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Publisher's Summary

Whether you're a frequent visitor to Europe or just an armchair traveler, the surprising and extraordinary stories in Lingo will forever change the way you think about the continent and may even make you want to learn a new language.

Lingo spins the listener on a whirlwind tour of 60 European languages and dialects, sharing quirky moments from their histories and exploring their commonalities and differences. Most European languages are descended from a single ancestor, a language not unlike Sanskrit known as Proto-Indo-European (or PIE for short), but the continent's ever-changing borders and cultures have given rise to a linguistic and cultural diversity that is too often forgotten in discussions of Europe as a political entity.

Lingo takes us into today's remote mountain villages of Switzerland, where Romansh is still the lingua franca; to formerly Soviet Belarus, a country whose language was Russified by the Bolsheviks; to Sweden, where up until the 1960s polite speaking conventions required that one never use the word "you" in conversation, leading to tiptoeing questions of the form: "Would herr generaldirektör Rexed like a biscuit?"

Spanning six millenia and 60 languages in bite-size chapters, Lingo is a hilarious and highly edifying exploration of how Europe speaks.

©2015 Gaston Dorren. First published in Great Britain in 2014 by Profile Books. Recorded by arrangement with Grove Atlantic, Inc. (P)2015 Audible, Inc.

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Fascinating tour of European dialects

This book is a fascinating your of European dialects. It melds history and linguistics in a breezy, flowing story of each language. It's easy to listen to because each chapter is short and modular. But if you miss a bit of any chapter, it's hard to gather what the author is getting at. Still, it's captivating enough for a few listens. I recommend.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • John S.
  • Seattle, WA United States
  • 08-31-16

Perfect narrator fit!

An overview of European languages, including several either dead, dying, or spoken as distinct "minority" languages in their countries. Easy to pick up and put down without losing any continuity; folks looking for something more in-depth might likely find themselves frustrated or disappointed. Excellent audio narration - Backman obviously went to great lengths to get the material down correctly.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Introduction to a Wide World of Language

What did you love best about Lingo?

I like the "lightbulb" words at the end of each chapter. English is definitely missing components that are elegant in other languages!

What did you like best about this story?

I love the stories about each of the languages, and the varied style for each of them. With 60 languages to cover, I really enjoyed how the author would balance between deep historical coverage, and fun, tongue in cheek delivery. Gaston Dorren called out French as a language afraid to be away from its mother. Who does that? Definitely a (mostly) fun read.

What about George Backman’s performance did you like?

He definitely has fun with the delivery over the course of these stories.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

It's not a dramatic book, but there were a few times where laughter is appropriate.

Any additional comments?

If you're not a linguist, then you will have a lot to absorb from this book. I didn't sweat the details too much, and went with the flow. Backman is offering us a tour of Europe, so don't worry if you don't know which General won the battle, or which year the building was completed. The point is that there are a lot of languages, they've got some similarities, and some key differences.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Disappointing

I wanted so much more from this book. A few interesting bits but The author tries to be much too cute and many of the vignettes are lacking in substance. The narrator is overly dramatic for the subject matter but at least does a commendable job pronouncing words and phrases from the various languages. If you're going to still get this, it probably makes the most sense to listen and read. That way you get benefit of the sounds of the language in addition to the spelling. I did audio only and felt I probably missed out on some of it even thought that the narrator spelled out some of the words.

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Interesting linguistic trivia

Rather than advancing any big ideas, this book shares interesting vignettes about dozens of languages from English and German down to the smallest languages spoken in Europe.

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