Jayeless.net

languages I’ve studied

I grew up in a house filled with “Teach Yourself” books, for almost every language you could imagine. Not only me, but almost everyone in my family – including my cousins on both sides – is really into languages and linguistics. I have a lot of pages already in this wiki on language-related topics, and I’ve definitely also put time into studying a bunch of different languages – for varying lengths of time of course, through various methods, with varying degrees of success. Nonetheless, I thought I’d put a page together of all the languages I’ve ever studied, so you can take into account my experience when reading the rest of the pages on this site 😆 They’re listed in rough order of my proficiency in them.

Romance languages

  • Spanish: I only started learning this at university, but it ended up becoming my major and I’ve continued to build on that foundation and keep improving in the almost-a-decade since I took my last Spanish class at uni. Because I haven’t practised the various skills evenly, I would say I can read it very well (~C1 level – I can read novels and back during my honours year I read a looooot of academic papers in Spanish) and write it reasonably well (~B2 level), but that my speaking and listening is “just OK” (~B1 level).
  • Catalan: I also studied this at university, for two years. My honours pro­ject actually involved analysing a diary written during the Spa­n­ish Civil War in Cat­a­lan (published as Amb ulls de nena). I found it kind of difficult to keep Cat­a­lan and Spa­n­ish separate in my mind – there’d be lots of instances where I’d say “quizá” when I was supposed to be speaking Cat­a­lan, or “darrere” instead of “detrás” when I was trying to speak Spa­n­ish… life was tough, haha. Since I finished honours, my Cat­a­lan has sadly atrophied a lot. I’ve found it a lot harder to maintain passively than Spa­n­ish, because the latter has a lot more content available in it, you’re more likely to just run into Spa­n­ish incidentally than you are Cat­a­lan, and my Spa­n­ish had reached a higher level in the first place (making it less taxing to e.g. read a newspaper article or a short story in Spanish). Anyway, I have an A2 certificate from the Institut Ramon Llull for Cat­a­lan 😛
  • Portuguese: I first started trying to learn Portuguese, through Duolingo, in 2013 when I’d just come back from a trip to South America and found that some of the friendliest and most welcoming people were, con­sis­tent­ly, Brazilians 😆 I sorta had to put it on the backburner because I was studying Catalan at uni at the same time and it was too confusing. I came back to Portuguese in 2017, and worked on it pretty diligently for a while, not only through Duolingo but also other things I was doing to improve my Spanish too (e.g. reading short stories in Portuguese and generating flashcards for unfamiliar vocab through Readlang, and occasionally watching YouTube videos but I needed Portuguese-language subtitles to make sense of anything). After 12–18 months I kinda fell out of the habit. I can still understand it in writing pretty well, although obviously knowing Spanish helps a lot.
  • French: I had to take French for three years at high school, but the teacher was pretty hopeless (the best three months was when he took long service leave and was replaced by a Spanish teacher… at least she let us watch cool movies in French, eheheh). I have tried so many times to study French outside of that classroom context but I seem to really suck at it. I can understand it in writing quite well, but I cannot really understand it spoken (I get the occasional word…) because of the phonology and high number of homophones. A French-Canadian I once spoke to was like “Oh so true, [sã] can be one of 17 different French words” and I felt so validated hahaha. I also suck at trying to write French because I seemingly cannot spell it for shit. So I don’t know, despite a lot of years of trying to study it and a lot of incidental exposure, my French is still garbage-tier… but being able to read it is still a useful skill I guess.
  • Italian: I had to take seven years of Italian classes at primary school, which I remembered practically zero of by the end of high school (only the numbers were somehow drilled into me – it got annoying in Spanish class when my “siete, ocho, nueve…” would somehow turn into “dieci, undici, dodici” and yet if I was ever not paying the highest degree of attention that is what would always happen). Around 2017–18 I studied it through Duolingo for a while. I immediately found it about 10,000x easier than French, especially to understand spoken (hell, I found Italian easier than some *cough*Caribbean*cough* accents of Spanish spoken, and I actually know Spanish…), but I think a lot of Italian’s “easiness” for me was just transference of my existing knowledge of Spanish plus the super-clear phonology. At this point, I find it harder to read than French (but easier to understand spoken) and if I had to write or speak it I would basically be producing “Italianised” Spanish.

Constructed languages

  • Ido: This is a constructed language derived from Esperanto (see below), which was designed to resolve a number of perceived flaws with it. While I think it also changed a few things that were not really in need of “fixing” in Esperanto, overall I think it was indeed a big improvement. I first really looked into Ido in 2018, and I have dabbled off and on in trying to pick it up. I really really like it as a language, but it’s hard to keep up any momentum with it because there are so few speakers, and so little content available in it.
  • Esperanto: I think I first discovered Esperanto when I was in year 7, and I was immediately enraptured with the very idea of an international language that was designed to be really easy for anyone to learn by virtue of its grammatic simplicity and regularity, and as such be the “perfect” universal second language. (Rather than one complicated national language being “dominant”, and everyone who’s not already a native speaker having to learn that.) I actually got pretty good around that age, but didn’t keep it up, and now it gets me feeling like it’s just not as good as Ido 😛

Other languages

  • Indonesian: I’ve tried learning this through Duolingo a couple of times. Between the wildly unfamiliar vocabulary and my general lack of focus, I’ve never got very far, but I think it’s a cool language with some interesting grammatical features and also an important language spoken by some of Australia’s close neighbours.
  • German: Not sure it’s even worth adding this one, because I haven’t even got through as much of the German Duolingo course as I have of the Indonesian one. My sister studied three semesters of German at university, and I’d kinda like at least to be able to read German, as I see social media posts in it regularly that are basically impenetrable to me 😆 However, I haven’t had the focus to actually learn.