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February 28, 2011 12:03 PM   Subscribe

Balto-Slavic, Germanic, Italic: help me select which Indo-European language(s) I should learn next!

After reading David W. Anthony’s “The Horse, the Wheel, and Language” I am inspired to expand my linguistic horizons.

I speak English, French, German, Romanian, and Russian now. I have an intermediate-level understanding of Spanish, Old English, and Dutch/Flemish as well. I love being able to distinguish most of what I hear or read in any given Germanic or Romance language. Slavic languages are harder for me, but I think with practice I could get better.

What Indo-European language could I learn next that will open the doors to a larger language family? For example, after learning French and Romanian, I was able to understand some textbook Latin, Italian, Catalan, Spanish, and some Portuguese. German and naturally my English help me to understand Swedish and Dutch.

I am able to designate an hour a day Mo-Fr and three hours a day on the weekends, plus up to four hours a day in the summer (I’m a teacher). I would prefer to self-teach for grammar and literacy, and then go to meet-ups for speaking practice. I am open to learning a “dead” language as well. Books and Web site suggestions would also be awesome. The nerdier and the more technical, the better. I love SEELRC, for example.

I realize this question is pretty nerdy, but I thought that AskMeFi would be the best starting point.
posted by vkxmai to Writing & Language (19 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Have you considered something a little further afield, such as Persian, Sanskrit, or Urdu-Hindi? Those might help you get your brain deeper into the Indo-European roots than you'll get from learning another language on the European side of things.
posted by alms at 12:10 PM on February 28, 2011


Greek?
posted by reductiondesign at 12:15 PM on February 28, 2011


Greek. You could read old texts in the original language, and possibly have a much deeper understanding of English since many of its words are rooted in Greek.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:16 PM on February 28, 2011


Oops.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:16 PM on February 28, 2011


Really learning (ancient, NOT modern) Greek and Latin will make learning the rest much easier.
posted by oinopaponton at 12:18 PM on February 28, 2011


If you're going down the Ancient Greek route, Perseus is basically heaven (or Ἠλύσια πεδία, if you will). Near-encyclopedic collection of texts, most with side-by-side English translation, in which clicking any word brings up its entry from the standard Liddell and Scott lexicon? Hell yeah.
posted by theodolite at 12:28 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've really enjoyed my studies in Hindi, plus it can lead you down the road into Punjabi, Bangla, Marathi, Nepali, and what-all have you. Don't be intimidated by the devanagari script-- it is very sensible and represented something like a three-hour time investment for me.

(If I was going for "highly marketable", though, I would consider Persian.)
posted by threeants at 12:58 PM on February 28, 2011


How about a Turkic language, like Turkish or Kazakh?
posted by amtho at 1:16 PM on February 28, 2011


Turkic languages aren't Indo-European.
posted by threeants at 1:37 PM on February 28, 2011


Nobody's mentioned Irish yet, so I will.
posted by gimonca at 2:40 PM on February 28, 2011


I just want to say that PERSEUS is amazing.
posted by vkxmai at 2:47 PM on February 28, 2011


Amtho: How about a Turkic language, like Turkish or Kazakh?

The book talks a great deal about Anatolian languages (I think Turkish is part of that) and it certainly sounds interesting, especially given the closeness of Turkey and Germany…but I would like to find a multiplier language within IE languages, if that makes sense.
posted by vkxmai at 2:56 PM on February 28, 2011


I'll add that one of the neat things about Hindi is that it has a lot of different layers of Indo-European influence. First, obviously, being its Sanskrit roots-- and there are waaaay more cognates to European languages, if you keep your eyes and ears open, than you might expect. Then, Hindi later took borrowings from three major Indo-European languages; successively, Persian, Portuguese (to a lesser extent), and English. (Also Arabic, but obviously we're taking I-E languages here). Hindi has a great etymological diversity that reminds me strongly of English.
posted by threeants at 5:24 PM on February 28, 2011


> The book talks a great deal about Anatolian languages (I think Turkish is part of that)

No, the Anatolian languages were spoken anciently; the most famous one is Hittite.

Much as I love Greek, it won't "open the doors to a larger language family," being an isolate within IE. I would recommend Irish, both Old and Modern, which will open up the Celtic family and be loads of fun to boot.
posted by languagehat at 5:57 PM on February 28, 2011


Polish is the sixth-most spoken language in the EU and if you speak Russian, you'll have a definite advantage in understanding the grammar.

Irish would be fun to learn as well and as a previous poster said, might make learning other Celtic languages like Scots Gaelic and Welsh easier.

And there's always Arabic!
posted by mdonley at 12:34 AM on March 1, 2011


Arabic is not an Indo-European language.
posted by languagehat at 9:04 AM on March 1, 2011


As a linguistics student who's been studying Persian for about four years now, I've had a great deal of fun with it from a linguistic perspective. It's farther out so you won't recognize as much as with the Romance, Germanic languages etc., but the Indo-European grammar and cognates are still there (granted, among a ton of Arabic loans). Hindi is a similar case (I don't know much about it, but I constantly see Persian cognates in Bollywood film titles :).
posted by Gordafarin at 1:01 PM on March 1, 2011


languagehat: No, the Anatolian languages were spoken anciently; the most famous one is Hittite.

I stand corrected!

Much as I love Greek, it won't "open the doors to a larger language family," being an isolate within IE. I would recommend Irish, both Old and Modern, which will open up the Celtic family and be loads of fun to boot.

I like this suggestion a lot.

Not to turn this back to you, but I am curious! What languages got you started? I majored in German/French in college and went to Moldova/Romania a few times in my early 20s and learned Romanian and Russian while there.

So far I think I will look at Irish, Ancient Greek, and Persian over the next few weeks and decide which one(s) I'll start with.
posted by vkxmai at 3:38 PM on March 1, 2011


> What languages got you started?

Impossible to answer, really. I'm a Foreign Service brat who spent my first four years in Tokyo, and when we left I was equally fluent in Japanese and English (or so I'm told). Of course I lost Japanese pretty much instantly when we returned to the States, but presumably the early experience of bilingualism "set" my brain to deal with foreign languages. We were then stationed in Thailand, where I picked up very little Thai; Japan again, where I picked up very little Japanese but learned French and Latin in school (St. Mary's International); and Argentina, where I learned fluent Spanish (of the porteño variety so despised by other Spanish speakers). I then went off to college, where I studied Greek and Russian, both of which I love to this day, and grad school, where I studied every Indo-European language ever invented (well, I exaggerate, but all the early ones, including Hittite and Old Irish). Since then, I've studied the occasional language on my own hook, including Persian and Georgian.
posted by languagehat at 1:30 PM on March 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


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