How many languages can you speak?

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  • #26
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Fluent in 3, with some effort I can speak 5 languages.
 
  • #27
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OK polyphones, can anyone identify this language?

La edzon mi ne konas, sed mi ofte vidas lian edzinon.

Better yet, translate it.
 
  • #28
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OK polyphones, can anyone identify this language?

La edzon mi ne konas, sed mi ofte vidas lian edzinon.

Better yet, translate it.

Esperanto:
"The husband I do not know, but I often see his wife."
http://traduku.net/
 
  • #29
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only 2 here.
 
  • #30
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That rather depends on what you count as speaking a language. About 3-5.

Czech - native
English - proficient
French - used to be pretty good; my grammar is still okay, but I've forgotten a lot of the vocab
German - I had it for several years in high school, can sort of get by, but my grammar is pretty bad
Spanish - I mostly have a passive understanding (as it's very similar to French)
Norwegian, Welsh - learning atm, only passive knowledge, can read the news with the occasional help of a dictionary

Plus smatterings of other languages.
 
  • #31
georgelimsk
im a malaysian with chinese heritage

fluent
1. hokkien (dialect used in taiwan) - my mothertongue
2. canton (dialect used in hong kong) - due to too much of hongkong movies
3. mandarin (standard chinese)
4. english
5. malay (national language) - forced to learn in school

so-so
6. japanese - learned during my under grad days (working for japanese)
7. german - have been learning for 3 years

almost lost it
8. korean - learned for a year/ lots of korean friends
 
  • #32
I'm fluent only in English, but I've substantially studied German, Latin, Classical Greek (Attic and Homeric), and am beginning study of Middle Egyptian. Strange set, but fun.
 
  • #33
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I'm only fluent in English but have studied French (Didn't like it very much) and am currently studying German and am planning on becoming fluent in it.
 
  • #34
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I have been thinking about how much good it would do for language diversity if everyone would learn at least one majority and one minority language in addition to whatever language they are already fluent in.

The reason I say two is because people tend to select languages on the basis of the number of speakers globally. If everyone would only choose to learn languages that already have large numbers of speakers, how would minority languages ever gain speakers except through parent-children transfers and those who have some specific reason to focus on a particular minority language?

Ideally, there also needs to be a global effort to integrate language communities so that individuals can practice multiple languages in the same city. Such integration should ideally happen in all sizes and types of cities to avoid the risk of some cities becoming magnets for monolingualism and xenophobia, where people feel that they are being "outnumbered" by multilinguals in other areas.

Multilingualism shouldn't be a choice, it should be standard. Language is acquired through exposure and practice, so the only reason why anyone in the world avoids learning any language is because they, for one reason or another, escape or are excluded from social situations where they would be exposed and expected to practice multiple language in everyday situations on a regular basis.
 
  • #35
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I can speak and understand three languages quite well:
1.Hebrew-as a native speaker
2.English-well, but certainly not as a native speaker.
3.Greek-as a native speaker (I lived in Greece for two years when I was a little boy... though I don't know how to write or read).
 
  • #36
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I have been thinking about how much good it would do for language diversity if everyone would learn at least one majority and one minority language in addition to whatever language they are already fluent in.

The reason I say two is because people tend to select languages on the basis of the number of speakers globally.

Yes. In my case, it takes a considerable effort to learn a new language. I was exposed to three languages in my childhood: English, French and Dutch; but I can't speak any Dutch now. I did go on to learn Spanish and German because of their utility (and the availability of courses and materials). In my adult life, it was useful for me to learn some Russian and Italian, but I was never fluent. Now it's all I can do to maintain fluency in English, Spanish and French. I can still read German, but my speaking and writing ability has declined.

I think it's up to the native speakers of minority languages to maintain their language, but they shouldn't expect foreigners to be able to speak their language, unless they live in the country. I have German friends who moved to Estonia. They can get by with English and/or German, but they're making the effort to learn Estonian; not an easy task.
 
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  • #37
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I think it's up to the native speakers of minority languages to maintain their language, but they shouldn't expect foreigners to be able to speak their language, unless they live in the country. I have German friends who moved to Estonia. They can get by with English and/or German, but they're making the effort to learn Estonian; not an easy task.
Have you thought about the ethnic consequences of this logic? If language is defined as ethnic property, or the property of an ethnically defined geographic region, that increases the likelihood of ethnic exclusion and xenophobia.

I think it would be better if minority languages were reproduced and practiced without regard to ethnic or regional identity. In that way, there would be little difference between globally 'small' languages and globally 'big' ones.

English, for example is a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural language that functions as a common language for people who would not otherwise speak a common language. There's no reason why Estonian, Dutch, or Swedish shouldn't be also, albeit among a smaller and more diffuse group of individuals. I can imagine each minority language gaining a list of global cities or regions where that language is spoken widely, among others. That is, of course, only if people choose to become more multilingual and include minority languages in their repertoires.

This would be an ideal situation for people who want to maintain regular public use of a minority language while being able to migrate to cities other than those colonized by the national/ethnic identity associated with the language.
 
  • #38
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Have you thought about the ethnic consequences of this logic? If language is defined as ethnic property, or the property of an ethnically defined geographic region, that increases the likelihood of ethnic exclusion and xenophobia.

Do you practice what you preach? What languages to you speak? I think the opposite. Most Swedes, for example speak at least three other languages, one of which is almost always English. Having English allows them to travel freely through much of western Europe. Add German, and you've got much of eastern Europe covered as well. Having a few international languages allows people to travel and break down cultural barriers. In my case, I can travel widely with English, Spanish and French. It turns out that francophone and Hispanic countries happen to be the ones where English is less useful.

It doesn't hurt to learn some conversational local language when you travel to such countries as Turkey, Greece or an Arabic country but no one expects the visitor to be fluent in the local language. If they rebuffed you, they would be isolating themselves and increasing exclusion and xenophobia.

I don't see why someone would or should want learn another minor language unless they have particular interest in that culture and plan to use the language frequently.

If I were Welsh, I might want to learn Welsh because that would be my culture, and indeed Welsh is maintained (to a certain extent), in Wales. But everyone in Wales can speak English, and I am not Welsh, so I don't see any reason to learn Welsh. I have been in Wales, and I used a few Welsh phrases, but they didn't understand me.
 
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  • #39
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Do you practice what you preach? What languages to you speak? I think the opposite. Most Swedes, for example speak at least three other languages, one of which is almost always English. Having English allows them to travel freely through much of western Europe. Add German, and you've got much of eastern Europe covered as well. Having a few international languages allows people to travel and break down cultural barriers. In my case, I can travel widely with English, Spanish and French. It turns out that francophone and Hispanic countries happen to be the ones where English is less useful.

It doesn't hurt to learn some conversational local language when you travel to such countries as Turkey, Greece or an Arabic country but no one expects the visitor to be fluent in the local language. If they rebuffed you, they would be isolating themselves and increasing exclusion and xenophobia.

I don't see why someone would or should want learn another minor language unless they have particular interest in that culture and plan to use the language frequently.

If I were Welsh, I might want to learn Welsh because that would be my culture, and indeed Welsh is maintained (to a certain extent), in Wales. But everyone in Wales can speak English, and I am not Welsh, so I don't see any reason to learn Welsh. I have been in Wales, and I used a few Welsh phrases, but they didn't understand me.

If you read the first paragraph of your post, your language refers to both speakers and regions as having native and non-native languages. Why do you suppose that assumption is made by so many people? The reason has to do with 1) a practice of associating language identity with ethnic identity and 2) a practice of associating geographical region with dominant language and ethnicity. These associations are logical to a certain degree. It does make sense that people in a geographical area speak the same language(s) for communication. Identifying languages with ethnicity, on the other hand, promotes natural-speaker ideologies that promote discrimination in social interactions. Ideally people would simply speak language to communicate without insisting on establishing their relationship to the language being spoken in terms of ethnic territorialization, but people just aren't that polite most of the time.

The fact is that it is good that people learn language to facilitate traveling, but how many people are also comfortable with short-term or long-term migration, especially when doing so means losing the ability to communicate in daily public life in minority language. This prevents many people from braving migration and, as a result, minority language speakers often get geographically isolated. The fact that more powerful governments rarely want to grant land to minority language governments for population expansion puts speakers of these languages in a precarious position. Either migrate and give up the minority language or struggle to avoid migration at whatever cost, to avoid language loss.

This is why I'm saying that it makes sense for everyone to learn at least one minority language among other languages, so that language proficiency in such languages will grow in many areas globally. That way, speakers of minority languages don't have to avoid migrating to areas outside where that language is dominant, because they would be able to use that language widely in public in certain other areas.
 
  • #40
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The fact is that it is good that people learn language to facilitate traveling, but how many people are also comfortable with short-term or long-term migration, especially when doing so means losing the ability to communicate in daily public life in minority language. This prevents many people from braving migration and, as a result, minority language speakers often get geographically isolated.

Well, it's simply a fact of life that if your native language is Dutch, you're probably going to have to learn other languages, probably starting with English. On the other hand, if I were going to live in the Netherlands or Flemish Belgium, I definitely would learn (or re-learn) Dutch.

So, yes. If you migrate as opposed to visit, then, to be accepted as full fledged member of the society, you should speak the local language. That's simply human nature. People are always more comfortable speaking their native language. But I don't see how this fits into your view that everyone should speak at least one minor language if they don't plan to migrate; or if they found it more advantageous to migrate to country B after spending years learning the language of country A.
 
  • #41
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Well, it's simply a fact of life that if your native language is Dutch, you're probably going to have to learn other languages, probably starting with English. On the other hand, if I were going to live in the Netherlands or Flemish Belgium, I definitely would learn (or re-learn) Dutch.

So, yes. If you migrate as opposed to visit, then, to be accepted as full fledged member of the society, you should speak the local language. That's simply human nature. People are always more comfortable speaking their native language. But I don't see how this fits into your view that everyone should speak at least one minor language if they don't plan to migrate; or if they found it more advantageous to migrate to country B after spending years learning the language of country A.

From the Dutch discourse I know, there's an obsession with insisting on Dutch as a dominant language by reference to geographical territory. It is also my understanding that Dutch is spoken along with various other language and that "Dutch society" is multi-cultural and multi-ethnic. I think there's a strong backlash out of fear of losing what is viewed by many to be a shrinking colonial empire since Indonesia, Suriname, etc. have claimed governmental independence.

The Netherlands is also very densely populated. Don't you think it would make migration easier to combine with Dutch-speaking if people were able to move to certain places all over the world and have a reasonable amount of public and private venues where they can speak Dutch? Wouldn't it be better if Dutch was a widely spoken language like English, without being seen as useless unless one plans to live in Amsterdam or some other city in that area?
 
  • #42
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From the Dutch discourse I know, there's an obsession with insisting on Dutch as a dominant language by reference to geographical territory. It is also my understanding that Dutch is spoken along with various other language and that "Dutch society" is multi-cultural and multi-ethnic. I think there's a strong backlash out of fear of losing what is viewed by many to be a shrinking colonial empire since Indonesia, Suriname, etc. have claimed governmental independence.

The Netherlands is also very densely populated. Don't you think it would make migration easier to combine with Dutch-speaking if people were able to move to certain places all over the world and have a reasonable amount of public and private venues where they can speak Dutch? Wouldn't it be better if Dutch was a widely spoken language like English, without being seen as useless unless one plans to live in Amsterdam or some other city in that area?

How is this supposed to work?. Your saying one major language and one minor language per person (plus their native language), right? So right now, I wouldn't fit your criteria because I don't speak any minor language, but I speak 3-4 major languages (assuming I refreshed my German.) Even if this were put into operation, there are a lot of minor languages. So suppose not enough people choose Dutch. Why should they? Or Czech, or Norwegian etc? There's no guarantee or even a likelihood that they'll be many choices for migration for such minorities unless they learn a major language. If I were to choose a minor language, it might be Greek, so I could migrate to the Greek Islands. So maybe Greek would be oversubscribed while Korean would be undersubcribed.
 
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  • #43
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How is this supposed to work?. Your saying one major language and one minor language per person (plus their native language), right?
First, I think that it hinders people to think of one language as a "native language." Languages become native to speakers through practice. Calling on language "native" promotes the idea that it is more natural for someone to speak or learn one language than another. This also promotes the association of language with ethnic identity, when those are actually different things. A person can have a certain ethnic identity but develop a different "native language" because of the language spoken with them at home, school, etc. Language is really just a means of communication, nothing more. Ethnic identity may be important, but it doesn't really need to be tied to language use or proficiency.

So right now, I wouldn't fit your criteria because I don't speak any minor language, but I speak 3-4 major languages (assuming I refreshed my German.) Even if this were put into operation, there are a lot of minor languages. So suppose not enough people choose Dutch. Why should they? Or Czech, or Norwegian etc?
Because they can. People waste energy consuming a language they are already proficient in instead of devoting that energy to becoming familiar with and practicing a new language. If people would do this from an early age, they would speak numerous language by the time of adulthood. It would be possible if children could change schools after gaining sufficient proficiency in the language of the school, or if schools would designate different languages to different age groups. That way, they would practice learning and interacting in one language for a few years, and then switch for the next few, etc.

There's no guarantee or even a likelihood that they'll be many choices for migration for such minorities unless they learn a major language.
This is a chicken-egg problem. Migration is restricted out of concern for language preservation and ethnic-territorialization of economic opportunities. If economic opportunities were not threatened by migration, more people would consider it feasible and national protectionism would diminish (hopefully). If migration restriction was still politically popular, it could at least be facilitated between cities/areas with widespread proficiency in a given language. That would mean people in Amsterdam could migrate to Berlin if they speak German, but also Helsinki, if there was widespread German proficiency in that area. Likewise people living in Helsinki who wanted to learn Dutch could live in Berlin if Dutch was widely spoken there. Each language would have its own global topography, and the topographies of different languages would overlap since each city/area would have multiple language proficiencies.

If I were to choose a minor language, it might be Greek, so I could migrate to the Greek Islands. So maybe Greek would be oversubscribed while Korean would be undersubcribed.
You could move to a Greek island and practice Greek language, but you could also learn and/or practice Korean there with other Korean speakers. If your Korean became sufficient, you could move to a city/area where Korean was spoken along with other languages that you had no familiarity with (yet). Say you moved to Beijing and spoke Korean at work and among a sub-society of Korean speakers, you might then work on learning/practicing Chinese or Swedish, if there were sufficient speaking-opportunities.

The idea is that all areas/cities would be multi-lingual without everyone having to speak all languages. There should also be measures to ensure that minority-language speakers in an area do not become institutionally isolated from interaction, as that would promote language loss and domination of some languages over others.
 
  • #44
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First, I think that it hinders people to think of one language as a "native language." Languages become native to speakers through practice. Calling on language "native" promotes the idea that it is more natural for someone to speak or learn one language than another. This also promotes the association of language with ethnic identity, when those are actually different things. A person can have a certain ethnic identity but develop a different "native language" because of the language spoken with them at home, school, etc. Language is really just a means of communication, nothing more. Ethnic identity may be important, but it doesn't really need to be tied to language use or proficiency.


Because they can. People waste energy consuming a language they are already proficient in instead of devoting that energy to becoming familiar with and practicing a new language. If people would do this from an early age, they would speak numerous language by the time of adulthood. It would be possible if children could change schools after gaining sufficient proficiency in the language of the school, or if schools would designate different languages to different age groups. That way, they would practice learning and interacting in one language for a few years, and then switch for the next few, etc.


This is a chicken-egg problem. Migration is restricted out of concern for language preservation and ethnic-territorialization of economic opportunities. If economic opportunities were not threatened by migration, more people would consider it feasible and national protectionism would diminish (hopefully). If migration restriction was still politically popular, it could at least be facilitated between cities/areas with widespread proficiency in a given language. That would mean people in Amsterdam could migrate to Berlin if they speak German, but also Helsinki, if there was widespread German proficiency in that area. Likewise people living in Helsinki who wanted to learn Dutch could live in Berlin if Dutch was widely spoken there. Each language would have its own global topography, and the topographies of different languages would overlap since each city/area would have multiple language proficiencies.


You could move to a Greek island and practice Greek language, but you could also learn and/or practice Korean there with other Korean speakers. If your Korean became sufficient, you could move to a city/area where Korean was spoken along with other languages that you had no familiarity with (yet). Say you moved to Beijing and spoke Korean at work and among a sub-society of Korean speakers, you might then work on learning/practicing Chinese or Swedish, if there were sufficient speaking-opportunities.

The idea is that all areas/cities would be multi-lingual without everyone having to speak all languages. There should also be measures to ensure that minority-language speakers in an area do not become institutionally isolated from interaction, as that would promote language loss and domination of some languages over others.

I still don't get your point. Are you going to assign a minority language to people and force them to learn it, so as to assure that there are plenty of people all over who can speak a particular language? Obviously, if the choice of language is voluntary, you're not going to get the widespread distribution you want.

France has 60 million people. Say you identify just 100 minority languages. You are going to assign one minority language to every block of 600,000 people (ignoring the fact that not everyone is capable of learning a new language or speaking at all)? That means that a Latvian speaker would have 600,000 french men, women and children with whom they could chat (assuming the French would speak to anyone in any language other than French even if they could speak another language). Is this your idea?
 
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  • #45
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I still don't get your point. Are you going to assign a minority language to people and force them to learn it, so as to assure that there are plenty of people all over who can speak a particular language? Obviously, if the choice of language is voluntary, you're not going to get the widespread distribution you want.

France has 60 million people. Say you identify just 100 minority languages. You are going to assign one minority language to every block of 600,000 people (ignoring the fact that not everyone is capable of learning a new language or speaking at all)? That means that a Latvian speaker would have 600,000 french men, women and children with whom they could chat (assuming the French would speak to anyone in any language other than French even if they could speak another language). Is this your idea?

You're taking for granted the cultural basis for practicing one language predominantly and avoiding others. You're taking ethnic identity for granted along with ethnocentric resistance to other languages. I'm saying that if people would unlearn ethnocentrism and the various reasons they avoid learning and using multiple languages, people would WANT to diversify linguistically. This would especially be the case if learning a language meant being able to move to a new city and gain new experiences.

The main factors that would stimulate (or rather liberate) the desire to migrate and use different languages would be 1) people would have to feel like they weren't sacrificing career and life opportunities by migrating around. If people feel like they are likely to gain higher social status, career advancement, social capital, long-term friendships, etc. by anchoring in one city, and they assume that their city will remain centered linguistically and hegemonically in their favor if they develop loyalty to it and an ethnocentric personal culture, they will do that and avoid migration and cultural diversification. If, on the other hand, nothing was lost by migrating around globally, and the option wouldn't be lost of moving back to a previous city later on in life for whatever reason, people could feel free to do so, and learn/practices multiple languages in the process.

2) People would need to feel like they gain something by gaining access to cultural products they wouldn't otherwise be able to understand without learning multiple languages. Probably many people who only speak one language can't imagine ever deeply enjoying music or films/TV/print/websites in another language. They maybe see the whole purpose of learning language to be able to ask for directions when on vacation and maybe have a conversation with "the locals." Learning a language opens up an entire world of art and media to you, beyond communication with others who speak the language. Active proficiency is its own reward, too, since it is nice to be able to express yourself in various ways, but I don't think many people see this since they aren't really conscious of language except when they can't understand something.

You're assumption that people wouldn't voluntarily diversify linguistically is based on the assumption that people voluntarily limit themselves to certain areas or culture. I don't think it's voluntary. I think it's done out of fear of social-exclusion because they assume people will view them as different-bad when they don't conform to ethnic-identity norms.
 
  • #46
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Your talking in idealistic generalities. You're not addressing my question. You're not going to get people to learn Latvian (just as an example of a minor language in terms of the number of speakers) unless they already have some specific reason to do so. If you have an educational policy that requires people to learn at least one minor language from some list, how do avoid the likelihood that some languages will be oversubscribed and others undersubscribed possibly to the point where there is zero interest in many of the choices?

EDIT: To the extent that ethnic communities already exist many countries, this is where people with an interest in that particular culture might gravitate. It happens naturally without social engineering. Now if you're talking about immigration policies, that's a different question. But you're talking about creating new communities of minor language speakers with no ethnic connection to those languages.
 
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  • #47
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Your talking in idealistic generalities. You're not addressing my question. You're not going to get people to learn Latvian (just as an example of a minor language in terms of the number of speakers) unless they already have some specific reason to do so. If you have an educational policy that requires people to learn at least one minor language from some list, how do avoid the likelihood that some languages will be oversubscribed and others undersubscribed possibly to the point where there is zero interest in many of the choices.

Because learning Latvian would open up possibilities for migrating to cities/areas where it is spoken. It would probably also help if there was interesting media available in Latvian. Plus there would be an incentive to produce interesting Latvian media to attract interest.
 
  • #48
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Because learning Latvian would open up possibilities for migrating to cities/areas where it is spoken. It would probably also help if there was interesting media available in Latvian. Plus there would be an incentive to produce interesting Latvian media to attract interest.

That can be said of any country. Clearly if you have an interest in doing business in Latvia, speaking the language always helps. But why Latvia or any other particular country?

Again, if people have a reason, they will make the effort to learn the language. My German friends are learning Estonian. They live and work there. But they have no interest in learning Turkish even though that would have been useful in Germany. You want to create non-native populations of minor language speakers by social engineering.
 
  • #49
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That can be said of any country. Clearly if you have an interest in doing business in Latvia, speaking the language always helps. But why Latvia or any other particular country?

Again, if people have a reason, they will make the effort to learn the language. My German friends are learning Estonian. They live and work there. But they have no interest in learning Turkish even though that would have been useful in Germany. You want to create non-native populations of minor language speakers by social engineering.

To the extent that all language is a cultural construct, all language learning is social engineering. Nationalism is also social engineering, except it's justified by claiming natural territorialism.

The point is that if languages were spoken in multiple areas/cities around the globe, people could move around without losing the ability to use the languages they speak. If you speak Latvian or Dutch, where can you live and speak these languages except in the regions where they are designated as national languages? If there are places, it is probably because a company has an "outpost" with many "native speakers."

I'm just looking for a way to increase language populations without making everyone migrate to the same area, and then having them lose the opportunity to speak the language they spoke before migrating because it's not the "dominant" language of the area they move to.

Language politics are prohibitively competitive. People need to not only start recognizing that multiple languages in the same area is ok, but seeing it as an opportunity to diversify and increase migration opportunities.

If your friends want to speak Estonian, then maybe they can move to Istanbul and use Estonian with a business there while learning Turkish so they can use that with their friends who speak Turkish in Germany later. This would be better than the monolingual nationalism that leads everyone to assume one nation = one language, imo.
 
  • #50
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English, spanish, german, french, japanese, chinese, hungarian, philipino, dutch, vietnamese, arabic, portugese, punjabi, and italian...all languages i wish i could speak but can only speak 2 of them :)
 

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