People sometimes ask how many languages I know. I generally answer “one”. English.
Then they ask how many languages have I studied. Ah.
Which languages have I studied formally? In chronological order of studying them in school/university/seminary:
- Akkadian (before Hebrew)
- Hieroglyphic Egyptian
That does not mean I read or speak them fluently. If you do not use a language it starts to evaporate. I had to review Biblical Hebrew in order to teach it for a few years at a state university. I have returned to using it regularly. Witness the long list of Hebrew notes posted at Plenum Creaturis.
Which languages have I studied informally (which includes watching or listening to language lessons by Pimsleur borrowed from the library).
- Farsi (Persian)
- Danish (hoping to take a swing at Finnish and complete Scandinavia)
- Lithuanian (important for linguistic reasons)
- Indonesian (easiest language I have encountered)
- Dari (in progress)
Do not be impressed. What one learns in a Pimsleur language course would take up one short paragraph. A Pimsleur language course is like an appetizer. It is at most a brief introduction to the phonemic inventory of a given language and to the basic rudiments of its grammar. Pimsleur courses rarely explain grammar. Generally it throws words and phrases at you and at some point we are supposed to figure out how the language works. In other words its approach is almost exclusively inductive.
Excuse me, do you speak/know/understand English? I/you do (not) know/speak/understand that. You speak/know/understand very well/a little. Are you American/native? Where is place? Here or there(?) I/you would like something to eat or drink(?) I/you would like to drink water/coffee/tea/wine/beer. When? My/your place(?) What time is it? Now or later(?)
No seriously that is basically what you learn over the course of ten lessons. Pimsleur language courses generally follow the same script.
I appear to have a knack for learning other languages. Perhaps it started way back when I was around six. We lived next to a family from Quebec who spoke French. My family had a wonderful dictionary with sections devoted to several languages so I learned words and phrases. Found my dad’s Russian textbook in the basement and taught myself to read Cyrillic (imperfectly).
Update 2018-06-20 = Expanded the final paragraph. Что бы вы хотели сделать?
Update 2018-10-14 = Updated the list of languages. I work my way through a basic/conversational language course about once a month. I am starting to forget language lessons from several months ago.
Update 2019-05-17 = Updated the list to include Hindi, Japanese, Croatian, Polish. I also am learning to read Hindi in Devanagari script.
Update 2019-08-14 = Working on Tagalog. Might try Indonesian next.
Update 2019-10-28 = Have worked on a few after Tagalog. Romanian Czech, Punjabi, Ukrainian, Dari. Ukrainian is more different from Russian than I expected. Dari is very similar to Farsi/Persian and is sometimes considered a dialect.