Learning languages

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Jun 16, 2009
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The Hitch said:
wrong as in a sad situation or wrong as in i have painted an incorrect picture of the brilliant english education system?
Does she speak it all now? Final year written exam for german lasts for 2 and a half hours and oral exams require you to have a conversation with the examiner for 20 minutes. Then there is a listening exam.
 
May 6, 2009
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The Hitch said:
wrong as in a sad situation or wrong as in i have painted an incorrect picture of the brilliant english education system?
That's sad that your sister knows SFA and is passed and the Government is spinning it to make themselves look good, when in reality would be up the creek without a paddle if she tried to talk to a local in Spain. Not her fault I guess, she didn't make the system, and therefore marked accordingly.
 
auscyclefan94 said:
Does she speak it all now? Final year written exam for german lasts for 2 and a half hours and oral exams require you to have a conversation with the examiner for 20 minutes. Then there is a listening exam.
No she absolutely can not speak it.

Since she got the highest grade she would now have the option to take Spanish for a level (age 16-18). Since education is only compulsary till 16, this is obviously a bit more advanced. I have no idea how what percentage of people continue at 16 and how many people drop out because in my school everyone stayed. My guess is under 40% stay on to do A level of which about 10% will do a language. So thats about 4% of the age group who do a language for a level. Anyway the A level is obviosuly way more difficult. I would say at a level about 50% of people who take it in a language become fluent in that language and 50% come close, but ultimately finish before fluency is achieved and never get it back. However it should be taken into account that some of the former, will be natives who already speak the language, and take the alevel because it is easy for them.
So if only about 4% of the population take a language for a level my rough estimate is that about 2% of people in england achieve fluency in a language from the school system.
Probably less than other countries, but more than others i suppose.
 
A

Anonymous

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Libertine Seguros said:
You could tell the French and British in Germany quite easily.

British: "Ick harba ET-vass ge-tann"
French: "Iesch ha-böhr et-vass gie-TAN"
I actually found in Aachen most of the germans spoke french as well. WAs actually really odd, having been in france before we went there, our brain was still in french, and when i was given numbers in german i was actually translating them out loud IN FRENCH! Very strange how the brain automatically adopts a language when you are somewhere for a period of time. For some reason most of the germans thought we were french anyway and were talking to us in french. most odd.

As for languages, as others have said the only real way is to be in the country. Our french is acceptable, having now been to france every year for, god knows how long, but the weird thing is if we try to practise french at home we are clueless, but the minute we get off the train in paris its like a switch goes off in the head and we just turn french.

German on the other hand is the most peculiar language.. very long words for things that really only need short words.. We picked up the basics this time around courtesy of a restaurant who upheld our request not to speak to us in english (despite their excellent english) and helped us with our german.
 

Barrus

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Apr 28, 2010
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Susan Westemeyer said:
Here in Germany the kids start with english in the first grade. At some later point they must add a second language, either French or Latin.

I have heard that in the Netherlands the kids must also learn English, German and French. Barrus, is that so?

Susan
Well it depends, your obliged to learn English, often starting in primary school already, at the age of 6 or 7 or there about.
If you go to secondary school (around the age of 12) at the lowest school level you need to learn either German or French next to English, and you can choose the other, or some other language as an elective. At the two higher types of school, you need to learn both French and German, for at least three years. After this in the second highest type of schooling you need to keep one of both, and can choose the other as an elective. You can also choose more advanced lessons in either as an elective. In the highest type of school, after you need to keep both languages for at least 5 years and can choose more advanced lessons in either or both as an elective. You can also choose other languages and you have the option to learn both Latin and old-Greek.

But the regular level French and German is on quite a low base, only enough to get around in often encountered situations (although I am now reading some German books and it is actually amazing how well I can still understand German, as is the case with French) But I think I'll get some self-studying course to get my German and French on a higher level, as it will help a lot with getting employed
 
Nov 2, 2009
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I suppose Australia's lack of enthusiasm for learning languages other than English might be partly because of our Anglo cultural heritage and partly because of its geographical position.

I learnt French at secondary school for four years but by the time I had the opportunity to be "immersed" in France about 12 years later I had forgotten a lot of it.

European languages are still probably the most valued/popular here but we're a long way from Europe. For awhile Japanese was flavour of the month because people saw it as handy for business/trade. If we were to value the language spoken by our neighbours we would have compulsory schooling in Bahasa Indonesia and/or Bahasa Malaysia.
 
I realize I've come late in on this one, but I thought I'd throw my two cents in anyway.

The best way to learn a language is to move to the place in which it is spoken, obviously. If you can't then it will never be the same. I moved to Italy and that's why I speak Italian. Tutto qui.

Age is definitly a factor, but not as decisive as one may think. I started learning Italian at 25 and perhaps it took a bit longer for me to learn it, then, say, it would have at 10, but probably not by much.

Openness to the culture is decisive. My love of cycling definitely was positive. Indeed some of my first "lessons" were on the bike with teammates. But so too was my general love of the culture, its history, food, art, architecture, etc.

National background can be favorable or not. For example I have known some Americans living in Italy for many years who speak the language very poorly, whereas I have a Belgian friend who after six months was fluent. Sounds reductive, but with english as the lingua franca of these times there often appears to be little need for Americans living abroad to have to learn the host country's tounge and can often get by without it. Unfortunately this is at times also do to a sense of superiority, or simple lack of respect. Whatever the reasons, if you come from Belgium it may be helpful (with Belgium being just an example of a nation that is "forced" to speak tounges beyond the local idiom).

Fourthly having a natural aptitude, like having a natural proclivity for learning to play a musical instrument, will certainly make things less arduous and probably will enable you to get the accent closer to a native. But even if you haven't got the ear for it, but have the desire and patience, it will come.

But in the end, living where the language is spoken and having a genuine interest in the culture are, to me, the best ways to get started.
 
craig1985 said:
I'd respect you if you don't want to say, out of interest, what was that lead you moving to Italy?
Romanticism. I simply always saw myself eventually living in the Med. It might have been the south of France, it might have been Italy, it just ended up being the latter.

Ok, so, in part it was to chase a cycling dream (which ended up being a fantastic ride!), in part it was to chase an intellectual and cultural fantasy and this is what has, in the end, kept me. Along with now, love.
 
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Anonymous

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Susan Westemeyer said:
Here in Germany the kids start with english in the first grade. At some later point they must add a second language, either French or Latin.

I have heard that in the Netherlands the kids must also learn English, German and French. Barrus, is that so?

Susan
The wife has taught foreign students english over here in summer holidays and from her experience Germans speak better english than most english kids. Certainly the 16 year old germans she taught where far ahead of her gcse class at the time. Their understanding of grammar is incredible, well beyond english students. They know all the posh bits like preposition, supposition, structure, past participles and all that crap. Most of them understand the structure of english grammar better than I do
 
Jun 16, 2009
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TeamSkyFans said:
The wife has taught foreign students english over here in summer holidays and from her experience Germans speak better english than most english kids. Certainly the 16 year old germans she taught where far ahead of her gcse class at the time. Their understanding of grammar is incredible, well beyond english students. They know all the posh bits like preposition, supposition, structure, past participles and all that crap. Most of them understand the structure of english grammar better than I do
I would say that english grammar is not that hard to learn. Knowing some people who have learnt english as a 2nd language have said that but their are a lot more english speakers in germany than german speakers in countries like Australia. That helps german speakers pick up english very easily.
 
auscyclefan94 said:
I would say that english grammar is not that hard to learn.
What grammar?:confused: ;)

Compared to most languages English doesnt have any grammar. I suppose many english lessons are spent with the teacher telling the students

"yes children, it really is that easy. No you dont have to conjugate verbs. No you dont need to learn masculine and feminine. No it doesnt make a difference if you are talking in the plural. No you dont need to conjugate adjectives. No you dont need to learn a specific accent. Pronounce the words how you want, you will be understood. I swear, im not joking. Honest. It really is that easy"
 
Oct 18, 2009
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craig1985 said:
One of the great things about this forum is that we have a lot of people who don't speak English as a first language (even though they are fluent), or others who speak more then one language. So anyway, I'm really looking at learning a new language, and I have contacted an old friend of mine to speak to his wife about the possibility of teaching me Japanese (she is from Japan and teaches it). I have been to Japan before, and I survived for the 8 days I was there, but when it came to communicating with the locals, it was a bit of a struggle, and I do intend on visiting the country again next year. Also, I feel as though I need new challenges to keep my mind active or otherwise it will turn to mush.

I realise learning a new language is best when you are a child, but unfortunately I'm past that stage, and at 25, it's going to be a lot harder. So how hard did people find in learning a new language, and did you find learning English easy or hard (for those who are not native English speakers)? Also, is there an 'easy' language to learn?

I'm not too bad in picking up bits and pieces of French and Italian, and make out bits of Spanish, but I would have to know what the topic was about.

Otherwise, I could get someone (and I know who I could ask) to teach me German if I so wish.
I've been learning Mandarin for 18 months and I would say
1. Have a balanced and happy life ; Don't try studying when youre in a crappy mood .....
2. Get up early and study in the morning if you can (your barin is alot fresher)
and you can get a day-to-day rhythm.
3. Just do little sessions 45 mins - 1 hr
4. Sometimes a little 10 minutes practice is bettter than a 1 hour session of wasted time #LOL

Anyway yeah..thats what i've learned from chinese but it's hard advice to follow i must admit :D:)
 
Jan the Man said:
Libertine- Is Welsh considered and Indo-European language??

I am fluent in English and Welsh and hold my own in German.
Yes, Welsh is Indo-European. The family is sometimes called Indo-Germanic after the geographical extremes of the group (Indian subgroups in the far southeast, Germanic in the far northwest).

Here's your groupings in a pretty basic, layman's terms form, so there will likely be plenty of bits left out - this is pretty much an oversimplification of a very complex field:

1. centum-languages (grouped because they broke away from Proto-Indo-European earlier, and preserved <k> in many words that became <s> later on in Proto-Indo-European)

i. GERMANIC LANGUAGES
a) West Germanic:
- English
- (Scots)(as opposed to Scots Gaelic, which is a Celtic language)
- Dutch
- Afrikaans
- Frisian
- German
- Low German
- (Luxembourgish)
- Yiddish
b) North Germanic:
- Icelandic
- Norwegian (nynorsk
- Norwegian (bokmål)
- Danish
- Swedish
c) East Germanic:
- (all extinct, most notable language Gothic)

ii. CELTIC LANGUAGES
a) Goidelic (Gaelic)
- Scots Gaelic
- Irish Gaelic
- Manx (extinct)
b) Brythonic (Brittanic)
- Welsh
- Cornish
- Bréton

iii. ITALIC LANGUAGES
a) Latin/Romance languages
>>> Western Romance
>> Ibero-Romance
- Spanish
- Portuguese
>> Gallo-Romance
- French
- Occitan
- Catalan
>> Italian
- Italian
>>> Eastern Romance
- Romanian
- Dalmatian
b) Osco-Umbrian
- Oscan (extinct)
- Umbrian (extinct)

iv. GREEK LANGUAGES
- Greek

v. HITTITE LANGUAGES
- Hittite (extinct, only known from tablets in Anatolia from thousands of years ago. Proved the existence of "laryngeal" consonants postulated by de Saussure)

vi. TOCHARIAN
- Tocharian A (extinct)
- Tocharian B (extinct)
*originally it was felt that the satem languages were older, owing to the age of scripts in Sanskrit and Avestan, and that the move West by Italic, Germanic and Celtic groups had come later. However, the discovery in Chinese Turkestan of Tocharian changed all of this. It meant that the extreme East of Indo-European languages as well as extreme West shared all the features of centum languages; such a parallel development was highly unlikely, and so we came to the present theory that the centum languages broke away earlier, which explains their being geographically distinct (mostly in peninsulas, on islands and at the extreme edges of the Indo-European world).

2. satem-languages (from the Old Persian word for 100, same as centum (pronounced kentum) comes from the Latin word for 100)

i. SLAVIC LANGUAGES
a) West Slavic languages:
- Upper Sorbian
- Lower Sorbian
- Czech
- Polish
- Slovak
- Kashubian
b) East Slavic languages:
- Russian
- Belarusian
- Ukrainian
c) South Slavic languages:
- Serbian
- Croatian (these two are almost identical outside of the field of religious terminology, and that they are written in different scripts. However, they are classified separately for political reasons)
- Bulgarian
- Macedonian
- (Bosnian)
- Slovene

ii. BALTIC LANGUAGES
(these are extremely old-fashioned and preserve certain features not preserved elsewhere, so are valuable to linguists. They have also undergone a period of mutual development with the Slavic languages, so some sources group them together as Balto-Slavonic; they are an independent branch, however)
- Lithuanian
- Lettish (Latvian)
- Old Prussian (extinct)

iii. ALBANIAN
- Albanian

iv. ARMENIAN
- Armenian (interestingly, Armenian has undergone a very similar set of sound shifts to German despite having no geographical or cultural link)

v. INDO-IRANIAN (also known as ARYAN) LANGUAGES
a) Indian Group
- Sanskrit (+Vedic Sanskrit)
- Pali
- Hindi
- Urdu (these last two are very similar outside of the fields of religious terminology and script, but are grouped separately for political purposes)
- Prakrit languages (several)
- Pahari languages (including Nepali)
- Romany
- Dardic languages (several)
- Punjabi
- Saraiki
- Sindhi
- Khojki
- Kutchi
- Rajasthani
- Dhivehi
- Sinhala
- Gujarati
- Konkani
- Marathi
b) Iranian Group:
>>> Eastern Iranian
- Avestan (extinct)
- Ossetian
- Pashto
- Pamirri
- Parachi
>>> Western Iranian
- Farsi (which is NOT Arabic - which is a Semitic language - or even related to it)
- Dari
- Kurdish
- Parthian (extinct)
- Laki
- Tajik Persian (as opposed to Tajik, which is a Turkic language)
 
Oct 18, 2009
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craig1985 said:
How good is your Mandarin?
Ah not very good i'm afraid LOL I think, like you said before, you have to travel to the country your studying .. Otherwise to totally start thinking in mandarin when youre living in English is too much of a change for the brain to do just on willpower alone! But i've enjoyed making some progress even so .. the thing with mandarin is you are sort of forced into studying the deep cultural background of chinese culture as a means of learning the language (if that makes any sense?) as opposed to European languages which are more accessible. But its a beautiful language to listen to a native speak it..they repeat this 4 syllable structure in speech so it sounds like poetry as they speak all the time !! Have you decided which language you're gonna try yet?
 
Oct 18, 2009
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Libertine Seguros said:
Yes, Welsh is Indo-European. The family is sometimes called Indo-Germanic after the geographical extremes of the group (Indian subgroups in the far southeast, Germanic in the far northwest).

[ ............................
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It's bloody amazing to see just how many languages there are out there. Makes you think human beings haven't been lazy to create all of that ! - and that list doesn't include the 3000 odd languages of Indonesia (I think)
 
That list's only one family - and it's not even complete as there are many branches that have died off, been assimilated or were simply omitted (Faroese being one).

There are lots of other linguistic families:

Uralic (Hungarian, Finnish, Estonian etc)
Turkic (Turkish, Kazakh, Azerbaijani, Tajik, Kyrgyz etc)
Caucasian (Georgian, etc)
Korean
Japanese
Basque
Semitic (Hebrew, Arabic, Aramaic etc)
Amerindian
Inuit
Sino-Tibetan (Chinese languages)
Dravidian (Sri Lanka and southern India)
Austronesian (Polynesian, Aboriginal, Maori, Hawaiian, other island languages in the Pacific and even Madagascar)
Nilo-Saharan (many African languages)
Khoisan languages (Zulu etc)
Various families of languages in North and South America

Plus on top of that you have all the pidgins and creoles that have been created aroud the globe, like Jamaican "patwa", or Papua New Guinea's "tok pisin".
 
Hmm... isn't the Bask-language (dunno what it's called) kinda... odd... closer related to something in Asia or something?

---

About this talk there was earlier, with how important knowledge of a foreign language is in some countries as opposed to Anglo-countries. Well, in Denmark on University level you're expected to speak English. Not only if you, like me, actually study English. Several of the books are in English.
 
RedheadDane said:
Hmm... isn't the Bask-language (dunno what it's called) kinda... odd... closer related to something in Asia or something?

---

About this talk there was earlier, with how important knowledge of a foreign language is in some countries as opposed to Anglo-countries. Well, in Denmark on University level you're expected to speak English. Not only if you, like me, actually study English. Several of the books are in English.
Yep Basque is completely unique, not related to anything. Its closest cousin is Finnish i think but even that is a long shot.
 
The Hitch said:
Yep Basque is completely unique, not related to anything. Its closest cousin is Finnish i think but even that is a long shot.
Hungarian is the odd one in Europe that's related to Finnish.

Basque is a true language isolate; no relation to any other language has ever been proven. Many theories exist postulating a relationship with Caucasian languages, Semitic languages and even a particularly fanciful theory linking it to Japanese, another language isolate - but none of these have gained wider currency.

The widespread belief is that the languages related to Basque were spoken in much of Iberia and possibly more of Western Europe thousands of years ago, but all except Basque were rendered extinct by the spread of Indo-European languages in their homelands, with the Basques being protected from the loss of their language by their geographic location being quite difficult to penetrate until such a point as their language could be codified enough for it to be strong enough to survive against the Indo-European threat (in this case Occitan on one side, Castilian Spanish, Asturianu and Catalan on the other).
 
May 6, 2009
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Libertine, can you please explain what you mean by the Indo-European languages, and that they broke off to become Proto-Indo-European? To be more precise, how does a language family brake off to join another language family? By the migration of people all over the European continent over the centuries, and how is a language family classified, by the similarity of languages spoken in a region, for example Western Europe?

Do you also consider dialects to be language? I once to a football game in Milan with an American lad from New Jersey, who was of Italian descent, aside from being fluent in English and Italian, he was fluent in the Neapolitan dialect (where his family is from), aside from making out a few words when he spoke to a friend on the phone, in which he spoke in dialect, it sounded like a combination of Italian and Spanish, but I'm probably totally wide of the mark on this one.
 
craig1985 said:
Libertine, can you please explain what you mean by the Indo-European languages, and that they broke off to become Proto-Indo-European? To be more precise, how does a language family brake off to join another language family?
Proto-Indo-European is a name scholars give to a probable language spoken several thousand years ago. All languages derived from this are called Indo-European languages. In reality it's likely that "Proto-Indo-European" consisted of several dialects of the same language (which is called Proto-Indo-European in that it's before records began, hence before the languages that we've proven to be related) that have, over time, developed into languages of their own due to geographical, social and political reasons, and that those languages have similarly split into a number of other languages. Think of it being like a family tree.

The most likely is that, for, say, Celtic, that many tribes speaking closely related Proto-Indo-European languages banded together and migrated away from the majority, and their languages developed independently there. Then the same happened to the Germanic tribes, the Greek tribes, and so on.

By the migration of people all over the European continent over the centuries, and how is a language family classified, by the similarity of languages spoken in a region, for example Western Europe?
Language families are classified based on their morphological, grammatical and syntactic structure, plus their vocabulary. English, for example, has a large amount of vocabulary from Latin and Romance languages, but its core grammar and its most basic vocabulary, the essentials like pronouns and basic verbs, are Germanic. Also, we know for a fact that Old English, from which modern English is derived, was Germanic. Families within families (so Germanic and Italic, for example) can be classified due to changes from the norm that are regular in those languages. For example, the First Germanic Sound Shift is a series of changes in consonants that is uniform to all Germanic languages - the development of <k> (cf. Latin "centum") to <x> (pronounced like the 'ch' in 'Achtung') to <h> (cf. English "hundred") is one such shift.

Most Indo-European languages have a very similar grammatical structure - a maximum of eight cases, two voices (occasionally three), gender differentiation or at least historical gender differentiation (it is extinct in English, for example), shared vocabulary for common items (family terms, for example), prepositions.

We can prove that, for example, Basque is not Indo-European because it shares none of the characteristics of Indo-European languages - it is agglutinating (ie one word with several added parts can say a whole sentence, as opposed to the Indo-European analytical sense of "I gave you the ball" - agglutinating languages could have a system like "gave ball-I-to-you").

Geographical concerns do not come into it (Afrikaans and Yiddish are both Germanic languages, though far removed from their linguistic relatives geographically; Hungarian is isolated and a long way from its linguistic relatives in the north of Europe and the Ural mountains; Madagascar's national language is related to those of Hawaiians, Maoris and Taiwanese, even though it is surrounded by enormously different languages) other than to create interesting political/social questions as to how the situation arose, and to explain sometimes bizarre and unexpected loanwords (eg, tsholnt, a Yiddish word, is derived from the Latin calente 'hot' - must have been derived from French, hence 'tsh', but before French lost the 'l' as the French word is chaud)

Do you also consider dialects to be language? I once to a football game in Milan with an American lad from New Jersey, who was of Italian descent, aside from being fluent in English and Italian, he was fluent in the Neapolitan dialect (where his family is from), aside from making out a few words when he spoke to a friend on the phone, in which he spoke in dialect, it sounded like a combination of Italian and Spanish, but I'm probably totally wide of the mark on this one.
This is a very difficult question. The classification of "what is a language?" is a tricky matter, and often political and social considerations have to come into it. For example, if you get a German-speaker from Zürich and a German speaker from Kiel together and they spoke their local dialects, their speech would be far more different than, say, a Czech and a Slovak speaking their languages. German especially is a sort of dialect continuum, and "Low German" in the north of the country is in many respects closer to Dutch than the German standard language. It is now a protected language under the EU, so is classified as a language even though there is no uniform way of writing it and it cannot be used for any official purpose. Luxembourgish, similarly, is basically and expanded dialect of German, but this has now reached official status; the majority still prefer to use French or German for their official business, however.

Two examples I gave above, however (Hindi/Urdu and Serbian/Croat) are almost identical languages, but written in different scripts and differing mostly through religious terminology; however socially they are very far apart. The opposite to this would be Arabic; it has the same kind of role in the Islamic world as Latin had to Christians a thousand years ago - they all have their own differing versions of it, many of which will probably become languages in their own right as French, Spanish, Portuguese etc have, but they can all speak the official form of the language. The Chinese also claim that all of their languages are dialects of the same language, but Mandarin and Cantonese are as different as English and German.

For the most part, a dialect can be considered as a language if it is a) so wildly different from the standard language as to be almost unintelligible - so no English dialects count unless you say that Scots is one, which is debatable - or b) if it is developed enough to engender some kind of standardisation (of spelling or grammar etc) and be used for some kind of formal usage (eg Luxembourgish, Low German, Afrikaans, all at different stages of this, with the latter having completed the process).
 

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