Like most sheltered Brits, my first language is (UK) English. I tend to Standard English but have picked up a few dialectal words that I like and refuse to give back, even when they come from areas I only lived in for five minutes. It would be a lie to say I have only ever spoken English but it would be fair to say I only ever dabbled in the other languages I’ve been exposed to (French, German, Dutch) so my abilities with them have withered through lack of practise.
However, I always say I’ll do something about it because another language could be useful – and learning a language and / or being bi- / multilingual is good for the brain. So I looked, half-heartedly, at either picking up something I’ve already had a go at again or trying something new.
The half-heartedly is because I don’t want to give up my time at the expense of some other interest – say: reading, writing, fencing, blacksmithing, genealogy, and working (if only to afford the rest). I have enough difficulty juggling all the things I do without that kind of extra, formal demands. I had considered taking on something through work but, as I’ve not really done a job where there is a necessity for languages with my current work, that was unlikely.
Cymraeg / Welsh
I’m currently learning Welsh with SaySomethingInWelsh [External Link], an online course. Why Welsh? Achos ‘dw i’n gallu.
More seriously, I have always been interested in learning Welsh because of the Welsh ancestry, in much the same way that I find Welsh mythology a blast. That combined with the fact that the courses can be studied in my own time, when I can fit them in, and the introductory course was free – oh, and Stephen Fry mentioned it on Twitter – meant that it was worth a shot. Having attended a bootcamp week and now started paying for the next level course (£4 a month, and I feel like I’m stealing from them), I’m definitely in it for the long haul.
The course focuses on conversational Welsh and I have to say I’m finding myself without a strong desire to read and write Welsh. Sure, it’s good to be able to read signs, but I’ve no interest in attempting to read to the same level I do in English. At this stage. I may change my mind in a few years’ time. Either way, don’t expect to see this site available in Welsh any time soon – although you can expect me to drop in the odd Welsh word or phrase without bothering to explain it. This is what Google Translate [External Link] is for, after all.
Français / French
Although it’s embarrassing to admit how my French has disappeared, I did actually study French up to the equivalent of AS Level (I took it as my tertiery subject at Keele University [External Link]) and spent most of my school holidays from age 10 in France. In fact, I spent at least ten weeks a year for the best part of a decade here: Parc Naturel Régionel du Morvan [External Link]
The other giveaway that I started French quite early is that I tend to start sounding out any word that I don’t know (i.e. doesn’t seem English) with French sounds. I repeat, I do not speak French well. I have since started “relearning” using the Duolingo site [External Link]. I’m doing modules when I can, so not quite everyday but it’s been a useful refresher. We will see how useful it is when I actually have to use some French!