I grew up speaking English and I learned French at school/uni. I say learned; I mean laboriously practised to the point where I can have a conversation with a stranger and pick up weird subtitles on arthouse films and hey, I even used my language skills to buy a prepaid mobile phone plan at an Orange shop in Paris once, so hooray, but I still struggle to remember the basics like which nouns are feminine. I’ve been to France a few times and it’s helped me get around, sure, but it doesn’t feel like a really useful and important language. Here are some languages that would make any of their students feel smug and self-satisfied.
- Auslan (Australian sign language). If you haven’t been watching Anna Bligh’s live press conferences on ABC News 24 during the floods/cyclone crisis, well then, what have you been doing? All the major pressers during the crisis have been signed, which is generally agreed to make Anna around 3 per cent more likeable. Oh and more importantly, it’s pretty useful for people who can’t hear. Fact.
- Mandarin. Whenever I’m around a bunch of east Asian international students, who seem to be able to switch flawlessly from Mandarin to Cantonese to a dialect and back to English, I feel pretty guilty. They’re all more comfortable in their first language, why should they have to converse in English just for me? Maybe one day. Even though Mandarin is pretty much the most spoken language in the world, the tones and the script look like a challenge.
- Esperanto. It’s nice idea – wouldn’t it be great if there were a global language other than English? If both parties to a cross-border conversation could converse in their non-native languages on an even footing? If it were all planned out, with no irregular grammar? It’s a shame it’s not more popular, kinda defeats the purpose.
- Spanish. It’s kind of similar to French, so I’d have a head-start, right? Plus it’s widely spoken and sounds pretty.
- HTML/CSS. Shut up, it’s a language.