Friday, April 22, 2016

Random musings: on my love of languages

Yesterday night at a work dinner somewhere near the Donau a colleague complimented me on my German. She had been surprised to hear I only moved here as an adult after university. I was tickled, as I am sometimes when German friends calling our house phone are sometimes surprised that it's me on our end because my phone voice apparently sounds very German, lol. I don't think my German is perfect though (lemme write a disclaimer here)writing work emails in German is a painstaking task, probably has to do with having a streak of perfectionism in me.

The Walhalla

I never knew I had a gift for languages while I was growing up. I spoke only English until secondary school. I understood Yoruba, because my parents spoke it at home, but I only really started learning it in JS 1( I did have it in primary 5 where I was even worse than my Filipino friend). I loved learning about Yoruba culture and was absolutely fascinated by Yoruba proverbs. I eventually took the subject for my SSCE and even made an A!

I had French in junior secondary. I wasn't too bad, but I wasn't too good either. I think I got mostly comfortable Cs. I do have mildly fond memories of my French teacher. She was from somewhere in French speaking west Africa, married to a Nigerian man and had a fascinating foreign way about her. I still retain some words, I can say hi and introduce myself and say I only understand "en petit peu" ( a little bit) of French.

So I didn't see it coming that I would become fluent in Russian and German as an adult. I love languages, I love the understanding of a culture and the mentality of a people that comes with knowing their language, culture, history and proverbs. It might also have something to do with the fact that the half of my personality that I got from my dad is absolute extroverted.

If you ask my dad, I got it from him: he likes to tell us the story of how he went for his youth service in the north in the 70s and mastered Hausa in the one year that he was there. So perhaps it's a genetic trait?

My professor in University was a huge fan and widely propagated the fact that African students learnt Russian so quickly so well. My theory is that because most of us grow up bilingual, we have an ear for languages, especially when immersed in it.

The immersion bit is important, or at least has been for me. I have tried learning Dutch while not living in the Netherlands, it hasn't worked as well sadly. I'm just too lazy to study a language just because. I know enough to show off though, lol.

If you happen to live anywhere where a different language is spoken, I would encourage you to learn. You never know when you might need it, plus, frankly it opens up new fascinating worlds.


  1. Very interesting read. I find it very fascinating to hear the theory about us being bilingual- so that means there is some part of my brain that can still process a new language... Hmm

    Funmi :-)

  2. I think i am lazy when it comes to languages. I schooled in the north for 4 years and didn't learn Hausa or Nupe. I also did uni in Botswana and didn't learn the language. I guess cuz my survival didnt depend on it ..i didnt bother. Rather sad though

    1. Maybe you can try when Bionic and Prof J start learning French or something in school. And anyway you get along just fine with English do t you?

  3. I have always admired multi lingual people. I tend to look at them as extra intelligent (and in most cases they are). I grew up speaking only English and even my parents didnt both speaking Yoruba to us. I actually learnt Yoruba in school! In my early years people made fun of my yoruba accent, but once I reached secondary school I got better and can proudly say I speak 'Ibadan' Yoruba perfectly and with pride :-)


    1. Yeah, well done proud Omo Ibadan ;)

  4. I salute anyone who is multilingual.. I am so not lol
    Interesting read