German interview with Daniel Tammet

Monday, October 25, 2010

If you can read German or Google Translate does a good enough job, this interview from a year ago with Daniel Tammet (the guy famous for learning enough Icelandic in a week to conduct an interview on TV, as well as the world record holder for reciting pi to the most digits) is worth a read. Though it may be tempting to dismiss his abilities out of hand as being something no average person could ever attain, the way he describes his method for learning languages is actually quite simple and can aid anyone. The interview was done after he learned German for a week as another experiment, and here is an example of his of his impressions of German vocabulary:

Ich gebe Ihnen ein Beispiel: Kleine runde Dinge fangen in Deutsch häufig mit "Kn" an, Knoblauch, Knopf, Knospe. "Str" wiederum beschreibt lange, dünne Dinge, Strand, Strumpf, Strahlen.
That is, words that start with "Kn" in German are often small and round: Knoblauch (garlic clove), Knopf (button), Knospe (bud), while those that start with "Str" are long and thin: Strand (shore), Strumpf (stocking), Strahlen (beam).

Such things are also worth keeping in mind for designers of languages as the visceral reaction towards the feel of the vocabulary is often just as important as the design of the language itself.

Some of the actual interview he does in Icelandic can be seen in the video below, and I found a small thread from 2005 in Icelandic here - kind of small and lots of nonsense ("ÞIÐ ERUÐ ÖLL LAME!" -- "og þú ert leðurgimp"), but at least took place around the time the interview and well before the documentary.

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