Babel: A Language Tour of the World

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  • A propos de Babel: A Language Tour of the World

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    English is the world language, except that most of the world doesn't speak it, only one in five people does. Language writer and polyglot Gaston Dorren calculates that to speak fluently with half of the world's 7.4 billion people in their mother tongues, you would need to know no fewer than twenty languages. He sets out to explore these top twenty lingua francas, ranging from the familiar (French, Spanish) to the surprising (Malay, Swahili, Bengali). He takes us on a delightful journey to every continent of the world and, among other things, he explains why modern Turks can't read books that are a mere 75 years old, what it means for Russian and English to be relatives, why Japanese women talk differently from men, how come tiny Portugal spawned a major world language while Holland didn't, and showing how speakers today handle the foibles of their mother tongues. Something that will change the way you look at the world and how we all speak.

    Gaston Dorren is a language journalist, writer and polyglot. He writes and speaks about languages and multilingualism around the world and lives in The Netherlands. He has an impressive ability to flip with ease from jokes and surprising facts to the discussion of complex linguistic ideas. He is a regular contributor to the popular linguistics magazine Onze Taal, and edits the Language Writer blog. A true polyglot, Gaston speaks Dutch, Limburgish, English, German and Spanish, and reads French, Afrikaans, Frisian, Portuguese, Italian, Catalan, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Luxembourgish and Esperanto. While writing Babel, he also tried to learn Vietnamese. He has published other well-received books on linguistics such as Nieuwe tongen on the languages of migrants in the Benelux, and Taaltoerisme, a lively grand tour of 53 European languages, which became the basis for the widely acclaimed Lingo.

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