This week, I finished the Italki Diversity Language Challenge. You can read about the challenge here. The challenge ran throughout July. I decided to have 11 taster lessons in 11 new languages. Each lesson was for 45 or 60 minutes. A couple of days after each lesson, I made a video in the new language and one final video with all 11 languages together.
These are the languages I did for the challenge:
- Azeri – I had no experience of Turkic languages and I’d like to visit Azerbaijan at some point. Surprisingly, I didn’t find it too difficult but my tutor encouraged a lot of repetition as I only had one lesson and we needed the language to stick.
- Lithuanian – This was the only one of these 11 languages where I knew some words beforehand but I wasn’t able to speak in full sentences. My grandfather would be happy I did Lithuanian. He could speak it and wanted me to learn it.
- Georgian – This was one of the most interesting for me to experience. I definitely plan to visit Georgia and the language is not linked to any other major languages and belongs to the Kartvelian language family. It was a challenge to learn but very enjoyable at the same time.
- Blackfoot – Again, one of the most interesting for me. I have wanted to learn some of a Native American language for a while so this was my perfect opportunity. Blackfoot belongs to the Algonquian language family and is spoken in both Canada and the United States. There are three main tribes and they have teasing names for each other.
- Yoruba – I had wanted to include an African language as the only one I had studied before was Wolof. Yoruba belongs to the Edkiri language family and is an official language in Nigeria. Although that derives from the Niger-Congo family like Wolof, I couldn’t see any similarities to Wolof in my lesson. I was glad to see there were no verb conjugations to learn! They have countless polite greetings in Yoruba and people greet you depending on what you are doing. These greetings are prefixed by the expression “e ku”. For example “e ku ijoko o” would be a greeting to someone who is sitting down and could be translated as “happy sitting”. The expressions change slightly when said to an elder. In Yoruba, they have a word for ‘snow’ which is rare and so not many native-speakers know it. This may be because Nigeria doesn’t have snow, but if they want to talk about snow they would maybe say ‘cold’ or just use the English word.
- Latvian – I found Latvian quite similar to Lithuanian. I did the Lithuanian lesson the week before Latvian so I didn’t find the lesson difficult. The stress on some words was different than Lithuanian and I found the pronunciation slightly more difficult. However, as I had already memorised the vocabulary from my Lithuanian lesson, I found that helped me remember the new Latvian words that were similar.
- Welsh – I decided to do Welsh as I can already speak some Scottish Gaelic, another Celtic language. The vocabulary wasn’t very similar to Scottish Gaelic but I think the grammar may be, although I couldn’t be sure unless I learned the language in more depth. This was one of the most difficult of the 11 languages because when I tried to read the words, I was pronouncing everything incorrectly and needed a lot of input from the teacher to help me get that right. If I wanted to continue, there are lots of resources for Welsh compared to other Celtic languages.
- Fuzhounese – I have been learning Mandarin Chinese for over a year and I knew that my regular tutor also taught Fuzhounese. I had a really fun lesson and the structure of the language seemed similar to Mandarin, some words were similar but some completely different. It is also a tonal language. However, I couldn’t really find any resources. Perhaps there would be some available in China, but online there weren’t many. My tutor has some free lessons on her YouTube channel.
- Faroese – This one was a surprise. I was expecting it to be easy because I can already speak Norwegian. Not so! I could understand the written language quite well but the pronunciation was very different to Norwegian. As some of the words were very similar, I kept reading them using Norwegian pronunciation rules, which of course was wrong. After a while, I finally got used to pronouncing those difficult vowels. Faroese grammar is much more difficult than Norwegian because Faroese has cases.
- Urdu – I chose Urdu because there are a lot of speakers in my local community, including in my workplace. I recognised some words that were similar to Arabic such as “safar” for “travel” and “kitabe” for books. They use English words for modern inventions such as ice-cream. It was fun to show my video to the Urdu speakers at work.
- Croatian – I chose Croatian because I am going there next month. I found it very similar to Slovak. Seen as I had just spent 3 months learning Slovak quite intensively, I found this lesson pretty easy. I hope now I can get by on my trip to Croatia.
Here is my video where I speak in all 11 languages after one lesson in each: