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Babel: Around the World in 20 Languages af…
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Babel: Around the World in 20 Languages (original 2018; udgave 2019)

af Gaston Dorren (Forfatter)

MedlemmerAnmeldelserPopularitetGennemsnitlig vurderingOmtaler
1535135,046 (3.91)2
"English is the world language, except that most of the world doesn't speak it--only one in five people does. Gaston Dorren calculates that to speak fluently with half of the world's 7.4 or so billion people in their mother tongues, you would need to know no fewer than twenty languages. He sets out to explore these top twenty world languages, which range from the familiar (French, Spanish) to the surprising (Malay, Javanese, Punjabi). [This book] whisks the reader 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 exploring tongue-tying phonetics, complicated writing scripts, or mind-bending quirks of grammar, Babel vividly illustrates that mother tongues are like nations: each has its own customs and beliefs. Among many other things, Babel will teach you why modern Turks can't read books that are a mere seventy-five 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, debunks ten 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."--Dust jacket.… (mere)
Medlem:dwhatson
Titel:Babel: Around the World in 20 Languages
Forfattere:Gaston Dorren (Forfatter)
Info:Profile Books (2019), Edition: Main, 368 pages
Samlinger:DW Library
Vurdering:
Nøgleord:Ingen

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Babel: Around the World in Twenty Languages af Gaston Dorren (2018)

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Viser 5 af 5
I wish every chapter had been its own book ( )
  hatingongodot | May 3, 2020 |
A truly fascinating look at the 20 most-spoken languages in the world, Babel is freewheeling, casual, and discursive, but not dumbed down or shallow—the kind of book Simon Garfield should be aiming for. The author is fluent in six languages and reads nine more. Because English is a learned language for him—his mother tongue is Limburgish, of all things, and I wish the format of the book had let him talk about that!—he has a perspective on it that I haven't encountered in books about language written by native speakers.

Each chapter examines a single language, or more precisely, examines either the linguistic features or the social history of the language's home culture. The close relation between some of the featured languages mean that not every chapter is actually about the language: there's not enough that's unique about Portuguese to fill a chapter in a book that also discusses Spanish, so the chapter on Portuguese is mostly about how languages spread through colonization. As a language geek--and who else would pick up this book--I would have preferred that the chapter discuss the variations in the several languages of the Iberian peninsula, and how only two became associated with political power. But that's just me. And there's certainly enough geeky linguistic detail (about cases, Japanese "women's language," and the importance of social status in Javanese speech, for example) to keep me happy.

Dorren refers to other rarefied books that I'm familiar with (The World's Writing Systems, edited by Daniels and Bright, and The Turkish Language Reform: a Catastrophic Success by Geoffrey Lewis), so he and I are of like mind. Perhaps because I find him so perceptive and discerning, I don't mind the liberties he takes, such as applying judgmental adjectives to certain language features or a slight tendency to glibness. Don't let me scare you: this is actually an easy read! The chapters are short and interesting, with much to learn on each page, and if you want to skip over the seven-page "dictionary" of Arabic roots or the chapter on Bengali (not that different from Hindi, from the perspective of one who is unlikely ever to learn either), it won't hurt a thing. This is also a fun book just to dip into. ( )
1 stem john.cooper | Aug 16, 2019 |
he tour of the world's twenty largest languages doesn't pretend to be an exhaustive analysis or a detailed comparison. Rather, it looks at a striking feature of each language -- how it developed, for example, or who speaks it, or how it is written, or whatever. Some readers may object to this free and easy approach, but I found it both entertaining and informative. Terrific book for language mavens. ( )
  annbury | May 1, 2019 |
Popular linguistics book, meaning it's not academic research but an interesting read with some insights into how languages are interconnected. Enjoyed the author's sense of humor and observations that some languages are quirky and the rules make no sense. ( )
  kerryp | Apr 30, 2019 |
Not well organized

"Babel: Around the World in Twenty Languages" is a follow-up to "Mr. Dorren's 2015 "Lingo: Around Europe in Sixty Languages". You can see a theme here. I haven't read "Lingo" but it's said to be "breezy", an adjective I hardly associate with language.

Mr. Dorren begins with his failure to learn Vietnamese. Yes Vietnamese is a difficult language but people do learn it reasonably well and I kept wondering why a person who has studied so many languages had so much trouble with the structures. Pronunciation yes, the tones and all that, but why the structures when the language is written in a Latin script. A mystery.

People who study many languages learn each one faster than the one before if they have a good teacher and are motivated to learn. (I can't tell you how often I've played with French). Sir Richard Francis Burton the explorer, is said to have known 29 languages and could pick up a new one in a week. I'm not that good, but I can do a lot in 3 weeks immersion with a good teacher. I haven't tried Vietnamese though and so I'll give Mr. Dorren some leeway.

But how does he manage to make the stories of these languages so very dull? Language study is fascinating, whether you come at from linguistics, history, culture, or learning. As other reviewers have mentioned, Mr. Dorren tries to present them all in some measure, but the focus keeps changing and there is no good rhythm.

I received a review copy of "Babel: Around the World in Twenty Languages" by Gaston Dorren (Grove Atlantic) through NetGalley.com. ( )
  Dokfintong | Mar 12, 2019 |
Viser 5 af 5
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"English is the world language, except that most of the world doesn't speak it--only one in five people does. Gaston Dorren calculates that to speak fluently with half of the world's 7.4 or so billion people in their mother tongues, you would need to know no fewer than twenty languages. He sets out to explore these top twenty world languages, which range from the familiar (French, Spanish) to the surprising (Malay, Javanese, Punjabi). [This book] whisks the reader 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 exploring tongue-tying phonetics, complicated writing scripts, or mind-bending quirks of grammar, Babel vividly illustrates that mother tongues are like nations: each has its own customs and beliefs. Among many other things, Babel will teach you why modern Turks can't read books that are a mere seventy-five 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, debunks ten 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."--Dust jacket.

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