What better day than April Fools’ to start a series on a complex and virtually impossible to pin down topic like world languages?
In spite of the risks that I will get them wrong and look like that fool, I have the marvelous opportunity to learn about many languages because of my job teaching English as a second language. And although I’ve been doing this job for 20 years, the world is so full of languages, I still get new students speaking languages I know next to nothing about.
Whenever someone walks in with a language new to me, I zip back to my office computer to look it up before I see the student in the next class. Part of this is to help my students. When I know more about their language, I am better able to help them learn English.
Of course, I also don’t like looking ignorant and am plain curious.
So here it is. My first Mother Tongue Tuesday post. These are not my Mother Tongues. And, while I’ve studied a few of the languages quite a bit, most of them I only know a few words in (see my post on learning Russian–which I am not keeping up with very well). If you see I’ve made an error with a language, I’d love for you to set me straight (gently, of course).
For the most part, I’ll use Ethnologue, the UCLA Language Materials Project and Wikipedia as sources, especially if I have not studied the language extensively and do not know someone I can easily ask. I’ll try to put up videos so you can hear the language and keep my fingers crossed that those videos are accurate.
I don’t know how many Tuesdays I can keep this up. When I get to an end of the languages my students have spoken over the years, I’ll let you know. If I’m still having fun, I may continue with languages I’ve never been able to hear in person.
Dari: Language of the Afghans
“I didn’t know that,” my husband said when I told him they speak the same language in Afghanistan that they do in Iran. Which — it turns out is not entirely true but mostly. What I’m writing here is not hard to find out but I never bothered to look until I met my newest student from Afghanistan with her soft eyes and careful handwriting.
After I got to my computer, I learned that many like my student speak Dari, which is written in a Persian script very similar to what the Arabic speakers use. I carefully tried to copy this script for her the other day, not realizing that I was writing it backwards — left to right instead of right to left. I’m impressed she could figure out what I was doing . Imagine watching someone writing English backwards and figuring out what they were doing!
Here is the breakdown on Dari:
Language family: Indo-European (Dari is in the same language family as English, meaning it’s much more similar to my first language than Arabic, which is Afro-Asiatic.)
Where they speak Dari: Afghanistan and Eastern Iran
Famous person who speaks/spoke Dari: The poet Rumi (Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Balkhī)
“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” – Rumi
Sometimes also called Persian or Farsi although there is a Persian-Farsi and a Persian-Dari
Dari adds a bit to the end of words for the indefinite pronoun (a/an). This looks like:
book = ketab
a book = ketabey
(I found this article bit of grammar at mylanguages.org.)
And here is a rather scratchy sounding video of someone teaching Dari if you’d like to hear it: