Guarani, Sanskrit, and Mandarin – Week 35

In my Week 14 post, I tackled the question Why study Mandarin? and explained the motivation behind my unusual methodology. I also asked my readers to indicate which language they would fancy learning without any effort.

Of course, there is no magic pill nor even anabolic steroids for acquiring languages. Even if there were, I would prefer not taking them, assuming there would be harmful side effects. Just like in natural bodybuilding, half the enjoyment and value is in the process. The satisfaction that the results bring is enhanced by the memory of the struggle and the associated health benefits.

Thus, it doesn’t daunt me that learning Mandarin might take a decade or more. That knowledge does not keep me from wanting to improve my mastery of other languages and even dreaming of learning new ones. I spent this past week in Paraguay, and while I enjoyed practicing my Spanish, I was captivated by sueños guaraníes.

How cool would it be to learn an Amerindian language—one that, with its variants, was once the lingua franca in a large swath of South America; gave name to countless cities, natural landmarks, and wildlife in Brazil and neighboring countries; and is still spoken by millions of Paraguayans and thousands in Brazil, Bolivia, and Argentina? Like Mandarin, the challenge would be enormous, given its complete lack of organic proximity to the Western languages I already speak.

While I’m dreaming, another fascinating challenge would be learning Sanskrit. Like Latin, this ancient Indo-European language evolved into or influenced several contemporary vernaculars. It is the language of millennial Vedic philosophy and by some considered unusually flawless and rich[1]. Unlike Latin, there is controversy as to whether it is a dead language: a few thousand people currently consider it their native language, literature is still published in Sanskrit, and there is a strong revival movement in India.

A more modest and short-term goal would be to bring my French back to par, and I am just waiting for a good opportunity to do so, though to begin I should start listening to Radio France Internationale again.

In the meantime, I’d better get back to Qiao Hu and my Mandarin films. I’ve fallen behind recently on my viewing time.

[1] See Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda, end of Chapter 2.