Learning a foreign language seems to be one of those oddities in society that most people don’t seem to understand. They spend all their lives speaking their single language and simply cannot comprehend why anyone would really feel a need to learn another, especially when it isn’t directly related to a job.
How does one explain a passion to someone who doesn’t share it? What reason can be given for doing something to someone who will never see a purpose in it? These kinds of questions we ask ourselves can make us start to wonder if perhaps there is something wrong with us, with what we enjoy. Maybe we are freaks of nature.
I became interested in languages as a child when I saw different alphabets and understood they represented entirely different words and cultures from what I knew. My first full exposure to another language was a family trip to Japan when I was twelve. After that, I was hooked.
When the internet came into popular usage (I am old enough to have been in college before the World Wide Web existed), I was able to finally meet numerous other people around the US as well as the rest of the world who shared my love of languages. We all felt like we were freaks in our own surroundings, so when coming together, “language freak” changed into a badge of honour.
But I found myself still a bit of an outsider. While I had studied Russian and Italian, I had more of a “teaching” desire in me. This, combined with my other passion, computers, I got caught up in the world of language resource creation, rather than working to become a polyglot.
My first attempt was a software tutor, which I distributed freely online. It had materials for 8 languages. Later, that information was converted into a website, then eventually into a language learning community which I co-founded with two others in 2000.
I learned a lot from other language enthusiast over those years, but in 2008, I stepped down as administrator and developer to do my own site. That is when I created “Parleremo” (Italian for “we will speak”), a language community which I wanted to be based around a town format. I figured that when people learn a language, they usually do it for the purpose of travel, so breaking the site itself into locations would be a different approach. Plus, it lent itself more to the “community” feel.
Parleremo grew quickly as I kept adding on more areas, resources, and languages. Now, I am in the process of overhauling the entire site to make it even more powerful.
But I wasn’t happy with just a website. A town needs a publication, to share news about what is going on. I was also aware of how few language magazines there are available for people, so I started making my own. In 2013, the first issue of Parrot Time was released, in both web and PDF versions. It covers languages, linguistics, culture, and stuff which is going on in Parleremo.
Now that I had a publication, I needed a publishing company, so I created “Scriveremo Publishing“. Parrot Time and my first book, “Finding Your Way to Languages” are distributed under the Scriveremo banner.
Last year, I started publishing a series of puzzle and activity books in multiple languages to help people learn vocabulary while having fun. With them all bearing the Scriveremo name, I had, almost by accident, created an actual publishing company to go alongside my learning site.
But there should be more to languages than just learning and using them. How can people express their love for them in their daily lives? Well, how about doing what others do: have daily objects which show a relation to our passion? So I set up a Zazzle store and started building language “goodies”, both language specific and general. Now people could get mugs to represent their German knowledge, or Italian t-shirts, or Finnish buttons. Why wait for others to make language merchandise when we can do it ourselves?
With all these projects, I knew I had to come up with a joining hub to connect them, so I created the Parleremo blog “View From the Town“, where I write about what I am doing as well as articles on languages and the world around us.
I haven’t yet got into the areas of videos or podcasts, but those are always possibilities.
The point of all this? That if you have a passion for languages, there is so much more you can do with that than study.
And I am not alone in thinking this. You have already found the amazing LingoHut site, which the Knetemanns have spent years working on, along with their other learning sites.
If any of my sites or projects are of interest to you, please visit them, and feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are further interested in finding what other wonders your fellow language lovers have created, please visit the Digital Language Collective (DLC), which is a group of language bloggers, writers, and creators. See how we can all make our passion and “freakiness” into a larger and fuller community!