3.28.2012

The Dangers of Language Study

I have spent what seems like a significant portion of my life studying languages, and for the most part, I’m pretty good at it. Aside from English, which I’ve been speaking at least semi-fluently for almost a quarter century, I also spent several years studying Spanish (and even have a college degree in it), and for the past two semesters I have been studying Koine Greek (i.e., the Greek of the New Testament).

There’s a problem that comes with being “pretty good” at language study though: learning a language comes easy enough to me that I am not too intimidated to try it, but it is difficult enough that I never completely seem to “get it down.” Part of this stems from the fact that language study takes a great deal of constant practice, and I haven’t always been diligent about doing that. Another problem is that my brain seems to have a difficult time keeping the different languages separate, which results in me occasionally producing a weird hybrid of multiple languages. For example, consider the word in in the three languages I know:
  • English: in
  • Spanish: en
  • Koine Greek: ἐν
These three words mean the same thing, are pronounced virtually the same, and are basically spelled the same (the Greek ε is similar to the Spanish e and the Greek ν is similar to the English or Spanish n). Is it really any wonder that I semi-routinely get these words mixed up and use them interchangeably?

Genesis 11 tells the story of the Tower of Babel, which occurred at a time when everyone spoke the same language. In an act of apparent hubris, a bunch of people decided to build a tower which would stretch up to heaven. This displeased God, so he confused their language (v.7) to disrupt their cooperation and prevent the completion of their project.

All of that to say this: despite my best efforts, I feel like my languages are significantly confused and babbled in my head. And here’s the problem with that: when you misspell the word in, people start to make assumptions about your intelligence (or lack thereof).

5 comments:

Justin and Heather Bland 6/14/12, 7:36 PM  

hahaha! I don't know why I didn't see this post earlier, thanks for linking us to it!

It seems the most intelligent individuals of the human race seem so easily tripped up in the "mundane" and petty details.

Justin and Heather Bland 6/14/12, 7:37 PM  

Haha! sorry I didn't see this earlier.

It seems the most intelligent individuals are the ones who get tripped up in the most mundane and petty details.

Luke 6/14/12, 8:32 PM  

Justin,

I for sure don't belong in the first category, but I definitely get tripped up on the mundane!

Luke 6/14/12, 8:34 PM  

P.S. I'm not sure why it gave you so much trouble trying to post a comment. It might be because it's on an old post…I've been getting a lot of spam comments recently and so sometimes it flags comments on old posts and I have to approve them.

Sorry.

Justin and Heather Bland 6/14/12, 9:57 PM  

no worries! thanks! Sorry to hear about the spam... not cool

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