It has been said time and time again that each new language a person learns to speak will allow that person to view the world from a slightly different perspective. Speakers of multiple languages can attest to the fact that each has its own unique “flavour”—certain quirks and qualities that enable the speaker to take on a different disposition while using it. Many Inuit languages, for example, have several words to describe various types and states of snow; this is in contrast to English and most other Indo-European languages, but it makes sense given the geographic location of the speakers of Inuit tongues. And Tongan—a Polynesian language—uses a specific set of determiners commonly known as “emotional articles”, in order to express sentiments such as reverence, sympathy, and goodwill toward the referent of the phrase that contains them.
This sixth issue of Unravel focuses on the world of polyglotism—a world that emphasises both the similarities and the differences between the multiple languages that are spoken or studied by polyglots. Our talented editors, writers and designers—many of whom are polyglots themselves—have produced articles on the role of Latin in learning Romance languages, the etymology of the words “polyglot” and “multilingual”, the joys and challenges of studying multiple languages, and interviews with Lorraine K. Obler (on learning about learning languages) and Crispin Thrulow (about his journey through the field of linguistics and privilege). Outside of the Polyglotism feature, this issue also includes pieces on the story of Vietnamese orthography, the importance of teaching linguistics in schools, and thoughts on the linguistic competence of dogs .
It is unique traits such as those mentioned above that lend individuality and distinctiveness to each language—and that make learning and speaking multiple languages such a richly rewarding experience. To quote Charlemagne, Maîtriser une langue étrangère, c’est comme posséder une seconde âme. “To have another language is to possess a second soul.”