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Language poll

What languages other than English do you know, or want to learn, and why? I don't expect answers as long as what I type below.

For me, I used to know enough Latin to barely pass the Catullus/Horace Advanced Placement Exam, plus a big of Greek, but have forgotten nearly all. This was due to my parents, especially my mother, trying to replicate their own classics training and interests. She never did really teach me how to read and pronounce French words, which might have been more useful.

I've been desultorily self-studying Spanish and Japanese for embarrassingly long. Spanish, starting back in California, as I figured it was an obvious second language in the US, especially with Spanish radio stations. Now, the facts that I have friends in Chile, and Latin American seems to be up-and-coming in social democracy and economic growth, help too. Japanese, because of all that anime, though less because I specifically wanted to understand the anime, and more because I thought "you have to listen to a language a lot to really learn it, and my enthusiasm for foreign (or any) movies is generally low, but I'm voluntarily watching 6 hours of subbed anime a week..." Also, trying a non-Indo-European language was appealing. F*ck grammatical gender.

If I wanted more, Chinese, French, and German would probably be the next tier, in no particular order. Population and economic strength, utility for possible Canadian or French immigration, Germany's economic strength, plus the strong cultural weights of all three. Absent any actual migratory need, Chinese and French would probably make the most sense, leveraging my kanji and Latin/Spanish knowledge.

Sign language has a bit of interest, for being weird in making use of space.

Not a language, but I've taught myself Morse code, largely so I might have a post-stroke communication channel.



( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 8th, 2011 05:43 pm (UTC)
Tangent: A friend of mine says Rosetta Stone is actually really, really good. He's using it to learn Japanese and Hindi.
Feb. 8th, 2011 06:04 pm (UTC)
Really, I've always thought Rosetta Stone is way over hyped. People like it because its flashy and interactive and because it seems "immersion" by having you basically guess until you start to get things right and then repeat them to death. But I only did the first levels or so before I got bored.

In contrast I think the most under-rated language program out there is the Pimsleur series. It's audio only so seems kind of boring but it based on sound methodology and has a touch of humor. When I was studying in China I knew people who had only done Pimsleur at home and were basically fluent when it came to simple things like making reservations or asking for directions.
Feb. 8th, 2011 07:34 pm (UTC)
I saw the commercials and said, yeah, yeah, whatever. I guess taking my friend's and your experience together just means that it works well for some people and other others, just like various diet regimes work better for some and not others. Bummer. Unfortunately, I have no idea whether it would work well for me, and learning spoken Japanese would be neat because of all the anime I watch.
Feb. 10th, 2011 05:35 pm (UTC)
I've been using Pimsleur to learn Greek, and I've been really happy with it so far. It's really good for taking on long drives by myself -- listening to Greek lessons on public transit doesn't really work (unless you don't mind people staring at you as you repeat phrases in foreign languages) but it's fine in the car.
Feb. 8th, 2011 06:11 pm (UTC)
i'm just beginning to share your opinion of japanese... i'm listening to it enough that it seems like it'd be nice to know a *few* words.

spanish was my foreign language of choice for HS and undergrad, I probably have enough of a burned-in starter-set that I could become decently capable in it if I was exposed to it more.

...I'm not sure I actually want to learn it, but I'm a little curious about whatever they speak in india, speaking of indu-european. plus, the indian, chinese, and korean students often speak their native languages with each other, and it'd be nice to be able to understand.
Feb. 8th, 2011 07:11 pm (UTC)
The wacky thing about anime is the skewed vocabulary I did pick up just from watching. Anna and Amy seemed to do a lot better, maybe with some actual study. Most of my pickup was greetings, and words common in opening songs where fansubbers tend to give both romanized transliteration and translation. So some early words were "yume", dream, "sora", sky, "aoi", blue, "mirai", future, "hoshi", star. Amy and I bonded early over OP drinking game ideas, "take a shot every time you hear yume".

Higurashi taught me "yubi", finger. Frigging Higurashi.

They speak lots of languages in India, not all of them Indo-European (cf. Dravidian). But Standard Hindi is the main official language (English has secondary official status.) But I dabbled in Italian for a similar motivation, wanting to eavesdrop on Hofstadter and his kids, especially with them calling him during class.

Edited at 2011-02-08 07:12 pm (UTC)
Feb. 8th, 2011 07:36 pm (UTC)
I mused to my friend who likes Rosetta Stone about using it so that I could watch anime without subtitles. He said it probably wouldn't work that well (because of slang and accents and dialects?). *sigh*
Feb. 8th, 2011 07:45 pm (UTC)
No idea. I just assume that as I learn more grammar and vocabulary it'll start to make sense. And my god, subtitles! Free annotated immersion! You can listen over and over until you've picked out how what they said maps to the subtitle. (Sometimes there's slack, but still.) And the fansubbed songs usually help you identify the Japanese words.
Feb. 8th, 2011 06:19 pm (UTC)
I grew up in Malaysia and was sent to a Chinese grade school. Plus, my mother was a school teacher looking for something to do when she retired when her first kid was born, and decided teaching her child English would be a great head start. I speak English natively, and Mandarin too. My Mandarin is getting decidedly rusty, but whenever I go home and start using it again, it all comes back within a day.

Growing up in Kuala Lumpur means my Cantonese is conversational. I can go to Hong Kong and survive pretty well. I wouldn't be executive-level, but I should be able to do most retail jobs decently (well, linguistically speaking. Aptitude is an entirely different matter altogether.)

My Malay is also conversational. I have never been very good at the language, and I must admit I didn't do all that well in Malay at school, either.

Living in Japan has given me enough Japanese that I can speak it well enough to live life on the basic level. I wouldn't be able to do business, but I'd be able to understand enough people and make myself understood in order to get my basic needs met, and deal with tradesmen, and all that jazz.

I can understand the most basic of French terms. Fire a French speaker at me full blast and I can't understand a word, but if the French speaker is intentionally speaking slowly and carefully to me in French, I can follow enough to understand the gist of what they're saying. Unfortunately, my ability to respond is much lower.
Feb. 8th, 2011 07:13 pm (UTC)
Not knowing Malay well despite being Malaysian still sounds funky. :)
Feb. 8th, 2011 07:14 pm (UTC)
LOL! That should illustrate how little the language matters. ^_^;
Feb. 8th, 2011 09:15 pm (UTC)
I know French. I think it's actually useful to learn, more so than German since it's a multi-continental language with well over a hundred million speakers, L1 or L2.

I'd like to acquire Portuguese, but that's for the future.
Feb. 9th, 2011 03:44 am (UTC)
I know ancient Greek and Spanish reasonably well, Latin and French next tier, and have a smattering of German and Italian. Imo, once you master an inflected language, it just gets plain easier to learn the next one. Grammar counts!

I'm currently working on remastering Greek after a few years away from it, and I'd like to brush up my Latin as well. (I was always atrocious at it for some reason. I blame the lack of articles.) If I were to start from scratch with a language, I'd probably pick Arabic or Hebrew.
Feb. 10th, 2011 07:13 am (UTC)
A little French. Some small ability to decipher written Italian/Spanish.

I committed to translate ~20,000 words of Russian for the latest Bujold bilingual ficathon. I have no formal Russian training, and only a small amount of vocabulary that I've picked up on the fly. But this has not actually stopped me...

(I've been translating for about a year, and the Russians all tell me I'm very good at it. But my actual understanding is minuscule)

As for desired languages - Norwegian, Finnish, and German would be high on the list for ancestral reasons, but I don't have too much in the way of language aptitude.
Mar. 3rd, 2011 06:45 pm (UTC)
So how do you translate? Painful looking up of most words and decipherment of grammar?

(That's largely how I got through Latin IV.)
Mar. 3rd, 2011 08:29 pm (UTC)
It helps that it's fanfic and I know the character voices, setting, etc. I find that once I can get to the word salad point I can tease out the meaning - just on pure vocabulary, I can get my error rate down to one every couple hundred words. Which is good, because my grammar is nearly hopeless.

Having a high active/passive English vocabulary also helps a lot.
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )


Damien Sullivan

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