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Author Topic: Multilingual, Americans, Europeans, etc.  (Read 3262 times)

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Offline Vekseid

Re: Multilingual, Americans, Europeans, etc.
« Reply #25 on: November 14, 2010, 11:24:01 AM »
You're also in Minnesota. Apparently a decade ago, if Minnesota and Wisconsin seceded, we'd rank third in the world for student performance. Don't know what it would be now but it doesn't change the fact that Minnesota is a fairly well-educated state.

Other places in the US aren't doing so hot.

Offline ZeitgeistTopic starter

Re: Multilingual, Americans, Europeans, etc.
« Reply #26 on: November 14, 2010, 11:32:07 AM »
You're also in Minnesota. Apparently a decade ago, if Minnesota and Wisconsin seceded, we'd rank third in the world for student performance. Don't know what it would be now but it doesn't change the fact that Minnesota is a fairly well-educated state.

Other places in the US aren't doing so hot.

And if you've seen 'Waiting for Superman' you'll know that among many reasons, the largely liberal and progressive leaning teacher unions share a large portion of responsibility in the failure of the American education system. Parents, in my opinion have the lion's share of blame, but the union's self serving attitude is a large impedance to improving education.

But yes, I think you're right, Minnesota and the upper Midwest isn't bad off insofar as education.

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Re: Multilingual, Americans, Europeans, etc.
« Reply #27 on: November 14, 2010, 12:01:05 PM »
Not sure whether Ohio is considered 'upper' enough, but can I point out that with all the snow we usually get, there's not much to do in winter except read?  ;)

Offline Vekseid

Re: Multilingual, Americans, Europeans, etc.
« Reply #28 on: November 14, 2010, 12:49:00 PM »
My father claims it has to do with Minnesota's massive library program, though a good, hard winter to make use of it certainly helps. Two years of a foreign language are also required for high school graduation, and we have a relatively low dropout rate. Hell I was surprised to find out that swimming wasn't mandatory in other states.

And if you've seen 'Waiting for Superman' you'll know that among many reasons, the largely liberal and progressive leaning teacher unions share a large portion of responsibility in the failure of the American education system. Parents, in my opinion have the lion's share of blame, but the union's self serving attitude is a large impedance to improving education.

But yes, I think you're right, Minnesota and the upper Midwest isn't bad off insofar as education.

If you want to start a rant on unions and/or guilds please make a new thread. I'm not a fan of unions or guilds myself (to put it very mildly) but that's going to derail your own thread, here.

Offline ZeitgeistTopic starter

Re: Multilingual, Americans, Europeans, etc.
« Reply #29 on: November 14, 2010, 01:44:50 PM »
Not sure whether Ohio is considered 'upper' enough, but can I point out that with all the snow we usually get, there's not much to do in winter except read?  ;)

Or writing! For sure my activities on Elliquiy is much higher in the Fall and Winter months, busy with softball in Spring and Summer.

If you want to start a rant on unions and/or guilds please make a new thread. I'm not a fan of unions or guilds myself (to put it very mildly) but that's going to derail your own thread, here.

Fair enough!

Offline RubySlippers

Re: Multilingual, Americans, Europeans, etc.
« Reply #30 on: November 15, 2010, 06:59:57 AM »
I learned to speak and write English being from the United States so feel no need to learn another. And since English is the official language of the world when it comes to commerce I'm ahead. And all of you studied English in school its clear that it puts no pressure to Americans to learn other languages on that count either.

I'm like many Americans in this I just see no use for other languages if your immigrating then you should learn English, if I immigrate to another country then I have to learn that language other than that since I know English I'm ahead of the game.

Offline Alsheriam

Re: Multilingual, Americans, Europeans, etc.
« Reply #31 on: November 15, 2010, 07:29:30 AM »
What I find most startling as someone from Asia is that contrary to popular and common belief here, as someone who speaks and writes English as his second language there're some native speakers in the West who're just outright atrocious. We go with bilingualism when we start preschool, and we in Singapore tend to stick to our ethnic mother tongues for the official second language (Mandarin for the Chinese, Malay for Malays, mostly Tamil for ethnic south Indians, etc) and English at the same time. And of course, when there's an environment where English is mixed with a smattering of other Asian languages, the syntax gets a little confused, lots of other words are invented or added from other languages and we come up with 'Singlish', which is fine when a Singaporean speaks to another - it's utterly incomprehensible to the native English speaker and it sets a common cultural identity for us, but it makes me shudder when a fellow countryman uses Singlish so much, they forget how to use English proper when it comes to dealing with foreigners.

But yeah, lots of the young people these days have been starting to deride my usage of proper English as 'American' or 'Western' English as if I'm some kind of elitist. God forbid me that I try my best to remain credible to the world at large. Sigh.

But I digress. As an outsider observer and a student of American history and culture, I find it very amusing that many articles by American writers boast about living in a melting pot society, and yet many heartlanders can only complain about, "I have to press 1 for English... in America?!"

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Re: Multilingual, Americans, Europeans, etc.
« Reply #32 on: November 15, 2010, 07:59:07 AM »
While English may be the international business language, there is no gauarantee that whoever you will end up speaking to is particularly good at it. Trust me, I've been in that situation, given my previous work experience. Secondly, should you choose to visit another country, having the ability to speak their language ... even a few basic phrases ... gives you an advantage over those who do not. The fact that you have made at least some effort to learn your hosts language, as opposed to SPEAKING ENGLISH LOUDLY AND SLOWLY (yes, its a cliche, but I've seen it) will generally better dispose a native towards you.

I actually wouldn't mind learning another language properly, but languages aren't really my strong point, and without at least a semi regular practice of it, you will loose what language you have.

Offline Trieste

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Re: Multilingual, Americans, Europeans, etc.
« Reply #33 on: November 15, 2010, 09:31:22 AM »
I learned to speak and write English being from the United States so feel no need to learn another. And since English is the official language of the world when it comes to commerce I'm ahead. And all of you studied English in school its clear that it puts no pressure to Americans to learn other languages on that count either.

I'm like many Americans in this I just see no use for other languages if your immigrating then you should learn English, if I immigrate to another country then I have to learn that language other than that since I know English I'm ahead of the game.

Wrong, wrong, wrong, and wrong.

Learning another language not only stimulates new pathways in the brain and new understanding of (and appreciation for) one's mother tongue, it also allows one to communicate with folks still stuck on the learning curve. If you end up in a public service position where the person with whom you need to converse doesn't speak English, all the "YOU ARE IN AMERICA YOU NEED TO LEARN ENGLISH" footstomping in the world won't help you.

Just because you don't personally see a use for other languages doesn't mean there isn't one. It just means that you never want to connect with another person unless they speak English, apparently. How lonely.

Offline Noelle

Re: Multilingual, Americans, Europeans, etc.
« Reply #34 on: November 15, 2010, 11:50:12 AM »
I think I've mentioned this somewhere before, but I've had a lot of people try to guilt me about why I chose a language like French to get my degree in -- it's not particularly practical or useful in the US and I'm actually pursuing art more actively. But learning another language is more than about using it in an ordinary way. You rapidly unlock a whole different world from your own that was previously inaccessible to you -- from literature to culture to music and entertainment like movies...you learn history in new ways, and you quickly realize that there is a great big world out there and that your own view isn't necessarily the right one or the only one.

It's okay not to have an interest in other languages...It just isn't important to some people. But to say that it's 'useless' is just appalling. Nothing could be more useful in a world with so much to offer than to learn how to access that and to expand what and who you know.

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Re: Multilingual, Americans, Europeans, etc.
« Reply #35 on: November 15, 2010, 12:02:34 PM »
It might be interesting to note that English is only the third most-spoken language in the world, behind Chinese and Spanish.  It's also the third most signed language (as ASL), behind Indo-Pakistani SL and Chinese SL.

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Re: Multilingual, Americans, Europeans, etc.
« Reply #36 on: November 15, 2010, 12:11:24 PM »
Chinese is one I'd like to try. I did Japanese back at uni, and that was a bit tricky to wrap my head around. The structure is very different to western languages.

Offline Remiel

Re: Multilingual, Americans, Europeans, etc.
« Reply #37 on: November 15, 2010, 01:25:37 PM »
I've heard it said that English is the second most difficult of the "major" languages to learn, due to its subtle nuances, homonyms, and malapropisms.   The only one more difficult?  Mandarin Chinese.

Offline Noelle

Re: Multilingual, Americans, Europeans, etc.
« Reply #38 on: November 15, 2010, 02:06:08 PM »
Hm, those lists can be very subjective. It depends on your native tongue and its proximity to the one you're aiming to learn, as well as your own aptitude for languages and diligence in study. I took about a year and a half of Mandarin and found that I really enjoyed it, so I picked it up with some ease. The written part can be a bit daunting and many complain about the nuance of tone, but I found that context often helped with the tone problem, at least. If you're coming from, say, Japanese or Korean, the structure/written part might not be nearly as hard as it would for Westerners.

I think what makes English difficult for foreigners is that we have many, many inconsistencies, idioms, homophones (wound/wound, produce/produce, read/read/red, marry/merry/Mary, just to name a few), and we speak very heavily in slang. Our spelling system is pretty wonky at times, as well.

A few I typically see at the top of the "hardest languages" list is French, Arabic, Finnish, Hungarian, Chinese, and Russian. The French one always surprises me, but I think it's mostly due to its inherently sadistic grammatical structure :|

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Re: Multilingual, Americans, Europeans, etc.
« Reply #39 on: November 15, 2010, 02:11:02 PM »
If I ever locate my French dictionary (when I went on a wild hair and decided to try to teach myself French - bad move), I'll recheck the grammar section.  I may have blocked out the trauma.

Offline Lilias

Re: Multilingual, Americans, Europeans, etc.
« Reply #40 on: November 15, 2010, 02:23:02 PM »
What I found hardest about French were the accents - and I had already mastered the very similar Greek accenting system before it was scrapped in the 1981 simplification.

I can understand the reasons behind Arabic (reverse writing AND different squiggles depending on whether a letter is at the beginning, middle, or end of the word), Russian (the Cyrillic alphabet is close enough to the Latin one for the different bits to really throw you), Chinese (forget it if you're not good at art - I'm not :P) and Finnish (16 cases, people! :o) I've had no exposure to Hungarian at all, although the reverse naming tradition (surname first) throws me already.

As an aside, I suspect that the only reason Gaelic is not on that list is because it's not a unique official language. Talk about no relation between spelling and pronunciation >.<

Offline Noelle

Re: Multilingual, Americans, Europeans, etc.
« Reply #41 on: November 15, 2010, 02:43:16 PM »
With French, the accent came fairly easy to me, but the R can really throw a lot of people, given its strange location in the mouth, as well as formation. There are still certain words that I can't pronounce no matter how slow I sound it out -- Words with 'gro' or 'gra' are the worst! Gros, aggrandi, groupe...Boooo :( The nasal-type sounds can also throw people off.

The noun-gender system is unreliable, at best -- Spanish has a more consistent system with -a/-o/-ita /-ito indicators that can typically be counted on to reveal gender, whereas French has a few patterns (such as -ette/-elle/-et/-eau) but with loads of exceptions and many words that are indiscernible at first glance. Mostly you just have to learn the gender with the noun and accept that there's no easier method, which is pretty much a common theme throughout all aspects of the language, hahaha.

As far as grammar goes, Oniya, it can be really vicious. There are very strict rules that you learn formally, but they're broken at just about every chance given. Toss in a lot of tenses that anglophones don't typically make great use of/are much easier conjugated in English, a boatload of 'false friends' that can mean painfully embarrassing things in French (you probably shouldn't be telling strangers 'je suis excitťe' unless you're aiming for some unwanted attention...), and enough irregular verbs to make you want to off yourself...

I guess there really is no beauty without suffering a little :) I don't suppose French could hold the title as one of the most beautiful languages AND be easy to pick up.

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Re: Multilingual, Americans, Europeans, etc.
« Reply #42 on: November 15, 2010, 02:45:31 PM »
Russian (the Cyrillic alphabet is close enough to the Latin one for the different bits to really throw you)

And then there's one letter (shch) that looks almost exactly like my maiden name.

And Noelle - I ran into the 'false friends' online.  The fact that 'language(s)' and 'tongue(s)' are the same word caused me no end of embarrassment as a linguaphile.

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Re: Multilingual, Americans, Europeans, etc.
« Reply #43 on: November 15, 2010, 03:04:25 PM »
As an aside, I suspect that the only reason Gaelic is not on that list is because it's not a unique official language. Talk about no relation between spelling and pronunciation >.<

Only for certain letter combinations, thankfully.

Offline Lilias

Re: Multilingual, Americans, Europeans, etc.
« Reply #44 on: November 15, 2010, 03:13:59 PM »
Only for certain letter combinations, thankfully.

Honestly, it's the only language I have encountered that made me think 'too many vowels, maaaan!'

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Re: Multilingual, Americans, Europeans, etc.
« Reply #45 on: November 15, 2010, 03:30:00 PM »
Honestly, it's the only language I have encountered that made me think 'too many vowels, maaaan!'

Send some down to Wales, fer cryin' out loud!  ;D

Offline Noelle

Re: Multilingual, Americans, Europeans, etc.
« Reply #46 on: November 15, 2010, 03:31:01 PM »
My travels through Wales gave me a similar complex about Welsh, only with consonants! :\ Llanduddno? Mis Chwefror?! Llwyndyrys :( Llanfairynghornwy?! WHAT IS THIS DEVIL TONGUE?

Online Valerian

Re: Multilingual, Americans, Europeans, etc.
« Reply #47 on: November 15, 2010, 04:26:35 PM »
Oh, sure.  Tell me that Hungarian is one of the hardest languages to learn just after I start my Hungarian class.  :P

It is kind of odd, though.  They have completely different words for sister and brother, depending on whether said sibling is older or younger -- and, on a perhaps related note, no less than four (4!) levels of formality.  Just having some sort of tu and vous option wasn't enough for them, oh, no.

If that's rated one of the hardest, though, then Finnish would definitely also have to be on the list.  My first extra credit project for the class was a conparison of the numerals in Hungarian and Finnish.  They've wandered away from each other quite a bit, but you can still trace some of the commonalities from their shared root language.

Offline ZeitgeistTopic starter

Re: Multilingual, Americans, Europeans, etc.
« Reply #48 on: November 15, 2010, 05:31:31 PM »
It might be interesting to note that English is only the third most-spoken language in the world, behind Chinese and Spanish.  It's also the third most signed language (as ASL), behind Indo-Pakistani SL and Chinese SL.

Precisely. Much ado is made about how (inexplicably) the English language is foisted upon people, by who exactly I couldn't say. But in truth it's behind, as you point out, Chinese and Spanish.

And I'd agree with everyone here, the study of language is fascinating really, its woven into our culture and history, the etymologies and linguistics and so on.

Offline Serephino

Re: Multilingual, Americans, Europeans, etc.
« Reply #49 on: November 15, 2010, 08:58:33 PM »
A lot of people think spelling French words is hard, though I had no trouble with it.  I noticed that like in English, you can kind of figure it out by sound.  Granted, I only took 2 years in high school.  The gender thing drove me nuts though.