Apparently there are 6,309 spoken languages in the world, as catalogued and described in the book “Languages of the World”, according to the Wikipedia. So it turns out that to be outrageously multi-lingual you’d have to learn a new language about every 5 days, given that you live until the ripe old age of 80 years. However, I would like to inform you of two possibilities you have in this regard:
- Language extinction may work in your favour. If you wait until 2050, about 90% of languages that are currently alive will have become extinct. (and here I cite the possibly reputable “ChinaSmack” website: http://www.chinasmack.com/2009/stories/90-percent-worlds-languages-extinct-in-41-years.html“)
- Learn only 10 key words in a wide range of languages, reducing your daily workload to a mere 2 words per day for your 80 years of life (Unfortunately, if you can read this article you have probably used up 5 years and if you understand this article, you’ve probably lost at least 12 years.)
The focus of this blog is therefore to suggest to you 5 key words you should learn in every language. Ideally I would suggest 10 key words, but I don’t have enough time to write that much of a blog today. Anyway, here goes.
- Focal uimhir a haon: Hello – this word is absolutely crucial if you’re carrying something in each hand and can’t manage to wave your paw. In many countries, the word for hello is the exact same as for goodbye, so learning how to greet someone is a double whammy. However, don’t be too liberal employing this assumption, as saying hello to someone when you’re leaving will leave them with a rather confused impression of your nationality. Furthermore, a common mistake is to learn “Good Morning!” when you actually want to learn “Hello”. Again, this can be slightly perplexing when employed after noon, especially if the other person doesn’t have a watch (or nowadays a phone).
- Please – this is an absolute beauty of a word. Combined with any object or service of your choice you now know how to ask for almost anything. Water please, tiramisu please, Tibetan-hot-stone-massage please… the list is infinite.
- Thanks – This one is pretty vital if you don’t want to be going around nodding to people after they’ve done you a favour. Having said that, if you’re not going back to the country any time soon, you probably should just focus on learning please.
- Toilets – The truth is you can definitely get away without knowing the word for the jacks. However, after a few weeks of performing charades every time you need relief, you’ll find that this one word will come in handy.
- Cheers – again, cheers is the beauty of a word that can often be the difference between socialising and standing in the corner. In fact, “cheers” garners wide international acclaim as both the shortest and most effective chat-up-line when approaching a gender compatible with your sexuality.
“Hello, please, thanks, toilets, cheers”. Or in phoenetic Serbian form as I’ve been learning this week, “Zdravo. Molim. Hvala. Toaleta. Živeli.”
And finally, to wrap things up, I quote a friend of Jacob Miller, a labmate of mine. If in doubt, learn how to say “Don’t shoot, I’m a pencil!”. “Don’t shoot” explains you don’t want them to shoot and “I’m a pencil” explains that you clearly cannot speak the language.