For the love of languages


Welcome to another exciting week of Kid’s Corner with me, Angelique! This week we learn how to say “Hello” in various languages, and where in the world each language is spoken. Being able to speak a second language in addition to your first language is a gift and a skill that will have you making friends from all around the world.

I speak Spanish and English: Spanish was my first language and was the main language spoken in my home when I was a child, but as I grew older we spoke mainly in English. My mother spoke English, French, and Spanish, and all fluently. Some people are able to learn languages either with ease, hard work or just being raised with more than one language spoken in the home. She learned languages for the love of them and for the joy in connecting with people from different cultures.

My father’s first language is Spanish and as he will probably tell you he is always learning about English. His favorite thing are jokes about the English language, such as words that have the same sound but are spelled differently (bear vs bare, fare vs fair). He also likes to greet new and future friends with “Nice to ham you,” instead of the usual “Nice to meet you.” He likes discussing why “chair” and “chemical” both have ch at the beginning of the word but they sound differently. Can you think of any jokes using word “play?” Check out the book Funny You Should Ask from the Library.

Whether you are planning a trip to another country or if you meet someone who speaks a language different from you, knowing how to say “hello” and share a greeting is a wonderful way to make a new friend or get to know people in your community. It shows interest in them, as language is a big part of culture and it is a wonderful way to connect with someone new. In 2018, demographic data for Lafayette showed a population of 28,924 people: the languages most widely spoken were English, Spanish, and Miao/Hmong. Let’s look at how to say “hello” and “how are you?” in Spanish and in Miao/Hmong. Then we will try a few other languages as well.

Spanish: Hola, ¿Cómo estás?
Spanish is spoken in Spain, and Central and South America, and is the second most widely spoken language in the United States.

Miao/Hmong: Nyob zoo. Koj nyob li cas (Gaw nyaw lee cha).
Hmong is spoken in Southern China, Northern Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand.

Persian (Farsi): salām or salaam, chetori?
Persian is spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan.

Portuguese: Olá e Como está você.
Potuguese is spoken in Portugal and Brazil.

Hindi: Namaste, Kya haal hai? /Kaise ho?/sab theek?
Hindi is a language spoken in India.

Bahasa: Halo, apa kabar?
Bahasa is spoken in Indonesia.

Arabic: Marhaba, kayf halik.
Arabic is spoken in Israel, Kuwait, Jordan, Algeria, Bahrain, Chad, Egypt, Eritrea, Iraq

Turkish: Merhaba ve Nasılsın?
Turkish is spoken in Turkey, part of Cyprus, and Azerbeijan

Swahili: Habari ninafuraha kukutana na wewe?
Swahili is spoken in Kenya and Tanzania.

Mongolian: Sain Bainuu, yuu baina.
Mongolian is spoken in Mongolia.

Hungarian: Szia, hogy vagy.
Hungarian is spoken in Slovakia, Romania, and Yugoslavia.

Mandarin: Ni Hao ma.
Mandarin is spoken in China, Singapore, and Taiwan.

I have found that when I have been able to spend a long period of time in another country that I am better able to pick up a language more easily through daily interactions. It’s not easy but it really immerses you in the day to day living of people and their culture. I know for the majority of people this isn’t something we can all do, especially at this time with the limited ability to travel due to Covid-19. In the meantime, there are other ways to learn a language, whether it’s through someone in your community, through a language app, books, audio aids, and listening to movies and music.

Some of you will be heading back to school, whether in person or online, and you will be learning a new language for the first time or continuing your studies. Be patient. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and laugh. Ask questions. Try to have conversations. I know you might feel embarrassed but it’s honestly the best way to learn. Whenever you try speaking with someone in their native language, your trying is always appreciated. Imagine for all the people that move to any new country themselves and how it feels to not be able to communicate. Many of us have not been in that position so take the time while you have the support and resources in school to be brave and have a conversation, even if it is only hello and how are you in the beginning.

Two languages I have always wanted to learn fluently are Swahili, as I have enjoyed traveling through Kenya and Tanzania. The second is Sign Language. I have had students and patrons at my place of work who are deaf and were only able to communicate by signing. It would have made a world of difference to be able to share some essential signs to be able to provide the needed services in a language they would understand.

I  hope that you are inspired to learn a new language or if you already speak one we would love to learn how to say hello and how are you. There are over 7,000 languages spoken throughout the world. If only we could learn them all, what a wonderful world it would be…. until next week, friends!


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