General Language Issues

Damian   Friday, May 28, 2004, 14:29 GMT
Speaking for myself now, I think this is the most interesting forum on the net and I love the various threads. It's amazing how something new crops up every day relating to the English language and how it compares with other languages. The whole subject fascinates me. I have opened this "General" thread because I can't link it to any specific topic, but I would particulary like to say how really nice it would be if there was a chat room on this site where we could all discuss the various issues spontaneously.

I have only recently come into this forum and already I regard a lot of the people in here as familar friends. That is so coooooooool! Cheers!
Paul M   Tuesday, June 01, 2004, 01:21 GMT
Hi Damian, do you mind me asking which country you are from?
Yeah, I agree, I find this site very helpful in many ways. Kudos to those who made it..
BTW, if I have to be a little picky, I woldn't mind if the forum uses a better program than the current one.. you know the ones where you have to register and so on?
Damian   Tuesday, June 01, 2004, 09:57 GMT
Hi Paul M:
I enjoy your posts. I am from Scotland but currently at university in England, in the middle of my final exams. Where are you then? From your message timings I would say definitely not in western Europe?

This is a compulsive site and I love it...language and how to speak it is a passion for me..I get in here for brief moments when I can and perhaps post a quick reply message.

I would not mind a change in format either, even if you have to register. Then it would be like a family in here and even better if we can have a spontaneous chat room to discuss all topics, etc.

Cheers Paul, and take care. PS: Do tell me where you are located! :-)
John H   Tuesday, June 01, 2004, 20:41 GMT
Hello all,

I've just discovered this forum, and like Damian, I find the subject fascinating too.

I would like to put a disclaimer on the follow post however....................... I am only speaking of my own experience and of my family, friends, work colleagues and other people I have had dealings with. I realise there are a lot of British citizens who are fluent in other languages, its just that I don't know any of them!

All the people I know have a sort of awed wonder at the ability of continental Europeans to speak several languages fluently.

At work, we have had several European visits and, privately, all of us British have readily agreed we were embarrassed by their easy use of English and our inability to respond in any of their own native tongues.

I've seen this British lack of fluency in other languages described as arrogance on some of the threads, and it is probably true in some cases, but I think it must be more complex than this.

We have recently had an internal survey where I work, regarding what languages people knew, what benefits would language tuition be to the organisation, what languages would most benefit the organisation. That sort of thing.

The results showed skills, especially fluency, in non-English languages was very low but everyone thought it would be of great benefit to learn another language, both to the firm and for personal development . The firm offered to foot the cost of evening classes for any staff who wanted to study another language, yet no-one I work with took the offer up!

I would like to turn the question around. Instead of "Why do the English only speak English?", I would like to ask "Why do non English people learn to speak other languages so readily?". Then maybe we British, or at least the British people I know, can find out where we are going wrong.
Paul M   Wednesday, June 02, 2004, 12:00 GMT
Hey Damian.
I am currently living in Australia.
No Aussie accent though..

Why do I learn English?
because.. I have to.

I don't find learning a language that challenging or inspiring..just.. frustrating and overwhelming to be honest.

Learning a language for the sake of 'have-to" is like trying to break free from a curse that's been put on you.
You were fine with your life, then one day, suddenly you are aware of your inability to communicate freely.It's like you've become a deaf..mentally.

I find it amazing that some people just.. get it.
No work or study. They just seemlessly able to grasp the concept. Me, I'm no one of them. I struggle and struggle.. first just to free myself from what I've learnt previously..

Funny, I can understand what they say in TV most of the time but yet I can't seem to be able to utter anything other than the simplist form of English. And they are not perfect either..

In my mother tongue, a sentence goes like -> Subject+Objects+Verb.
And this difference in grammatical word order completely destroys the meaing of every single word.. believe it or not.
The way of expressions are different.. and cultures are different.
C'mon, even the way of thinking is different.
I'm not sure if I'll ever be fluent in English, well.. I'll need a lot of help that's for sure.

I apoligise for my rant.. I just thought you guys are sort of person who'd understand the pain I'm going through. ;)

Well, yeah, I have no choice but to do my worst to be able to speak again.

I wish you guys the best of luck..
Might Mick   Wednesday, June 02, 2004, 13:07 GMT
Paul M wrote "In my mother tongue, a sentence goes like -> Subject+Objects+Verb."

Wow, what is your mother tongue Paul M?
Damian   Wednesday, June 02, 2004, 20:55 GMT
Paul M: hey, it's great to be able to help you...we will try and do best we can...but Paul, you seem to be making it all a bit heavy going, mate! Learning a language is supposed to be fun but you talk of being "in pain" "struggle,,struggle"...that's all negative thinking.....lighten up, Paul, mate! :-) You said in your post that you're learning English because "you have to." Does that mean you don't really want to learn it? Overwhelming? Frustrating? Geez! So negativo, yeah?

You're in Australia! That's English speaking country so just go and mix with the Aussies, a real friendly lot of people. Don't worry about grammar, and syntax, and clauses, parts of speech and all that text book crap....go out and learn by hearing and copying and making mistakes and adjusting automatically and have some bloody good fun while you're at it.

Paul...just read your last post back and count all the negative and defeatist sentiments there are there! Oh God, I am nasty, aren't? Sorry...just trying to HELP you! Cheers now! :-)
Damian   Wednesday, June 02, 2004, 20:59 GMT
PS: I repeat Mick's question, Paul. Just what is your native tongue?
Dulcinea del Toboso   Friday, June 04, 2004, 01:13 GMT
{Subject, Object, Verb} word order -- are you Japanese?

There are several reasons why English speakers tend to speak only English.

One easy reason, at least for the U.S., is that until the last 25 years or so, there just weren't that many non-English speaking people that the average American would encounter in daily life, plus the fact that most Americans would have to travel many hundreds, if not thousands, of miles before reaching a non-English speaking country. That's very different from the situation in Europe, where so many languages and different people are within a few hundred miles of each other and inter-nation travel is common.

Another reason can be found in a very good book by Abram De Swaan called "Words of the World". Actually, a better title would have been "Languages in Competition", because that is really what the book is about. Mr. De Swaan is a linguist and also consulted with the European Union on language issues.

Basically, De Swaan categorizes languages into several hierarchies and assigns a communication value to a language. The value depends on the number of people who speak it as a native language and the number of people who speak it as a second language. The highest ranking languages are "super languages" and it always benefits someone to learn a language higher up in ranking than to learn another language at the same level as one's own (De Swaan is something of an economist when it comes to his treatment and analysis of languages, so, by "benefit" he is ignoring the situation where one learns an obscure "lesser" language simply for the pleasure of doing so). As an example, a Xhosa speaker would benefit more by learning Afrikaans than by learning another Bantu language. Going up one level again, an Afrikaans speaker would benefit more by learning German or French than by learning Swahili. The point of all this is that the language at the very top of the pyramid is, no surprise, English. It is to everyone's benefit to learn English, because English has such a high value (in the book, De Swaan provides detailed methods for calculating the value of a language). However, for native English speakers, learning a new language doesn't provide as much benefit as the non-English speaker gets when he learns English, so the incentive isn't as great.
Might Mick   Friday, June 04, 2004, 06:26 GMT
With the strong, steady flow of immigration to America (especially up until 25 years ago but continuing today) I would have thought there have always been plenty of non-English speakers to go around.

The American accent is a tribute to the States being one of the biggest multicultural oases to the rest of the world. How else can you explain why its accent is so far removed from any other English speaking accent? I hear many different foreign accents that comprise the American accent and not just the British ones, but overall it's unique. Also the spectrum of American accents and diversity is so vast.

The last poster is right on all the other points, where there is no necessity there's no desire. Unless it's for pleasure (something that time and wealth can afford) there's no obvious incentive or immediate benefit for an English speaker to bust his hump over other languages.
Paul M   Friday, June 04, 2004, 06:48 GMT
I'm a Korean. But not all of us are as de pressing as I am, so please don't judge them by me condition. :)

wow.. how do you know so much about language in general Dulcinea, very impressive.

Thanks for the encouragement...
I suppose, Damian, I 'm tired of studying. :) That's all..
If you are learning a new language, you long for the day to be able to speak it with natives one day. That gives you a hope.
But if you've been studying for years and still doing it just to stop embarrassing yourself around the natives, that's..frustration.
man I'm starting my rant again.. ^^
Damian   Friday, June 04, 2004, 10:31 GMT
Paul: rant as much as you like now I know more about you....I am very happy to encourage and help you if I am able to.

While I am in this thread, how do people in this forum put the year 2004 into words? Most people say "two thousand and four". (5 syllables) I prefer to say "twenty-O-four" (just4 syllables). Why put more effort in than you need to? Some people even say "two thousand and twenty six" (7 syllables) for example, instead of "twenty twenty six" (5 syllables).

If I told people that I was born in "one thousand nine hundred and eighty two" they would think I was a bit weird. What's the difference then? Hey, maybe I'm too logical and clinical or something.
Dulcinea del Toboso   Friday, June 04, 2004, 17:56 GMT
Paul: I think you are doing extremely well in English. Damian gave you excellent advice: just go out and mix with Aussies, learn by hearing and copying, and also learn by making mistakes. And have fun! That is good advice.

Damian: I say "two thousand four"
Damian   Saturday, June 05, 2004, 15:36 GMT

The Germans drink more beer than the British and the Americans but they are less likely to have heart attacks than the British and the Americans.

The French drink much more red wine than the British and the Americans but they are less likely to have heart attacks than the British and the Americans.

The Italians eat more ice cream than the British and the Americans but they are less likely to have heart attacks than the British and the Americans.

So.......speaking ENGLISH increases your chances of having a heart attack!

Parlez vous francais? Sprechen sie Deutsch? Parla Italiano?
Emmanuel   Saturday, June 05, 2004, 16:25 GMT
La soupe is in female gender but the soup looks male gender or something without it. Does this give a heart attack by a language? Who cares, right?