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Lingo: Around Europe in Sixty Languages

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  2,303 ratings  ·  303 reviews
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 reader on a whirlwind tour of sixty European languages and dialects, sharing quirky moments from their histories and explorin/>
Kindle Edition, 320 pages
Published December 1st 2015 by Atlantic Monthly Press (first published November 1st 2014)
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Petal X Planet
Dec 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015-read
This was a kind of whirlwind tour of the history of the languages of Europe. How they began, developed and spread or died. I've been reading quite a few linguistics books recently and this kind of rounds them out in a very light and entertaining way.

Countries are often very fierce about their national language as it is the main, defining point of their nationhood. There are many examples from Basque to Monagasque. One closer to home for me is Irish Gaelic was just about extinct and no one speak
Sep 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Anyone who likes languages will like this book. If you aren't a linguist, I am sure there is much in here to interest you, too. Okay, some of it is a little basic, and on other occasions there is waaaay too much detail. But this is fun. It is interesting. I like the short chapters: you learn a few facts about a particular language, then move on. If I wanted a complete history I certainly would have looked elsewhere. This book will keep you entertained and you will learn a few tings along the way ...more
Khashayar Mohammadi
The information provided here is VERY basic, even for a layman like me.
Aug 16, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audible, audiobook
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.
I was expecting...something different. I knew from the cover description that this would not be an in-depth treatise, but I was still surprised at just how superficial most of the discussion in this book was. Just when I'd think the author was gearing up to dig into something juicy or interesting - nope! Chapter's over.

And some of the chapters just seemed kind of pointless. The entirety of the two pages on Danish could be summed up as, "Danish used to be spoken over a very large area
A fun, humorous and broadly accessible look at the language landscape of Europe. For the various languages featured (some European languages are omitted, but the major ones are covered along with some unusual lesser-known tongues) the author alternately delves into:

-interesting or dismaying features, such as spelling or grammar quirks;
-history, evolution, spread/retreat, or death/revival;
-links or contrasts with related or nearby languages/dialects;
-notable linguist
Nov 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fast reading, broad sweep of European languages. Just enough information to whet one's appetite to learn more about the development of many of the languages of Europe. I would think this book would be great for a High School library. Chapters are short and focus on a single language so a good book to read a little at a time along with reading something else.
Oct 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't think I can truly express how much I loved this book? It really surprised me - I don't recall why I downloaded it, probably some Kindle deal day, but it must've sat there unread for a year or so, I actually put it in my 'Holiday Reads' folder twice, but when it came to the actual holiday thought it would be too much hard work. Silly me.
It's a witty and interesting whirlwind tour through European languages since the Greeks. Where they came from, how they evolved, languages that died
Feb 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An enjoyable book of language trivia. You'll learn why French has all those silent letters, if it's reallytrue that Spanish is spoken faster than other languages or if it just sounds that way, and whether that oft-referenced language (Sami) really does have 20 unique words for snow.

I really liked the end of each chapter which included words from each language that are loanwords in English, many of which migrated through one or even multiple other languages on their way. Along with that is a si
Sep 22, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Really? ...that's it? Too sketchy...
Jul 28, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: to-review
Fun book of linguistics tidbits and trivia for the languages of Europe (including some that I'd never realized were still spoken - Ossetian, Galician, Frisian, Channel Islands Norman, Shelta, Sorbian (? that one I'd never heard of) - and some that have been resurrected - Manx, Cornish). A lot of grammatical and linguistic terms were thrown at me, so I did a lot of Googling at times, but a really fun read for summer (and sorry, this won't be coming out until December in the US).
Jun 03, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Entertaining, interesting and at a perfect level of comprehension. I feel closer to my fellow Europeans.
Mar 30, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
I mean, I read it? As mentioned by some other reviewers, I didn't appreciate it's lack of depth. Also mentioned by other reviewers, it was a breezy read, which I appreciated when I couldn't make it through a chapter. I was hoping for more of a historical and sociological look at the languages and less linguistic analysis (I know, it's about languages, and I totally own that a linguist doesn't have to write a book to cater to my interest on sociologically analyzing stuff). It was clear that the a ...more
Feb 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction-read
This book was a joy to read! It's written in relatively layman's terms, so is easily accessible for the casual linguist or even just someone who is a little language-curious. I enjoyed the humour sprinkled throughout the book, too. The content is somewhat whirlwind (as can be expected, since it claims to be a guide to a whole continent of languages!) and sometimes I wish it had gone into a little more detail, but the Further Reading section at the end will be sure to quench that particular thirs ...more
Jo Coleman
Arrrrggh, there are so many languages in Europe! When will I ever have time to learn the mighty Turkish or the noble Armenian? This book is basically all the jokes that language teachers like to tell about their pet subject, along with occasional photos of a lovely lady with a tenuous connection to the country, but it was good fun and now I want to read a separate book about every single language mentioned.
Nov 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyable book to have around, to dip into when you don't have time to immerse yourself in something less bite-sized. It's entertaining throughout, with judicious use of humour that never gets glib, and full of interesting information, though I imagine little to keep someone with more knowledge of linguistics surprised. Manages to find a new and usually interesting angle from which to approach every language/chapter.
Jan 26, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The author acknowledges that he employed Wikipedia in conducting research for this underwhelming volume; however, he could also have acknowledged that Wikipedia is, in fact, a more in-depth and more readable alternative to 'Lingo.' This book is simply not worth the time, nor the money. Save both, and read about languages on Wikipedia instead.
Mick Kelly
Jun 03, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book for anyone interested in languages and their intriguing relationships with each other. As a veteran of numerous attempts to learn French, Spanish, German, Russian, Greek and, now, Dutch, I applaud someone who really can - and can write an engaging book about all of the European languages and more.

Slow start, but author's fun, quirky writing made it a pleasure. Whoever thought of a tour of Indo-European languages, besides the inside front cover of a dictionary? Yet, by the time I got to Armenia (a country in which I lived not too long after its independence), and had someone else confirm that the alphabet looks like spaghetti thrown on the ground, I was charmed completely.
Jan 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was excellent! A rapid-fire tour of 60 European languages through entertaining stories, thought pieces, and a ton of research. I highly recommend this to anyone interested in languages, cultures, or linguistic history.
Jan 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
very interesting to read about the languages in Europe.
Al Bità
Aug 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A pleasant, easy-to-read introduction to European linguistics for non-linguists is always something to recommend — and Dorren’s book is perfect in that regard!

Naturally, with 60 chapters dealing with at least as many European languages, one should not expect very much detailed linguistic analysis. This makes it an ideal read for the ordinary general reader like myself. Yet even with this most basic approach, each chapter provides (in varying proportions) a brief history of the langua
Anika Claire
English is a very tricky language to learn, coming from so many different ancient invaders and immigrants. I find myself in awe of those who master the language to a fluent level. But in fact, each of the rest of the languages of Europe have their own little quirks and idiosyncrasies.

Lingo acts as a sort of Lonely Planet of languages. Each chapter contains interesting facts about one or more of Europe’s hundreds of distinct languages, but as there are only a few facts about each, it
Jan 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is what it says it is - a linguistic guide of Europe. It has small chapters on many languages, providing either a short overview of each or discussing some curious phenomena of a language. Like no one would expect exhaustive information on history, culture and geography of each country in a 300 page travel guide of Europe, one should not expect a thorough description of each language from this linguistic guide of Europe. However, it might encourage to research more on a particular lang ...more
Feb 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
In short chapters, the author describes the peculiarities of 60 different European languages. I found it very enlightening to read about the differences between the languages, because I don't think I have ever before approached language with an eye to figuring out the broader differences. The chapter I appreciated most was about Scottish Gaelic, which I once tried to learn without much success! I found the spelling just incomprehensible. Dorren gives the most understandable explanation I've ever ...more
Carlos Eliseo Ortiz
Apr 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book gives in one short volume a brief description of languages in Europe. It was interesting and fun to read. I enjoyed Dorren’s humor. The chapter on Bielorussian was hilarious, although, I wonder what Bielorussian speakers will think of it. I also wonder whether Esperanto speakers, in general, will be amused by his entry for “Esperinto” or accept his claim that Esperanto is not easier than other languages. Whichever it may be, I wish he had written a little about the history of Esperanto ...more
Kamilya Basyrova
all the languages of the Indo-European group originated from the PIE (Proto-Indo-European). Lithuanian is still very similar to pie.
icelandic remains the most unchanged language of all, it's kind of object of nation's pride . they defy changes and read the works written in twelfth century freely and for a joy.
belarussian was creatd for those who find russian too difficult.))
it was extremely interesting to read about languages I'm familiar with. but the tales about the others were al
Zee Monodee
Wow, definitely a book for language buffs. I love languages and it was fun to see how most languages of Europe criss cross one another and some of their quirks and foibles. That being said, a lot of it was not 'easy' reading as there is a lot of the pronunciation stuff like they give you in dictionaries, and I for one have never been able to master all those strange characters supposed to be spoken in one way or the other, so it fell flat for me in many parts. Still, it is a nice peek into the w ...more
Oscar To
Feb 04, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book full of quirky little facts which is both its strength and its downfall. It lightly skims a variety of subjects from history to alphabets to linguistics. It doesn't really expand on any of these points other than to provide a few interesting facts, and acts as a fun introduction for many concepts. As a result of this, the book also lacks vision in providing a coherent focus other than a few themes for chapters.

A good read for those looking to learn something new, but it also l
Mar 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A literal crash course on all languages you may find in Europe. Very, very easy to read and understand, except for a few chapters heavy in grammar, but otherwise a fast, enjoyable read. Would have appreciated more thorough information, but otherwise it’s a great first book if you’re looking into learning about the language diversity in the European continent.
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Having started to talk before I could walk, I remember my pre-schooler’s frustration at being unable to read. In my teens and later, I learnt a handful of languages sort of well; I've dabbled in many others since.

In recent years, I've published several books about language and linguistics, in both English and Dutch.
* Lingo (2014), about the languages of Europe; also available in
“If you're one of those people who worry that the English language is going to the dogs, linguists are of no help to you. Whatever it is that annoys you - double negatives, the demise of whom, the non-standard usage of literally - linguists will answer that a language is a living thing, and is always changing. You can't stop the process, so you'd better get used to it.” 2 likes
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