The year is drawing to a close and it is time to look back on the time passed and chart our way through the times to come. To be honest, I’m quite convinced that this exercise should be practiced constantly and not just annually, but for some reason we all seem to think that calibrating our historical compass once a year will do. I guess once a year is better than never and so, to honor this tradition, I have decided to take a look at the history of language.
First off, a rather frustrating piece of news for those of you struggling to learn Danish or any other second, third or whatever number of language: in a hundred years, all of your efforts will have been for nothing, because by then the general globalization will have made sure that everyone on earth speaks Panglish anyway. At least this is what some experts speculate might happen. I wouldn’t be too worried though. History in general didn’t seem to care that Fukuyama told it to stop. Language might turn out to abide by its own rules as well.
The idea of the end of the history of language is a fascinating thought nonetheless. It points to the fact that language has a history, that the different national languages and dialects are constantly changing, and that all of them are related just like the different lifeforms on this planet are related. I read the other day that 16% percent of the words in any standard Danish body of text are German, 4 to 8% percent are Greek and Latin, there are a lot of French words too, and 1% of the words in any given Danish text are English. In other words, only three thirds of the Danish vocabulary is Danish, at best. The rest are migrant words.
The cool thing about this family tree of languages is that it makes it a lot easier to learn a new language if you already know a related one. I should have no trouble learning German since, apparently, I use their words all the time anyway, but sadly, this is not quite the case. To really master German I need one crucial ingredient, and that’s exposure. I wonder if they have TalDansk Online in Germany, or rather ‘SprichDeutch Online’ I guess. And how many of the German words are borrowed from Danish by the way? I bet it’s not 16% but surely some of our words must have made the trip south of the border.
German has a lot of cool words with interesting etymologies by the way. I’ve always found the history of language and etymology of words really fascinating. You can learn a lot about the world we live in from the history buried in the words we use to describe it. And if we make sure to keep on talking to each other, I’m sure we will keep on learning new and exciting things, even if we all end up speaking Panglish.