By Umar Alim Al-Junaid One of the hardest things to be is an American citizen who speaks other languages, but being an African- American who speaks several languages has its own unique set of issues. For one, 99.99% of the time you feel as if you are the only person within a 3,000 mile radius who speaks another language, you find yourself searching through outlets such as Youtube for people who look like you that speak several languages, and when you do find them, you clamor like a lonely, desperate adolescent. You find yourself reaching out to them on every social network there is – begging and hoping that they will add you to their inner circle of coolness. By the way, thank you Moses McCormick, Idahosa Ness, and David Mansaray. Meanwhile in real life, everyone in the community is so impressed that you speak 3 or 4 languages, but they want no parts of learning one for themselves…or maybe they just don’t know where to start. Either way, this is what inspired me to write my first book The Book on Language Learning: 10 Reasons Why African Americans NEED To Learn a Second Language. My aim was to not… Read more »
Endangered species. Endangered whales. Endangered languages? What’s an endangered language? About half of the world’s 6000 languages will be extinct in 100 years unless we act to preserve them. In this video, I explain why you should care about languages, how linguistic diversity enriches your life and brain health and what we can do to keep languages alive.
Sheryl Sandberg, cover of Time Magazine The TIME Magazine “Confidence Woman” cover story on Sheryl Sandberg, the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, and her new book, Lean In, about women, success and careers made me very angry. The article reinforced what I was already suspecting was the explanation for why we don’t see more female polyglots being public about their foreign language successes. Women’s success is not appreciated by her peers. Men’s success is appreciated. Translate this into foreign language skills and this is the picture you see. While many foreign language classes have more females than males, we see more men than women on the Internet showing their language abilities. Women play down their abilities while men are taught that it is good to show off or at least be public about their accomplishments. Read this excerpt from Sandberg’s new book Lean In about the double standard that pervades the way a powerful woman is viewed in society vs how a man with the same traits is lauded by his peers. In 2003, Columbia Business School professor Frank Flynn and New York University professor Cameron Anderson ran an experiment. They started with a Harvard Business School case study about… Read more »
Learning a language with various regional varieties or dialects means choosing which accent(s) to learn. In this video with Richard Simcott and Luca Lampariello, we talk about how we chose which accent to learn in English, Spanish and Portuguese.
Rare is the book which envelops my attention, delights me in its prose, makes me re-read passages both for the joy of the flow of the sentences and for the content and strikes a chord with me personally. Le testament français (UK edition)/Dreams of my Russian Summers (US edition) not only had all of the aforementioned effects but it also made me get out my pen and underline key sentences and make notes. I hadn’t done that since my college years. The story is fictional. It’s about a teenage boy in Siberia in post-World War II Russia who learns about pre-Revolutionary Russia and Paris before World War I from Charlotte, his French grandmother. He learns about the opulence of the Tsar’s visit to France in French. Via the French language, he feels as though he enters into another world, one whose words he doesn’t even know in Russian. The author, Andrei Makine, is a Siberian novelist who writes in French and has been living in France since he defected from the former Soviet Union in 1987. While devouring the book, I often recalled my own discovery of the riches of pre-Soviet St. Petersburg via a French novel, La gouvernante française,… Read more »
I have heard on several occasions that the sign of fluency in a language is when one dreams in the language. That can’t be true. Or else I’m fluent in Arabic without being aware of it! I briefly studied Arabic but I don’t speak it. However, sometimes I have dreams in Arabic, or in what sounds like Arabic, in Arabic-speaking countries and I understand what is going on. In this video, I speak with Luca Lampariello and Richard Simcott about the languages in which they dream.
At long last, I am posting the demo to Saved by Language, the documentary I’m co-producing about how the Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) language saved a boy’s life in Bosnia in World War II. Ladino is considered to be an endangered language. For those who want to make a tax-deductible donation to help with editing and post-production costs, please go to this link. All donors will be thanked in the credits of the film.
“Sarajevo has a soul. It has a heart.” My passion for Ladino/Judeo-Spanish is no secret. In this video, Richard Simcott (the hyperpolyglot extraordinnaire) and I speak in Bosnian/Serbo-Croatian (or whatever else you like to call this language) about the beauty of Sarajevo and how the Ladino language saved a boy’s life in World War II. Richard and both lived in Sarajevo but at different times.
That’s right. Seventeen Internet polyglots came together, under the tireless direction of Benny Lewis of Fluent in Three Months, to create the first ever polyglot music video. There are over 30 languages in this video doing a remake of the song, Call me Maybe. I helped Benny create the script and contact various polyglots. Benny took a lot of time to organize this incredible video and edit it so well. I am impressed by his work and dedication to showing how fun it is to speak various languages! He made this video to promote the Polyglot Conference to be held in Budapest in May 2013. As I love to wear my various costumes, I sported my Mexican sombrero and then sweated while recording the Russian section of the video wearing my Russian attire made for Siberian chills. My “Dr. Zhivago” wool coat and Russian fur hat with a Soviet army pin are way too hot for a mild California autumn day. Here is the video!
If you thought that polyglots are just serious language lovers who spend all their time talking about grammar, you are wrong! I spent three fun-filled days in Poland with Richard Simcott and Luca Lampariello switching languages and making some videos about language learning. We spent most of the three days laughing and enjoying Poland. The language videos were just a pretext to meet. As I discuss in the video, it had been my dream for many years to be able to speak as I think, switching from language to language, without censuring myself because my listener didn’t speak the language that was in my head. Being with Luca and Richard afforded me the luxury, and the great pleasure, of just being myself and saying whatever was on my mind, even switching languages in mid-sentence. In this video, we talk about how we prevent confusing our languages. The transcript and English translation are on Luca’s blog. Enjoy!