I consider myself a polyglot, having studied six languages, being fluent in two, and marginally functional in several others. Besides the Old German and Roman alphabets, I have studied Cyrillic and there was a time when I could sound out Russian words even though I didn’t know them. I can also read Japanese Katakana and Hiragana, and some Kanji. I would guess that’s more linguistic exposure than most Americans.
Then, today, a new person followed my blog, and as I browsed back, I found the artwork in the image on the bottom of my post. However, I also found out what it must feel like to be completely illiterate. I have no idea what this is about.
This is the Bengali language, used in Bangladesh by about 189 million people. It seems like an obscure language to the rest of the world, and particularly us Westerners. Let me put the Bengali language into perspective. The German language has about 98 million speakers, and when you include all varieties, it goes up to 120 million. While we would all agree in the modern world that German is an important world language, its native speaker population is only half of that of Bengali – a language most of us would not even recognize if we heard it, or saw it written, like in the image of a blog post below. The Bengali language, according to a chart of the most widely used languages, is solidly in slot number five.
The art work is in English, though – I am being funny here. This example shows how important art can be and how universal its language is, compared to linguistic languages. They eyes of the girl are extremely alive and serve as the focus in a tentative abstract painting. What a powerful message, with no words for me, the illiterate polyglot.