English is the world language, except that most of the world doesn't speak it - only one in five people does. Dorren calculates that to speak fluently with half of the world's 7.4 billion people in their mother tongues, you would need to know no fewer than 20 languages. He sets out to explore these top 20 world languages, which range from the familiar (French, Spanish) to the surprising (Malay, Javanese, Bengali). Babel whisks the listener on a delightful journey to every continent of the world, tracing how these world languages rose to greatness while others fell away, and showing how speakers today handle the foibles of their mother tongues. Whether showcasing tongue-tying phonetics or elegant but complicated writing scripts, and mind-bending quirks of grammar, Babel vividly illustrates that mother tongues are like nations: Each has its own customs and beliefs that seem as self-evident to those born into it as they are surprising to the outside world.
Among many other things, Babel will teach you why modern Turks can't read books that are a mere 75 years old, what it means in practice for Russian and English to be relatives, and how Japanese developed separate “dialects” for men and women. Dorren lets you in on his personal trials and triumphs while studying Vietnamese in Hanoi, debunks 10 widespread myths about Chinese characters, and discovers that Swahili became the lingua franca in a part of the world where people routinely speak three or more languages. Witty, fascinating, and utterly compelling, Babel will change the way you look at and listen to the world and how it speaks.
|Product dimensions:||5.25(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.50(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
When people speak Japanese, their gender matters a great deal. A good number of words and grammatical constructions are associated with either women or men. For starters, women are more likely to use slightly longer versions of words that make themthe words, and consequently the speakerssound polite. Think of it as not only saying the refined word ‘luncheon’ instead of the more workaday ‘lunch’, but making the difference systematic by also saying ‘tableon’ instead of ‘table’ and ‘flowereon’ instead of ‘flower’. In Japanese, this politeness syllable is added not at the end, but at the front: hana ‘flower’ becomes ohana.
Speakers do not exactly break a hard-and-fast grammar rule when using elements normally used by the opposite gender, but they certainly break a social convention: they bend both a rule and their gender.