Grove Press
Atlantic Monthly Press
Atlantic Monthly Press


Around Europe in Sixty Languages

by Gaston Dorren

A whirlwind armchair tour of Europe through its languages, from Gaelic to Gagauz, Macedonian to Monégasque, covering six thousand years of history and sixty languages in bite-size chapters.

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 304
  • Publication Date December 13, 2016
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2571-2
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $17.00
  • Imprint Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Page Count 304
  • Publication Date December 01, 2015
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2407-4
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $25.00

About The Book

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 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 millennia and sixty languages in bite-size chapters, Lingo is a hilarious and highly edifying exploration of how Europe speaks.


“A joyful guided tour around Europe’s linguistic landscape . . . genuinely interesting and enormous fun . . . a book that brims with joy at linguistic variety and invention.” —Sunday Telegraph

“The depth and breadth of [Dorren’s] understanding and knowledge are awesome . . . this charming, funny, and fascinating gem of a book has persuaded me of the richness we are in danger of losing.” —Times (UK)

“[A] playful survey of sixty languages spoken in Europe . . . Dorren gives voice to an important linguistic truth: ‘Today’s errors tend to become tomorrow’s correct usage.’” —New Yorker

Lingo features amusing tales from five dozen languages, languages that define the nations of Europe . . . a great example of how language helps us get a little insight into the many cultures of Europe.” —Rick Steves, Travel with Rick Steves

“Dutch linguist and journalist Dorren . . . reveals many intriguing nuggets of information about languages from the familiar (French, German, Spanish) to the arcane (Manx, Ossetian, Sorbian) . . . For linguists and readers truly thrilled by the meticulous study of languages.” —Kirkus Reviews

“In this bubbly linguistic endeavor, journalist and polyglot Dorren covers the evolution and peccadillos of sixty European languages . . . Dorren thoughtfully walks readers through the weird evolution of languages . . . with quirky tidbits aplenty . . . Rounded out with helpful insights such as the impact of Martin Luther . . . and the refutation of the notion that Eskimos have 100 words for snow . . . Dorren has crafted an immersive and illuminating study of something many of us take for granted.” —Publishers Weekly

“Wonderful . . . This intriguing, thoughtful book will delight those who love words; it is also a round, solid education in the vastness of the world’s citizens’ ability and desire to express themselves . . . Amusing, too!” —Booklist

“Dorren’s book is so much fun a reader might feel that half of Babel’s curse has already been lifted.” —Philip Marchand, National Post

“For language lovers and those who enjoy obscure facts, European culture, and politics—or all of the above—Lingo will be an entertaining book to dip into, a tasting menu of the pleasures of languages.” —Sara Catterall, Shelf Awareness

“A wonderful read . . . [Dorren’s] lively and insightful book takes the reader on a linguistic tour of Europe. In sixty witty, bite-sized chapters, Dorren makes sense of the babel of voices, exploring the origins of the continent’s languages and dialects and highlighting the surprise commonalities, stark differences and quirky singularities . . . Practically every page comes studded with at least one fascinating fact . . . illuminating and entertaining . . . [A] unique, page-turning book” —Malcolm Forbes, Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Mr. Dorren’s language tourism takes in not just the familiar monuments of English, French, Spanish, and German but also the unsung marvels of Latvian, Cornish, and Luxembourgish . . . A brisk and breezy tour . . . Bulge[s] with linguistic trivia . . . [Dorren] has an eye for genuinely surprising detail . . . [His] book is a peppy advertisement for the rewards of having several languages in one’s head.” —Henry Hitchings, Wall Street Journal

“[A] fascinating read . . . Covering the idiosyncrasies of fifty-plus languages, from the spelling of Scots Gaelic to the counting conventions of Breton, Dorren weaves tales of conquest, social mores and isolating landscapes with remarkable ease . . . From Yiddish to Romani to English, the book is entertaining. Now, if only I can remember all these anecdotes for my next party.” —Kate Botkin, MultiLingual

Lingo is a charming, well-researched tour of the languages, language families, and linguistic history of Europe . . . While keeping readers entertained, [Dorren] manages to cover not just the usual suspects but also such languages as Sami, Yiddish, Romani, Armenian, Ossetian, Basque, Welsh, Manx, and Esperanto . . . Dorren’s entertaining book is just right for academic consumption and a nice treat for general readers looking for an overview of linguistic Europe.” —E.L. Battistella, CHOICE

“A worldly delight . . . This language writer dazzles. His stylistic flair is more than just entertaining—it crystallizes abstract ideas he conveys through vivid imagery . . . Dorren approaches his subject with passion and humor. His chapters are diverse, each normally highlighting the peculiarities of a single language . . . Dorren’s pace is swift . . . For language tourists, Lingo is a tour de force.” —Gail Perry, Winnipeg Free Press

“[Dorren’s] linguistic tour is fascinating, funny, surprising, and enlightening.” —Jane Ciabattari, BBC Culture (10 Books to Read in December)

“This linguistic-led trip of the tongues across Europe doles out bite-size bon mots about the history, eccentricities and diversity of languages both obvious (German) and obscure (Gagauz). Plus, it’s laugh-out-loud funny—and that’s in all languages.” —American Way (December Picks for the Traveler)