All About Solomon Islands Pijin, or How I Learned a Language in Two Weeks

Would you believe me if I told you that I became conversational in a language in nearly two weeks? It happened, actually, and it was during Passover 2016 when I was “vacationing” at my parents’ house.

The language I mastered during that “holiday season”, as it were, was Solomon Islands Pijin, which is unique among the languages I speak by virtue of the fact that it was, until VERY recently, almost entirely a spoken language!

Yes, there are translations of the Bible into Pijin, but what really brought about a “writing revolution” in the Solomons was actually the advent of mobile phones.

(Something you should know about mobile phones in the developing world, and I saw this when I was in rural Myanmar as well: they are a LOT more common than you think they are! This is true even among very poor people).

You’re probably here wondering “Jared, why are you writing about this topic today rather than, let’s say, any other day?”

Well, you’ve probably guessed the pattern by now…today is July 7th, the Independence Day of the Solomon Islands—home to a culture of forward-looking and friendly people who also have been responsible for some of the most beautiful music I have ever heard in my life.

You’ve gotten this far and you probably want to know what Solomon Islands Pijin is. So let’s treat you to a sample, shall we?

Iso an Jekob

Okay, as an English-speaker you probably recognize a significant amount of words, but are probably genuinely confused with the most common words.

You’re probably wondering, “what is this and why does it exist?”

Well, allow me to share the story with you:

When British Colonizers came to Australia and Fiji, they set up plantations and then proceeded to “blackbird” locals from the nearby areas to work at the plantation. Blackbirding did involve forced kidnapping and other morally questionable methods (although there were instances of fair work being involved).

So you have people from a variety of areas—namely, Australia, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands—and they’re speaking a huge host of languages with each other but, for the sake of working for English-speakers, they need to find a way to communicate both with themselves and with their colonial masters.

Enter the Pidgin Languages, later to become creoles.

The variety of English that was created as a result of these plantation experiences was a Pidgin English, one that was used to communicate between the locals and the British who ran the plantations.

However, given as there was no formal language training for the workers, they made significant shortcuts in order to learn how to communicate as quickly as possible (you can probably guess from this that Creole Languages can be mastered in a very short time in comparison to other languages!)

The pidgins thereby developed were noted by the British as being highly efficient, although no doubt they were made fun of by English speakers very frequently (and, in some cases even today, continue to be).

Now the story continues with the pidgins turning into creoles.

The primary difference between a pidgin language and a creole language is that a creole is a pidgin that has acquired enough vocabulary to be someone’s native tongue. A pidgin language is just a fusion of various languages, usually with a base in a European tongue (Portuguese, French and English are the most common for creole languages) used to communicate, but its vocabulary does not have to be extensive the way a creole does.

Even so, creole languages usually have significantly smaller comprehensive vocabularies than many other languages (again, efficiency).

Now you’re probably wondering what this has to do with the Solomon Islands?

So when the plantations ceased to be, the various workers often found their way back home. But as a result of the experience in the plantations in which various ethnicities that had not been in contact with each other developed a means to talk with each other as a result of the pidgin, that language followed them home.

Not only that, it also transformed into creole languages and became widespread enough in places like Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, and the Torres Strait in order to become the primary method of communication in those countries.

This also became important because it enabled these countries to develop linguistic identities that were separate from European powers. This is the reason that Vanuatu’s national anthem is actually the only in the world that is written in an English Creole Language. Sandwiched between British and French influence and constantly pressured to “choose teams”, the Ni-Vanuatu national movement opted for its own team…namely, Bislama, one of the “children” of the plantation creoles.

So that you know, Tok Pisin in Papua New Guinea, Bislama in Vanuatu, Pijin in the Solomon Islands and Torres Strait Creole are siblings. There are also related creoles spoken by some aboriginal communities in mainland Australia, although they diverge from these four more substantially.

It makes sense, because barely a few centuries ago these were actually all the same language! But as a result of varying factors (due to [1] what local languages contributed to the creole spoken there and [2] which European powers exerted more influence), these languages are different.

Bislama has French loan words, Tok Pisin has German loan words, and Solomon Islands Pijin is comparatively lacking in both of these.

 

Okay, Why Should I Care? Are You Going to Tell me a Reason (or four) that I should learn it?

 

Yes, indeed!

For one, the Melanesian Creoles (that I’m not listing again for the umpteenth time) are very similar. Given that I studied Tok Pisin before studying Pijin it is no surprise that I became conversational, if not fluent, in record time.

Yes, there are differences, especially with the Pijin-trademarked question word, “waswe”, which goes at the beginning of sentences (probably a fusion of “which-what-where”, if you ask me). It also serves as a “why?” or a “what if?” or a “is it really?” or “do you think so?”. Pijin also relies more heavily on the f sound which does not appear as frequently in Tok Pisin (and a lot of Tok Pisin I’ve heard actually excludes it with noteworthy frequency).

Pijin and Bislama are sometimes even believed to be dialects of the same language (and some would even include Tok Pisin in this dynamic). No doubt they were, once upon a time, but I think that there are enough differences between them to actually separate them as genuine linguistic entities but that essay is a story for another time (or you could ask me in the comments!)

Pijin is an excellent moral choice for your next language, given that a lot of the struggles concerning countries that many people in the world don’t think about (as well as the developing country’s choice whether or not to partner up with developed countries for the sake of resource harvesting or economic development) will give you a truer insight into where the planet stands and where we should go from here.

What’s more, given that English is an official language of the Solomon Islands and is used in business writing as well as in the country’s national anthem, a lot of prospective language learners tend to overlook Pijin. This leaves the Pijin learners primarily in two camps (with exceptions like myself): (1) missionaries and (2) Peace Corps folks.

Your language choice can be morally motivated and it can make you a mini-ambassador for the countries and cultures that you may not represent on your passport but do represent in regards to which cultures you “tip your hat to”. We need more people who can share stories and cultural narratives from all over the world, rather than from the world’s most powerful states. And with Pijin’s similarity to English, you can become that ambassador in no time! (well…in some time…)

Solomon music is also the best I’ve heard from the developing world, period. Sharzy has become an international icon of sorts, and his music may seem uncannily familiar to you. What’s more, if you speak English, especially as a native language, you’ll be surprised how many Pijin songs you may come to understand with a few days’ practice, sometimes so well that you may even think yourself capable of transcribing them!

 

 

There are also a number of resources you can use to improve your understanding of Pijin (and your speaking of Pijin if you choose to “shadow” [repeat after the narrator bit-by-bit]). A lot of religious material for Christians has been published (and you know that “The Jesus Film”, which has been dubbed into over 1,000 languages [not a typo!] is probably going to get an article on this blog one of these days). While I am not Christian myself, I find this material helpful for understanding not only the processes of missionaries (then as well as now) but also concerning how Christianity is perceived and practiced in places like the Solomon Islands.

And another song just because I feel like it:

Another slice of videos you can watch include informational videos about diseases, economic development, science (especially environmental science) and more! Many of these are localized into Solomon Islands Pijin by organizations from Australia and beyond!

I bet “watch Claymation films in Solomon Islands Pijin” was probably not on your to-do list for today, but here this is anyhow:

Yes, there is radio and you can learn a lot about the many cultures of the Solomon Islands by listening to it, but be aware of the fact that, especially in Honiara (the capital) a lot of English is interspersed between Pijin, so you’ll get an “on-off” feeling at times. But even when Solomon Islanders speak English, you’ll be able to hone your pronunciation and may even learn how to speak English the way they do in Solomon!

A lot of ads and other programming are also available and Pijin and you’ll sometimes listen to them quite frequently on the radio! I’ve also heard fantastic things about Pijin-language storytelling (a true art in the Solomon Islands and in all of Melanesia in general), but I’ve had trouble finding links to Pijin stories so if you know of any, let me know!

Lastly, you can actually help! Pijin Wikipedia may happen if you contribute a handful of articles! Have a look at the progress here! (I think if a Wikipedia incubator reaches 50 articles, it gets launched! Maybe I should just write the remaining ones and get it over with as a “birthday present” to the country. Or maybe I have too many other classes to teach today…)

https://incubator.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wp/pis

Anyhow, after listening to all of the songs, watching the films, and having a good dosage of written Pijin, perhaps it doesn’t surprise you that I learned this language well enough to speak it convincingly within two weeks…or does it?

Happy Birthday, Solomon Islands!

solomon

 

This Collection Will Convince You that Greenlandic Music is the Best

Today is the National Day of Greenland, and I thought I would offer something a bit different this time with demonstrating the wonderful world of Greenlandic music!

For those unaware, Greenland has a surprisingly large music scene with many, MANY different styles being encapsulated, not also to mention many other areas of the country as well.

For the past few years as well as for now, Greenlandic-language music remains my absolute favorite, despite the fact that the lyrics can often be difficult to acquire online (although perhaps coming years can definitely change that).

(By the way, if you are reading this and you are from Greenland AND you own any album-booklets from Greenlandic-language albums with song lyrics in them, feel free to post them online somewhere, at Musixmatch or Lyricstranslate or the equivalent, or even in a comment below!

Now, you’ve come here for music, and so it’s music you’re gonna get.

 

  1. Sumé – “Where To?” 

The classic rock of Greenland seems to have originated with Sumé, back from when the Greenlandic language didn’t undergo its orthography change. Now, the word would be spelled as “Sumi”.

Their songs touch on very important issues related to the various ills that colonialism wrought. Thanks largely to my parents having worked on the Navajo reservation, they told me throughout my life how they experienced this first-hand as far as the native peoples of the Americas are concerned.

 

Yes, the cover you see here actually sparked controversy by virtue of the fact that it shows an Inuk man having ripped off the arm of a Norse Settler. This song in particular Imigassaq (Firewater), touches on precisely what you would expect.

Greenlandic music has been influenced duly by traditional Inuk beats (some of which can be VERY well hidden), as well as by outside influences from the Anglophone world as well as from Denmark. Many a Greenlandic musician has been influenced by the giants of American and British music.

 

  1. Rasmus Lyberth

 

His prose as well as his lyrics are imbued with an extraordinary sense of spirituality and whenever you take in his texts, you feel as though you are connected to the human spirit as a whole.

Rasmus’s songs reflect on the many sides of the human experience in many emotional registers. Owing to his religious background, there are detectable church-music influences as well as aspects present in prayers and meditations in religions throughout the world.

Here’s a co-production of a song about gladness, bilingual in Greenlandic and Danish, between the legend himself and Lars Lilholt, a giant in his own right as well. Rasmus’ tunes always had a way of letting me embrace my emotions and realize their parts on the great saga that is human existence:

 

 

And here’s another one. Don’t lie. You’ve heard this tune before:

 

And now for something completely different:

 

  1. SUSSAT!

 

Ah, yes, the one that Americans LOVE.

And one of their best-known songs has probably the longest one-word song title known to humanity, “Asaneruleraluttuinarsinnaarpasippakkimmi” (It seems that I’m starting to love you more and more)

 

 

Even people who have never heard Greenlandic music before will find something very familiar about SUSSAT’s music, and perhaps it has to do with the autotune, which certainly makes it stand out in your playlist.

And, of course, the Summer Love Anthem that will get stuck in your head for weeks:

 

Fun fact: John G. Sandgreen, the lead singer of the band, was also featured in Greenland’s first-ever film entirely produced and written by Native Greenlanders, “Hinnarik Sinnattunilu” (Henry and his Dreams). He plays a high-sex-appeal celebrity who goes under the name “MC Qilaat”.

 

  1. Nanook

 

Arguably the best-known band in the country’s history, Nanook’s music echoes what it is to be a Greenlander. The landscapes, the national pride, the sadness of climate change with a hint of hope that maybe, just maybe, it might come together in the end, as well as dozens of songs related to emotional expression, from sadness to excitement to infatuation.

 

Nanook’s lyrics are literary masterpieces, ones that scholarly works will be written on in times to come. (They are all available with Greenlandic texts and English translations on their Facebook page…look under the photo album section)

 

October brought forth a fantastic music video featuring their song about the Polar Bear, the Mighty Nanook, who continues to struggle in a land and world of shrinking ice:

 

 

And you want another climate change song? Harder to get heavier than what you just saw, but this certainly comes close:

 

  1. ASUKI

 

I got introduced to Greenlandic music via the How to Learn Any Language Forum, and from the 1980’s onwards ASUKI (“I Don’t Know”) acquired noteworthy repute:

I can’t help but think of the Beach Boys for a lot of reasons whenever I listen to them.

 

  1. Siisiisoq

The Heavy Metal Band bearing the name of the Rhinoceros. Their songs bear the names of various animals and their lyrics are quite puzzling in their content. Their website pretty much stated outright that the lyrics were optimized so as to be irritating to older people.

The story behind the band is related here: http://www.angelfire.com/on/siissisoq/english.htm

And here’s a concert:

And here’s another playlist:

A confession I should make: I’ve probably listened to their first album more often than I have any other album in my life, period.

It’s interesting to note at this juncture that whenever I mention “Greenlandic Music” one of the first questions I get asked is “do they have Heavy Metal?” Well, now you know.

 

  1. Nuuk Posse

Named by the UN as Messengers of Truth as well as having their music featured in the French Film “The Voyage to Greenland” (in which Nanook was also featured!), Nuuk Posse still remains Greenland’s trademark Rap group (as far as I’ve heard):

The first Greenlandic Rap certainly sets a good example. Qitik – “Dance”

 

And now it seems that Greenlandic Music is breaking into new genres with…

 

  1. Furos Image / Marc Fussing Rosbach

 

…video game music!

This piece was used not only in a rough animated trailer for some game concept sketches, but is also going to be the wake-up-in-the-morning and eat-your-breakfast theme in my (our) first video game!

Marc has worked on dozens upon dozens of projects, including his own TV show in which he reviewed video games in Greenlandic, many music videos, short films, as well as his upcoming feature film “Tarratta Nunaanni” (In the Lands of Our Shadows).

With “Kaverini: Nuuk Adventures”, a video game being set in Greenland, fantastic new pieces are in the works, including a not-yet-released piece which is intended for “confrontations” (the closest thing that comes to “combat” in the Kaverini series, where you use your emotional intelligence  of different flavors in order to convince bad guys to stop being so mean to you).

That piece (not the one above, mind you) is genuinely one of the most frightening pieces of music I’ve ever heard in my life, and I can’t wait for you to hear it in-game, where I’ve made sure to include it in situations in which it will seem even more frightening. I even almost considered asking Marc to tone it down! (I didn’t, actually, and I’m glad I didn’t).

I can’t wait to see where else Greenlandic music will go! Just whenever I think it can’t possibly get any better I get even more surprised!

Did I leave anyone out? Did I leave YOU out? Feel free to mention any further Greenlandic music suggestions, whether they be individual pieces OR artists, in the comments!

greenland asanninneq

Introducing: The Wonderful World of Disco Polo!

polska polska

Those of you who have been following me for a while know that I used to speak some Polish (although not very well), thanks to my being tour guide in Krakow. It occurs to me that, in retrospect, had I not believed the “Critical Learning Period” stuff back when (it was in late 2012 that I got “deprogrammed”, thanks to me finding blogs and some friends telling me otherwise), Polish would be one of my strongest languages.

But it is what it is.

One thing that got me back into learning the language is one of my personal favorite musical sub-genres, known in Poland and elsewhere as “Disco Polo”.

Those who have studied Polish popular music of the contemporary era can detect distinct strands: one of which is before the fall of Communism (in which various groups such as Republika, Manaam, etc. dominated, exporting a lot of their music throughout the whole Eastern Bloc), and after it (which was influenced by dance music, especially from Italy, that is actually REALLY good study music!)

Come to think of it, I highly recommend listening to Disco Polo when studying! Guaranteed to make you get perfect scores on everything!

Anyhow, today is the first of April, causing me to reflect on new beginnings, and given that I haven’t written a lot about Polish culture in too much detail here, I thought that I’d share some songs for you to enjoy.

Here are some of my favorites:

“You’re Crazy!”

Jesteś szalona! x2

I. Miłość odchodzi – słyszę znów z twoich ust,
Zawsze prawda miała jakiś sens,
Te dni jak bajka, piękne jak tysiąc róż,
Ty się śmiałaś zawsze, no i cześć.

REF: Jesteś szalona, mówię ci,
Zawsze nią byłaś,
Skończysz wreszcie śnić?
Nie jesteś aniołem, mówię ci.
Jesteś szalona. x2

II. Na pożegnanie dajesz mi uśmiech swój,
Gdy odchodzisz wszystko burzy się,
Kochałem cię i twe szaleństwa, mocno tak,
Ty się śmiałaś zawsze, no i cześć.

REF: Jesteś szalona, mówię ci… x4

ENGLISH TRANSLATION: I’m lazy, have this one.

“You are Beautiful like a Million Dollars”

LYRICS (for those who obviously want to sing along = everyone, regardless of ability to read, speak or understand Polish)

Nadziei iskra pojawia się lecz czujesz tylko w sobie strach
Pieniądze mieć, bogatym być, słyszałem to już nie raz
Kadilaki, kobiety to moje podniety
Pieniądze i dziewczyna to moja dyscyplina

Ref.:
Jesteś piękna jak milion dolarów
Pragnę Cię jak milion dolarów
Jesteś sexy jak milion dolarów
Rozrywam Twoje ciało, bo ciągle mi jest mało Ciebie
I padam na kolana kobieto kochana
Nie będę już nigdy sam

Idę ulicą, spotykam ludzi, lecz widzę tylko Twoją twarz
Trącony łokciem padam na ziemię, miłości Ci nie mogę dać
Kadilaki, kobiety to moje podniety
Pieniądze i dziewczyna, to moja dyscyplina

Ref.:
Jesteś piękna jak milion dolarów
Pragnę Cię jak milion dolarów
Jesteś sexy jak milion dolarów
Rozrywam Twoje ciało, bo ciągle mi jest mało Ciebie
I padam na kolana kobieto kochana
Nie będę już nigdy sam

Jesteś piękna jak milion dolarów
Pragnę Cię jak milion dolarów
Jesteś sexy jak milion dolarów
I stracę Cię, i stracę Cię na pewno
I stracę Cię, i stracę Cię napewno

English Translation: Absolutely Nothing Original. I’ll write one if you guys beg me enough. Which will probably be in three minutes. By the way, still just as lazy.

 

Ah yes, a song about infidelity! A beacon of morality in these dark times!

“I’m Running Away from the Wife”

1. Och jak mnie boli głowa
A z boku znowu ona
Ciągle w swych farmazonach topi się
Już dłużej nie wytrzymam
I gdzie tu moja wina
Choć kiedyś ta dziewczyna inne nie
Kobieto weź ogarnij się
Za chwilę tu nie będzie mnie

Ja wychodzę z domu
Ciemną nocą po kryjomu
Uciekam od żony
Jej gadaniem już znudzony
Jadę na milano
Poflirtować z młodą panną
Bo gdy nie ma Ciebie
Jestem jak bóg młody w niebie (x2)

2. Już zaraz chyba skonam
Nade mną ciągle ona
Jak zwierzę rozwścieczona mówi że
To wszystko moja wina
A ona cud dziewczyna
Monolog swój zaczyna dręcząc mnie
Kobieto weź ogarnij się
Za chwilę tu nie będzie mnie

Ja wychodzę z domu
Ciemną nocą po kryjomu
Uciekam od żony
Jej gadaniem już znudzony
Jadę na milano
Poflirtować z młodą panną
Bo gdy nie ma Ciebie
Jestem jak bóg młody w niebie (x2)

Ja wychodzę z domu
Ja wychodzę z domu

Ja wychodzę z domu
Ciemną nocą po kryjomu
Uciekam od żony
Jej gadaniem już znudzony
Jadę na milano
Poflirtować z młodą panną
Bo gdy nie ma Ciebie
Jestem jak bóg młody w niebie (x2)

Yours lazily.

Miłego weekendu! (Have a nice weekend!)

Ha

Ha Ha

Ha Ha Ha

Ha Ha Ha Ha

ZM,

Jared Gimbel

Video of Me Speaking 31 Languages (and Humorous Commentary): March 2017

It happened. I made my promise in October 2015 that my first polyglot video would come out before my birthday (which is November). Then I got Lyme Disease. Holding it off, I thought it was a good time for me to finally fulfill it.

Anyhow, I don’t know how many videos there are of people speaking Greenlandic, Tajik and Cornish within four minutes, but here’s one of them:

Some of my thoughts on each bit:

 

English: Since my “big exile” in which I hopped countries for three years, people who knew me beforehand said that my accent had changed. I tried to make it as neutral (read: American) as possible. I don’t sound like a Hollywood character (I think) but I think it is fair to say that my true-American accent is off the table for the near future. Ah well. It was giving me trouble anyway (literally the second post I made on this blog!)

Hebrew: Ah, yes, feeling like I’m presenting about myself in the Ulpan again (Fun fact: in Welsh, it is spelled “Wlpan”). I remember the Ulpanim…in which I was allowed to draw cartoon characters of my own making on the board whenever I wanted…or maybe memory wasn’t serving me well…wasn’t there a Finnish girl in that class?

Spanish: Certainly don’t sound Puerto Rican, that’s for sure. Having to listen to Juan Magan’s “Ella no Sigue Modas” on repeat for an hour (and undergo this procedure against my will about once every week for a semester!) certainly didn’t hurt my ability to develop a peninsular Spanish accent, though!

Yiddish: *Sigh* well this explains why people ask me if I learned Yiddish at home. It’s one of the most common questions I get, actually. I was not born in Boro Park, Antwerp or Williamsburg. I am not an ex-Hasid.

Swedish: “Rest assured, you’re never going to sound Swedish”. Yeah, thanks Rough Guide to Sweden, just the sort of encouragement we all need. I need to have a word with you! Also, that mischievous inclination was trying to tell me that I should just say “sju sjuksköterskor skötte sju sjösjuka sjömän på skeppet Shanghai” and be done with the Swedish section.

Norwegian: My favorite national language of Europe, worried that maybe I didn’t give it enough time. Also, my voice is deep.

German: I hope I get this grammar right…I REALLY hope I get this grammar right…I hope this is good enough to impress my friends…

Danish: Remember the days that I was struggling so much with that language that I almost considered giving up several times? Yeah, me neither. Was so worried I would screw this up. Then it occurred to me exactly how much time I’ve spent watching anime dubbed into Danish.

Finnish: With the exception of Cornish, the slowest language I’ve learned. I hope my accent doesn’t sound too Hungarian…and also! Notes for polyglot video-makers! If you know Finnish, add something with –taan /  -tään and -maan / -mään for instant cred! Works wonders! (These concepts are too hard to describe in a sentence). Also, how come it is that any Finnish singer/rapper, including Cheek, more clearly pronounces his /her words than almost any English-language singer I’ve ever heard in any public place anywhere?

French: I AM TOTES GONNA SCREW THIS UP. But hey, I think…my accent is good…fun fact…I learned this language as a kid…when it down, just use your Breton accent…

Irish: I…hope…that…people deem my pronunciation…acceptable…and that…I don’t set off accidentally …any…debates…

Cornish: HAHAHAHAHAHA I TOTALLY SOUND LIKE THAT ANNOUNCER FROM “RanG” HAHAHAHAH HA HA HA HA HA…in terms of my intonations…in my actual voice, less so…

Bislama: I wonder if anybody will figure out from this video exactly how much I’ve studied those Bislama-dubbed Jesus films to get that accent down…

Italian: Lived with two Italians, one in Poland and one in Germany, this is for you!

Icelandic: I’m a big fan of Emmsjé Gauti, maybe one day I’ll do this rap-cover polyglot video, in which I rap in all of the various languages. I’m gonna have a hard time finding Tok Pisin rap lyrics, though…

Dutch: I literally binged-watched Super Mario Maker playthroughs in Dutch the night before filming, because this was the accent I thought needed the most training. Did I get the grammar right…I hope I…did…oh, why did I choose to forget you for a year?

Polish: WOOOOOW MY ACCENT IS GOOOODDD. Pity it’s my “worst best language”. And the hardest language I’ve ever had to sing Karaoke in…time’ll fix that!

Tok Pisin: It will be interesting to see exactly how someone from Papua New Guinea would react to me speaking Melanesian Creole Languages.

Greenlandic: Is it just me, or does my voice very heavily resemble that of Marc Fussing Rosbach? (He’s a brilliant composer and you should really listen to his stuff!) Given that my first-ever single (still unpublished) was in Greenlandic, my accent can’t be THAT bad…

Russian: In my first take (which I did the day before) I sounded so much like a villain…I wonder if my Russian teachers from high school and college would be proud of me. Probably not, given that I gave up on Russian from 2013 until a few months ago.

Welsh: I’ve been doing this since January 2017 and is my accent really THAT good? “Norwyeg” is also harder to say than it looks. Not sure I got it right, even…

Tajik: My pose is so classy, and I sounded like a villain in this one but it was too cool to leave out. Can’t wait to actually get good at Tajik.

Faroese: Yeah, I didn’t study this language for nearly half a year. Not even gonna self-criticize myself for this one. But hey, listening to the music for accent training…makes me wanna go back! And also the most beautiful love song I’ve ever heard is in Faroese…guess that means I gotta relearn it before proposing…no idea when that’s gonna happen, though…

Myanmar / Burmese: I’M GONNA GET LAUGHED AT. And I accept it.

Breton: The first take literally sounded like gibberish so I listened to Denez Prigent’s complete album collection while walking outside. I think it fixed it…

Portuguese: I hope I made these two versions…different enough…

English Reprise: I made this video based on exactly what I would have wanted to encounter from a hyperpolyglot back when I was beginning. I hope this video is someone’s answered prayer.

Ukrainian: I BET DUOLINGO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THAT ACCENT.

Estonian: Gonna relearn you, but right now, you get two words.

Hungarian: Ended with Hungarian as a tribute to my only living grandparent, Joyce Gimbel, for whom I will learn Hungarian for very soon indeed!

The Top 5 Catchiest Songs I’ve Heard in My Whole Life to Date (March 2017 Edition)

 moving forward 1

Today is Purim, a Jewish Holiday that does involve costumes, celebration and the reversals of fortune.

Interestingly, it occurs to me that it may be the closest thing to a “troll holiday” that really exists in the Jewish calendar.

My identity, especially my Jewish identity, is something I struggle with a LOT more than I should.

But that’s a story for another day.

True to the spirit of reversal on Purim (vnahafokh = Ancient Hebrew for “and it was reversed”, referring to the denouement of the Book of Esther which you should read one fine afternoon, if you haven’t heard it already today or yesterday evening), I ain’t gonna be writing about language learning.

I’m going to be posting the catchiest songs I’ve heard. Ever.

Actually, what am I thinking? Does this have anything to do with Purim? No, it probably doesn’t. There isn’t even any Jewish performer on this list (as far as I can tell…sorry)

But I hope all of you regardless of background or level or anything else can enjoy this playlist.

Want the lyrics? Leave a comment. Didn’t include them because I thought it would clutter this post more than message. I didn’t include commentary for the same reason. You came to hear catchy songs, not a lecture.

So more music, less wordz!

  1. Basshunter, “Boten Anna” (Swedish)
  1. The Tokens, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” (English)
  1. Daniel Bilip “Mangi Mendi” (Papua New Guinea / mostly in Tok Pisin)
  1. SUSSAT! “Sila Qaamareerpoq” (Greenlandic)

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Staysman and Lazz, “En Godt Stekt Pizza” (Norwegian)

Juan Magan, «Mal de Amores» (Spanish [Spain])

Marc Fussing Rosbach, «FIIST!» (Greenlandic)

And now for the first place you’ve all been waiting for…

  1. Keatly Kalulu, «Kava» (Bislama [Vanuatu])

6 Reasons Why You Should Learn Breton

breizh

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, pick a more original picture, but this keeps in mind those that have never seen this flag before. Introducing, dear friends and followers and curious people, the flag of Brittany!

Time for me to be honest, I get vexed whenever I see a “reasons to learn popular language” post, as if they needed any more reason aside from being from (usually) very politically powerful and/or rich countries.

So this series is my response, and I’ll start with one of my favorite languages to sing in…

 

“You’re learning what…?”

Too often people will rule out potential languages to learn if they have to explain what it is to most people.

Look.

You have one life.

I understand if you may not want to spend even a small portion of that life doing a certain something.

But if you do have a desire, however small, to learn a language that most people in your community don’t even know exist, then…DO IT ANYWAY!

But you haven’t come here for my opinions, you’ve come here to learn about Breton (or maybe you just want to know what it is!)

 

What is Breton?

Breton is a Celtic Language native to Brittany, which is the area of France directly across from the English Channel. That peninsula sticking out westward towards the sea? That’s it.

But if you go to Britanny nowadays, you’ll hear mostly French spoken on the street, the reason for that being the same as why you’d hear mostly English rather than Irish in Dublin.

That said, there are movements for the revitalization of the Breton language, and there are a lot of people who know it natively (at least 100,000 people!), but most of these are older people (born in the 1950’s or so).

So given the current demographics, and despite the existence of the Diwan school network (which you can read about here), there is some cause for worry.

But luckily you, dear traveler, can help!

And if you want to hear it spoken, feel free to scroll down where you’ll encounter folk songs and heavy metal (no, not making this up!)

If you want to see it written, feel free to look at some of the links as well as Breton Wikipedia here.

And No. 6 on this list will have exciting ways for you to use the language while having fun!

 

Why Should I Learn Breton?

 

  1. Breton played a key role in the history of Britain and France

 

Bretons were essential in turning the tide of victory to William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings, one that ultimately decided the future of the world’s most powerful language today.

After the Normans defeated the Saxons and set up “house” in England, Bretons migrated from across the English Channel to Cornwall, making the Celtic languages there, especially Cornish, more similar to Breton.

The Celts played a role in influencing both Britain and France, and their influence in turn has been spread over the entire world, despite the fact that all Celtic languages alive today are endangered.  Enya’s “March of the Celts” describes them as “Beo go deo / Marbh go deo” (Irish for “Alive forever / Dead Forever”), and ever since hearing these words, I’ve noticed that the not-completely-subtle-nor-completely-invisible influence of Celtic Languages and Cultures has spread throughout the entire globe.

Brittany is no exception, and among some well-known people of Breton heritage you may have heard of are Jack Kerouac and Charles de Gaulle, both of whom used the language at various points.  (General de Gaulle’s uncle was a Breton poet! De Gaulle = V’ro Chall. Bro C’hall = Gaul Country = France)

Brittany continues to play a role in popular culture in the Francophone world the same way that Scotland does in the Anglophone world. What’s more, people with Breton names live in all continents, by virtue of the fact that France actually has territory in more time zones than Russia does (!!!)

 

  1. Like Singing but Can’t Play Instruments? Breton is for you!

 

Almost all of the Breton music I have heard sounds equally fantastic when sung solo as it would be on highly produced recordings.

If you like Open Mic nights and want to impress people with something exotic and memorable, getting to know Breton music for a while would be highly worth your time!

Denez Prigent (his last name is pronounced as in French), best known for songs of his that were featured in works of American popular culture such as “Black Hawk Down” and “South Park”, learned Breton from his grandfather and has since become a powerful voice of Breton music.

This is the song that was featured in both of these works, and I know it isn’t particularly creative of me to include it, but I have to include it because some of you may have that “wow, I actually know this song from somewhere”. Lyrics and information in the description of the video:

(This song has since been covered dozens of times as well, and I highly recommend you check out Denez Prigent’s other albums, “Irvi” and “Sarac’h”, some songs are very helpful for advanced beginners, others are quite arcane, however…)

And for those seeking something more energetic and wondering. “Cool…got any heavy metal?”

This is for you (title translates to “The Sailors are Dead”, one thing you’ll notice about Breton is that, like Ye Olde English, the sentence structure actually reads “Dead are the Sailors”. I’m also curious if I’m the only one that thinks of the NES game “Zelda II” when I listen to this):

I’ve found myself genuinely a changed man as a result of Breton music. What’s more, because I am a synagogue cantor as well as (insert my other six odd jobs here), I’ve found inspiration in the a capella melodies of many a Breton singer.

What’s more Alan Stivell, the godfather of Breton music nowadays, is Jewish via his mother’s side (!)

Don’t lie! You’ve heard that melody before! (“Son ar Chistr” = the Cider Song, has to be the only drinking song I’ve found included in a phrasebook [!]).

This song’s melody has been included in various other pop songs all over the world, and is a Breton melody from the 1920’s (if I recall correctly).

One of those tunes that stays with you forever, isn’t it?

 

  1. The amount of public domain songs that exist in Breton is staggeringly high!

Do you like singing?

Even if you don’t like singing, do you want to use classical and vaguely familiar songs in your creative work?

Good news!

Lots and lots of Breton songs are out there, waiting to be discovered!

As well as heart-rending poetry that YOU may be the next great translator of!

Putting this in google.fr set to Breton and clicking on “Ar Voul zo Ganin!” gets me this:

http://per.kentel.pagesperso-orange.fr/

And that’s just 101.

 

  1. Standard Breton pronunciation is straightforward

To the very untrained ear, Breton and French are spoken with identical registers. Not surprising. I tell people who aren’t aware of what Breton is that “Breton is almost like Welsh spoken in a French accent” (even though Cornish is a lot closer, actually).

While there are some tricky sounds, including the c’h that is actually pronounced as a separate letter from “ch” (c’h = guttural sound like “Bach”, ch = sh sound in English), as well as some consonants/vowels that disappear in spoken speech (think New Englanders not pronouncing t’s) as well as shenanigans with the “ñ” sound (you’ll see this letter at the end of words in Breton), vowels are straightforward and diphthongs, while also slightly tricky, don’t take long to get used to.

Accented syllables are almost pronounced as two, and look for these on the penultimate syllable.

An iliz = the church. To be pronounced “on “ee-ee-leez”.

So much fun!

What’s more, there is at least one Breton-Language song I am aware of that is generally available in karaoke outlets in France. Probably one of the most recognizable Celtic songs on the planet, actually!

 

 

  1. By learning Breton, You Take a Stand Against Cultural Assassination

 

There are those that say that Breton has the distinction of being the one language in human history that dropped in usage more quickly than ANY other!

If you can read French, have a look at some of these chilling quotes under the section: “Les langues ne meurent pas toutes seules…” (Languages don’t die by themselves)

http://brezhoneg.gwalarn.org/yezh/kinnig.html

I’ll translate a few of them for you:

 

“For the linguistic unity of France, it is necessary that the Breton Language disappear

“There is no place for regional languages and cultures in a France that must make its mark upon Europe”

“A rule that I would never bend: not a word of Breton, neither in class nor at recess”

“Keep in mind, gentlemen, that you have only been put in place in order to kill the Breton Language”

 

I will spare you the rest of them.

It may or may not be “your” culture, but if you can play “doctor” to someone else’s culture or language, it will give you an extraordinary warm feeling of satisfaction knowing that you are, in this critical moment in time, taking the side of those who have been unfairly treated.

 

  1. Despite the fact that the Republic of France declares French the sole official language of the country, the opportunities to use Breton will grow despite of, or perhaps because, of this policy.

 

And while history can’t be undone, I think that people everywhere are more open to the idea of reviving and nourishing cultures that have been suppressed. And even within France, there are a lot of initiatives, from bottom to top, encouraging the usage of Breton and furthering its publicity.

Even if you are a not a native speaker, you can help! Let people know about the Breton Language, its music, its poetry, and the cultural aspects that may not seem as foreign to the ordinary American / Frenchman / Brit / (anyone else) as he or she may imagine.

The curiosity you spark in other people may very well start their journeys, and it is likely that you may have a deeper impact on creating cultural awareness than you realize!

Last year, one of Denez Prigent’s songs was featured on an episode of South Park (I found out this out at a Jewish youth event in Brooklyn, of all places…), and that by itself caused a lot of people to become curious. You may not be an extraordinary pop culture icon (yet), but you can still do something!

There will come a day in which Breton will come to Google Translate (as it already has come to Minecraft and to Mozilla Firefox, in complete translations, no less!). There may even come more impressive and unforeseen victories still.

Wouldn’t you like to be a part of that, and proudly say to your friends and family members that you helped make it happen?

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Your boat, ready to take off for an exciting journey into Breton / Brezhoneg, that will forever change you. Note: this is Sweden, not Brittany. Sorry about that!

 

Celebrating the First Birthday of “A World with Little Worlds” with Music, Translations and Fun!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

One year ago today, I decided to celebrate the anniversary of my college graduation by creating a new blog, celebrating my language journeys. One year later, after plenty of embarrassing moments, self-doubt, as well as mirth and fulfillment and euphoria, here I am, certain that I have made progress in some regard, although I have gotten better in many languages and forgotten many others.

To celebrate, I hereby present the BEST of the music that my language journeys have exposed me to this year. This was a very hard choice, and if I could have my way I could post entire albums here but that would probably result in a cease-and-desist letter.

I could very well provide these in an album form if this was another time, but it seems that in the world of streaming and many other media without physical components that it may not be necessary. Hence, this post!

Below is all of the music that I have selected. Some of it is from languages that I know well. Others from languages that I forgot completely.

(Note: it was originally my intention to translate all of the lyrics, but due to time constraints I’m not going to go around to doing it today. If you want the translations, let me know and I’ll provide them at a later date.)

(Other note: in the event that any of these videos is blocked in your country, let me know!)

https://www.facebook.com/zorgzikhnit/videos/vb.675695412/10155178442800413/?type=3&theater

A song from R.A.G., Cornish Radio, and one of the first songs I ever heard in the language “Hen yw an pris” (The Price is Old)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6igIvhXJCF4

From Finland, a song in the Finnish Language that has consistently topped the charts, a classic love song, titled “Paper Airplane” (not often you encounter such a title for such a genre):

“Paperilenokki”

Mä en lähelles pääse,

on jengii sun ympäril taas ku piikkilankaa

Oon rakentanu sun jalustan

niin korkeeks,

et vaan ilmateitse sut saavuttaa

Mä vaan, haluun kertoo sen

et sua ajattelen

ja sen kirjoitan siipiin,

paperilennokin

Mä haluun et tiedät sen,

oot ainutlaatuinen

Laitan viestin siipiin lennokin

En sun numeroo löydä, mut tarviin sen äkkii, et sut kii saan

Mun mielessä oot saavuttanu statuksen missä oot vähemmän totta ku tarua

Mä vaan, haluun kertoo sen et sua ajattelen ja sen kirjoitan siipiin, paperilennokin Mä haluun et tiedät sen, oot ainutlaatuinen

Laitan viestin siipiin lennokin

Pientä turbulenssia (turbulenssia) ja vähän lentopelkoa (lentopelkoa)

Mut mullon viesti valmiina (o-oo, o-oo)

Paperilennokkiin

Mä haluun et tiedät sen, oot ainutlaatuinen

Laitan viestin siipiin lennokin

Pientä turbulenssia (turbulenssia, o-oo, o-oo-oo) ja vähän lentopelkoa (lentopelkoa) Pientä turbulenssia (turbulenssia, jei-jei-jee)

Mut mullon viesti valmiina (o-oo, o-oo)

Paperilennokkiin

Mä vaan, haluun kertoo sen et sua ajattelen ja sen kirjoitan siipiin, paperilennokin Mä haluun et tiedät sen, oot ainutlaatuinen

Laitan viestin siipiin lennokin

Pientä turbulenssia (turbulenssia) ja vähän lentopelkoa (lentopelkoa)

Mut mullon viesti valmiina (o-oo, o-oo)

Paperilennokkiin

Mä haluun et tiedät sen, oot ainutlaatuinen

Laitan viestin siipiin lennokin.

Two songs in Tok Pisin:

And this classic, featured on the blog previously:

From Samiland, a song that has become an internet sensation and, interesting, has been translated into Tongan. I guarantee that you HAVE heard this song before:

Iđitguovssus girdilit
Hávski lei go iđistit
Vilges dolggiid geigestit
Várrogasat salastit

Njukča, njuvččažan
Buokčal, ligge varan
Njukča, njuvččažan
Ovdal iđitroađi

Iđitguovssus girdilit
Hávski lei go iđistit
Jaskatvuođain savkalit
Nuorravuođain njávkalit

Njukča, njuvččažan
Buokčal, ligge varan
Njukča, njuvččažan
Ovdal iđitroađi

Riegádahte áibbašeami
Oktovuođa váillaheami
A classic folk song in Northern Sami, courtesy of Sofia Jannok, a legendary Sami singer from Sweden:

Sámi eatnan duoddariid, dáid sámi mánáid ruovttu
galbma geađge guorba guovlu
sámi mánáid ruoktu

Beaivi Áhči gollerisku, almmi allodagas
coahkká váibmu Eanan eatni, eallin eatnun šoavvá

Mánu silbbat šelggonasat, jietnja
meara márra, guovssahasat
násteboagán, lottit ráidarasas
vuoi dáid Davvi duovdagiid
dán viiddis almmi ravdda
garra dálkkit juoiggadallet, máná vuohttunluđiid

vuoi dáid fávrrus eatnamiid
vuoi jávrriid čuovgi čalmmiid
liegga litna eatni salla, gievvudeaddji gietkka

Biegga buktá Biegga doalvu
duottar dat lea duottar
duoddar duohken duoddar askkis
sámi mánáid dorvu

Sámi eatnan duoddariid
dáid sámi mánáid ruovttu
šearrát gearrá šealggáhallá, sámi mánáid ruoktu

From Estonia. Interesting fact: Ott Lepland is, very roughly, my age:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cOC2A0EJcGk

Sa ju tead, ma soovin sulle öelda:
oled südames.
Sa ju tead, et tahan nüüd vaid mõelda
meie hetkedest.

Sinu hääl minu sees
kõlab nüüd vaid mõtetes.
Sinu käsi minu käes –
sellest und nüüd vaid näen.

Mu südamest viid osakese kaasa,
kui sa ükskord läed.
Kuid ma tean, seda tagasi mul saada
aitab nüüd vaid aeg.

Seisan siin vaikselt ma,
sellel teel käin üksinda.
Viivuks tagasi vaatab silm,
kuid seal ei ole sind.

Vaid võimaluse eest
võiks hoida sellel teel,
et unustaksid sa oma maailma.
Siin seisan nüüd vaid veel
su elu silmades ja loodan siiski ma sind leian…

Mu südames oled kirjutatud luule,
mida nüüd vaid loen.
Kuid ma tean: need sõnad heidan tuulde
ja vaikselt peitu poen,
vaikselt peitu poen.

From the Faroe Islands, a pop song from the 1990’s and a Christmas song:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FlKH1wWdJpY&list=PL7xreoFR3bi1X2qe0wXmQP8gVNp1x2Gso

Kenslur mínar brenna við sakninum í tær gekk ljósið út

Eitt kaldligt tám er tað einasta ið rennur mær í hug at eg ein fuglur var, sum hevði mist sín song

Eg hómi minnir frá tín farna men rødd tí ljóðar enn í mær

Og tú vart sólstrála mín eitt brosi snýð tá eg var stúrandi

Og tú kanst fjala út yvir men hon er altíð har

So leingi sum tú livir men tú lærir tíðin lekir sár

Eins og trø seint á heysti so ber um vári festa aftur bløð

Minnið um teg mól í mær sum malargrót skræddi fyri sær

So við og við sum tíðin rann mól gróti runt og rundaði so av tók eitt annað skap

Men tíðin tekur tørni alt søkir sína slóð

So satt sum trøð missa tey bløð sum skrýddi tey so standa tey í kuldanum so ber

Og tú kanst fjala út yvir men hon er altíð har

So leingi sum tú livir men tú lærir tíðin hylur sár

Eins og trø seint á heysti so ber um vári festa aftur bløð

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-kjJcbgPjik

  1. Kvirra um fjøll og fløtur,
    og náttin døpur, myrk og svørt.
    Lýsir av fjallatindi
    stjørnan so blonk og bjørt.
    Rekur burt nátt og niða
    vill dýr um teigar tiga,
    stjørnan so spakuliga
    seg otar fram í náttini.

Niðurlag: Føddur er konga Kongur
til eina falna verð.
Hoyr hvussu einglasongur
boðini sælu ber.
Ja, hoyr teir syngja um frið á foldum,
tí Frelsarin nú føddur er.

  1. Rekur í nátt og niðu
    so mong ein friðleys sál í dag
    ljósið tó bjart úr erva
    skínur við sama lag,
    boðar á lívsins vegi
    sálunum frið og gleði.
    Leita á hesum degi
    til Hann sum kom at frelsa teg.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e4dT8FJ2GE0

Heyr, himna smiður,

hvers skáldið biður,

komi mjúk til mín

miskunnin þín.

Því heit eg á þig,

þú hefur skaptan mig,

ég er þrællinn þinn,

þú ert Drottinn minn.

Guð, heit eg á þig,

að græðir mig,

minnst, mildingur, mín,

mest þurfum þín.

Ryð þú, röðla gramur,

ríklyndur og framur,

hölds hverri sorg

úr hjartaborg.

Gæt, mildingur, mín,

mest þurfum þín

helzt hverja stund

á hölda grund.

Set, meyjar mögur,

máls efni fögur,

öll er hjálp af þér,

í hjarta mér.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpscxhgZYeE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQNbgwKk_UQ

Ósýnilega gyðja ég vil kynnast þér af líkama og sál

Myndi þora að veðja að þú munt dýrka mig og ég mun kveikja hjartabál

Hann langar í sanséraðan sportbíl og hann verður dús þráir heimska ljósku, sportbíl og risastórt hús

Hann langar í sanséraðan sportbíl og hann verður dús þráir heimska ljósku, sportbíl og risastórt hús

Ísmeygilega gyðja hvað er að gerast hér vá þú fellir tár

Ég skal föndra við þig alla og ég mun eiga þig en þú munt ei eiga mig Hann langar í sanséraðan sportbíl og hann verður dús þráir heimska ljósku, sportbíl og risastórt hús

Hann langar í sanséraðan sportbíl og hann verður dús þráir heimska ljósku, sportbíl og risastórt hús

Hann langar í sanséraðan sportbíl og hann verður dús þráir heimska ljósku, sportbíl og risastórt hús

Hann langar í sanséraðan sportbíl og hann verður dús þráir heimska ljósku, sportbíl og risastórt hús…

And, from Greenland. Asuki’s “Halilu’lilah” is probably my favorite song to date.

HALILULILAH

AQQUSERNUP SINAATIGUT KISIMI INGERLAVOQ

EQQARSAATEQARUNARTOQ MALUGAARA

NALUNANNGIVILLUNI NUANNERSUNIK

EQQARSAATEQARTOQ QANORMITA HALILU’LILAH

APERISSANERPARA AJOQUSISSANERPARA

IMMAQAMI ILASSILAALAARLUGU

SUSSALUUNNIIT ILASSINAGU TUSARUNNANNGIIVIPPAANGA

HALILU’LILAH QANOQ ILIUSSAVUNGA.

SANIOQQUTILERLUGU ISUMAGA AJORTIMMAT

ILASSILAARUSULLUGU MISIGAANGA

SUUKIMI AKINANI QUNGUJUINNARALUARUNI

MISIGISSUSEQ TAKUTILLUGU HALILU’LILAH

SANGUVUNGA TUNGAANNAANUT TASSAMI TIKIPPARA

ILASSIGAKKULU INUSSIARNISAARPUNGA

QIVIARPOQ ANNUSERPOQ QUNGUJUSSAQANNGIVIPPOQ

ALASSAARIVOQ IMATULLU AKIVOQ.

Chorus:

HEY UUMANGA NIPAGILAARIT – IMALUUNNIT ALALAARIT

PAATSIVEERUTILIIVIPPARA

HEY UUMANGA OQALUNNAK – KIISA AAMMA PUIGORTIPPAT

HALILU’LILAH HALILU’LI’LULILAH

https://www.facebook.com/zorgzikhnit/videos/10155767937835413/?pnref=story

“Nannup angalaarfia

tusaajuk qupparpalunnera

aqqutigisaa ingerlavigisaa nungullarpoq

nanook nanook tammartajaarpoq

Takujuk nanook Pissaaneqartoq

Kusanaqisut allanngujaqisut sikorsuit

Qimaatitsisarlutik qaaqqusisarlutik amigaataasaramik

Takujuk nanook Pissaaneqartoq

Takujuk nanook Pissaaneqartoq

Paasilerpara inuit kalaallit

Pissaaneqaqisut”

Happy Birthday, “World with Little Worlds!”. May it continue to inspire me and all of you to follow the paths you desire most…