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Thread: Me talk pretty one day

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    Default Me talk pretty one day

    I'm just wondering what languages folks here have studied, and how well they speak them.

    I've formally studied Spanish, French, and Mandarin Chinese. Most of my French and Mandarin are gone but I still retain enough to recognize words here and there, and to read linguistics-related material about them -- although not in them. (Chinese has the added wrinkle of its writing system, most of which I've forgotten. Forget reading a newspaper article, if I can decode a headline with the help of a dictionary I feel like I've accomplished something.)

    Aside from that, I've studied Catalan on my own, and bits of a few other random languages. I've also learned some Portuguese, in order to go on a trip there; it's similar enough to Spanish that speaking Spanish is an excellent head start (I never took it, although I understand my university actually had a class in "Portuguese for Spanish Speakers" -- that's how similar they are.) I learned enough to get around in Portugal and I can still read simple texts in Portuguese, although the pronunciation is different enough that I don't really pick up all that much when people speak it.

    The only foreign languages I could honestly say I speak with any facility are Spanish and Catalan, and neither of those all that well. Due to having studied Catalan on my own and using mostly materials spoken/written by and for native speakers, I tend to have a wider vocabulary in that than in Spanish, where I was mostly victim of the relatively poor language materials provided to foreigners.

    So despite my interest in and education in linguistics, I really don't speak any other language at anywhere near native level. And I'm wondering what languages my fellow Dumbos have studied, or tried to study, either in or outside of school, and how well they speak them.

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    Elephant Feirefiz's avatar
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    As people might know my native language is German.

    My first foreign language in school was English. My spoken and written English has its limits because I don't use it enough. Fortunately I understand it better than that.

    The next foreign language was Latin. In school I was pretty good at it but my Latin has suffered a lot since then. Our Latin curriculum was relatively traditional in that it emphasized translation from Latin and analysis but largely ignored translation into Latin or conversation. That means that I was never actually fluent.

    My third foreign language was French. I took it for three years but because I had all languages in parallel that didn't amount to many hours. Today I can understand a bit but I can't speak much anymore.

    In university I took the equivalent of two semesters of Japanese in a compact course but I remember little of it.

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    Oliphaunt Taumpy's avatar
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    I took French in high school, but I've forgotten most of the verb conjugations and such. I can mostly understand simple sentences (though, I can read some a bit more complex), but I can't speak much. I took one semester of Spanish in college for the language credit, so I know a word or two. Although, most of the Spanish I know I learned from Shakira.

    A couple years back I tried learning some hiragana to match with my extremely limited anime-Japanese knowledge, but I didn't stick with it long enough to actually learn anything.

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    I took Spanish I in 7th and 8th grades, then Spanish II in 12th grade. Then I did nothing with the language for 25+ years until I took a trip to Ecuador a couple of years back.

    Surprisingly I had retained quite a bit and with the help of a compact dictionary was able to survive well enough in the touristy type areas for the first day or two. Then as I got more comfortable I was actually able to hold some semblance of a conversation with a couple of the locals.

    If I stayed somewhere Spanish was the primary language for any length of time I suspect I could get reasonably fluent pretty quickly. I could of course also study it here but it hasn't been a priority.

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    Oliphaunt Rube E. Tewesday's avatar
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    French in high school. Can make out written materials reasonably well, but can only speak it slowly and badly. Still enough to be helpful in Montreal, where the trick is to start out speaking French with Francophones, who will appreciate the effort and speak to you in English.

    Took Inuktitut courses in Nunavut. Never acquired much, and have lost most of that. Fiendishly difficult language to acquire as an adult by a native Indo-European speaker.

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    Quote Originally posted by Rube E. Tewesday View post
    ...

    Took Inuktitut courses in Nunavut. Never acquired much, and have lost most of that. Fiendishly difficult language to acquire as an adult by a native Indo-European speaker.
    Really? Why is it so difficult?

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    Quote Originally posted by Laughing Lagomorph View post
    Really? Why is it so difficult?
    Well, I've never studied it so I may not be right about this, but I would guess the hardest part is its crazy word-building system. It's a "polysynthetic" language, which means that you can oftentimes express the equivalent of a whole sentence in English in a single word by means of stacking on prefixes and suffixes. There are literally millions of possible forms of a single root word, once you stack all the prefixes and suffixes on them.

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    Oliphaunt Rube E. Tewesday's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Exy View post
    Well, I've never studied it so I may not be right about this, but I would guess the hardest part is its crazy word-building system. It's a "polysynthetic" language, which means that you can oftentimes express the equivalent of a whole sentence in English in a single word by means of stacking on prefixes and suffixes. There are literally millions of possible forms of a single root word, once you stack all the prefixes and suffixes on them.
    Yeah, that kind of thing. Different grammatical system, unfamiliar consonant sounds, just different.

    (However, it's not true that it has hundreds of different words for different kinds of snow, but no single word for snow. I forget the root word for snow, but it's there.)

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    I started learning Spanish as a small kid from Sesame Street and Montessori preschool. I had a more formal course of study in it through middle and high school. Currently, I can understand maybe 30% of the Spanish I hear, and I don't ever feel brave enough to try speaking it.

    I spent most of college studying languages: 2+ years each of Latin and Ancient Greek, a year of Japanese, and a year of reading French. Bits and pieces of each stuck in my head, and I think I could pick any one up if I chose to try studying again. But I am far from fluent in anything but English.

    Ancient Greek was the most difficult; Japanese was easiest as far as speaking goes (writing was of course a whole 'nother story).
    Last edited by Orual; 14 Jul 2010 at 10:43 AM.

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    Curmudgeon OtakuLoki's avatar
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    I had five years of French in secondary school. I feel pretty confident in saying I was even fluent, if not accentless, in the language. It's been twenty years since I've used it, so that it takes a good deal of effort to get through a newspaper article.

    I had one year of Latin in 8th grade. I hated it, but it's proven useful time and time again since then. But all I remember, now, is some declentions, and the conjugation of the one verb a friend and I coined back in 1983.

    In college I tried to pick up more formal Japanese, but I kept having massive trouble with my brain trying to use all my foreign languages as one hybrid monster. The second or third time I asked, "Are-wa, qu'est-ce que c'est?" I began to realize I had a major problem.

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    Quote Originally posted by Rube E. Tewesday View post
    (However, it's not true that it has hundreds of different words for different kinds of snow, but no single word for snow. I forget the root word for snow, but it's there.)
    That'd be a good one for the Trufax thread.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally posted by OtakuLoki View post
    In college I tried to pick up more formal Japanese, but I kept having massive trouble with my brain trying to use all my foreign languages as one hybrid monster. The second or third time I asked, "Are-wa, qu'est-ce que c'est?" I began to realize I had a major problem.
    YES. It's like there's a box in your brain labelled 'English', and another box labelled 'All Other Languages', and you're digging around for the Japanese word for flower and all that's coming up is 'ανθος'.

    I really don't know how I ever passed any of those classes ...

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    Curmudgeon OtakuLoki's avatar
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    Oh, that's so nice to hear. No one in my Japanese class in college had any fluency in any other languages, so they all kept staring at me as though I were some insane beast washed up from the ocean during a storm.

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    Prehistoric Bitchslapper Sarahfeena's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Feirefiz View post
    As people might know my native language is German.

    My first foreign language in school was English. My spoken and written English has its limits because I don't use it enough. Fortunately I understand it better than that.
    I think your written English is excellent. I would not have guessed that you were not a native speaker.

    I took high school French, but was never very good at it and have lost almost all of it.

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    Elephant Feirefiz's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Sarahfeena View post
    I think your written English is excellent. I would not have guessed that you were not a native speaker.
    Polite exaggeration aside, what you might not always see is how cumbersome it is. Everything takes several times as long to write and quite often I am not really satisfied with the result.

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    Quote Originally posted by Feirefiz View post
    Polite exaggeration aside, what you might not always see is how cumbersome it is. Everything takes several times as long to write and quite often I am not really satisfied with the result.
    No, she's not exaggerating. I know that as a German speaker you probably don't have the full range of English expressions at your disposal -- something I run into writing in other languages. I can figure out a way to say it but I don't know ALL the ways to say it. I guess that probably makes your speech different from a native English speaker's, but I honestly would not have guessed if I hadn't known that you weren't a native speaker. I probably would know if I heard you talk but you have an excellent command of written English.


    Quote Originally posted by Orual View post
    YES. It's like there's a box in your brain labelled 'English', and another box labelled 'All Other Languages', and you're digging around for the Japanese word for flower and all that's coming up is 'ανθος'.

    I really don't know how I ever passed any of those classes ...
    I think my Spanish was too advanced to succumb to that effect but once I started studying Chinese, every time I tried to say something in French Chinese words would slip in.

  17. #17
    Mi parolas esperanton malbone Trojan Man's avatar
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    Fiz, several online people assume that English is a foreign language for me, a native speaker. I agree with the others that your written English is excellent.

    I studied Japanese for 2 years, and learnt Korean from my housemates/Korean GF. Also studied French for about 2 months and learnt nothing of it. Have taught myself very basic Russian, and would like to learn Irish.
    Last edited by Trojan Man; 14 Jul 2010 at 07:26 PM. Reason: Had to fix some typos. :(

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    Oliphaunt The Original An Gadaí's avatar
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    I studied Irish for 13 years in school, in any other school system this would mean something akin to fluency but I'm passable in Irish just. I attended Irish college in the heart of the Gaeltacht (the Irish speaking part of Ireland) when I was a teen and this helped immensely. I am currently attempting to attain something like fluency. I can somewhat comfortably have a conversation in Irish with a non-native speaker but would ideally like to be able to one day be a fully fledged Gaeilgoir. I may get into it in another thread sometime but Irish people have a peculiar relationship with what is officially our native language, you'd have to go back several generations in my family to find a native speaker, although my dad was fluent.

    I studied German in school for 3 years. Although I studied it for the least time, this is the language I have used most as an adult and have found the easiest to acquire.

    I studied French in school for 5 years. We had a battleaxe of a teacher who believed in rote learning and to be fair I have retained a huge amount of this rote learned stuff. I've not been in French speaking country as an adult so never had the chance to roadtest it beyond conversations with French people here or in one instance with an Italian man in Italy who couldn't speak a word of English.

    Other than English, I believe French would be the language I know best. I could read a magazine in French with little bother for example and I imagine after only a few weeks immersion in the French language I would have a decent ability to conversificate.

    I've learnt bits and pieces of Spanish but really couldn't conduct even a basic conversation in it. It seems like an obvious one to learn with so many native speakers in so many countries and I have considered signing up to learn Spanish.

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    Padding Enabler Panther Squad's avatar
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    I studied four years of portuguese in high school. Since I'm from such a strong portuguese area I was taught by native speakers in a very formal portuguese. By my senior year me and other portuguese friends who did the same could actually speak enough that we could hold simple conversations in portuguese. Due to limited choices, in college I ended up taking spanish since it was the most similar, which only confused matters further.

    Then I moved away and no one spoke the language for about 7 years and I lost a bunch of it. Still, my mind is pretty vice-like and I've been using Rosetta Stone and regaining tons of it. While brazilian portuguese is a bit different, it's simpler and mostly just the translation is different and the rules a bit looser. Now I can look at posts on forums in portuguese and understand the general gist of what's going on. Right now I'm at the point where it's really locking down new vocabulary and tenses rather than exact grammar. Now if I could only stop being so lazy as to not bother typing in accents.
    comcast guy - m4m - 18 (nb)
    seem like we had that connection when we looked at each other
    you had a blue shirt on nice asss,dought you will see this but dosnt hurt to try, but id love to play with you. tell me what you where fixing, or the street name,or describe me.

  20. #20
    Padding Enabler Panther Squad's avatar
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    O posto segundo!
    Last edited by Panther Squad; 13 Aug 2010 at 08:36 PM.
    comcast guy - m4m - 18 (nb)
    seem like we had that connection when we looked at each other
    you had a blue shirt on nice asss,dought you will see this but dosnt hurt to try, but id love to play with you. tell me what you where fixing, or the street name,or describe me.

  21. #21
    my god, he's full of stars... OneCentStamp's avatar
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    I consider myself fully bilingual in Spanish. I took five years of it in high school, getting in plenty of real-world practice at my after-school jobs; then lived in Ecuador for two years, completely immersed in Spanish; came back to America and minored in Spanish in college. I read Spanish news sites and fiction on occasion, and I still use Spanish at work more days than not.

    I took three semesters of French in college, and used it on a fairly regular basis with my first wife, who was fluent - it's a handy code language for saying stuff in public, since it's far less widely spoken than Spanish. I can get by in French, but my pronunciation isn't perfect and my grammar is limited to the most commonly used tenses. My practice in French these days is pretty much limited to reading artifex's shampoo bottles in the shower.

    I took one semester of Russian in college. I know the Cyrillic alphabet well enough to sound out Russian words slowly, and that's about it. My Russian vocabulary is probably less than fifty words.
    Last edited by OneCentStamp; 13 Aug 2010 at 09:57 PM.
    "You laugh at me because I'm different; I laugh at you because I'm on nitrous."

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  22. #22
    Oliphaunt The Original An Gadaí's avatar
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    This is kinda interesting for prospective German speakers: http://bigthink.com/ideas/26815

  23. #23
    Member Elendil's Heir's avatar
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    An earlier thread on the topic; my reply is at post 16: http://www.mellophant.com/forums/sho...reign-language

  24. #24
    Aged Turtle Wizard Clothahump's avatar
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    I studied Latin and German while in high school; the German continued into college. When I was 30, I was in Indonesia and took a crash course in conversational Indonesian. I could speak reasonably well, and afforded my Indonesian colleagues much hilarity when things didn't exactly translate the way I thought they should. :-)

    I'm very rusty at all three now, but I can still dredge them up from the pits of memory.
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