37 Languages on The World to … night!

Hey guys! Just a quick reminder that my interview (podcast and national broadcast) on The World will take place tomorrow on your local NPR station. The World is typically an evening program that airs between 7-9 p.m. Fund raising may preempt original programming so you have have to download the broadcast from the site.

I also wanted to give a HUGE shoutout to Dana McMahan, my colleague who runs an amazing travel/food blog called Traveling McMahans. Dana’s one of the few people who prodded me to do this, so without her pushing, the blog probably would not have made it this far. Please check out her site; you’ll love it if you love languages!

To find out when The World airs, please click here. The Finnish post is coming, by the way.

UPDATE: The The World of Words podcast featuring my interview is now available! You can listen to it online or on iTunes. And — if you’re interested — please subscribe! I also highly, highly encourage you to visit Patrick Cox’s blog. I cannot thank him enough for interviewing me and putting this all together. I’m still a little speechless.

14 thoughts on “37 Languages on The World to … night!

  1. Hello Keith!

    first things first: my name is ricard and i am linguistics graduate student at purdue university, in. i was just listening to npr and i heard your project. i thought it was very cool and i couldn’t help but contacting you.
    the idea of ‘speed dating’ languages is very cool, and i am sure that all of the languages that you are looking at have many interesting features (like the retroflex trill in norwegian that was mentioned in the radio report). however, in my opinion, most of these languages are very closely related (maybe too closely related) and do not fall too far from the options that one might consider when trying to learn a new ‘foreign’ language.
    so, if i may, let me suggest you something. my suggestion is: why don’t you consider some of the languages that are around in this country (and actually that have been around for far more time than english has) and that present not only very cool phonetic features, but also syntactic or morphological ones? there are many native american languages still spoken. and, actually, if you picked one you would not only benefit yourself from learning it, but you would also do something very valuable for all the community: make the world aware of their existence! you could have all your 37 choices right here: choctaw, chickasaw, cherokee, navajo, hopi, luiseno, ojibwe, blackfoot, miami, potawatomi…

    a second thing: depending on how you look at it, all languages are equally rich in their vocabulary. and all of them are equally complex, and interesting. so, if you pick a language, do not let ‘linguistic myths’ fool you.:)

    and a final thing: if you are looking for a cool language, with an inherent cool culture, and very cool features, consider sign languages. (asl is awesome!!!) very different languages, but still as rich and complex as any oral language.

    well, i hope you will read this and that you won’t find my suggestions to be too blunt. again, all of the languages in the world are cool, so you can never go wrong. but maybe your ‘true love’ was always there, just next to you, but you hadn’t ever noticed it.

    good luck with your search!

    take care,

  2. I just heard your segment on npr, and was very intruiged by your project. I am writing to advocate that you consider Swahili as one of your 37 languages. I have been studying (dating) swahili for about 10 years now, and it continues to seduce me with it’s intracicies, flexibility, and diverse vocabulary. A Bantu language at heart, but with an Arabic brain. I would love to hear what you have to say about Swahili, and hope that you represent the diversity and importance of African languages in our world history!
    Best regards and kazi njema!


  3. I was listening to the report about your project on The World and I heard you were going to study Armenian. I was wondering what drew you to that language. I was a Peace Corps Volunteer there and my partner and I are always looking for people to speak Armenian with. Can’t wait to hear what you think of it!

  4. Hi I herd your The World interview and I think that its very cool. I was wondering what is the name of the song that they played at the very end of that show ?
    Thank you very much

  5. Keith, what a wonderful and fascinating project!
    Question: Do you plan to study Western or Eastern Armenian?

    I’m going to guess Eastern, but you tell me first and then I’ll tell you what’s behind my guess.

    Also, Karen (previous poster), my family and I would be happy to speak Armenian with you!

  6. Hi

    Enjoyed the podcast

    I think you will find our site http://www.italki.com useful. You can do language exchanges with native speakers of your 37 languages. Both an exchange of language and culture. In addition we have resources and an answers section where our community can help you with any queries you might have

    Any feedback appreciated


  7. Keith,
    I was driving home from work today and had a(nother one of those) npr moment(s). What a concept you presented there! I liked it even before I heard about your flirt with Norwegian, which is my second language (English being no. 3- and my name should easily give away the no 1?) I never really asked myself what drew me to that language, or for that matter, towards the people. But in retrospect I can see that there was something that made it easy to learn, even as an adult. I came to spend 18 years of my life there, have a 25 year old daughter to speak Norwegian to. I think your story started a process of rethinking the story of ” how it all came about”. I think it is all the sudden possible to say that I did indeed fall in love with the language. I had never seen it that way. Thank you for that inspiration.

    Lykke til!


  8. I’m not sure if this is the best way to reply to everyone, but here goes!

    Richard: Thank you so much for checking out my blog! I think what I meant by “rich vocabulary” was “lots and lots of words.” I can understand how that can be considered a linguistic myth, though, I apologize for the confusion.

    Cody: Thank you for listening! Swahili wasn’t selected, but I will probably feature it in special segments in the blog. More like a one post review of what it is and why I didn’t select it. But thank you for the suggestion!

    Agota: Yes, Hungarian is on the list! 😀

    Matt: Thanks for the linkage! 🙂

    Karen: Personally, Armenia has such a deep history (with parts of it filled with conflict, unfortunately) and I really admire its vitality. I also love the way the Armenian music sounds. I don’t know why, but I think it could become a favorite.

    Jose: I believe it was a Bob Marley song — “One World?” I’m not sure. I’ll try to find out for you.

    Patricia: Actually, I didn’t know there were distinctions! I’ll review both more than likely. What is behind your guess? 😀

    If it’s chosen as my final language, I’d be more than happy to speak it with you!

    William: Thank you so much for that link and I’m glad you enjoyed the podcast! I will be certain to check it out when I get to stage 2 of the project!

    Klaus: I’m so happy you enjoyed my interview! I’m really flattered and I also resonate with your feelings about Norwegian, very much so. Why we are drawn to specific languages could be beyond the realm of our understanding, but there’s something about Norwegian that stands out as an early favorite. I hope you keep reading!

    maxiewawa: Thank you!! You have a comment for your blog headed straight your way! 😀

  9. Hi Keith! E’ern and W’ern Armenian are quite different. They’re not considered dialects, but rather separate branches of the language that are, in some opinions, about as different as Spanish and Italian. But if you know one well enough it is pretty easy to understand the other even if speaking in the other poses a challenge. My base language is W’ern, but having spent a lot of time in Armenia, I am able to speak E’ern quite well, though my accent might give me away at times.

    My guess is E’ern for a number of reasons. First, it has an interesting melodic quality to it, a sing-song-y cadence similar to Persian. Second, it is connected to an actual geographic entity called “Armenia”, whereas Western is mostly used outside historical lands. Hence, I believe that E’ern is more dynamic and somehow more contemporary and relevant. On the other hand, W’ern Armenian has preserved the correct classical orthography while E’ern Armenian orthography was pretty badly altered during Soviet rule. If your main goal were to learn to write the language, I’d vote for W’ern.

    Also, I think (and others may or may not agree with me), Eastern Armenian lends itself famously to humor, and to poetry, and hence to music and singing. For me, music is the best entrance into speaking a language. If I can “feel” the music, then I know I can learn to speak the language. Music resonates on an emotional level and I believe it somehow tickles the neural pathways that helped us learn to speak as babies. I’m sure some psychologist somewhere has written a paper on this.

    There is also Classical Armenian, btw, and it is the language used in church liturgy, as well as being the language of ancient texts. Armenian has its own alphabet, and has had its own writing system for nearly 2 millennia. The original alphabet (called Ergatagir, or “iron letters”), was probably based upon Greek and Aramaic letters. Margaret Mead recommended that Armenian become the “universal language” in part because the 38 letters of the Armenian alphabet represent the sounds of almost every other language in the world.

    Let me know if I can help in any way as you delve into Armenian when the time comes.


  10. Hi Keith,
    I heard your show on PRI, very very intriguig, good luck with your project, I wanted to tell you about my native language: Telugu, this is a language which also has a rich history and heritage…it is also based on sanskrit but is mostly spoken in the southern parts of India..

    You can find a lot of information about Telugu on the internet..but here is some thing from an old movie which I thought you would find interesting:

    Good luck with everything

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