Word Of The Week: February 6th, 2010.

letterfI’m pretty sure I’m fluent in the English language, although I could be wrong about that. As Steve Martin once said, some people have a way with words, and others…not have way. Anyway, English is the only language I’m fluent in. I could claim to be fairly good at Latin, but I have a long line of Latin teachers who think differently. And I’ve picked up little bits of several languages, mainly French, Spanish, some German, a little Russian, a little Romanian, and a little Norwegian. The trickiest one was the Russian because I taught myself the Cyrillic alphabet at the same time by reading signs. For instance, the Russian word for telephone is telefon, so I learned to recognize all those letters.

When I was a kid and I’d hear someone say they spoke a language fluently I’d think they were saying fluidly, and in a way it makes sense. Both words come from the Latin word fluere, which means “to flow” . Language is like a fluid, especially if you’re listening to someone speak a language you don’t understand. My mother’s parents came from Czechoslovakia, and I used to love listening to some of my relatives speaking Czech. Because I couldn’t understand a bit of it the sounds were like music.

I once met a guy who was fluent in three different languages. He said at one point that being trilingual had its disadvantages. I said, “Wait, what could disadvantage could there possibly be?” He said, “I misspoke. I meant it definitely has its advantages.” If a guy who speaks three languages can misspeak I guess I shouldn’t feel too bad about those times when I not have way.