English is a Problem?

Clark   Sunday, August 31, 2003, 09:32 GMT
There is so much talk about how English is the language that is pushing out and killing so many languages in the world, but I ask this: if this is so, why are there so many people in places like the United States who never speak English well, and their children do not speak the language well either?

Also, people say that English is eroding other languages by means of Globalisation; but when you experience the people from other countries that do not speak English, you [might] find that very few people actually speak English well.

I have a friend from Germany who has been to America several times, and who has taken Engish her whole life in Germany but still does not speak English well at all, to the point where communication really becomes a problem.

Some of these things that I have said in this e-mail are not my true feelings, and some are. I am just trying to get people talking about how the English language might not be the "bad guy" some people make it out to be.
ghelp   Sunday, August 31, 2003, 22:26 GMT
english is intruding into the french language, the german, russian, italian, norwegian, and any other language.

i wonder if there are manylanguages that have not been intruded with english language ?
Clark   Sunday, August 31, 2003, 22:52 GMT
Here is a link to an amusing site about taking the French influence out of the English language:

Ben   Monday, September 01, 2003, 08:11 GMT
This is all rubbish! Of course English is going to 'intrude' into other languages, it is simple evolution. Every language on earth has evolved by being influenced by those around it. English itself, for example, is heavily influenced by French - this 'intrusion' occurred in 1066, so nobody makes a fuss about it.

It's a complete misinterpretation to see English 'pushing out and killing' other languages - I don't deny that it may affect them in some way, but that's perfectly natural, and has been happening for thousands of years.

While the French get upset that English is 'polluting' their language, they do tend to overlook the fact that French itself has 'polluted' Flemmish, Provencale, Basque and a great many other languages in exactly the same way. That's life, I'm afraid.
Cly   Monday, September 01, 2003, 14:18 GMT
Eh, also : french kiss --> freedom kiss or american kiss !
deaptor   Monday, September 01, 2003, 20:25 GMT
Hello Clark,
In 2003, the total number of languages in the world was estimated to be 6,809. 46 of them has only one speaker. So, I guess some of them can disappear pretty soon. Is it English one to blame? I don't think so. I believe it is quite natural process that is going on for thousands years, so there is no point to blame English for that.
Of course, English (as any dominant language in the past) influences on other languages but usually this influence is not going any further than other languages is borrowing some English words. I don't see anything wrong with that. Of course, there are some people who like to struggle for "pristine" their mother tongue from foreign influence. Their major concern is that a borrowing foreign word can replace an existing word in the language. Though it seems it rarely happens; most of borrowing words are used to describe new things and phenomenons, so they don't replace existing words. Sometimes, it was possible to add a new meaning to an existed word instead of borrowing one, but it is arguable what is better. Besides many borrowed words can change significally in the process of their addaptation, so there is no much foreign influence here.

> why are there so many people in places like the United States who never speak
> English well, and their children do not speak the language well either?
Learning a second language is not easy, perhaps not everyone can speak English well if he or she started leaning it as adult, but if their children don't speak English well, then it should be another explanation -- they came to the US because of higher living standard and they don't care much about the country they live in now.

> you [might] find that very few people actually speak English well.
It depends on the country in question, but in such countries like Russia, all needs for knowledge of English for most people is limited to reading English text with dictionary.
Actually the main source of English texts here, in Russia, is the Internet, and only about two percents of Russian have access to the Internet. If you want to buy some English book on the subject of your interest, the only real option is Amazon or similar book seller site. Some of the book that I was interesting in costed from 25 to 50 dollars, plus delivery, and plus import duty, while the same books translated to Russian sell for less than 5 dollars in Moscow.
Now tell me how do you expect to see many Russians speaking English fluently.

> I have a friend from Germany who has been to America several times, [...]
Maybe your friend chose a wrong approach to learning English. I mean there is no single method that fits everyone. Perhaps she also has a psychological barrier.
Clark   Monday, September 01, 2003, 22:26 GMT
Deaptor, I have never looked at the argument of loanwords like you have pointed out. However, I am sure that if you look into this further, you will find languages that have borrowed words that replace existing words (eg. the Germans [younger generation] do not use the German word for sorry; they say "sorry" themselves).

I was recently having a discussion with my mother's husband about globalisation, and he thinks that very soon, perhaps within this century, that many languages will disappear. I have no argument about that, but he said the languages like French, German, Russian, Italian, Spanish are the ones that are going to die. Part of the reason he said this is because I apposedhim and I had guests, and he was trying to make me look stupid, but my whole point of saying this is that I do not believe the ENglish language is a problem. Like I told my mother's husband, the other languages and more importantly, the people who speak them, are not going to lose their native languages because of English.

If you think about it, to lose one's native language, everyone would have to stop speaking it. Or, the language would have to become inundated with foreign words to the point where it just looked like a dialect of the dominant language. If you take French for an example, my other's husband thinks that by 2100, this language will be gone (he probably does not think this, but just tried to get a rise out of me). What I told him, and what I tell you is that a whole nation would have to surrender their language. Can you imagine any nation giving up their language? This is absurd(sp)!!!

Anyways, that is what I think about that. Like I said in my first post, those ideas might not necessarily(sp) be mine; but some could be.
Ryan   Tuesday, September 02, 2003, 00:04 GMT
As long as people keep teaching their children to speak their native language, languages won't die. If I were another nationality and my mother and father had spoken in, say, Welsh, for 18 years, I doubt that I'd forget the language even if I preferred to speak in English to people, and then it would be up to me to speak Welsh to my children as well. Of course, there are always success-driven people who would rather learn the languages with the most prestige (like English) and forget about their culture and history. I dislike people like this as I think one's heritage is a very important part of one's identity.

Government's that set up schools with certain languages of instruction also help to keep languages alive. It's up to people to elect officials who support the teaching of alternate "heritage" languages.

wingyellow   Tuesday, September 02, 2003, 00:21 GMT
A hell lot of time, money and man power are spent on translation. And a hell lot of time, money again are spent on learning the then dominant language. If there were only one language, everthing could be more efficient. In fact, the diversity of languages is to make human less efficient as said in the Bible.

Most Indian speak English. Will you think that they are less Indian? No. They speak English but they keep their culture. However, if you really want to have a single language spoken by all people, it takes some wars and a lot of blood.

On the other hand, translation is a good method to alter the original meaning, either accidentally or on purpose.
Clark   Tuesday, September 02, 2003, 02:12 GMT
Yeah, my great aunt's father (my great granddad) was half Danish. His mother's parents were both from Denmark, and they taught their children Danish, but their grandchildren did not speak a word of Danish.

But this is so different then a nation not speaking the heritage language. Could you imagine any European, or any nation in the world for that matter, waking up one day and deciding to speak a different language?
Joaquin   Tuesday, September 02, 2003, 05:28 GMT
In the Philippines, we don't know what our heritage language is anymore. For nearly 400 years, we were speaking Spanish, writing novels, epics, poems, and our history in Spanish, and conducting our lives in the Spanish tradition. Though, in our homes we were still speaking the Malay languages of our respective regions (and continue to do so).

Then the Americans stepped in, and after lots of bloodshed and US victory, they set up public schools where English was the language of instruction and all subjects taught were US-centric. In less than 40 years, a new generation emerged speaking English and craving all things American. This new generation could no longer read the literature and historical texts of their ancestors and everything that our grandparents had fought for was forgotten.

Today, with both colonial powers gone, Spanish is no longer an official language and English, even though it remains an official language, has lost its prominence in society. Tagalog is now the language of instruction in the public schools, even though it is not the native language of many Filipinos, while English is the language of instruction in private schools. This has led to a dual society where only the wealthy people who can afford a private school education speak English fluently and get the better, high-paying jobs, while the poorer public school-educated Filipinos aren't as proficient in English and often end up in unskilled labor.

Now President Arroyo is calling for the return of English as the primary medium of instruction in all schools. This has led to further schisms among the Filipinos: those who support English and say it is part of our heritage, nationalists who want to preserve Tagalog as the de facto language, and nostalgists who want Spanish to be reinstated as an official language. No wonder we're all so screwed up!
Juan   Tuesday, September 02, 2003, 05:41 GMT
Yes, that's a very interesting situation. I never knew Spanish was spoken in the Phillipines.

"Tagalog is now the language of instruction in the public schools, even though it is not the native language of many Filipinos"

What was the official language before the Spanish arrived? What isn't Tagalog? Is the Phillipines similar to Indonesia where they have hundreds of languages spoken?
Joaquin   Tuesday, September 02, 2003, 23:02 GMT
To Juan,

Spanish was spoken by the clergy, the hacienda owners, and the "illustrados," the wealthy middle class comprised mostly of Filipino-Spanish mestizos and Filipino-Chinese mestizos. The rest of the population (the "indios") spoke either one of the hundreds of native languages, Creole Spanish, or in the southern islands, Arabic.

There was no official language prior to the Spaniards' arrival since there was no unified nation called the Philippines. The native people were spread out over thousands of islands and divided into many rival tribes that spoke a Malayo-Polynesian language different and unintelligible from one tribe to the next.

When the Spaniards claimed the islands for Spain, they established the capital city of Manila in Tagalog territory. This is how the Tagalog language came to dominate the Philippines, even though at the time of independence, the Tagalogs were the minority people (the Cebuanos were more numerous). To this day, there are still many non-Tagalogs who resent Tagalog's official status and resist the language of the "imperialist" capital city.
Juan   Tuesday, September 02, 2003, 23:32 GMT
I have to admit that the history of the Philippines is very interesting. I might start doing a bit of reading on it.
deaptor   Wednesday, September 03, 2003, 07:49 GMT
Clark, every young generation is trying to invent some new words instead of standard ones. Borrowing words from another language is just one way of such invention. Most of these words don't survive. Those that succeed in their way to replace standard words should either represent changes in culture of the society (these words have a bit different connotation) or when the old word was somewhat ugly. The etymology of the word - whether it was borrowed or new invented -- does not play significant role here.

I must admit that all I said above, I wrote from Russian point of view, and there is a big difference between English in Russian and English in German. I don't know whether it's possible to demonstrate this difference better than this:
English page of the Russian government: http://www.gov.ru/main/page8.html
English page of the German government: http://eng.bundesregierung.de/frameset/index.jsp

So English influence is really small compare to what was the influence of French in the 18 and 19 centures. In those days, the French language was a language of nobility, and some Russian noblemen don't speak Russian at all. Nevertheless, the Russian language have not disappeared, on contrary, we can see many great Russian writers and poets who lived in those time.