The Thinking of Speaking
Issue #3 May / June 2013
Letter From The Editor
Freaking Out
by Erik Zidowecki
May / June 2013 | 

If you are reading this magazine, you probably have some interest in languages. You might be fascinated by the sounds of people speaking in a language that is unfamiliar to you. You might be intrigued by the different ways languages use grammar and phonology. It might be the mystery of how languages work and evolve that draws you. It might even be the way a language presents you with a path to another culture. I was personally drawn to languages by seeing the different writing systems, specifically Cyrillic and Mayan. To see another means of communications so completely foreign to what I knew was a true wonderment.

Whatever the reason, you have probably then also found yourself at a loss of trying to explain this obsession to others. As it is with many subjects, if a person isn't "into it", it's hard to explain the attraction. Over the years, I have heard many language lovers refer to themselves as "freaks", because that is how they felt among their non-communication obsessed associates. How many times have you had to try to explain why you want to study language X when the only response is the question of what is wrong with your native language. Isn't that good enough for you?

Some people study languages for very practical purposes. They may wish to pursue a career which deals with foreigners, in which knowing a second or third language would be a great asset. Some people start studying a language because of an interest in something cultural, like understanding Japanese Anime or watching Bollywood movies without subtitles. Some may even start it because they have met or want to meet a person they wish to be involved with romantically.

As an American, my first formal language training began in High School (age 15-18). We were expected to study a language, but the small school only offered two options: Latin or French. By now, I was already intrigued by different alphabets, but neither of these two languages really gave me that. I had started learning the Greek alphabet on my own already, so I decided to go with another ancient language. Few students chose Latin, so our classes were literally composed of just a handful of students. Despite this small turnout, our Latin teacher was always full of energy for the subject and made every class interesting. If it wasn't for him, I probably would have done as most people do when forced to take a language course: forgotten it as soon as they could and never touch it again.

I also started teaching myself Russian and was very happy to find another student who was doing the same. We would spend our study halls (class time in which we were just supposed to study anything) practising what we learned with each other. It was during this time one day when we were reciting the alphabet that we commented on the way just saying the letters sounded like new words. It was from this interchange that was born the nick I use online now: Abavagada.

We didn't get very far in our studies of Russian, and I'm afraid I have forgotten most of the Latin I learned (it's hard to find ways to apply Latin on a daily basis), but it was the start that keeps me still fascinated with languages to this day.

What got you interested in languages, and where do you hope to go with them? I hope you wear your title of "language freak", whether it's self-proclaimed or imposed on you by others, with pride. You have most likely earned it!

Erik Zidowecki

Letter From the Editor
Writer: Erik Zidowecki
Petey: Mayan Stela

All images are Copyright - CC BY-SA (Creative Commons Share Alike) by their respective owners, except for Petey, which is Public Domain (PD) or unless otherwise noted.


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