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Language Learning

Language Learning

I could say my language learning started in junior high-school at the age of eleven with my first classes in French and Latin, with German being added four years later. However, language learning starts at birth as we learn our own mother tongue.

In my case, that language was Scots in a remote part of Ulster where it had been spoken since my people moved there in the early 17th century. Due to remoteness and very little travel, even when I was a boy in the early 1950’s, I think it had not changed much in that time.

I started primary school at six. There I began learning English. It has many words in common with Scots and some say Scots is just a dialect of modern standard english. We used to refer to what we were taught at school as “BBC” English as the radio was the only place we ever heard it spoken outside of school. Schoolteachers, probably with the best of intentions, referred to Scots as “not proper English”.

Looking back on those formative years now, I can see that Scots was rich in words and phrases that helped define us and to bind us together as a community. In a sense, it helped define who we were, how we thought and our whole outlook on life. The language that made me the person I am was not English, but Scots.

So, I’m bi-lingual in Scots and English. But how about my Latin, French and German? Well, I passed the exams at school, but I was really only interested in physics and applied maths which lead to two university degrees, a lifetime in electronics and never a thought about my three foreign languages or language learning until now.

Back to language learning with a purpose this time.

At the age of seventy four and still running my family business, Tirna Electronics, with my son Alan, I have finally become interested in language learning! And about time you might say! This interest has come about for for two reasons.

The first reason is that when I took early retirement from university lecturing, my wife and I fell into the very nice habit of going to Cyprus for our annual holiday. Suddenly, I had a reason to learn a language. In this case Greek.

I didn’t know then that Greek is classified as a category 2 language because it is more difficult for an English speaker to learn than a category 1 language such as a romance language (French, Spanish, Portuguese or Italian). I really don’t care if it is more difficult, because I now have, for the first time ever, an incentive to learn a foreign language. You really need an incentive as it is a serious commitment in time, if not money.

Who learns Greek to go on holidays in Cyprus?

Those of you who know Cyprus will say that most people there speak English as a second language better than I will ever speak Greek, whether they are a native or a waitress from an eastern European country; which all waitresses seem to be. Also, the real natives speak a local Cypriot version of Greek. I’ll worry about that when I get to a level in Greek where I can afford the luxury of looking into the difference.

Right now, I just want to get to a point where I can sit on a bench on the seafront in Paphos and talk to another “oul codger” in his own language about the things we have in common from our youth when we lived on a farm with no running water, electricity, TV or other modern convenience which is taken for granted today. Also, we did not know anybody who had them so we never missed them and, by the way, we were self sufficient. Something sadly missing for most people in the “developed” world today.

By the way, if you want to know what an “oul codger” is, you will have to look up a Scots dictionary, not an English one and I don’t mean a Scots Gaelic dictionary. That is something completely different so Google Translate will not help.

Now here’s the second reason.

The second reason for my new interest in language learning is because my son, Alan, wanted to move from embedded programming of microprocessors for Internet of Things (IoT) applications to writing apps for Apple devices. Being a believer in life long learning and having spent my entire working life doing what I loved doing, I could not deny him the chance to have the same experience.

So, he embarked on learning Apple’s own language, Swift. His dedication has been extraordinary for two reasons. Firstly, he needs to succeed at it to generate his own income and, secondly, he is finally doing what he has always wanted to do since leaving school.

Apple say yes! It’s Approved and on the app store.

In two years he has mastered Apple app programming and now has his first app, Hyperpolyglot, on the app store where it takes its place alongside some 250 other apps aimed at learning a foreign language. The large number of apps reflects the popularity and importance of language learning worldwide.

So, the competition is intense and is lead by a small number of leading brands which always dominate the top places in any search. Hyperpolyglot only runs on iPads (IOS 13 and newer). If you search for it in the Apple app store you will not find it unless you are searching on an iPad which is new enough to run it or you click the link on the Hyperpolyglot page of this website. That appears to be how Apple have organised searching. Last time I searched for it, it was somewhere between 50th and 60th out of about 250 which I, being an optimist, take as being a good sign for a new app.

Download on the App Store

The future: Polylingo on iPhone, iPad and Mac.

If you would rather have an app which runs on your Apple iPhone, well it’s coming. We are calling it Polylingo. I have established a place for it on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube and it will be available in mid 2022. Polylingo will soon have it’s own page on this website, but we don’t want to say too much about it until it is available for sale on the app store because it has some new features not available in any other language learning app. These features are based on what I have learned about language learning from the internet over the last six months. As promised in the heading of this chapter, it will also run on iPads and Apple computers, but that will come later in 2022.