Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Difference in languages

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I simply like learning languages that I don't know. When I was in a college in Japan, I took Spanish class, Italian class, French class, and Indonesian class, each for just an year. Outside the college I also tried to learn Russian and Portuguese by myself. Of course it is impossible to become able to speak languages other than our mother languages through a mere one-year or less absolute beginner class. However, it is still fun to learn languages because I can find something new about my own language in comparison with other languages.

As I already mentioned in the previous post, each language has its original concept that can be called its "roots" for those who speak that language. After coming to the United States, one thing I was surprised during a conversation with my American roommate was that when I said that "the rainbow has seven colors," she immediately corrected me saying that "no, it's six colors, right?" I knew that the number of colors in the rainbow differs in every country but at that time I totally forgot about it.

What this little episode indicates is the difference in perception of colors. In other examples, Japanese language classifies rain into more than 20 kinds based on its strength, seasons, or even the size of raindrops. I also heard that some tribes who live in Northern part of the Earth has a large number of expression for snow, and other tribes who make their living mainly from fishing has a great variety of terms about wave and fish.

What I love the most about learning different languages is to get the new viewpoint from this kind of discovery, if not become able to speak in those languages.