Sometimes I wonder if I should have become a linguist.
As a kid, I used to look at the labels on hairdryers and pillows or study instruction manuals. It’s not just because I liked words, but because I liked the words in different languages. The relationships between languages have always intrigued me. At hotels, I stared at the multilingual welcome packet and tried to identify the languages. This one was French because of the accents and all of the apostrophes. This one was German because it looked like oddly-spelled English. This was Russian because of the backwards R’s. This one is Chinese because it’s blocky, and that one’s Japanese because it’s more curved. Once, I found out that this was the basic gist of a type of job in the FBI, and part of my little imagination dreamed about what that life would be like.
By college, the interest in languages led me to a History of the English Language class. While it showed me that transcribing spoken sounds into the International Phonetic Alphabet is hard (but not so bad if you have two linguist majors in your group), it also showed that all languages do have relationships that my younger self never could have imagined. After all, have you ever seen the words for 1-10 in a variety of languages from around the world? The similarities are incredible (and if I ever find that handout, I’ll give some examples).
While my knowledge of languages I’ve never studied isn’t as great as my seven-year-old self wanted to believe, it hasn’t quenched my interest in other languages. Or the International Phonetic Alphabet, which is literally one of the most incredible things I’ve ever played with. (It’s right up there with the German Enigma Machine.)
For a great site that actually demonstrates the sounds each symbol represents, check this out.
Do you enjoy studying other languages? Have you ever studied linguistics?