Arts, Culture & Media

In parts of Europe, speaking six languages is no big thing

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Dutch-born author of Lingo, Gaston Dorren. Dorren is pictured here in a typically multilingual moment. He is in Turkey reading the German translation of book originally written in English: A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka. Dorren's first language is Limburgish.

Credit:

Marleen Bekker

In this World in Words podcast we hear just how effortless it can be to be multilingual in a certain corner of Europe. And we try to answer the question, Who owns Klingon?

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Gaston Dorren grew up speaking two languages: Limburgish at home, Dutch at school. He later fell in love in German, and traveled in many Spanish-speaking countries. All the while he kept English and French in his back pocket. 

Dorren writes about languages. His most recent book, "Lingo: Around Europe in Sixty Languages," is a collection of essays on the continent's languages, large and small. It's full of obscure facts and pithy observations:  "Why do the Spanish rattle on at such a furious pace?" "Modern French has a very strong attachment to its mother." "The Sorbs are afraid of their articles."

Dorren has also written about some of Europe's more recent linguistic additions: Arabic, Turkish, Amharic and others. And he sings beautifully, in Dutch and Limburgish. 

Credit:

Profile Books

Also in the podcast, Nina and I discuss a legal case involving the fictional-turned-real(ish) language Klingon. Who owns it?  Paramount Pictures (which owns Star Trek) or the human race?

PODCAST CONTENTS

00:15 Gaston pronounces his name in English, Dutch, Limburgish, German, Spanish and French. 

2:00 What is Limburgish and who speaks it?

3:50 Falling in love in German.

4:50 You can't escape English.

5:30 The immigrant languages of Amsterdam.

7:00 Studying the mechanics and systems of languages.

8:35 "I love the ability of English to verb nouns." Dutch isn't so good at that. 

10:37 Dutch speakers have gender confusion, about their pronouns. 

13:32 Gaston sings in Limburgish.

14:40 Nina is skeptical about -ish languages. 

16:00 These Klingon singers sound like KSL (Klingon as a Second Language) learners.

18:19 Arika Okrent, author of "In the Land of Invented Languages" describes her experience at a Klingon convention where she prepped for a Klingon proficiency exam.  

23:00 NIna and Patrick discuss the legal intervention from the Language Creation Society on behalf of Klingon. More on that here.  

30:30 "As Klingons do not surrender, neither do those who speak Klingon."

MUSIC HEARD IN THE PODCAST

00:00 "Dramamine" by Podington Bear

10:37 "Molasses" by Podington Bear

13:32 "’t Graas is d’r neet greuner"  ("The grass is no greener there") written and sung by Gaston Dorren 

15:11 Klingon song (provided by Arika Okrent)

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National Endowment for the Humanities

With support from the National Endowment for the Humanities