Written on 2nd Mar, 2018 in Reflections
The number of languages in the world has been a matter of discussion ever since the birth of linguistics. The number has been varying between 2,000 and 80,000 at a volatility of a twitter stock price and between many, nobody can tell whether it is a dialect or a language or whether it is even means of communication at all.
And it kinda makes sense, because everyone speaks the way their tounge desires and others just may or may not uderstant, based on how close they grew up and how many adjustments they like to make to the language. One group sings their language, the other vomits it and the next one just spits it around, making it something totally different even though it can be understood, if you train your ear to it. I, for example speak a heavy central Bohemian accent of Czech, which is a melodic one and sounds funny to people in Moravia and still odd to those from Prague.
With English, it was mainly Jeremy Kyle Show that helped me bridge these differences. Many stupid people who resort to the most basic vocabulary without even thinking about having an accent appear on there, which is exactly what one needs to grasp the key sounds. Regardless, it took me about a year to fully understand a Northerner and a little more for a generic Scot. And I bet I still couldn't have a SubWay in Glasgow.
But languages don't only change through will of their speakers but also through influence of other languages over them. In some regions they blend and spill over to form a completely new language, which ends up being completely different from any of the original languages. Relatively to the scope of history of languages, people become interested in the science of linguistics and started using it as one of the defining aspects of a nation, at least some of them. These nations were ruled by powers seeking advantage for their tribe and establishing their supremacy, which is how occupation and forced transformation of languages became a thing, to merge two languages back into one, forming the originally distinct one to become dialect of the occupant's language.
And that is how Czech became a thing. A slavic language that originated in the area of Ukraine spread out to the west and southwest, slowly blending with germanic and hellenic and romance languages. Separation from Slovak happened during the time of austrian empire, when Bohemia was heavily germanized, while Hungarian language spread through Slovakia.
After World War I, there was a period of Czechoslovak independence but in 1939, Hitler decided that we belonged to Germany and made us his tank factory. GESTAPO agents as well as the SSmen were patrolling everywhere and German was the official language once again. When WW II finally ended, the Soviets apparently "liberated" us and made us their sattelite state, controlling our politics, because we didn't seem to understand the endless benefits of planned economy and the Leninist philosophy. And so there came compulsory Russian into schools, among other wonderful forced behavioral patterns and implicit ways to address people. Oh, and political prisoners and executions. The last non-communist polititian in the government happened to be forced to jump out of his window, a thing fairly common in our history.
But then, there is Dutch. I mean, with all the respect I have for my Dutch friends, more-than-just-friends, colleagues, and their pop culture, I just can't help but laugh while learning the basic vocabulary of this language. The fact that they voice their letters in a slightly different way, which is not easy to learn by the way, would not be that much of a problem. But seeing the massive influence of German, English, French, and some of the Nordic languages in one blend is just funny. Or is it the original language these evolved from? That I don't think, given my knowledge of linguistics and history, but all is possible, right?
In the meantime, I will do my best to learn the language beyond the point of knowing that vader is father and that the plot twist with Darth Vader was obvious all along. But despite having a solid base in most of the surrounding languages, I feel it will be quite a journey to go over just six month.