Languages, Part II

Dateline: 12/05/97

In a previous feature I discussed the language barrier and music. Basically, I believe language is as much of a barrier as you allow it to be. A song can be completely enjoyable on a musical level alone, with the human voice as an instrument as much as a guitar or percussion. But there does come a point, especially if there is an artist in particular you are following, where not understanding the lyrics becomes a frustration.

Never fear -- if you're reading this column, you obviously have Internet access of some kind, and there are many resources to check out. Frankly, the best source I have found is penpals -- find a penpal who speaks the language of the performer you are interested in, one who also enjoys that artist (it helps, if you are both equally enthusiastic about a performer so as not to bore the other person to death), and have him or her translate a few songs, or even just few troubling lines.

This is a good short term solution. You don't want to take advantage of someone else, who has other obligations and responsibilities on their plate. So perhaps finding a translator down the road should be considered. If Italian is you thing, Annalisa Cocco English Italian Translation Services is a fine resource, as they do translations of HTML pages as well as texts. Stay tuned to this space for more translation resources down the road.

Trying to teach oneself a language is a noble pursuit, but takes a lot of time and commitment. It can take years to become fluent, along with spending some time in a place where the language is spoken by everyone. But you have to begin at the beginning, starting with the particular alphabets, especially if it is a language with non-Arabic characters (Russian, Hebrew, Egyptian heiroglyphics -- just kidding!). Russian Manual Alphabet is one of the most interesting resources I have found so far, with photographic diagrams of finger signs for Russian sign language!

Some languages are harder to track down, if you are looking for native speakers, because they are simply not as common as they used to be. Gaelic is one such language, and originates in several Celtic cultures, with variations depending on region. Gaelic and Gaelic Culture is an excellent overview of the language, in which words and never pronounced the way they look on a page.

Since the Internet goes around the world, I feel it is safe to assume that not every visitor to this page speaks English as a first language. If this is the case, you might want to check out some English language resources, English being one of the hardest languages to learn with all the dialects and slang out there. Andreas Lund's ESL Resources is an interesting site. Although most of the resources are in the Netherlands, some of the information is universal for English as a Second Language.

Finally, Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. is a classic work about the usage of the English language and is still relevant even though it was first published in the early part of this century.

Languages is a topic I plan to come back to from time to time. If you know of any cool language resources on the Net, please let me know.

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