A while back, we discovered this infographic of words that don’t have a direct translation in English. We loved it so much that we decided to see if there were any more words like these and create our own. So here it is – 10 cool words that don’t exist in English. Please do share any other suggestions as we’re sure there are many, many more…
As always, you’re welcome to share this post with friends, or embed the infographic on your own website, if you’d like to.
Infographic created by Alex, who did all the research, and Luke, our fab graphic designer 🙂
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A recent report by the British Council has laid out the ten most important languages for the UK’s future, in political, economic, educational and cultural terms.
According to the report, the ten most important languages, in order, are: Spanish, Arabic, French, Mandarin, German, Portuguese, Italian, Russian, Turkish and Japanese. I read this list with a certain amount of smugness that I speak Spanish, German and French – although my knowledge of key languages such as Mandarin and Arabic is, sadly, next to nothing. So feel free to give yourself a pat on the back if you can speak, or are learning, one of those ten languages.
Unfortunately, the report also indicated that the numbers of UK residents actually learning these languages, especially the ones not taught in schools, are very low. On a positive note, around 15% of people can hold a conversation in French. However, only 6% are able to do so in German, 4% in Spanish and 2% in Italian. But the figures for the other languages are as low as 1%.
Perhaps one of the problems is that Mandarin, Japanese, Russian and Arabic all require learners to pick up another script. This might seem daunting, but is actually really exciting. Just being able to read simple words in another script gives you a huge sense of achievement, and you’d be surprised how quickly you can begin to decipher words from what previously looked like squiggles.
Hopefully if you’re reading our blog you already know the importance of language-learning, and that picking up a new language is an adventure rather than a chore! But maybe this list will give you an idea about which language you fancy picking up – maybe it’s time to start reviving your A-level French? Or be brave and give Arabic a try? Personally, I’m working on adding Italian to my list, which is proving interesting as I lapse back into Spanish as soon as I don’t know a word!
The report recommends a much greater focus on languages in schools and that businesses should invest in language training for languages that are useful in their industry. But don’t worry if your school days are behind you – it’s never too late to learn a new language!
I remember the first day of my Hispanic Studies degree, when our head of department brought us all down to earth by reminding us that Spanish is one of the easiest languages to learn. Having all worked pretty hard to get there, we were quite offended, but looking back now, I have to admit he may have been right… Spanish follows relatively simple grammatical rules, and once you know the different sounds, you can look at any word, and even if you’ve never seen it before you’ll know how to pronounce it. Of course there are areas of difficulty, like the age-old ‘ser or estar’ debate and (every linguist’s favourite) the subjunctive, but on the whole it isn’t a nightmare to get to grips with.
So that got me thinking: what is the hardest language to learn? Obvious answers that spring to mind are languages like Arabic, Mandarin, Cantonese and Japanese, which use a completely different writing system to English and, in the case of the Chinese languages, rely heavily on tone of voice. Changing the way you say a word even fractionally can completely change its meaning – which makes learning the language seem pretty daunting.
Other languages that I’ve been told are really difficult to learn include Finnish and Hungarian, in this case because of their complicated grammar systems.
Of course this is all from an English speaker’s point of view. If I’d been brought up speaking another language then my ideas about which are most difficult would probably be totally different. I’m sure I’d find English quite hard if I weren’t a native speaker.
What do you think? Have you ever learnt a language that was particularly challenging?