... fascinating ... Dorren has an eye for what makes languages stand out from the field ... In the hands of a less gifted author, some of the material in Babel could come across as dry or intimidating. But Dorren (as you might expect) has a way with language, and an arch sense of humor — he aptly describes German, with its many eccentricities, as a 'weirdo' of a language ... Babel is an endlessly interesting book, and you don't have to have any linguistic training to enjoy it. Dorren has a talent for explaining even the most difficult linguistic concepts in a way that's easy to understand, and he includes helpful charts at the beginning of each chapter, listing notable facts about the language he's about to write about ... But the great thing about Babel is that you don't have to agree with Dorren's conclusions to enjoy it — it's a book that's as joyful as it is educational, and above all, it's just so much fun to read.
...[an] eye-opening and thoroughly entertaining book ... He is a polyglot who speaks Dutch, Limburgish, English, German and Spanish and 'reads' (he says modestly) French, Afrikaans, Frisian, Portuguese, Italian, Catalan, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Luxembourgish and Esperanto. While working on Babel he has a jolly good go at Vietnamese. Writing here in English he is wonderful company: chatty, informative, enthusiastic.
The text is enlivened with illustrations and charts and supplemented by sound files on a website. There is a good index. For the most part, this book is not at all technical except for Dorren's occasional use of phonetic symbols. A final section offers resources for learning the languages, only one or two in most cases, though many more for the one he struggled to learn for this project--Vietnamese ... This is an engaging and informative whirlwind tour of how major world languages are created, used and changed.
Dorren expertly unpacks the baffling exceptions and structural oddities of the world’s 20 most-spoken languages in his delightful latest ... Fifteen pages per chapter sets a brisk pace, but Dorren always succeeds in sharing his delight at the intricacies and compromises of human communication ... Word nerds of every strain will enjoy this wildly entertaining linguistic study.
This is a book that gives the flavor of the languages ... It is an entertaining book, especially if the reader likes communication and has an interest in the why and how peoples of the world speak to each other.
Multilingual Dutch journalist and linguist Dorren... proves to be a genial, fascinating guide to the modes, manners, and curiosities of the most-spoken languages in the world ... A deft, spirited exploration of the connection of language to a nation’s identity and culture.