Who Am I and Why Am I Doing This?

There is nothing so complimentary or as universally appreciated as being able to speak a few words in another person's language. However learning phrases such as "Hello" or "How are you?" is a dangerous proposition, as the person you're speaking to may assume this means you know more than that and try to start a conversation. This could lead to confusion, embarrassment, and hurt feelings. Thus it seems to me that the most important phrase you could say in a language you don't actually know is exactly that: "I can't speak (insert language name here)."

However, to avoid insinuating that you can't speak that language because it is somehow beneath you or not worth your time, it's a good idea to throw in a quick compliment as well. Thus I have taken it upon myself to collect, in as many languages as possible, the phrase "I can't speak ____ but it's a beautiful language."

Now good pronunciation is important too, especially since many languages include funny noises. Many of these sounds have complicated and frightening names such as labiodental fricatives and velar ejectives. Therefore an Anglicised pronunciation would not convey the funniness of various noises. Fortunately for me, phoneticians (linguists who concern themselves with the pronunciation of speech sounds) have devised an International Phonetic Alphabet, which designates a particular symbol or diacritic for virtually every sound used in human language. Unfortunately for you, it's fairly unlikely that you know how to read it. For the most part, familiar letters are what you expect. t = t, f = f, and so on. Here is a short list of what the most common unfamiliar symbols mean, although if you're really that interested I would highly recommend taking a class on phonetics somewhere.

Since I can't speak most of these languages any more than you do, I have relied on (some may say preyed on) a good many well-intentioned and unwitting speakers of other languages. I have attempted to credit the translators, although sadly I failed to keep good track of this in the beginning. An (N) after the name indicates that a native speaker was consulted, while (S) indicates that a student of the language, someone with a good capacity for the language but not a native speaker, was the source.

Linguists estimate there are nearly 5000 languages spoken on Earth. Thus this list is still a little incomplete. If you can add to this list either with additions or corrections, I'd LIKE YOUR HELP. I urge you to contact me at McGhiever@yahoo.com. Don't be scared; I welcome all correspondence!