OEG Monday Pulse: What languages are you conversant in?

Here’s Alan’s latest effort to investigate activity in OEG Connect. I will try each week to publish a quick poll aiming to take a pulse :heartpulse: on this community.

Today, we ask you to share about how many languages you are able to speak and understand conversationally– if you were to travel to a place where that language is spoken widely, would you be able to engage in conversations?

And yes, I am somewhat cheating as this poll was first tried during the OEGlobal 2020 online conference. Let’s compare results!

How many languages you are able to speak and understand conversationally? * ¿Cuántos idiomas eres capaz de hablar y entender conversacionalmente? Sabaraha basa anjeun tiasa nyarios sareng ngartos kana paguneman? Combien de langues êtes-vous capable de parler et de comprendre de manière conversationnelle ? Wie viele Sprachen können Sie im Gespräch sprechen und verstehen? 你能说和理解多少种语言?كم عدد اللغات التي يمكنك التحدث بها وفهمها أثناء المحادثة؟
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • > 5

0 voters

**Because my response will be sadly = 1, I have had to resort to Google to translate the question! please correct if needed *

Please reply below with any stories or examples where your language ability (or lack thereof) has been a factor in your open education work?

If you have ideas/suggestions for better future polls, please let me know! What kind of pulse would you like to take globally on open education?


Navigating between languages has had an impact on how I define “open”. Long story short: Experience Fieldnotes: Languages of Open Education - Eductive

Even my limited abilities in Bamanankan (that I’d still call “conversational”, though I’m really rusty) have been part of my approach to OE. My version of the so-called “Sapir-Whorf hypothesis” is that there’s wisdom in language itself.

As for barriers coming from a lack of ability to speak a language… It’s easy to notice imbalances between the six UNESCO languages used through OEG. Part of the reason multilingual sessions in Nantes were so challenging is that we need critical mass to have deep discussions about our core subject matter.

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I have enough Spanish to get my point across and enough Kwéyòl to get in trouble, so I counted those as 1/2 each and answered 2. :slight_smile:

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Tha am matamataig sin ag obair dhòmhsa :wink:

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Ce calcul fonctionne pour moi
Google Traduction

Takes me back to watching Outlander! :grinning:

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Thank you for the food for thought!

I picked “5+” – The funny thing about Slavic languages are they are reasonably similar to each other: some feel extremely similar (Czech / Slovak) and when I chat with folks from Poland, I speak Slovak (slowly, deliberately avoiding words that I know could trip them up and instead using equivalents that will be easier for them to understand), they speak back in Polish and we can chat just fine. I had a couple of years of German in school (it is very rusty) and a year of Russian – enough to learn to read and learn a bunch of frequently used words which are different from Slovak.

In college we had classical Greek, Hebrew and Latin – I certainly couldn’t hold a conversation in these but there is enough knowledge left over to have a some idea what a text might be about and appreciate those language features that shine in the original and will be inevitably lost in translation.

Thinking about programming languages as well – what does it mean to “know” JavaScript? Does being able to write a simple program that sort of works, even if it’s not elegant and its creation requires hours spent on StackOverflow?

Anyway. Let’s tie language to open education.

Knowing a language enables access to a wider ecosystem (OER, software, local news). It’s helpful to be able to tell Slovak policymakers by referring to Polish OER (hello @aczetwertynska!). Knowing what else exists out there is great for borrowing ideas, localizing, remixing, and cross-polination of ideas (e.g., by following international developments we found out about the DjangoGirls tutorial and translated it to Slovak).

Another language story: when the Paywall movie came out, I really wanted it to be shown in the One World festival. In the beginning there were no subtitles but One World organizers said they really needed to be available. So first, I created auto-generated (very messy!) subtitles in English, which the volunteers at the Harvard Library cleaned up. Then I translated them at amara.org (a tool that the local TEDx team uses for localizing videos), sent the result to the One World organizers and then kind of forgot about it. A few months later, several more translations popped up – and now there’s 10 language versions available already! This was all catalyzed by making the subtitles available and openly licensed.

Because we all had at least one language in common, people could find the movie, translate it and make it available to their own local audiences.

There’s a lot of great content (local news, niche websites) that never gets translated and having a conversational knowledge of the language and some acquaintance with the culture (e.g. what stuff should you even look at and what websites should you go to?) is helpful. Google Translate / DeepL is great but personally knowing people from different cultures who can provide pointers and having some understanding of their language and culture is even better… :wink:

In Slovak there’s a saying “koľko jazykov vieš, toľkokrát si človekom” – loosely translated as “the more languages you know, the more you are human” (meaning more literally: if you speak X languages, you are human X times).

Having at least a conversational knowledge of languages and knowing speakers of that language opens up the mind and has made unexpected cool things possible.

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I must learn more Slovak, those expressions are so rich! Thanks Jan.

I thought you might try and count Python (I speak it barely with a very awkward accent).

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Is AWK your mother tongue, then? :wink:

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   $ awk '{ if($3 == "stevefoerster") print $0;}' oegconnect-t-4361.txt

Not at all, I am !AWKliterate I quickly searched for examples.

I was not sure if I should have taken this survey. We Indians (most of us) surely know at least 3 languages conversationally. - English, Hindi, State language and mother tongue and father tongue :face_with_open_eyes_and_hand_over_mouth:. (since we often have marriages across Indian cultures, the mother tongue of the father and that of the mother maynot be same!). And for people like me, who come from Mega cities like Mumbai, we grow up in neighbourhoods speaking multiple languages making us pick up those as well!


Absolutely you should have taken the survey, we like this data (and the story behind it)

Also I’m keen for more kinds of polls we should do— what would be interesting to know about other people here?

AWKword PERLs of wisdom.


OK, if we’re going to include computer languages, we need to expand the survey to have the possible answer “All of them.” – Because, when it comes to computer languages, I follow the archaeologist Schliemann’s (the discoverer of the ruins of Troy; famous for how many (human) languages he spoke) view: “the first seven are hard, the rest come for free.” So since I’ve written a fair bit of code in well more than seven computer languages, I always tend to assume I can get along… “conversationally,” let’s say… in any other.

My favorite pun of the day! :heart: :rofl:

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