The Magic of Learning a Few Words in Another Language

If you took part in my mini-workshop at Barbara Sher’s Dare to Soar Telesummit today: Baie Dankie!

Here’s a little re-cap so you can also see the spelling of some of the words you heard today. I picked Afrikaans, because people called in from all over the world and then it helps to use a language that fewer people can already speak.

People are often put off by the daunting goal of getting fluent in a language. Helping people get fluent in language is something I’ve been doing for most of my working life so far. It’s a wonderful feeling when you get to a point where you start to feel comfortable speaking another language. And there are many wonderful people who who can help you to get fluent in a fun way, like Alex Rawlings. But teaching and learning languages also makes me aware of all the many benefits of just learning a few words in another language – even if you stop right there!

Here are a few things I mentioned today:

  1. You can learn a lot about the nature, history and inner workings of a language from just a few words. Afrikaans is a Germanic language, and you can hear many words that will remind you of languages you might know better like German or Dutch.  “Lekker” is one such word. The word “lecker” in German is just used for things that taste nice. But in Afrikaans almost anything becomes “tasty” when you use “lekker”. My favourite chair is a “lekker stoel”.  And if it’s very nice, like today’s Telesummit. You can say “Die Telesummit is baie lekker!” “Baie“, the word for “a lot” or “many” or “very”, gives you a glimpse into some of the other influences on Afrikaans, like Malay.
  2. One of the more obvious reasons for learning just a few words, is simply because they can be useful: “ja” means “yes” and “nee” means “no”. Gets you far in any language.
  3. But now look at this interesting thing. When you put the two together to make: “janee“, it doesn’t give you “yes-no”. “Janee” is a very emphatic “yes”! Learning a few words in another language can give you words you won’t find in your own language. Like the word “mos” you heard today, used to add emphasis.
  4. Just a couple of words can give you the feeling of what it’s like to have a lively conversation in the language. The word for “never, “nooit“, is a lovely expressive word to react to something outrageous or surprising: “You don’t say!” “Nooooooooit!”
  5. And even if you never use any of the words you learn, making the noises can come in really handy! Many people struggle with the “g” in Afrikaans, for example in the word for “bug”, “gogga“. It’s a lovely expressive sound all by itself and is a very useful addition to your repertoire if you should decide to learn a language like Russian, Greek or Dutch next.

If you want to join in the fun of learning little bits of languages and finding out about more wonderful works of literature on various dusty shelves, tune in to the Dusty Shelf Academy podcast.