deal of themselves in not being able to speak their language. There are things they will not be able to understand or express. Sure, they can maintain their traditions, but the meaning and history of those traditions is lost outside of the native language. By working to revitalize minority languages, even only within their indigenous areas, we maintain another part of the human experience. If it happened with Hebrew due to the work of Eliezer Ben-Yahuda, it can happen for any language at any time!

Languages are different for a reason. The subtle nuances and implications of certain words and phrases can often be lost in translation. There’s a reason that people who read manga in English will miss much of the symbolism, hidden meanings, jokes, puns, or wordplays that the original Japanese text might have. This is why I believe that translation can never do real justice to having a proper conversation in the language being translated. In a world with infinitely varied settings and circumstances, knowing other languages that express certain sentiments more accurately is paramount.

It’s been some time since I’ve written a full article. I haven’t really been doing much lately except writing language guides and subtitling Khan Academy videos (which you should do, if you know a language that you think people would benefit from having subtitles in).  I’d appreciate any comments on this, so feel free to leave some!

Scoprendo L’italiano! is now free!

Yesterday, I decided to take Scoprendo l’italiano: An Accessible Guide to Learning Italian off of Amazon and Createspace. It’s not so much that it didn’t sell, so that I could give the money to Akshayapatra, but rather that it didn’t really matter to me whether it sold or not, because I already donate with my own money anyway.

So, in the future, I will not be putting up books for sale, and instead will be making them available for download for free on a page called, “Language Guides,” on this blog. By doing so, I can update the file at my leisure if I feel there was something I missed in the document. I hope you all can use the book to learn Italian effectively!

Eventually, I will be posting the documents I made for Hindi and Korean, once I’m able to polish them up in formatting, write exercises and activities, and add cultural notes. There probably won’t be any photographs in the Korean document, as I won’t be going to Korea any time soon, although I have a great number of photos in India for Hindi. Please look forward to it!