Well! What a month that was. As you may remember from last time, I was about to embark upon a language challenge known among the initiated as (the?) LangJam. To quickly catch up those of you who missed the post I’m referring to, the LangJam is an event where people who are interested in languages sign up and list the languages they speak, and are then assigned a new language to learn a week later… over the space of a weekend. Now… suffice it to say, it wasn’t exactly a rousing success. Not that I’m using it as an excuse, but my time was even more limited by a surprise visit from a friend which lasted the two days the LangJam was supposed to run over, but we weren’t attached at the hip so I did have some time to get some studying in. Even so… well, let me start at the beginning.
So, as you undoubtedly know, I speak four languages: English, Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish. These are the details I put into the sign-up form for the LangJam. Perhaps this was naïve of me, but I thought that it would spit out something… I don’t know, related. I guess because we only have a weekend to do it. Boy, was I wrong. The language I was assigned was Tagalog.
Now, aside from a brief foray into Japanese and Hawaiian a few years ago, my language learning has been fairly Eurocentric; so I had absolutely no idea what to expect from Tagalog. I had only recently gotten it into my mind that Tagalog is spoken in the Philippines, a country I know next to nothing about. I didn’t know, for example, that Tagalog isn’t the only language spoken there. No, in fact, according to the fountain of all human knowledge (Wikipedia), there are estimated to be between 120 and 187 languages spoken in the Philippines. I suppose it makes sense if you look at a map of the country, as it’s all individual islands spread out over quite a large area… but still, that is impressive. As for Tagalog itself… I had been told years ago, and I have no idea where, but I have a distinct memory of hearing once that Tagalog was easy to learn. Well, I’m here to tell you that that is completely incorrect.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed learning something new. The problem was that I just couldn’t get my teeth into it, aside from a few Spanish loanwords that I could recognise via my rudimentary Italian, there were no features I recognised at all.
Looking back on it now, I think maybe my approach was wrong; I should have read more about how the grammar actually works rather than starting with a ‘Teach Yourself…’ course, because the information given was (understandably) brief in the beginning (which I’ve found is often the best place to start with these things). As a result, I can now greet people and introduce myself with varying levels of politeness, but that’s where the conversation would have to end.
All in all, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the experience. But I know for next time to take a weekend off from socialising, and that I should prepare more thoroughly – finding resources ahead of time would have been a life-saver. I’ve heard on the grapevine that the next LangJam will be exclusively indigenous languages… so that’s exciting. I hope I have more success to report next time.
I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank everybody in the language-y Twittersphere for being so supportive and for sharing their own LangJam stories. It was really nice to see everybody come together like that, even though our languages were different, it was like we all had a common goal. But how about you, did you try the LangJam this year? Do you think you could be persuaded to try it next year? Let me know by dropping me a comment, or by getting in touch on Twitter @sprakskatan and Instagram, also @sprakskatan. As always, thanks for reading! See you next time.
P.S. More information about the LangJam can be found at languagejam.net. Go check it out!