Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Languages They Spoke…

This is just a quick post looking at genealogy through another aspect --- linguistic heritage.

When I learn about ancestors, I always try to learn different aspects of their lives, and for me that includes even the languages they speak. Luckily, most of my ancestors spoke Spanish (in some form or another) and is the language I was raised in by my parents. However, there are other ancestors who spoke different languages that came into my family. Those languages so far are Catalan and French (creole as well).


Even though Catalan is very similar to Spanish, it is for sure another language. This language can be found in the eastern parts of Spain near France and on the balearic islands. Now a days, the language is blossoming again with Catalan pride where the language is used in everyday life, school, and government.

Catalan speaking areas of Europe [Wikipedia]

Recently, I found out that Duolingo in Spanish has a course for Catalan, which I had no idea since I usually take the courses for learning a foreign language from English. It has been cool to learn Catalan and see the similarities with Spanish and/or French. I'm not sure how good I'll get with it through Duolingo but I want to have some working knowledge of Catalan. It was most likely the language (or one of the languages) Damián Magraner spoke in Sóller, Mallorca and I would love to be able to converse and/or read in it. Hopefully if and when I return to Mallorca I'll have a good handle of Catalan and use it while I'm there!

Duolingo Catalan course tree 

French (Creole)

With my ancestors coming from the French islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique, I knew that I would like to relearn French and get much better at it. My goal is to one day head to both of the islands and use my French to get around. Chat with some people about life on the islands and who knows --- maybe even find some long lost cousins! But these islands also speak their own version of French, which are both creoles. From what I have seen it's hard to understand any of the creoles without some kind of base with how their grammar works; even though they are rooted in French they vary enough that not anyone could easily understand some of their words (think Jamaican Patois and English).

Similarly on Duolingo you can learn French which has been fun to relearn a lot of what I forgot from high school. Also, on Amazon I was able to find two books about Martinican and Guadeloupean Creole so hopefully I can learn a thing or two about speaking those languages. 

Guides to Créole Martiniquais & Guadeloupéen [Amazon]

Why learn a language?

Even though you might not have any plans on becoming fluent in the language, just learning some of the simple phrases can do a lot for you. It's never a bad idea to try and learn a foreign language especially if you have plans to travel there. Also, seeing as how your ancestor spoke this language it could bring you that much closer to understanding their life and even struggles in a new country. They say when you learn a new language you develop a new personality, so even though your 2nd great grandmother was known as stern and quiet in English, she might have been comedic and quick witted in her native tongue. Also, if you do decide to advance a lot in the language, it can help you read and study records in the original language. By taking French in high school and college, I was fortunate to be able to read records from the French islands and not have to hire a translator, allowing me to delve right into the documents myself and with the help of Google Translator I was able to fill in the gaps of words I didn't know. Having that knowledge provided, for me at least, some comfort knowing that I could at any moment read the documents and analyze them at my own pace. 

Languages play such important roles in our day-to-day lives, so why not take a look at what some of your ancestors spoke when they were around! 

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