I have chosen Maltese as my August challenge. I chose it because I have two long standing clients in Malta. I expected it to be quite difficult, and so it is. The vocabulary is totally different and yet there are also many borrowed words from English and Italian. I can work out many of the grammatical patterns which helps speed up learning. I am glad I don’t have to worry about the spelling.



I thought I would post this one now, although it is an on-going process. At the Translate in the City summer school I managed to do one session on Italian. I have also been reading a book on Ancient Rome in Italian. I regularly read the news on the RAI new app. Although my spoken Italian is still very poor my reading ability and I think, my translation ability, has reached a good level. In an attempt to improve the spoken aspect I have been doing a beginners Italian course on the FutureLearn platform.


For the July uTalk challenge I chose Romanian as it is a Romance language derived from Latin and therefore akin to Italian, French, Spanish and Catalan. In fact it was not as easy as I expected but nevertheless I managed to complete it in two weeks. The structure of the language was fairly intuitive and much of the vocabulary seemed familiar, yet there were obvious differences and at times I detected similarities with Russian. I have noted this as one to follow up later.


For the second year running I attended the Translate in the City summer school, but this year I decided to take Catalan. It was a revealing exercise that not only improved my Catalan but also gave me a different perspective on literary translation that I can use in my usual language pairs.


This Bronze-Age Anatolian language must be the oldest Indo-European language I have studied. It is considered the earliest branch to break away from Proto-Indo-European. Offered as part of UCL’s Homer Summer School it was an absolute privilege to spend a week learning this language. It is amazing how much of the grammar we covered, although it is clear that we have only touched the tip of the ice-berg but it was enough to wet the appetite and leave us wanting more.

Hittite was written in cuneiform of course, borrowed from other non-Indo-European languages. We mostly worked from transcriptions but some time each day was devoted to the cuneiform text.

The Hittite scribes borrowed written words from earlier Sumerian and Akkadian languages that preceded their own language. To learn Hittite therefore you inevitably have to learn some Sumerian and Akkadian.


For this month’s UTalk Challenge I chose Basque. Already knowing Spanish and some Catalan, being in the process of learning Portuguese and having sampled Galician last month it seemed only natural and right to tackle Basque to complete the set. But this is an oversimplification because in reality I find Basque a fascinating language.

Not only is it a unique language with no living relatives and but it is also an ancient language, predating Indo-European incursions.

It is an ergative language, which means that it marks the agent or subject of a transitive verb and leaves the object unchanged. None of the Indo-European languages do this but I have come across it before, in an Australian language.

I found some of the sounds unfamiliar and it will take some time to get my tongue around them. Not surprisingly there seems to be some borrowings from surrounding languages.

I am beginning to see some patterns and I think with some patience this is a language I would like to take further.




Catalan Sign Language

I took this 6 week introductory FutureLearn course provided by Pompeu Fabra University Barcelona. For some years I have thought it would be interesting to learn sign language, although it would be more useful to learn the sign language used in my own community i.e. British Sign Language. Nevertheless, since the opportunity arose, I though it would be interesting to see how a sign language works.

I learnt that signs have several components such as hand shape, palm orientation, movement, location and non-manual components such as facial expressions and posture. I also learnt something about grammar and syntax such as a predominantly SOV (subject, object, verb) structure and how to show the agent and recipient of action verbs.

As texts and subtitles were available in English, Castilian and Catalan I took the opportunity to practice reading Catalan.


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