Tim: [00:00:02] I'm Tim Panton and this is the distributed future podcast
Vim: [00:00:06] hi, I'm Vimla Appadoo
Tim: [00:00:07] and so this episode is about languages. I was very interested to see kind of how language evolves and and how it somewhat intersects with tech and that's what this this conversations about. We started off by talking about how languages are learned which is something I'd never really thought about I mean, you know, I don't know but if you do but I think we all tried to learn languages.
Vim: [00:00:33] Yeah
Tim: [00:00:34] if you I mean I do. Speak another language.
Vim: [00:00:37] So I speak French. I say that but I could just about hold a conversation in French and I've tried to start relearning it using different apps and techniques and the bit I've struggled with is just keeping up with it or keeping myself motivated.
Tim: [00:00:54] Right? Right. Well, one of the things that I mean that's one of the things we talked about in it and Martin's got some very distinct views about how you should learn a language particularly it kind of if. If you intend to use it socially then what you should learn is quite different from what we learn in school is really one of the points he makes is there's really no point in learning like the name the words for brother sister, you know great-aunt if you're going to use it in a coffee shop because that's not the vocab you are going to use so it's really interesting and then then we you know, we strayed off into talking about like kind of bigger picture with.
[00:01:34] Things like where's the language going? Is it simplifying? Is it getting more complicated who speaks English and it was like we just kept chatting. It was it was it was really good fun. But I we I don't know. I mean, I think it's it's quite hard to see have a good perspective on it because we speak English and English is kind of a dominant language in in Tech certainly an in a lot of other places as well and that sort of shifts. Our viewpoint quite a lot. I mean to you if you spent time in in places where English isn't an acceptable second language.
Vim: [00:02:10] I've not actually no I've the places. I've been English has over always manage to get by with people speaking English.
Tim: [00:02:16] Yeah, so we we talked a lot about. How that's how for a lot of people it's an Intermediate Language.
[00:02:23] So if you've got like a, you know a Pole and a German they will speak English to each other unless they are unless one of them is really good in the other language. They'll probably both speak English and that makes it a neutral language for everybody which is interesting and then we spend a lot of time talking about Esperanto which is fascinating because it's designed to be Intermediate Language like that and that.
[00:02:49] That was that was really that was really entertaining. It's like, you know a whole lot of stuff. I didn't I mean I knew nothing about it apart from the kind of headline fact.
Vim: [00:02:58] Yeah,
Tim: [00:02:58] but really I have never even heard it spoken so that was kind of interesting as well.
Vim: [00:03:03] No, I've never had it so you can either I think it's yeah that kind of focus on English being the intermediary language is really interesting because having family all over the world is definitely the intermediary language for us to speak in.
[00:03:19] Even though the majority of us probably can speak French as well. We all just opt to speak in English, which is bizarre. Now that I think of it and even when I see my younger cousins 3,4,5, they'll all speak English as well to join in and I kind of think that's when I was that age and there's no way I could have jumped into a conversation with in a whole nother language and actually take part which just would not have worked.
[00:03:45] So I think there's something around how we learn languages in the UK as well that. Sets us up to expect English to be the intermediary.
Tim: [00:03:53] Yeah, I mean we're so used to it it getting away with it. I think in that respect.
Vim: [00:03:58] Yeah,
Tim: [00:03:58] and it's difficult to get a perspective of what that looks like from the other side.
Vim: [00:04:04] Yeah,
Tim: [00:04:05] which I think is again once one of the things that's interesting about Esperanto. Is that like by definition? Well, almost nobody who learnt it from birth. Like it's always been a second learned language. It's not your real natural home language ever. So everyone is in an equivalent position, which is again fascinating thought I'd not really not really had before so that was that was quite exciting kind of little mind game of me trying to catch up with some of these ideas as they as they whistle past
Vim: [00:04:36] so we decided to start learning it.
Tim: [00:04:38] No, no. No, I uh II although I mean Martin was talking about his experience of learning German as well. Although he's thing is that like basically to get the same level of fluency in Esperanto you have to about do about a quarter of much work as you would to learn in German. Despite that.
[00:05:00] Actually I should be learning German if I'm going to learn another language at the moment. It has to be German because of just because of where I'm spending my time and and also to some extent although it's a lot of work it's easier because you can immerse yourself you can go to. Bar where people only really speak German and spend some time there or you can go to you know, German speaking classes and people will like accommodate the fact that your German is bad.
[00:05:27] So it's possible. Whereas I think I suppose you just have to find a group of esperantists. who'll put up with you and I guess they all do because they will be in that so I don't know.
Vim: [00:05:36] Yeah, and that's the language
Tim: [00:05:38] ya know. I maybe I should maybe I should but I'm afraid it's not top of my list. I've got a German German first maybe after gym.
Vim: [00:05:46] I mean, that's fair enough.
Tim: [00:05:47] Yeah, I figured I figure it probably is but we also talked quite a lot about like the variations in English around the place like it's not not one language.
Vim: [00:05:57] No
Tim: [00:05:57] and what's going to happen to it like as geopolitics evolves and the intervals what's going to happen to to the language?
[00:06:05] How is it going to shift? So what kind of forces are a play on it? And that's that again. That's all stuff that I didn't think we know the answers to this certainly fascinating questions to talk around
Vim: [00:06:16] Do you know what is really interesting is I was on the I was on the tram on Friday in Manchester and there were two women who were speaking English.
[00:06:25] It took me about 30 seconds to realize they weren't be speaking another language. Just because if the kind of words they were using the accents they had and they were British there from no idea when from but I just had zero clue that they were speaking English for ages and I was like and it really shocks me that there's that much difference in a in a single country use of a single language,
Tim: [00:06:50] right?
Vim: [00:06:50] It
[00:06:51] blew my mind..
Tim: [00:06:52] Yeah. No,
[00:06:52] I mean I similar but different experience I used to have on a regular basis on the train. They get used to get train in from Manchester from from here. And that's come that starts out in North Wales. And so you sit down and there'd be a bunch of people going shopping or going to the Cricket or whatever from North Wales and they would be speaking a mix of English and Welsh so it would be and it seemed I'm never quite figure this out, but it seems to depend on the topic there were things like.
[00:07:21] Talked about in Welsh and everything's that they talked about in English and I never knew exactly what the rules were but and they would be English words thrown in amongst the Welsh so they be words that didn't you know, either didn't exist in the language or they couldn't be bothered to you know, remember what they were and they were just throw in English and in amongst it and so you'd hear these odd English words in amongst the language you didn't understand and you sort of it's an interesting brain challenge because you feel like you should be able to work out what the rest of it's about because you've got a hook.
[00:07:51] You can't you got no clues. It's interesting. I was always I do like kind of North Wales always for feels like a holiday because it is a you know, there are the signs are in foreign language and people speaking foreign language and you know, it feels like you're kind of going somewhere else, which is great.
Vim: [00:08:07] Absolutely.
Tim: [00:08:09] Yeah, and it's no distance tool for me. So it's like, you know, I get I have a foreign country on my doorstep.
Vim: [00:08:16] It's true it's really interesting the whole dropping an English into the language because my mom and dad speak Creole, which is what they speak in. And over time the Creole to English ratio has dramatically shifted when they're speaking it so growing up.
[00:08:32] It was 90% Creole 10% English and now it's probably 50/50. So every every other word is almost an English word to the Creole just as they've lived here for longer probably forgotten the words. And it's meant that the mauritian community that they're apart of this created their own version of Creole.
[00:08:50] That's slightly different and I find that really interesting.
Tim: [00:08:53] So that is that in terms of a vocab or just the way that it is constructed or like, you know,
Vim: [00:08:59] everything. It's like the vocabulary the grammar the way that they use the language.
[00:09:04] It's just shifted
Tim: [00:09:06] that's fascinating. And in fact, does it reset itself back to like
Vim: [00:09:11] it takes a while I think.
[00:09:13] When they go there it takes a while to reset to go back to a hundred percent.
Tim: [00:09:17] That's funny. That's that's that's fascinating because it's much more language is much more malleable thing than we tend to think of, you know, we tend to think it's like fixed unchangeable thing and that's just not the case.
[00:09:31] It's very very very fluid.
Vim: [00:09:33] And what's even like really really interesting for me is when my parents can't express themselves or explain it in English. They switch to Creole so one. Living here for however many years 40 years or whatever. They still switch to their mother tongue to express themselves more clearly
Tim: [00:09:52] and I suppose I mean the thing with learning languages is you you top out at a point which is kind of enough and at that point, although you'll pick up the odd extra piece of the vocab you'll rate of like intake of the language pretty much stops, you know you when you reach of sort of level.
[00:10:10] Functions in your day-to-day life. It's sort of the emphasis on. Oh, I must learn another five words today. It's gone. You don't have that driving force anymore. That's fascinating cool. So yeah, let's let's let people listen to Martin and to little bit of me and see how they get on
Vim: [00:10:30] great. I can't wait to listen.
Martin: [00:10:33] So hi. I'm Martin Rue. I am a software engineer in the UK and outside of writing questionable code. I spend most of my time interested in languages and working on working on a system for helping people to learn languages in a more and more practical manner through conversation.
Tim: [00:10:52] So I think I came across you as. Originally the language concept context us as an esperantist. Is that the right way to say it for a
Martin: [00:11:03] start? That's the correct word. Yeah, so I did become very interested in Esperanto actually a while ago. I can't remember when but yeah, so I've always been interested in language from being actually kind of just after high school.
[00:11:15] It's funny really because I was not interested in language at all during school when we had all the time in the world and all the resources to actually learn languages. I wasn't interested one bit and then afterwards. I got involved in software development and let's start to learn various other things language suddenly became much more interesting to me and yet one of the first languages I dabbled with was German and still to this day continue to try and learn not so successfully but Esperanto was one of those background things where it wasn't really a real thing to me.
[00:11:42] It was yes, it's a language but after reading the first few pages few paragraphs of Wikipedia, it's clear that. I constructed language. So it's not a real language. Actually. It's a finding is a real language, but it's not a national language. It's not a language that people are born into and so it was always a background hobby thing.
[00:11:58] But then yes over the last few years. I got more and more interested in it and realize that actually it serves a whole wide wide range of interesting use cases that national language is actually don't serve and so yeah, I got into it much more over the last night two years, but yes to answer your question esperantist is the correct
Tim: [00:12:15] terminology and
Martin: [00:12:16] practices as Pronto.
Tim: [00:12:17] So those. I mean, you've kind of mentioned three spoken languages that you use Speak. Do you write any of them or is it only spoken?
Martin: [00:12:27] Yes, I can write I can write all three of the languages. I'm able to speak Esperanto as a for normal written system uses this as Latin alphabet similar to most of the languages, so it's perfectly writable unlike I guess maybe you were alluding to languages where they're learning the written language.
[00:12:42] Or reading the language is a completely separate Endeavor that requires in some cases actually more effort than learning to speak with language
Tim: [00:12:49] does I think I hadn't already above I hadn't actually even got that far. I was more thinking that that my like I can still speak Dutch but I can't spell it.
[00:13:00] Like I never was particularly good and it can probably read that still but writing it now. I mean, I never got good enough to write it in a formal, you know full sense. Business or whatever, but but you know, I could I could hold a meeting but I couldn't write the notes. Well,
Martin: [00:13:18] that's interesting.
[00:13:18] I guess if you start by in that way of learning a language where you only speak it and I suppose even for a language whether written form doesn't deviate Too Much from the spoken form it still it still something if you don't practice it and yeah, I mean the concept of how the words that sound a certain way doesn't necessarily correspond to how they're written.
[00:13:35] So yeah
Tim: [00:13:37] some languages the. More rational than others in terms of the spelling. I mean English is a total disaster area one comes to realize this when you back when you start learning how spelling Works in a in a language, which isn't now Dutch is interesting in that it's not constructed but it is what's the word regulated and regularly simplified.
[00:13:57] So, you know, there's a commission for the Dutch language and they they simplified every 20 years. They review it and take out. Things that seem difficult yeah or unnecessary.
Martin: [00:14:07] Yeah, exactly. I mean when we take English, for example, the combination of say ough has I think top my head 11 or 13 completely different pronunciations depending on which word it happens to occurring and that for a learner must actually be a horrible experience to just simply not know which of those say minimum 11 pronunciations.
[00:14:26] It may be simply requires the memorization of 11 different pronunciations. And that's only with that combination of easily see that in so many other words in English as well. it must be very difficult as a learner.
Tim: [00:14:35] I mean, I think that's yes approaching it as a learner is or thinking about it from a learning perspective is really interesting in that like I've never been able to do to learn languages in any kind of structured fashion.
[00:14:49] I just listened to what people. Say and mimic and you know, I can be led through a lesson, but I don't I don't find the learning the rules at all easy and they don't stick my much better as a mimic than I am as a as a rule understander. Is it is that a common
Martin: [00:15:07] experience letter? Yeah. I mean certainly for me it has nothing for the most people I speak to that's a similar kind of thing.
[00:15:12] I think you do find exceptions and you do find people who are actually interested in language from the grammar point of view to begin with and sort of study languages rather. Of them learn to speak them. I think a lot of people maybe start that way and then progressing to him afterwards but I think the natural manner in which people their languages seems to mirror what we're agreeing with here is people hear it first and mimic it and as babies do for example and to reach a certain level of fluency and then afterwards maybe use that to study of language a little more from an academic point of view and start to understand the rules that your brain now is already internalized through the actual audiable version of the language.
[00:15:45] I think we see that a lot for example even in English now, If you ask me a sufficiently complicated question regarding the grammar of English could probably tell you about three options, which is the correct one, but maybe not give you the exact grammatical explanation. That's a an L2 learner of English would be able to if they start with the grammar and start with the study of the language.
[00:16:03] So I think you get both approaches. But yeah, I think the more natural approach other the more common approach is that you you learn to speak a language by hearing it and repeating it and don't necessarily by endeavoring devouring the entire grammar first,
Tim: [00:16:15] right? There was a really interesting example.
[00:16:17] It floated across Twitter the other day about or my Twitter anyway about the order in which one describes a thing. So you say the quick brown fox. You would never say a brown quick fox or if you did it would mean something different and these are the order that you put those descriptive words in it's like it's prescribed to take there is a there's a sequence, you know, and if it's a big fox that's at the front, you know, and it.
[00:16:47] And and and that's we internalize those rules without being aware that they're there which is fascinating. I mean presumably yeah, all of this is has been thought about for Esperanto because it's a constructed language. Somebody's like thought. Well shall we have a rule for this or shall we?
Martin: [00:17:04] Yeah, exactly.
[00:17:05] So I also saw the same Meme and hadn't realized that even that they was such a rule until I actually saw the examples in realized. Oh, yeah, that sounds wrong to me actually, and I don't know why I did it just simply sounds wrong. Where is it alarm sounds right, but. When asked me to write a program to validate these three things and tell you which one was correct and which one wasn't I wouldn't know where to start which is another great example of how you know, you can learn a language quite well and by internalizing these rules these rules regarding the phonetics of the language maybe or just simply having mapped out all the patterns for a certain amount of exposure to a language where it either sounds right or wrong and there's there's a great book actually by Pimsleur who has a wide variety of language resources for various languages.
[00:17:43] He also wrote a book and in the book he makes the point. Again, and again the learning a language through its spoken audible version First is the more efficient more natural way to learn a language because what happens is the brain through the Fairly constricted version of the the audible language can build this model of how it sounds and so later once you've got that maybe through a certain amount of exposure to the language through the ears rather than through the ground for example and later.
[00:18:10] You can hear a phrase. And it just doesn't fit you don't necessarily know why it doesn't care but he doesn't fit and so you have this kind of like the kind of like guardrails, I guess on a bowling alley it kind of you can't really ever go out of them. You might not necessarily still score perfect strike, but you can get close very close.
[00:18:24] You definitely going to have few pins because just because they're there just because you've already got this model of the sounds of the language and I think I think that's pretty good practical advice. Because I am a the same thing happens to me even in my own natural language where I spent my entire life being exposed to it.
[00:18:38] I don't necessarily know the rule but it just sounds right. And so I think that's a really important point in the book, but it could very well vary across languages and with Esperanto, for example, yeah, most of these things have been thought about I mean Esperanto isn't perfect. Of course nothing is perfect, but it did start with this.
[00:18:54] Advantage of not growing through thousands of years of evolution like most languages have so it's had the opportunity to reflect and say okay if we were to start from scratch and we wanted a language that could be written that could be read and be spoken the could be learned easily and a bunch of other criteria actually and what would we keep in language?
[00:19:11] And what would we throw away? And so Esperanto those taken from a whole variety of mostly European languages. No, not only European languages, but primarily the vocabulary for example, and most of the grammar in the rules. You see in Esperanto so are from the European group of languages and the creator Zamanov has selected those and in some cases invented new rules that create this language where there's usually at least there an obvious basic rule that tells you how to.
[00:19:36] To operate in long time to use it. So you don't ever get the situation where you have say three adjectives where only one combination of those three sounds right and the other three and the other two don't sound right that that almost never happens by the same time. It's a you know as franchise being spoken by more and more people and so they still just kind of natural elements of language to the stylistic element of where because you have a certain flexibility in the language and because people from.
[00:19:58] Vast group of people from different national languages speak this common Intermediate Language, you do get these variations a the style or the order of things that get said, but other chord is this very basic rules about how things are constructed language how phrases can be can be built how new words can be introduced into the language and those kind of things.
[00:20:16] I
Tim: [00:20:16] think you said really really interesting which I want to pick up on what will come back. Minute but so you said intermediary language? And I think that's a really interesting concept that that you can have a language for which is the second or third language not, you know, not the birth language of to people and they will Converse on somewhat equal footing in.
[00:20:40] Intermediary language and I think that's really fascinating phenomenon. I mean, I remember having like talking to a couple of Portuguese Lads in French and like both of us had quite a mean all of us had quite limited look at vocabulary, but it was sort of same limits and so we were able to to actually have pretty satisfactory conversation in a way that I think think either of like either side would have been a satisfied if we'd been one of us have been talking.
[00:21:08] You know, our birth language and the other one had been speaking. It is a foreign language. There's some sort of leveling thing of speak both speaking in Intermediate Language. So I guess you must have that the whole time in Esperanto that it's nobody's birth language and therefore it's sort of everybody's equal footing.
Martin: [00:21:27] Yeah, you've captured the one of the very important goals of as planned so perfectly that that's exactly the point is that. So the the beginnings of Esperanto other the I suppose The Germ of the thought of why should we have another language? What is the point? Actually we could we all have natural languages?
[00:21:43] We can all speak to a sufficiently large group of people in order to get through life why I have another one that was born out of initially in 1887 is actually as when Esperanto was first conceived as an idea and published as though as though the first book that described the language one of the core ideas.
[00:21:59] There was that Zamanov lived in a Baileystock in Poland in I think at the time. Belong to the Russian Empire and certainly in that region there was lots of conflict and that kind of thing and it was lots of people who simply just didn't understand each other. There was this lack of understanding and he believed that because of that that barrier between say a Russian speaker and a Polish speaker or Yiddish speaker and a Polish speaker because of that vast Gap it was never going to be closed by one of them learning the other one to the sufficient level that they would feel as equals.
[00:22:27] They would feel like they could understand each other sufficiently. Well, he believes that because of that Gap if there was this say auxaillairy language, it was not meant really as a languages. I wish it was not all the language and something else. It's more like at all right. It's a tool for to people who otherwise have this Gap to bridge the gap in a much more efficient and quick way than they would otherwise be able to do by one of them learning the other ones language.
[00:22:49] And so yeah, that was one of the core ideas is that you take to Esperanto speakers and it's not important which natural which national language they speak if they speak Esperanto then both of them have learned that from some point, you know it let's take for example a Russian speaker English speaker.
[00:23:02] Both of them have come from sufficiently different languages and learned Esperanto to a level where they can communicate with each other but not both of them have gone through that process. And so there's no reason why one should be any more proficient than the other in Esperanto at this point. And that's also solve a Snowball Effect enforced by the fact that Esperanto has been designed to be as simple as it can be and there's some trade-offs but there's a hit compared to a natural language.
[00:23:24] For example, there's a huge set of consistencies responsible. You just don't find any other ones which enables someone to learn it much much faster than say English and English speaker. For example in Spanish. I think the. I was around a thousand hours thousand hours of saying English person learning Spanish or French.
[00:23:38] I think equates to about 1500 of a Germanic language and that equates to about 250 hours of Esperanto. And so it gives you some idea of the difference and complexity there and so because of that as well, you have a situation where if you get to people who say study Esperanto for let's say a year deliberately and so did it properly there's no reason why those two people shouldn't be able to communicate in a rich manner a C1 level maybe a B2 C1 level after one year of.
[00:24:03] Proper study of the language completely understand one another and never need to actually revert to a national language of one or the other and as a result feel. Yeah, like they're on an equal footing. I know it, you know, it's not my language. It's not your language. You may express yourself in a different way than I do because of your natural language.
[00:24:19] In fact, Esperanto sits there is a tool that enables that and for me I've experienced a lot in Esperanto so far. Actually, one of the most enjoyable things about it, you don't with German, for example, if I try and speak German, I feel like and I can't quite express myself the same way that I want to but with Esperanto.
[00:24:34] I just don't feel the same way when I use Esperanto. So I feel like I'm using a tool that someone else has as well, but it's not there. It's not their then natural thing. It's not something they've had for say four or five times as long as me right,
Tim: [00:24:44] right and but I key question. Can you swear in Esperanto?
Martin: [00:24:49] Yes. You can swear in Esperanto
Tim: [00:24:51] I noticed that I hadn't realized this but like swearing styles are very much language-based. Hmm.
Martin: [00:24:57] Yes. Yeah. There's that very Infamous YouTube video about how the something like a hundred different ways to use the f word in English and they all are very subtle different nuanced meanings it funny enough.
[00:25:07] I had a conversation about that very same thing. They're very video with a check person a few weeks ago in Esperanto about the differences between his language check and English and which one is more expressive to swear and we had this conversation. Can't in Esperanto. I think this is another great example of I don't know what level of meta that's now reachable it we were able to do that but I think was quite enjoyable.
[00:25:27] Yeah, you can certainly swear in Esperanto
Tim: [00:25:29] Ok, well that that doesn't include it is useful language than yes,
Martin: [00:25:33] you can express all kinds of rage and dissatisfaction with things and it's Esperanto. Although I'm not sure if it's quite as expressive as maybe English, but then it that's obviously a biased opinion.
Tim: [00:25:44] I actually I find swearing in Dutch is much better the plosives in Dutch make the really piffy swearing. Alright, obviously, it's a great language for and this this cropped up because I was talking to. Someone in Croatia and and he was saying that swearing in Croatian is much more fluid.
[00:26:09] It's not a percussive thing. It's a long like you're almost creating a poem of obscenity rather than like a little percussive thing, which is fascinating. I mean I and he claimed and I don't know that this is absolutely true, but he claimed that that wasn't just him that was actually the way it was done it was fascinating.
[00:26:31] Anyway, so
Martin: [00:26:32] that's quite interesting. I like the idea of a poem of curse words as opposed to just it being some small expressive Outburst here, you
Tim: [00:26:39] get extra points for like stringing these things together and correct and you know, right if it constructs itself into a poetic whole all the better.
[00:26:49] Which reminds me has how is I mean I don't do people get good enough at ever get good enough at non native languages to write poetry in them.
Martin: [00:26:58] Mmm. I would imagine that certainly the case. Yes, they must be many Poets of all to our foreign languages, but I think I think it's a good question in the sense that reach that level to reach the level of being able to use the language in that sort of poetic manner.
[00:27:13] I think would require the you'd already reached a, you know, a very deep level of understanding of language. So I don't imagine you find many poets that only have a B2 level in the respective language that would surprise me. But yeah, I can't name German foreign poets, but I imagine that's the case with Esperanto.
[00:27:29] For example that I mean I suppose you could say that any poet and Esperanto was a definition of that given that they weren't born into a Esperanto. Although actually that there are native speakers of Esperanto. Although I usually leave that side because it's so few but aside from those which I don't think many or any other poets there was quite a bit of.
[00:27:48] Which were actually in a sponsor there's a thing a Scottish poet William Bold that has published a whole array of poems and literature around that and as one some I think he won the Nobel Prize or something similar for that work. So yeah, I think you can I guess the easy two languages the quicker you can attain that level and we see either line Esperanto, but I'm not sure about other languages.
Tim: [00:28:08] That's interesting. I was thinking that the complexity might or rather the lack of complexity might mitigate against poetry because poetry's although I actually have. Simple Rules means that breaking them is more kind of because poetry is sometimes about pushing against the rules and bumping up against them, right?
[00:28:25] Yeah. I know interesting. I don't you know, I'd never thought about any of this before we started talking so it's like I'm very much making this up on the hoof. But yeah,
Martin: [00:28:34] but I mean songs songs is another thing music is another thing with there's actually a whole range of different music in Esperanto and both poetry in Esperanto.
[00:28:41] Sorry poetry and music sort of require this kind of like if you say that you kind of need to bend the rules or even maybe break them depend on how hardly there that if I'd in order to create that kind of thing because music needs tone and Melody and with Esperanto, for example, it almost gets in the way sometimes of that because the language the language rules are so consistently applied the for example, if you hear if you hear a phrase where and now it is being described by three adjectives, so three describing words that come before the noun or after the noun.
[00:29:09] Actually. The order doesn't is not that important in Esperanto. You're going to hear so let's say let's say the order is with the adjective first. Like English you would hear three adjectives words that all end with the letter A. So on a sound and then finally did hear the noun which ends with an o sound were all sound.
[00:29:26] And so you'd hear a a o and so in terms of comprehension, that's really helpful because when you add are you kind of even if you don't necessarily know what the word is, you know, what the the function of the word is in the sentence, but with poetry and music it obviously gets in the way because it creates a sort of stuttering but you might not want and so you often find that in poetry and music in Esperanto those.
[00:29:46] Those final parts of the word that Mark the function of the of the word in the sentence the objective and noun and you get this across the whole grammatical structure of Esperanto, like the tenses is and all those things of all got very consistent sounds and very consistently endings you find that those are sometimes thrown away and you'll see like a back tick or an apostrophe in place of it so that you can end the word with what a consonant sound for example something else to make it flow and make it sound more like
Tim: [00:30:09] an interesting thing that I mean I can totally see that being.
[00:30:15] necessary or for songs. I mean the lesser extent we poetry spoken poetry for sure. I can see it. So we're talking about a constructed language and I it occurred to me the other day though that we're heading towards having something that looks a bit like constructive language in in Europe in that like I'm trying not to be political about this.
[00:30:41] The EU has English as as one of the core languages and when the UK leaves the EU it's not obvious whether that will be retained. And if it does will that language then diverge from spoken? British English, so that's
Martin: [00:30:59] that's that's a good question. It reminds me of a great post actually from a few years ago from the language learning company Babble and they had this great post and the title of the post was who owns English and it was sort of a provocative got thought blog post to kind of provoked the idea.
[00:31:14] Actually, of course nobody really owns English and everyone speaks a slight variation of it in one way or another obviously. We see differences between Australian American and British English none. No, no differences that are particularly important the get in the way of comprehension for example, but then when you take other versions of spoken English that are much further apart geographically from those Nations and culturally as well you get even more changes in language you get some changes so dramatic that really there are mixes of English and another language.
[00:31:40] So for example, you get Spanglish and Chinglish. And anguish and these other combinations where really is to for amount to languages being spoken being completely mixed in together. You can even find books to learn this style of speaking actually and so it is a very interesting question of what will happen will maybe they'll sanction an official alternative language may be sort of a natural flow will occur.
[00:32:02] I'm inclined to believe that's probably what will happen is that people will go on using whatever seems to work dictated probably by the whole global economy more than anything else. But maybe maybe if you take an even bigger view of the future and you say well where is English in in a hundred or two hundred years, you know to does it become more uniform with more people speaking it or does it become actually more fragmented and we have these, you know, growing dialects of English.
[00:32:25] It's an interesting question. I have absolutely no clue what will happen, but I can certainly say a situation where you end up having an English spoken. Different enough in a certain region that it's not really the same as what we originally considered to be English, but perhaps you can say the same thing about English now as compared to say a hundred or two hundred years ago as well.
[00:32:44] So maybe that's just the Natural Evolution.
Tim: [00:32:46] Yeah. No talking about Evolution died in if you have a sense of whether English in particular is getting simpler or more complicated
Martin: [00:32:54] or so. I know there are efforts for example good things like simple English to aggressively simplify the language and so you can for example get the BBC.
[00:33:02] I think the BBC World Service. The provides a news only simple English and is a Wikipedia version and this is a version of English where there's a very strict subset of the you know, the the verbs and other uses of the parts of the language, but with regards to the language outside of efforts to just restrict to a certain subset for the benefit of foreign speakers.
[00:33:22] I don't know whether it's becoming more or less complicated. I think it's probably going to depend on so many other factors. They don't know where it's being used and taught and what it's being spoke about. I feel like for example you can see examples where it's become simpler the for example, when you hear American speak often Americans don't really differentiate between the adverbial and adjective objective use of their language.
[00:33:43] So to give you an example an American May for example, say he ran quick or without Puente Del y on the end of that to make the adverbial usage, whereas in traditional sort of received pronunciation in which you would expect to hear around quickly. Whereas quick describes just the the noun quickly describes the verb and so we have the other than the objective.
[00:34:03] In American English, you see that kind of gradually going away and I'm not sure that's to necessarily to a detriment of language it simplifies it in one way. I've never heard that for example and not understood it. So it's not necessarily A Bad Thing and maybe you could say that's a simplification but at the same time that's from my perspective as a L1 speaker of English maybe for a learner that just complicates matters even more now, they're like, well, is this an adjective or is it an adverb?
[00:34:25] And when do when do I actually use the l y version of when do I not use the l y version and. Yeah, I don't know. It's a very I think that's a very complicated question. What do you think? I
Tim: [00:34:34] have the sense that maybe there are tenses that were used and now aren't I can't think of an example right now, but you know, I sort of feel like some of the past conditional things are almost not used as verb forms.
[00:34:53] You just stick a few more explanations around them to give context to make it clear when it happened rather than or whether it happened and when it happened rather than with I'm trying to think what the the actual form would be a bit like, you know, he would have opened the book had he been tall enough or something.
Martin: [00:35:14] I think I think I see the same thing actually has a good point about the complicated verb usages and this is an interesting parallel with Esperanto. So we're in English.
[00:35:22] We like to use well, we may be some English speakers like to use these very specific passive and active tenses of the verb is to create this very specific meaning and sometimes that specific meanings important and so a lot of time actually is not. It's more of a habit that you just simply use it as opposed to maybe selecting a more simple form and in a span.
[00:35:40] So you have the same thing. So inexpensively at the basic tenses that you get the obvious three the present past and future tenses and is also the conditional tense and then there's this other you can get go further undescribed the voices of tents of the passive and active parts of those tenses and but it's recommended generally to not use them unless it's important to make that differentiation.
[00:35:59] And so for example, I would have been it's usually sufficient. Say I would have I would do this thing and not at that additional kind of thing in the passive voice there because it adds this complexity to the language that that for example another speaker of another European or non-european languages learned Esperanto doesn't have a concept for that tense.
[00:36:19] And so you find this particular with like the difference between European languages and Asian languages where those those Concepts just don't exist. And so to have those Concepts and have them use often would dictate that the learner now has to kind of differentiate why they're there and what subtle.
[00:36:33] Nuanced meaning they are to the sentence because they don't have a parallel language to actually compare against another sign quickly why it's there and so in this brand so generally we don't use those those more complicated tenses you find them or in writing makes sense. The reader has more time to sit and think about maybe why that's there but even in writing at this is General kind of sense of Esperanto was designed to be simple.
[00:36:54] And so while your use of Esperanto can be complex as complicated as you like it to be it can be that precise if you needed to be if you don't need it to be. Then select the simple form and let the the form that will be most understood by the most number of other a Esperanto speakers that don't necessarily have those particular features in their natural languages.
[00:37:11] And so yeah, I guess maybe in safer English in English. For example with the same the same tendency to select the simpler forms over time because it gets the same information across and so if it does actually get the same information across why use a more complicated,
Tim: [00:37:24] right? Right and that I mean, that's a that's definitely a rule to live by unless you're a politician when.
[00:37:30] Hi Clarity, and simplicity aren't necessarily your goals there. But so we're like I'm edging towards Tech we haven't actually talked about tech yet. But but you you were saying the very beginning that you were writing software to help people learn languages tell us about it. Is that what's that?
[00:37:54] What's that mean?
Martin: [00:37:55] Okay, so that's a good point. Actually you started with with not talked about tech for me actually and this is a bit of a meta point I would I'll admit. I mean it's not tech the traditional sense of the word, but I said this quite a few times and I think it's a fairly accurate description.
[00:38:07] I think language is technology of course is probably one of the oldest forms, but it's still the most important this entire conversation is enabled by this invention this thing that we've created as humans that we have various versions of so language and technology have a version problem we languages for me is inherently the same as any other piece of technology.
[00:38:27] It's just a it sort of evolved rather than the design and that's why I Esperanto Is even more of a definition of that it's his idea of okay, we've got these systems. Maybe these systems are almost natural and we want to change them in some way. We want to make them easier on make them more widespread on make than whatever cheaper and so Esperanto is kind of an answer to that not just Esperanto.
[00:38:43] There's other things of course, I mean, I don't want to only focus on Esperanto so there's lots of other constructed languages for example with all more specific goals, but Esperanto is certainly the most. Widen it widely known and the most usable version and so just to that point. I think it's interesting to think about language as technology.
[00:38:58] In fact as innately human as language. Is it still kind of in many ways like technology it changes over time. We approach language with by creating things like Esperanto by saying well, we've got to see what's quite a brand-new version of this thing and we end up in a situation where we can you know, I can sit and talk to an esperantist for an hour about any variety of things and that to me is yeah.
[00:39:19] I mean it fits the definition of Technology great for me, but yeah, so to get onto so because I'm interested in language so much. I wanted to spend time in this space and as a software engineer combining those two things sort of made sense. And so a few years ago. I created an app to help people learn languages and that started out as okay.
[00:39:36] I'm trying to learn languages. What is it that I'm not doing well or what is it that what's wrong with the approach that maybe I'm being Guided by with the other things I'm using. This may be holding me back on maybe could be improved. I certainly didn't want to just jump into the language space and build something.
[00:39:52] That's exactly the same as everything else out there. And so I spent about time trying to think. Okay. Well how do people really learn languages? There's all this advice out there everywhere about do this way do it this way. And usually those are from companies selling a particular approach, but it is quite clear that the advice you'll hear from most people have learned languages is the same simply speaking use it go and move to the country.
[00:40:11] A lot of people say go and move to the country and you'll learn the language, but actually I already did that and that doesn't work because if you move to the country and you don't actually speak a language, you don't need to be moved to a capital city of any foreign country and you're lucky enoughto be able to mostly use English in your day job and in your life outside.
[00:40:28] Then you're not going to learn the language but that advice seems to be kind of right and I think the only reason it's not right is if you don't make the effort to then do it if you to make the effort to do it by being in the country you immersed in the language, I think so the advice really is about immersion.
[00:40:40] It's about. Being around the language as much as possible to be influenced by it so when I sent a demo something about that, I came to the conclusion that whenever I've made progress in a language. I've been learning it's because I've spent time just trying to get to a level where I can actually use it with another person and what it's what's special about that is that that particular usage of the language is apart from say study in the grammar of the language or just say listening to TV shows because it's an active it's active thing and includes another person for which I need to I need to listen to this person.
[00:41:11] Just some other thing I need to respond. And so now we have a conversation and a lot of the other forms of learning languages say for example, reading a book reading a grammar book watching a TV show and whatever it may be reading the comic book A lot of these forms are quite passive. It's duolingo.
[00:41:23] For example, even it's very engaging. It's a great language game. You can certainly learn things about the. Target language from Duolingo you can even learn certain phrases and they put two or three together even phrase box can learn ask how to ask where is such and such but probably not the six or seven variations of the response.
[00:41:39] You might get definitely not definitely not how to ask the follow-up question because you don't quite understand the response that you got and so this kind of idea that language flows. And has a context a very specific context in that flow kind of I kind of spent a bit of time thinking about that and have keeping that kind of concept in my head and realize that really the best way to learn the language.
[00:41:57] There's no there's no magic in that really but the learning approaches as much as they possibly can should keep us in this context or a contact. Which you want to be in for example, if you want to learn Spanish us to order beers on holiday, then learning the names of the members of family or learning.
[00:42:11] You know how to describe household items is actually a waste of time. Those words are useful words in a certain point of fluency. You will need to know them as well. But given a particular goal at beginning there's no reason why if you can specify your goal and say well I just want to be able to order some beers when I'm on holiday and have a little chitchat with a waiter or waitress.
[00:42:29] Then your learning experience should be conversational. It should prime you for questions that you're going to get back in that kind of exchange and it should focus their for on the language usage of that context which will obviously exclude words like sister and brother most likely uncertain is probably much better examples of words, it would exclude and so with that I kind of thought well, okay, if we if it was a learning approach that kind of put you in the synthetic conversation, which really wasn't a conversation one of the person at all.
[00:42:55] It was it was with a robot. It will is effectively a bot. It's a scripted conversation that starts a very very very basic level. So sort of a very tenuous version of a conversation when you just simply say hello and hello or hello. Hello. Goodbye. Goodbye. But as you build on that you can start to explore more and more of a specific context very easily in the context of this.
[00:43:13] For example, the conversation can progress quite quickly from hello. Hello to I would like two beers and then maybe a question that comes afterwards that you might not have completely expected. This was my first experience in German. In fact, I tried to order water in a coffee shop and had spent ages and ages trying to piece together bits that I've learned to be able to form that that sentence {speaks german}. I can definitely say that now I know what that means. I've got it all I was in the coffee shop. I said it to the waitress and she seemingly understood what I said quite quickly turned around walked away. It was a wonderful feeling that first moment where you are understood by someone when you've taken that taking that jump into I'm going to speak a foreign language and I felt great but very quickly she turned around and and said to me {speaks german} which means without gas and this is really common question in most of my experiences in certainly in Berlin and in other countries and.
[00:44:03] It's so common that there's absolutely no reason there's no justification for my learning approach not priming me for that question because probably one out of three times. I'm going to be asked that question or a variation on that question and so by learning that phrase I spent a whole lot of time learning the very very very first Notch of that process.
[00:44:18] Well, not the next one or the one after all the one after that once I've got my coffee. For example, I need to sit down maybe the chairs occupied. Maybe I need to ask the person if that's seat is free or if it's not and so all of these kinds of like contextual flows of the language, I think make the.
[00:44:32] That's effectively the immersion that you would have if you were there and buy complete chance, you're in a coffee shop or a bar you you were observing a conversation in which someone asked for a beer. The Bears were given the price was mentioned the guy said something and then went and saw the chair and so the goal with the system I'm working on is to basically mimic this kind of this kind of interaction with with the learning content.
[00:44:53] And so yeah, it's quite a quite a challenge because that requires capturing those contacts and a whole lot of other problems around it, but at the core, that's the hypothesis is. Ready by simulating these things. We can have a different learning experience.
Tim: [00:45:06] I think that I mean that's actually a really nice place to leave it I think and there's a I've got still got a ton of questions and we should like come back and do this again and with with with the remaining questions, but but I think that's a really nice place to put it what what would be great is if you've got some links that you could email over I'll put them into the show notes and they're on
Martin: [00:45:30] the app engine.
Tim: [00:45:31] And like I said, I think would be really good to like follow this up in a few months time. And I mean like for example, I wanted to talk about Alexa but you know, then we didn't like the whole show in itself. I think
Martin: [00:45:46] right this this this subject is sufficiently massive that you could easily spend hours and hours and hours talking about this these kinds of things.
[00:45:53] So yeah, definitely a maybe a follow-up her episode would be great cool.
Tim: [00:45:56] Great. We'll listen. Thanks so much for that.