Languages I Speak

I often get asked how many languages I speak, and how well I speak them. This is a difficult question, so I usually respond by saying, “I don’t know.” However, this rarely satisfies anyone. Therefore, I will try to set the record straight here and list all the languages I study every day, and my current knowledge level. If the language isn’t listed in bold, that means I have only just begun studying it.  (last updated January 31, 2016)

GERMANIC LANGUAGES

  • English: My native language, highly educated and well-read, proficient in various registers of formality and informality.
  • Swedish: I know the grammar, have a very large and educated vocabulary, and I can read and write without needing to refer to a dictionary. I make minor errors in writing, but without obscuring my communicative intent. I speak with a noticeable accent, and can understand most of what is spoken to me. Television and radio are more difficult to follow.
  • Danish: I know the grammar, with a reasonably wide vocabulary, such that I can read and write while only occasionally needing to refer to a dictionary. I have no experience in a spoken setting.
  • Norwegian: By extrapolating my knowledge of Swedish and Danish, I can read and understand nearly everything. I have not spent much time specifically studying Norwegian.
  • Icelandic: With minimal effort, I can read Icelandic. I am unable to produce very much of it.
  • Dutch: I know the grammar, with a reasonably large vocabulary, and I can read and write with a dictionary. I still occasionally make errors in syntax. I have limited experience in a spoken setting, but I can speak very haltingly and understand most of what is spoken to me.
  • German: I can read German, and I can understand it when it is spoken slowly to me. I have not spent much time specifically studying German.
  • Yiddish: I can read and write at a high level in Yiddish, and I understand nearly everything that is spoken to me. I speak haltingly with a noticeable accent.
  • Frisian: I have only just begun studying this language, but given that it is the closest related language to English, it’s not very difficult.

ROMANCE LANGUAGES

  • French: I lived in Tours, France as a child, attending a French school, and consistently returning to France in later summers. For all intents and purposes my French is at a native level of proficiency, but I have trouble at the most formal register in speech and writing, as I did not receive any higher education in French.
  • (Latin American) Spanish: I speak, read, and write at a near-native level.
  • (Brazilian) Portuguese: I speak somewhat slowly, and read and write at a near-native level.
  • Italian: I speak somewhat slowly, and read and write at a near-native level.
  • Catalan: I can speak haltingly, but largely correctly, and I can understand nearly everything I hear. I read and write at a very high level, making mistakes rarely.
  • Romanian: I can read a reasonable amount of Romanian based on my knowledge of other Romance languages, but I am not very familiar with the grammar.
  • Venetian: I can understand most Venetian, and I have studied a reasonable amount of the grammar.
  • Sardinian: I have learned a newly developed standardized form of the language, and can read and write in this register. However, it is not yet universally adopted, and I am unfamiliar with local spoken registers.
  • Neapolitan: I feel it is important to promote minority languages that are endangered. Unfortunately, there aren’t very many resources for, nor very many speakers of, Neapolitan, Abruzzese, or Gallurese, which has limited my ability to learn them.
  • Abruzzese
  • Gallurese
  • Latin: The sole “classical” language I have studied (to date). I have only bothered learning to read, not write, but this I can do reasonably well.
  • Haitian Creole: I’m familiar with the grammar, and speaking French helps, but I’m not yet even conversational.

BALTO-SLAVIC LANGUAGES

  • Bulgarian: I know the grammar and a large amount of vocabulary, and can read and write. I have limited experience in spoken situations.
  • Russian: I know most of the grammar, and a technical vocabulary related to finance. I can read the news and business documentation, but little else.
  • Polish: There was a point where my Polish was almost as good as my Russian, but it’s very rusty now.
  • Ukrainian: I have only just begun studying this language, but my knowledge of Russian helps in comprehension.
  • Lithuanian: I am working my way through the grammar, but there is a lot of memorization, given the rich morphology.
  • Slovak

GAELIC LANGUAGES

  • Irish
  • Welsh

INDO-IRANIAN LANGUAGES

  • Hindi/Urdu: I used to be nearly fluent in Hindi/Urdu,  but it has been many years since I’ve spoken. I can still understand some, and read more. With a couple of weeks in India, I could dust it off.
  • Punjabi: Similar story to Hindi/Urdu, but less skill.
  • Bengali: Similar story to Hindi/Urdu, but even less skill than Punjabi.
  • Persian:  I was highly conversational, and literate, but now I’m very rusty.
  • Kurdish (Kurmanji)

HELLENIC LANGUAGES

  • Modern Greek

FINNO-UGRIC LANGUAGES

  • Finnish: I am familiar with the grammar, but I can’t speak it.
  • Estonian

AMERICAN INDIGENOUS LANGUAGES

  • Quechua (Cochabamba): I spent a few months doing field work on this dialect of Quechua. I know the grammar very well, and my vocabulary is quite extensive, but I still speak haltingly. I’m also a bit rusty.
  • Guaraní
  • Navajo

SEMITIC LANGUAGES

  • Hebrew: I know the grammar, but speak very haltingly.
  • Arabic
  • Maltese

TURKIC LANGUAGES

  • Uzbek
  • Azeri

MONGOLIC LANGUAGES

  • Mongolian

AUSTRONESIAN LANGUAGES

  • Indonesian: I know the basic grammar, but have an extremely limited vocabulary. I can read and write using a dictionary, but I have no experience in a spoken setting.
  • Tetum

BANTU LANGUAGES

  • Swahili
  • Zulu

 

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