December 16, 2011

December 16, 2011

Speak to Me

Found myself researching languages for a work project recently. I was shocked (shocked, I tell you) to realize just how many languages are out there. Without getting into dialects and all that, you’re talking hundreds of languages. Lingua franca though it may be, English has a lot of company.

One of my high school math teachers had a big diagram of the Indo-European family of languages on her classroom wall. (If you’re wondering why a math teacher had English-themed room décor…me too.) The language names were written on little pieces of paper, connected by strings that all eventually led back to a little box labeled “Indo-European.” While waiting for my classmates to finish their algebra problems, I puzzled over this diagram, intrigued by its apparent lack of tape (how was it sticking to the wall) and its neat classification of ideas.*

1. Whatever happened to the continent of Indo?
2. Isn’t Manx a disease?
3. Why does Albanian get its own branch? It’s such a tiny country.
4. What are the odds that Saxon makes a comeback?

And so on.

It’s a funny business, language. I mean, we’ve been around for somewhere between six thousand and a quadrillion years, yet we still have more languages than flavors of Diet Coke. Shouldn’t we all speak the same thing by now? Are we waiting until technological advances make speech obsolete? (I would ask similar questions about the continued existence of blondes and people with blue eyes, but those characteristics are shrouded in genetic mystery and Punnett squares.) You can’t pick your kid’s hair color, but you certainly can choose to teach him Mandarin. GET ON IT, PARENTS. (I own several sets of Korean flashcards, if you’re interested.)

While we’re talking about kids and languages, I’d also recommend teaching them how to read music and program in C#. You’re spending a lot of money on your child. Maximize the investment. Increase future earnings viability. We’ll all thank you later from our climate-controlled brain jars.

But anyway, more power to the people who not only knew about the whole Indo-European thing (minus one if that’s only because you went to high school with me) and mucho bonus points to people who speak multiple languages. I hope [country of your second language] comes out on top after the apocalypse. I took French in high school, so it’s not looking good for me.

* You know I love me some classification. I did so well in biology because it’s the Container Store of sciences). Kingdom, phylum, class, shelf, and shoebox.

0 Fish in a Sea of Diet Coke: