How many *human* languages do you speak (apart from English)?

I wish I spoke as many human languages as I “speak” programming languages? I also wish programming languages could actually be used to communicate between humans. One could argue that someone else reading your code is a communication between humans, but it’s like overhearing the conversation between a human and a computer: one may appreciate what the human is telling that computer but the humans aren’t sharing any context between themselves.

I speak Tok Pisin and Urdu after having lived in Papua New Guinea and Pakistan respectively.

Mi gat save long Tok Pisin – I have understanding of Tok Pisin.
Mujhe Urdu ati (kutch na kutch) – To me Urdu comes (some not some).

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This is such a great question…imagine if we picked up human languages as fast as we picked up coding languages!

I speak French fluently (my wife is from the French part of Switzerland and her folks only speak French). At one point in my life I did speak German.

If I can spend enough time (roughly 2-3 months in a location, I tend to be able to pick up the spoken language in the place I’m staying.

I speak Dutch fluently, German well enough and okay French. With those languages (and English), it is usually do-able to somewhat grasp the bigger picture of things in Spanish, Portuguese or Italian (but not always so of course).

Three thoughts on this:

  • Learning to program (well) in general might well be way harder than those who have learned it remember. Having taught programming to a few dozen students, it is a small miracle to me that anyone learns to program at all. Learning to program (well!) in general might be comparable in difficulty to learning a first foreign human language. (Not necessarily too difficult at first sight, but otherwise surely a lot of work.)
  • This fast picking up of programming languages only happens once the first has or first few have been acquired. Something similar seems to be the case with human languages.
  • Many ‘mainstream’ human languages (specifically the European ones) are very similar. The same is true for programming languages.

Anyway, I

  • speak Dutch natively.
  • read & listen English fluently, but speak it way slower than Dutch. (Not clear on writing: my Dutch writing is slow as well.)
  • was taught German and French in school, but am not at conversational level.
  • was taught a little bit of ancient Greek in school.
  • have dabbled in Italian and Esperanto.
  • continue to dabble in Latin.
  • русский
  • английский
  • французский
  • болгарский
  • испанский
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As some of you know I speak:

  • Dutch
  • English
  • French
  • German

and dabble with Italian, Swedish. Portuguese I can barely follow when reading (social) conversation, Catalan is usually okay to follow, but I cannot respond. I did learn Latin in High School for six years (and 3 years of Ancient Greek), and that has helped me a lot with western languages.

I agree with this point and the other points. (Western) languages became fastly easier to learn. Once I stopped thinking languages were an “alpha” thing instead of a “beta” thing (that whole rhetoric that there are STEM people and language people) but rather saw languages as rules, and their exceptions as rules as well, I thrived :slight_smile:

For those who don’t speak russian:

  • Russian
  • English
  • French
  • Bulgarian
  • Spanish
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