Learning languages

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Libertine Seguros said:
The point was that they were taught that Japanese came from Chinese prisoners escaping to the islands, and creating their own language to avoid recapture. But the fact that there is no linguistic link other than the writing system between Chinese and Japanese - Japanese is not related to Chinese in the slightest, it's like saying that Russians escaped and invented Basque. Even for a linguist doing conlanging, if you're trying to create a language that you want to come into wider usage you have to use some kind of grammatical system that is uniform and intuitive, otherwise people won't bother learning it. The easiest way to do that is to use the system that the people already know - hence why all the European auxlangs like Esperanto, Ido, Latin sine Flexione, Volapük and Interlingua use a very clearly Indo-European (and usually Latin-derived) vocabulary and grammar base - because that's what the people they're creating it for know. If a group of Chinese fugitives were going to create a language, the chances are it would be an adapted wordstock over a grammar similar to that of their first languages, the same way as thieves' cants, jargons and socially limited languages have adapted over the years, with results of everything from carny-speak to legitimate languages like Yiddish. It would not result in completely uniform vocabulary and grammar that is nonetheless completely alien to the language that the speakers supposedly spoke prior to resettlement, hence why I consider the story to be utter propagandistic hogwash.
Yes, of course the chinese story is complete nonsense that's not what I was interested in. I was only interested in whether you thought the auxlangs where indo-european by chance/mistake like you seemed to simply or whether it was by design. From your reply here it seems you agree that in the case of auxlangs it's more a matter of design.
 
May 20, 2010
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ingsve said:
Why do you think that? The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis has to do with whether language influences thought which isn't really what I was talking about. I was merely saying that if you want people to switch to a new primary language then it helps the learning process of parts of it is familiar to you.

There are other constructed languages that more directly relate to the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis. Interlingua is one such language. My favourite is Toki Pona.
As I see it, one very important aspect of Sapir-Whorf is that the language one speaks influences the way one thinks; when one applies that manner of thinking upon the creation of an artificial language (i.e. Esperanto, Klingon) vestiges of the mother tongue remain.
One of the difficulties adults encounter when learning another languages is training their brain to think in another manner. Think of it as teaching an old dog a new trick. Whereas children are able to acquire new languages quite easily before the age of 6yrs old.
Now I'm sure that this is taking the hypothesis slightly further than intended--it was more about language and culture---but they both determine patterns of behavior and therefore patterns of thought, n'est-ce pas?
I am not a linguist! Only a lover of language and culture with a lowly diploma in cultural anthropology. My interest is purely vocational.
 
TexPat said:
As I see it, one very important aspect of Sapir-Whorf is that the language one speaks influences the way one thinks; when one applies that manner of thinking upon the creation of an artificial language (i.e. Esperanto, Klingon) vestiges of the mother tongue remain.
One of the difficulties adults encounter when learning another languages is training their brain to think in another manner. Think of it as teaching an old dog a new trick. Whereas children are able to acquire new languages quite easily before the age of 6yrs old.
Now I'm sure that this is taking the hypothesis slightly further than intended--it was more about language and culture---but they both determine patterns of behavior and therefore patterns of thought, n'est pas?
I am not a linguist! Only a lover of language and culture with a lowly diploma in cultural anthropology. My interest is purely vocational.
I'm no expert on Sapir-Whorf and I'm also not a linguist but the way I understand it is that the main factor that is of interest when talking about Sapir-Whorf is how the vocabulary is composed in a language. So with that in mind the interesting part about a constructed language are how one expresses various things in words and how words relate to each other rather than the gramatical or aesthetic similarity to another language.

The most common tests for Sapir-Whorf is for example whether there is a difference in how a person percieves color depending on how their language differentiates between colors. For example japanese doesn't really distinguish between green and blue so the question is whether their perception of green and blue is different from people of a language that does have different words for green and blue.

So going back to constructed languages, you said that we might encode our existing manner of thinking when constructing a new language thus retaining vestiges of our original thinking in the new language. I don't know if it would work that way or not. In isolated circumstances that might be true but the overall structure of the vocabulary would probably be different enough to make the total effect on a speaker a new experience. That is unless the new language is a one-to-one copy of the original language except with new words to directly replace the old words.
 
ingsve said:
Yes, of course the chinese story is complete nonsense that's not what I was interested in. I was only interested in whether you thought the auxlangs where indo-european by chance/mistake like you seemed to simply or whether it was by design. From your reply here it seems you agree that in the case of auxlangs it's more a matter of design.
The main auxlangs are only Indo-European by design because they've been designed by Indo-Europeans within a sociocultural setting in which Indo-European languages are the norm. Other auxlangs, like the creole jargon/lingua franca used to communicate among natives in parts of western Canada before the intervention of the white people, are naturally not Indo-European, because the people creating them are sticking to the principles that are central to THEIR languages.

The main auxlangs are the product of the period 1870-1930 or something similar, at a time when globalisation was a matter of several European empires dividing up the globe, and with speakers of Indo-European languages being culturally dominant, and being the people with the most interest in creating a global language, it is not surprising that most of the auxlangs were developed with an Indo-European stock (words and concepts familiar to all those around the people who created them), and it is equally unsurprising that the majority tended to focus on a Romance base (partly because western Europe was mostly Catholic or had been Catholic and taught Latin in schools, partly for aesthetic purposes as Romance languages were believed - and to an extent still are - to be more attractive to listen to).
 
Apr 20, 2009
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Libertine Seguros said:
... But the fact that there is no linguistic link other than the writing system between Chinese and Japanese - Japanese is not related to Chinese in the slightest...
that is not entirely accurate. one way that they are still related is that in japanese there are two ways to read a most kanji and one of the possible readings often bears a phonetic resemblence to the chinese reading. For example; one, two, three: (j) ichi, ni, san: (c) yi, er, san. there are other ways that one can see japanese's linguistic roots in chinese, but that is left to the reader.
 
Libertine Seguros said:
The main auxlangs are only Indo-European by design because they've been designed by Indo-Europeans within a sociocultural setting in which Indo-European languages are the norm. Other auxlangs, like the creole jargon/lingua franca used to communicate among natives in parts of western Canada before the intervention of the white people, are naturally not Indo-European, because the people creating them are sticking to the principles that are central to THEIR languages.
You speak as if the auxlangs where inevitably indo-european because the creators where indo-european, like they had no other choice. I don't think that's correct. They could easily have created an auxlang that was in no way indo-european if they wanted to. My point was simply that they chose to keep it similar to the european languages because that served the ultimate purpose of the languages best.
 
gregod said:
that is not entirely accurate. one way that they are still related is that in japanese there are two ways to read a most kanji and one of the possible readings often bears a phonetic resemblence to the chinese reading. For example; one, two, three: (j) ichi, ni, san: (c) yi, er, san. there are other ways that one can see japanese's linguistic roots in chinese, but that is left to the reader.
The linguistic roots of Japanese have nothing whatsoever to do with Chinese. They are entirely unrelated languages.

That does not mean that the Chinese language has not exerted considerable influence on the Japanese language, but they are from entirely different linguistic families, and the resemblances are either due to coincidence, or interference, the same way as Basque is not related to Spanish but there is clear and obvious evidence of Spanish vocabulary and phonology in the language, or Hungarian includes many influences from German.

The link between Japanese and Chinese is purely sociolinguistic, and has no basis in historical linguistics whatsoever.
 
Mar 10, 2009
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Back on topic...

Why don't you use television to help you learn? If you can access HSN (Nippon Hōsō Kyōkai) which is a Japanese public television station, you can learn the nuances of language through news, weather, sports, docs, and even cartoons.

Aside from in-country immersion, satellite TV is a very good investment for learning a language.
 
Apr 20, 2009
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Libertine Seguros said:
The linguistic roots of Japanese have nothing whatsoever to do with Chinese. They are entirely unrelated languages.

That does not mean that the Chinese language has not exerted considerable influence on the Japanese language, but they are from entirely different linguistic families, and the resemblances are either due to coincidence, or interference, the same way as Basque is not related to Spanish but there is clear and obvious evidence of Spanish vocabulary and phonology in the language, or Hungarian includes many influences from German.
I am not a linguist, but i speak both mandarin and japanese, so perhaps I am misunderstanding your statement that they are unrelated. As I understand it, while japanese developed in relative isolation from chinese, a significant part of chinese language was retained. but of course to speak one does not confer the ability to understand the other; any more than ability to speak mandarin gives one the ability to understand cantonese.

Just to elaborate on the point i made in my previous post; one can look at a word in chinese and be able to guess a reasonably close approximation of the pronunciation based upon japanese alternative "on-yomi" (chinese reading).
Libertine Seguros said:
The link between Japanese and Chinese is purely sociolinguistic, and has no basis in historical linguistics whatsoever.
What is the difference between sociolinguistics and historical linguistics? How could one develop independently of the other?
 
Apr 20, 2009
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tifosa said:
Back on topic...

Why don't you use television to help you learn? If you can access HSN (Nippon Hōsō Kyōkai) which is a Japanese public television station, you can learn the nuances of language through news, weather, sports, docs, and even cartoons.

Aside from in-country immersion, satellite TV is a very good investment for learning a language.
very true. also, on NHK there is a program of Japanese for native Japanese speakers which details the differences in the language between different areas of Japan.
 
Oct 8, 2009
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Going back to the first few pages, I am with the immersion camp when it comes to learning languages. I did French at school and nowadays (although it was a seriously long time ago) find that I can read it fairly well and make myself understood (with a few bloopers that give the locals considerable amusement), but I really find it difficult to understand when people speak to me. However, when I went to live in the Welsh-speaking part of Wales, I found that I learned the language in a different way, and could understand a lot of what people were saying, even if I couldn't formulate much of a reply. I used to love people's faces when I would chip in with a comment in my Essex mockney accent that indicated I understood exactly what they were saying. Welsh is also phonetic so I quickly impressed the locals by not asking them to spell their addresses :) I think I would have become quite fluent eventually if I hadn't escaped back to civilisation.

My youngest daughter is similar with French - she only learned French for a couple of years then switched to German, but after a couple of holidays in French kids' clubs she now understands the language quite well, but can't answer in French. When we were in Reims we worked as a team :)
The eldest one has a GCSE in French, but in the car yesterday we were listening to the song 'Alors on dance' and she asked me what language it was in...which proves the point about language GCSE's in the UK, rather.

As for the person who said they struggled with English dialects, don't worry. English native speakers also struggle with accents, Glaswegian, Northern Irish and Geordie being the most troublesome to Southern ears.
 
May 6, 2009
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kelvedon wonder said:
Going back to the first few pages, I am with the immersion camp when it comes to learning languages. I did French at school and nowadays (although it was a seriously long time ago) find that I can read it fairly well and make myself understood (with a few bloopers that give the locals considerable amusement), but I really find it difficult to understand when people speak to me. However, when I went to live in the Welsh-speaking part of Wales, I found that I learned the language in a different way, and could understand a lot of what people were saying, even if I couldn't formulate much of a reply. I used to love people's faces when I would chip in with a comment in my Essex mockney accent that indicated I understood exactly what they were saying. Welsh is also phonetic so I quickly impressed the locals by not asking them to spell their addresses :) I think I would have become quite fluent eventually if I hadn't escaped back to civilisation.

My youngest daughter is similar with French - she only learned French for a couple of years then switched to German, but after a couple of holidays in French kids' clubs she now understands the language quite well, but can't answer in French. When we were in Reims we worked as a team :)
The eldest one has a GCSE in French, but in the car yesterday we were listening to the song 'Alors on dance' and she asked me what language it was in...which proves the point about language GCSE's in the UK, rather.

As for the person who said they struggled with English dialects, don't worry. English native speakers also struggle with accents, Glaswegian, Northern Irish and Geordie being the most troublesome to Southern ears.
As a football fan, I'm sure you can appreciate that somebody like Edwin van der Sar speaks better English then Steven Gerrard or Wayne Rooney (the Mersey-side accent is horrible):p, and Cavendish's accent can make it hard to follow as well.
 
craig1985 said:
As a football fan, I'm sure you can appreciate that somebody like Edwin van der Sar speaks better English then Steven Gerrard or Wayne Rooney (the Mersey-side accent is horrible):p, and Cavendish's accent can make it hard to follow as well.
Slight digression. But have you seen Cav try Italian? That ugly english accent is far more beautiful when he switches to a Romance language.
 
May 6, 2009
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I can't say I've seen Cav speak Italian. Anything on youtube? I've seen Cadel speak in French and Italian, and appears to have zero trouble whatsoever (even after riding the Col d'Aubisque at the Tour).
 
craig1985 said:
I can't say I've seen Cav speak Italian. Anything on youtube? I've seen Cadel speak in French and Italian, and appears to have zero trouble whatsoever (even after riding the Col d'Aubisque at the Tour).
Its only brief, and he cant speak much but here it is

(Cav appears at 25 seconds in the video though doesnt last long)

http://video.gazzetta.it/?vxSiteId=f89d11d6-1424-420d-8ebb-23904200f68a&vxChannel=Tutti i video&vxClipId=2570_99136d28-bd7a-11de-be66-00144f02aabc&vxBitrate=300
 
gregod said:
I am not a linguist, but i speak both mandarin and japanese, so perhaps I am misunderstanding your statement that they are unrelated. As I understand it, while japanese developed in relative isolation from chinese, a significant part of chinese language was retained. but of course to speak one does not confer the ability to understand the other; any more than ability to speak mandarin gives one the ability to understand cantonese.
Ability to speak Mandarin and Cantonese would at least be transferable skills as they are related, just as it's easier for an English-speaker to learn, say, French, than it is for them to learn Swahili. Japanese developed in complete isolation from Chinese, so no part of Chinese language was "retained" - however a large element of Chinese has entered the language at a later stage of development as a result of contact - the same way as a large element of French has emerged in English due to contact, while the original word stock is Germanic. Or, better example, how there is a large element of English and Italian in Maltese, but Maltese is not related to those languages at all - it is a close relative of Arabic. Japanese is not related to Chinese at all, but they have interference - the writing system being the most obvious example.

Think of languages as being like a community - families and neighbours. If you are "English", then German and Dutch are your siblings, French, Italian and Spanish are your cousins, Russian, Polish, Farsi, Hindi etc are your distant cousins who you don't see very often and have grown up entirely separate from you, and Hungarian is a neighbour you don't see much of but isn't part of the family. If you are "Japanese" then you are an only child. You have some close friends such as Chinese and Korean, but they aren't relatives. You don't know any relatives your age, though you may possibly have some second cousins once removed, a long way away. As a result, you feel closer to your neighbours than you do to any potential family.

Just to elaborate on the point i made in my previous post; one can look at a word in chinese and be able to guess a reasonably close approximation of the pronunciation based upon japanese alternative "on-yomi" (chinese reading).
But this is the writing system - not the parts of speech. If you know German, you would have to struggle with the Hebrew alphabet to read Yiddish. But despite very different writing systems the languages are very closely related. Same goes for Maltese (Latin letters) and Arabic (Arabic script), or Hebrew and Arabic. We got our writing system from the Romans, who developed theirs from the Greeks, who developed theirs from Semitic scripts. But Greek as a language had nothing to do with the Semitic languages. All they gave them was a method by which to transcribe their sounds.

What is the difference between sociolinguistics and historical linguistics? How could one develop independently of the other?
Historical linguistics is, for example, concerned with the development of language, how languages developed and came to be what they are today; it's about the building of the family trees of languages, dealing with how the languages became solidified, how the rules were set for how to write it, how to speak it etc. and how this is ongoing for developing languages like Tok Pisin, Luxembourgish etc.

Sociolinguistics is, for example, concerned with the people that speak the language, how they affect it (for example phenomenon like language mixing eg Spanglish, the creation of pidgins and creoles, how language affects social position or perception of the speaker (prestige varieties, eg RP as opposed to local dialects in English), and social phenomenon like the developing German of immigrant communities. Sapir-Whorf, for example, is a purely sociolinguistic theory.
 
Ok so I'm interested in picking up a new language this year.

The three options open are Russian, Italian and Spanish. I have no grasp of any of these languages so I would be grateful about your input as to what would be easiest to learn/advantages of each language.
 
Mar 11, 2009
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Jan the Man said:
Ok so I'm interested in picking up a new language this year.

The three options open are Russian, Italian and Spanish. I have no grasp of any of these languages so I would be grateful about your input as to what would be easiest to learn/advantages of each language.
What is your native language? What other languages have you studied? And are these three the options because of availability, or you've narrowed it down to these?

I've studied all three - Spanish and Russian formally, Italian not too seriously on my own. I didn't find any really difficult, but Spanish and Italian were easier as far as vocabulary - I could make something out of what I was reading a lot more quickly than with Russian just because of having much more vocabulary in common with English, and in the case of Italian, doing that with some knowledge of Spanish and French.
 
Jan the Man said:
Ok so I'm interested in picking up a new language this year.

The three options open are Russian, Italian and Spanish. I have no grasp of any of these languages so I would be grateful about your input as to what would be easiest to learn/advantages of each language.
Ive heard many people say that Italian is the easiest language. Another + is that as a cycling fan, the Giro d italia can be watched on Gazzeta dello sport website ( i think they have commentary on that)

However Spanish is more similar to English. Lots of similarities, and from there on Italian wouldnt be difficult. Also Spain sits right in the middle of the Romance family so if you learn Spanish you then have direct branches to Portugese, French and Italian among others.
craig1985 said:
Is there a need to want to learn Russian, ie visit Russia?
Russia is seen by some as an emerging power. It was once a power of course but it was secretive so probably wasnt as big a need to learn it but these days, with globalisation and all that, if Russia does become a superpower once more, it could be a handy language to know.
 
My son is now learning Spanish as his fourth language, and absolutely loving it. He finds is very easy to understand -- but I think his knowledge of English and French help with that.

I am trying to convince him that he needs to be able to translate from any one of his languages (German, English, French and Spanish) to the other, and not always have to go back to German, so to speak. That will certainly be a big help to his job prospects, I imagine.

Susan
 
Jun 16, 2009
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Susan Westemeyer said:
My son is now learning Spanish as his fourth language, and absolutely loving it. He finds is very easy to understand -- but I think his knowledge of English and French help with that.

I am trying to convince him that he needs to be able to translate from any one of his languages (German, English, French and Spanish) to the other, and not always have to go back to German, so to speak. That will certainly be a big help to his job prospects, I imagine.

Susan
So does he learn that all through the school he goes to during the week or is there a weekend school that he goes to learn spanish or the other languages he has learnt?
 
May 6, 2009
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OT Susan, but can you please ban ACF? He supports Collingwood, which is similar to liking Bayern Munich, the New York Yankees, or Manchester United :D
 

DAOTEC

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Jun 16, 2009
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Multilangual gits we're talking here Hmmm know a view of them.

Good stuff Susan got one running around like you, thanks for sharing.
 

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