Communicating in English

cmhiv   Wednesday, April 23, 2003, 20:15 GMT
Why I do not like communicating in English:

--Because the langauge is very iregular compared to other languages.
--Because there are many different accents each with their own slightly different grammar (the main accents that is).
--The language is not very Germanic; it has extensively borrwed from Romance languages (Latin/French)

Why I love to speak English:

--Because it is my native language; the one that I think in and have discussions in.
--Because it is the language of the majority of my ancestors.

I guess I have been thinking a lot about this language, and what makes me wish that I could speak a foreign language fluently. I have not come up with any answers for myself. I think that I have a problem with the fact that the language is not uniform round the world. If the language was unified, like "got" and "gotten," and other similar examples, then I would not have much of a problem. This is why I want to speak another language. Hey, I just realised my reason for wanting to speak a different language!
>>>   Wednesday, April 23, 2003, 23:56 GMT
i think you are a little weird, cmhiv. so what if there are differences between british and american english. if you need to speak a different language to make yourself feel better, go ahead. i hate to say it, but you really are weird.
cmhiv   Thursday, April 24, 2003, 01:07 GMT
Yeah >>>, I think that you are weird! So what if I post things like the one above. I was sharing with the people here how I feel about language. And yes, I will learn a different language so I can speak a language that is standardised!

I wish there was a standard English much like there is a standard German language.
Antonio   Monday, April 28, 2003, 13:35 GMT
I think English is extremely REGULAR.
Take other langs as Latin, Portuguese, German or even French, and you´ll see they are hundres of times more irregular than English.
KT   Monday, April 28, 2003, 14:44 GMT
I think written Chinese is pretty standardized. There are countless dialects in Chinese but written Chinese is unified. Wanna try?
Antonio   Monday, April 28, 2003, 15:57 GMT
The same simbol for water today is being used for 4000 years in Chinese.
Chinese writing never changes.

Question KT: a friend of mine told me that he heard that eventually Chinese would ´stop´ developing because its writing system could not be changed. All new words must be written in Latin, English, Greek so on, like medicine names.
Is that true?
KT   Tuesday, April 29, 2003, 06:50 GMT

First I should have called the different ways of writing Chinese as "styles" instead of "fonts." The different styles of Chinese were actually developed during different times in the past. The style mostly used today is different than the one used 4000 years ago. However, people do practice calligraphy in different styles. (I guess it is the same in English.) Old Chinese characters were pictorial. They evolved again and again. The bottom of this site
shows different styles of the character "wagon" (or "car" for today's meaning). You can see clearly the second character is actually a picture of two horses drawing a four-wheel wagon.

Since there is no alphabet in Chinese, new characters are not added as frequently as the western languages do. However, since the "words/phrases" we used today are actually composed of two or more characters, more and more words (phrases) are added everyday.

There are many ways of translating English words or words of other foreign languages into Chinese, since we can't take use the words directly in our sentences (at least it's not proper to do so). For example, the word "aspirin" can probably appear in German or French the way it is. But for Chinese, we use four Chinese characters to compose the sound of the word, that is "ah si pug ling." Of course not all foreign terms are translated phonetically. "Television" is literally translated as "electric vision machine" in Chinese.

Since speech came before writing (at least in Chinese), most new characters are added by putting together the meaning and the sound. Say the word "titanium," the Chinese character of it composed of the character of "gold," which characterizes "metal," and the character that pronounced as "tai."
Antonio   Tuesday, April 29, 2003, 11:53 GMT

That´s very interesting. I had no idea how the Chinese Language may be constructed. You gave me some. Nice site, as well.

So, there are 6000 characters (as you said, not letters, but signals) in the Chinese Language? When Cinese kids learn their language, like we learn English, German or any other, instead of memorising 26 letters and their sounds they must memorise 6000 ´drawings´ and how they sound. Then, they will be able to write and read from the sounds of those ´signals´... Right??

What do the ´signals´mean? One single means ´water´, another ´cow´ ? Or are they only sounds that get combined?
I mean: take that example of yours ´gold´ , pretend it´s sound is ´blah´. So the kids would learn the drawing ´blah´with the sound ´blah´. There is also another sound ´tai´ and its drawing (but this time, not a word itself -formed idea- but only a sound, like a consonant/vowel ). After learning those, the kid will do ´blah´+´tai´ and get ´titanium´ ... Is that it? ;)

6000 !! Holy mother...
KT   Tuesday, April 29, 2003, 14:03 GMT
There are more than 50,000 Chinese characters, indeed. But only about 5000 of which are frequently used these days. There are about 400 elements. The average characters are composed of two elements.

Sorry that I forgot to point out that the character "titanium" is pronounced as "tai." The character "gold" by itself is a character, but as mentioned before, combined with "tai" (which I should have said the character means "very" that pronounced as "tai") makes the character "titanium". A lot of characters are composed of elements that by themselves are characters.

A kid would probably first learn to write the character "gold", and seperately the character "very" (pronounced as 'tai'). Then later when he sees the character "titanium", he can figure it out it's a kind of metal and probably pronounced as "tai". It's not always true that you pronounce the word as the one of the elements, but usually true for characters formed in the way of "hsing sheng", which I'm going to explain later. Most of the characters are learnt one by one. But since there are a lot of common elements, like "gold", "water", "man", "wood", "see", "mouth", just to name a few, it's not really memorizing "drawings" when you try to memorize how to write the characters.

It was generalized that there were six ways that Chinese characters are created. It must be clarified that the six ways are conclusions drawn after studying the composition of the characters but not the rules set prior to the formation of the characters.

The first one way is pictorial ("hsiang hsing"). Characters like sun, water, moon, mountain, cow, human, fish, hand, wood, foot, etc, were first written like pictures. For example, "sun" was originally written as a circle with a dot in the center. "Moon" was the shape of a new moon.

The second way is "chih shih", which is closest to ideogram. For example, the character "above" was originally a dot above a horizontal line and the character "below/under" was a dot under a horizontal line. A dot near the bottom of "wood" is the character "root". Then you got a character composed of the "sun" with a horizontal line under it. That is the sun above the horizon and is the character for "dawn."

The third way is "hui i", which the elements has a semantic connection. Put together the "sun" and the "moon" becomes the character "bright". Two "feet" one above another became the character "walk". "Water" next to "walk" is the character "walking thru water".

The fouth way is "hsing sheng". "Titanium" is an example of this way. Most of the Chinese characters were created this way. Copper was used in China long before there was a written character for it. It's called "touln". So the character was formed by putting "gold" next to "together", which pronounced as "touln".

The fifth way is "chuan chu". Pairs of characters of common element(s), similar pronounciation and similar in meaning. I'm not too sure about this way so maybe I will come up with some examples later.

The sixth way is "chia cheh". Characters are borrowed from similar pronounciation. It's similar to "hsing sheng" but instead of forming a new word by using the element(s), "chia cheh" uses the word directly. "Tall horses" (pronounced as "keul") was borrowed and become "proud". Now this character has two meanings.

The characters evolved and we don't draw circles anymore. The sun is now written as a rectangle and the dot inside the circle became a horizontal line.
I personally think Chinese characters are beautiful as when you write them using a brush they almost look like images. They have the meaning more than the way they are written but also the way they looked.
Imran   Tuesday, April 29, 2003, 19:01 GMT
I reckon that English is the easiest lingo to learn and speak.Although it's not my first language,I'm crazy about it.The best thing about it is that apart from people, it has no genders.If you were to learn and speak other languages like URDU and HINDI spoken in Pakistan and India, you would make a fool of yourself as you'd be very careful about the genders.As we're the native speakers,we don't have problems, but we can't teach it well to others.
Antonio   Wednesday, April 30, 2003, 12:45 GMT
genders in Latin, Sanskrit (Hurdu, Hindi...) and Greek are a mess. You must memorise them.
The English gender system is a gift!

Look at German! I can speak german if I can get the genders right!
cmhiv   Wednesday, April 30, 2003, 16:33 GMT
I tend to always say "die" for all gender and number when I spek German. I also always use "en" instead of the correct gender. However, there are sometimes when I use the correct gender; es Haus, es Buch.
Adam   Tuesday, May 06, 2003, 20:36 GMT
English has no gender but it is still one of the harder languages to learn. The reasons being is that it is so irregular and there are lots of words that are spelt the same way but mean different things.
MunchkinLad   Wednesday, May 07, 2003, 18:06 GMT
Yes, I think 'spelt' is a grain...

If you want to learn a regular, standardised language, isn't Esperanto the obvious choice? It was designed (almost) from scratch with those ideas in mind!
MunchkinLad   Wednesday, May 07, 2003, 18:08 GMT
How many native English speakers on this forum can speak other languages fluently? I'm a bit fed up because I've been learning two languages at school for the last few years but we've focused mainly on literature and basically what they teach is how to write the exam, not how to speak the language.

What sort of techniques can you use to learn another language properly? Could you just adapt the English learning techniques given on this page? I've never really thought of using something like an Afrikaans-Afrikaans dictionary before...