Greetings! I am Mashkioya, and I am a language nut. I am not a linguist (although admittedly, being a linguist would be pretty cool), and I don’t often use the word “polyglot” because it sounds kind of ugly, and not many people know what it means. Plus, I don’t claim to aspire to fluency in 20 languages, or anything like that. I just like to dabble, and happen to have dabbled quite a bit in this particular area. Thus, I am a language nut.
You may have heard this proverb among Latin students:
Latin is a language,
Dead as it can be.
First it killed the Romans,
And now it’s killing me!
I understand the sentiment, but instead of thinking of the languages I learn and speak as enemies out to kill me, I like to think of them as friends. Some of them I’ve been acquainted with my entire life, while others are budding relationships that I’m just beginning to explore. And each one is beautiful and unique in its own way. This post will begin a series in which I will introduce you to my language friends, one by one, and hopefully motivate you to get to know them as well, or at least to begin widening your linguistic circle in other directions.
Have you ever wondered why we call one’s first language their “native language”? Nativity really has little to do with it, since I would certainly have grown up with a different native language if placed in a different environment after birth, no matter who my parents were.
At any rate, my native language—mother tongue—is English. That is unsurprising, considering it is the main language in my native country, and it is also part of my heritage, since I am of the ubiquitous Smith clan on my mother’s side.
In the past, I have been rather harsh on my native tongue, calling it things like “boring.” But, deep down inside, I do love English, even if it does feel too familiar at times.
I was raised by a book-loving mother, and she kept me with a steady supply of books to feed my verbivoracious appetite. Most of what I read was either out of print, or public domain, so I learned my share of 1950’s slang and flowery Victorian vocabulary. I will admit that I rarely turned to a dictionary, preferring to pick up new words by osmosis—sometimes not so successfully.
But all this reading gave me an appreciation for the English language—not only as I speak it in 21st century America, but how it has developed over time. I love our rich vocabulary, and how a certain word can be the perfect garnish to a situation or sentence.
I also love our flexible (and to learners, often confounding) grammar system. Phrasal verbs are whimsy, and through tactful use of pronouns, you can choose to reveal the gender of a person you are talking about, or not. (Note that I am talking about actual spoken English here, not prescriptivist grammar.)
I love how I can say the same thing in different ways in English. Words can be chosen lovingly and considerately, or, as the Scottish musician Dougie Maclean sings, some use
High talk carefully chosen to distance and hold well away
Thin words more than the gentlest of hearts can honestly say
English is great, and I’m glad I speak it. But as I learned more about the world, it was not long before I felt the desire to learn other languages too… and those will be covered in future posts. Thanks for reading!