Thé Jøy öf Dîáçrïtícs Posted by on May 29, 2017 in Archived Posts

Getting to write with new accent dashes, dots and squiggles is part of the fun of language learning. But is it even better when writing whole new alphabets?

Well, they’re all real, but a lot of them are just math symbols and not used in any actual language.

Still, the heart of the comic is true: I take great pleasure from the act of writing those little squigglies or slashes or dots around letters in foreign languages (that’s what a diacritic is). In German, I love it even more than the great fun it is to join several words together to create longer ones (for instance, I just now invented Langwierigewörteaufbau, which means roughly “construction of extensive words.” Not sure if it’s 100% correct, but it’s 100% fun to do). If I have to write a word with an umlaut (ö, ü or ä) in it, my day is made. In Spanish, when I get to write that delicious little squiggly on top of the ñ, I’m a happy camper. In French, I’m still struggling with the right way to correctly write the curlycue at the bottom of their famous ç, but just trying it gives me visceral pleasure. But I’m easy to please. Even half a decade after moving to Europe, I still love writing € instead of $.

It’s almost like writing a secret code. These are special letters, symbols you don’t get to use in normal, boring old accent-free English. You get to use these special letters that only mean something to a certain group of people. They come with little mini rulebooks too, to use them correctly, which is also part of the fun.

Unfortunately, I don’t yet speak or have the ability to write in a language that doesn’t use the Latin alphabet. I can only imagine that if you learn to write with Japanese Kanji, Korean Hangul, Cyrillic, Greek, Hebrew, Arabic or any of the many other non-Latin alphabets out there, it feels even more like writing a secret code. It must be a real thrill to decode that writing on signs and in books, and then reproduce messages cloaked by these beautiful symbols which can only be read by other people in the know.

You tell me, readers. Is it as awesome as it sounds?

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About the Author: Malachi Rempen

Malachi Rempen is an American filmmaker, author, photographer, and cartoonist. Born in Switzerland, raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, he fled Los Angeles after film school and expatted it in France, Morocco, Italy, and now Berlin, Germany, where he lives with his Italian wife and German cat. "Itchy Feet" is his weekly cartoon chronicle of travel, language learning, and life as an expat.

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