A few weeks back, I, with the help of our trusty network of 3,000+ writers, pulled together a collection of language translation resources for those international customers of ours who always ask if we can write blogs in different languages. (The short answer is no, but those resources should help get you started!)
While it’s not a formal Verblio offering, it’s certainly not out of the scope of areas we’re interested in as a company. When I started asking around which languages our team of only 14 people spoke/studied, I was floored. Among us, we cover 11 languages, and some of our employees have even tied the knot to folks from places like Slovakia and Paraguay. Heck yeah, we speak languages.
It was out of those conversations that this blog post was born. I asked each person in the office what languages they know, why & how they learned them, how they keep up with language learning, and what interesting facts they could impart about each language/culture from learning it. What follows now are some of those awesome insights.
Scott Yates, Founder & CEO: Spanish
Why do you care about speaking this language? The ability to order a beer.
How do you keep up with it? My son is now taking Spanish, so I need to keep up with him.
Interesting fact: Language dictionaries are cool!
My favorite may be the one that is a reference of four languages, none of which are common. I picked it up in a used bookstore in Buenos Aires. It translates between:
1. The argot of the dockworkers,
2. “Lunfardo” which is a language of either the poor of Buenos Aires, or the criminals who wanted to talk without guards understanding, or perhaps both (it’s not clear),
3. A dockworker’s version of French, and
I like it, even though I am clearly:
1. Amerlo, Amerloque, Amerluche, Ricain
2. Gringo, Yoni
Molly Krumholz, Writer Support: German, Yiddish
Why? I’ve lived in Germany, and I’m totally fascinated by Yiddish. I originally started learning German because I was intrigued by early German texts and early Germanic and Norse mythology. It turns out that when you speak fluent German, you can already understand a lot of Yiddish. Once I started learning to read and write in the Hebrew alphabet, I started to learn very quickly!
How do you keep up with it? German: Living abroad. I try to speak it as often as possible and love to read German books as well. It helps that my partner also speaks German!
Yiddish: I mostly started learning it alone, from a book. I don’t keep up on it as much as I should—it’s so hard to find anyone who speaks it!
Interesting facts: German: The language can be extremely challenging, but it’s also so beautiful! There are a lot of different dialects of German that are not mutually comprehensible. I learned German in Franconia (a region of northern Bavaria), and after moving away, I realized that I was using a lot of terms that aren’t used elsewhere. I also had an accent that many Germans found highly amusing. They said I sounded like, well, the German equivalent of a redneck.
Yiddish: This is one of the only endangered languages in the world whose native speaking population is actually growing. It is still (or, once again, depending on who you ask) spoken as a first language in parts of Israel.
Would love to learn: Turkish
Matt Allard, Sales: Spanish, French, Russian, Kyrgyz
Why? I love communicating with people the way that they communicate and in most cases, that requires learning another language. Also, learning another language makes me much more aware of how I speak English (my native language) as well as how I can change the way I speak English to match the way someone else speaks English. Also, learning other languages has taught me that a language is spoken with the whole body, from your feet to the top of your head. The tongue is simply the most apparent participant.
How do you keep up with it? I learned French in grade school; starting in 4th grade and continuing into college. I doubled up French and Spanish in high school for two confusing fun years. Russian I learned by diving in. I completed four weeks of immersion study in the U.S. before moving to Moscow and then St. Petersburg for a year. I didn’t speak English with my Russian friends there, and I mostly spent my time with Russians, so I had no other option but to speak Russian.
Interesting fact: Most western languages treat time as a linear construct in language so you have past, present and future tenses. In Russian, the verb tenses are based off of process and completion so time and language have a much more flexible relationship, and yet the verbs describe in far greater exactitude what is happening or has occurred.
Would love to learn: Mandarin
Kevin Lawrence, Key Accounts Manager: Ancient Greek, Latin, Arabic
How do you keep up with it? Textbooks, textbooks, textbooks.
Interesting fact: I really don’t think Ancient Greek/Latin count here…but with modern languages you need to immerse yourself in that culture.
Would love to learn: I’d like to relearn Arabic since I only remember a couple phrases.
Maddie Foster, Customer Support: Spanish
Why? I went to a bilingual elementary, middle, and high school, so I’ve had a love of Spanish for most of my life. English is okay too.
How do you keep up with it? I try to keep up with it by staying in contact with lifelong friends from grade school, as well as reading some of my favorite books in Spanish from time to time, or watching great Spanish movies like Pan’s Labyrinth.
Interesting fact: Cinco de Mayo is not a thing. Spanish from Spain is very different than Spanish from Mexico (or any other Spanish-speaking country, for that matter).
Would love to learn: Italian or French
Patrick Armitage, Director of Marketing: English, Latin, American Sign Language
Learned English: Because my parents spoke it and I wanted to talk to them.
Learned Latin: Because it is the root of all romantic languages. Also, Roman history IS MY JAM!
Learned ASL: Because… /you can’t read it, I’m signing it right now
How do you keep up on it?
English: I find that I use it a lot.
Latin: I actually enjoy looking up word etymologies. So, that’s my fix.
ASL: At concerts when there’s someone signing the song being sung.
About English: Growing up in Wisconsin, there’s a fun dialect that uses words like “Hey der!” And “dat” and “ya know.” And “brats.” They use the word “brats” a lot.
About Latin: Semper Ubi Sub Ubi
About ASL: In signing, your facial expressions are almost as important as your gestures (true story!)
Would love to learn: Jive
Reid Lynch, Director of Engineering: Spanish
Why? I lived in Ecuador for a bit over two years, volunteering and working, and was able to immerse myself in its culture. After returning to the U.S., I actually met my Paraguayan wife at a Spanish conversation group, so Spanish & Latin culture has become a strong presence in my life.
How do you keep up with it? Learning Spanish was trial by fire when I got to Ecuador. After several months of immersion and studying, I was comfortable and still improving. Now I speak Spanish weekly with my wife & friends, and run a Spanish meetup group.
Interesting fact: Immersion accelerates learning, but there’s no substitute for plain old studying. Think about it—all of us study our native languages for years in school. There’s no avoiding it to master a language.
Would love to learn: Guarani
Denise Franklin, Board Member & Growth Specialist: Spanish, French, German
Why? Because those are the languages spoken in the places I most love to travel.
How do you keep up with it? I learned Spanish in school (two years in high school and two years in college). I learned the others through traveling to countries where those languages are spoken and working with companies with international offices. Sadly, I’ve not done a great job of keeping up any of them.
Interesting fact: If you can make jokes in another language, then you’ve got a good grasp of the language. 🙂
Courtney Tobin, Director of Customer & Writer Success: Spanish, Latin, Ancient Greek
Why? Learning a new language is one of the best ways to become smarter and expand your way of thinking about the world.
How do you keep up with it? I first learned Ancient Greek because I was studying philosophy at the time, and I thought being able to read Plato in Greek would offer a more nuanced understanding of him. I try to keep up by keeping a very modest reading schedule.
Interesting fact: Reading Homer in Greek is an *amazing* experience and really fun.
Would love to learn: Italian
April Bohnert, Content Manager: Spanish
Why? I’ve always loved language (no surprise there!), and I think that learning a second language is a wonderful exercise for the mind that just isn’t emphasized enough in our country. Furthermore, I’m really interested in the history and culture of Latin American nations and love traveling in that part of the world. Being able to travel and converse with people in their native tongue is an incredibly valuable skill that can really transform your traveling experience.
How do you keep up on it? I took my first Spanish class in 8th grade, but never really dove into it until college, when I took on Spanish as a minor. I studied abroad in Quito, Ecuador and really fell in love with the culture and the language. Since then, I’ve volunteered and traveled pretty extensively through South America, which has really helped me develop and maintain my language skills. These days, it’s a bit harder to stay sharp, but I use apps like Duolingo and try to practice speaking anytime I’m hanging out with a native speaker.
Interesting fact: Learning a language is challenging but SO rewarding, and you really learn a lot about your own language in the process. One of the most beautiful things about the Spanish language in particular (because it is spoken so widely) is that there are many, many unique dialects. The Spanish you hear in one country can be vastly different from the Spanish you hear in another.
Would love to learn: Portuguese
Kali Greff, Marketing Manager: Italian, French, Spanish
Why? English has served me well in my familial and social circles.
French was my middle school/high school learned language, and my first glimpse into how weird English is and how much I love words, regardless of language.
Spanish was my challenge to myself in high school if I could learn two languages concurrently. Technically, I guess it happened, but word to the wise: Spanish and French are too damn similar.
Italian was my passion project in college, and my minor. I just love it.
How do you keep up on it? All three were more formally taught in school to me. However, the only one that’s been able to stick with me with any permanency is Italian, which I attribute solely to immersion with my college study abroad homestay and volunteering in Siena. Immersion is effective when your host parents are 80-somethings and only know two English words, and your American roommate doesn’t know a word of Italian. Translating quickly became a cornerstone of my experience.
I keep up Italian by writing poetry and listening to Italian music/podcasts. I could stand to practice more spoken Italian, since I’m rusty 🙂 Of late, I’ve been returning to Spanish with a lot more rigor and discipline. It’s so useful and widespread.
Interesting fact: Spelling is a non-issue in Italian. You pronounce every single letter. It’s amazing. Also, it’s one of the most gesture-heavy languages out there, due to the fact that it was markedly linguistically fragmented prior to becoming a republic in 1946, pretty late in the game. Italians relied heavily on gestures to communicate with each other across regional lines, and still do to this day.
Would love to learn: Telugu
Grace Hirt, Writer Support: Spanish
Why? Spanish-speaking countries have always been high on my travel wish list—to date, I’ve been to Honduras, Mexico, Cuba, and Spain, but the dream is to go backpacking through South America. It’s also a very common language spoken in the U.S., so it’s useful no matter what—it was especially so when I was working in the restaurant industry, and will be important as I go into teaching.
How do you keep up on it? I took Spanish all through high school and into college, and really became proficient when I spent a semester in Cuba. Admittedly, I haven’t used it much since then—but I plan to work on it this year by joining meetup groups to practice speaking, and hopefully having time to read a novel in Spanish that has been sitting on my shelf for a while.
Interesting fact: 1. Knowing Spanish made it *extremely* easy to learn some Italian and communicate on a basic level when I traveled in Italy.
2. Many say it’s one of the easier languages to learn, and on paper, it probably is—but each country/region has a different accent, so it can end up being a lot more difficult to understand, depending on where you are. In Cuba, for example, everyone talks really, really quickly (perhaps the result of all the espresso they drink) and drops “r”s and “s”s. When I first arrived, it was nearly impossible to understand what anyone was saying.
Would love to learn: French