Friday, 28 January 2011

Why have I decided to learn Sambahsa and Japanese?

In his forward to The Sambahsa Grammar, Dr. Olivier Simon writes something fantastic. There, the creator of the language rightly says:

"Since they (IALs) first became popular in the late 19th century, [most of the] auxiliary languages have placed simplicity above all else."

Before I read this, I'd tried to learn Esperanto, Interlingua and Lojban and had read about Ido, Latino Sine Flexione, Lingwa de Planeta and a whole lot of others.

Most of them - with the exception of Klingon and Na'vi in my mind - claim to be easier than any other language for one reason or another.

In spite of their relative ease in learning, I couldn't understand, why I was unable to learn them. This often made me think that learning languages wasn't my cup of tea. But after I reading these sentences in the same forward, I'm beginning to doubt this: 

"The new state of Israel, at its inception, could easily have gone with one of the many international auxiliary languages and yet went with a language that was not created to be easy, a language [that] appealed to people for its spirit and heritage, and not [for] its simplicity or international character."

Dr. Simon is right in saying that we are more likely to spend time learning something that is appealing to us than something that's easy but doesn't evoke any emotions.

A corollary of this statement is that languages are more than mere words linked together by some rules of a grammar.

It is something that most conlangers don't take care of when they set out to design a language.  I read in a blog (probably by Rick Harrison) that what the conlangers do is they conceive of their language as a product and want to make it better thinking that it would attract more speakers.

This is as far from reality as it can be because if a better language (I don't know what makes a language better) could attract speakers, auxlangs wouldn't have, on an average, less than 25 speakers per language. Especially, given the current scenario in which almost each conlanger claims that his or her language is better than others.

Now, turning to answering why I've decided to learn a language that didn't even have more than two fluent speakers by last count, I don't need more than these three words: on a whim.

I'm not a professional linguist who can analyze and then can make judgments about the 'linguistic superiority' (does there exist such a term?) of a language. I've decided to learn Sambahsa because its creator has explicitly mentioned in the forward that learning his language is not going to be an easy task.

I know that learning languages is not easy. The creator of the Sambahsa doesn't try to hide the difficulties, a learner would face, by playing with words. To me this is 'good' and has positive connotations. You can also say it's the absence of any exaggeration of any kind about the language that has attracted me to it.

I don't know if I will ever be able to learn Sambahsa to fluency or not. But I do know one thing: I'll not drop the language until I can link it to goodness as I perceive it.

Talking of Japanese, I've decided to learn it for exactly the same reason. The Introduction to the Complete Grammar Guide by Tae Kim doesn't adopt any short cuts and fools learners into believing that this is going to be a cake walk.

Another reason is that I'm curious to know what the Japanese felt when they first encountered Europeans, who were technologically more advanced than the Japanese back in the 16th and 17th centuries. Also, I want to read Osamu Dazai in the original.

My plan is to spend thirty minutes everyday for five days a week on Sambahsa and I'm looking forward to reading Ithacus is Calator within three months from now.

About Japanese, I'll spend 45 minutes everyday for six days a week and still consider myself lucky if I could complete the Basic Grammar on Tae Kim's website and get the gist of even a single text on Aozora, the Japanese equivalent of our The Gutenberg Project, in the same period.