Learning some similar languages

Joe   Saturday, November 27, 2004, 18:56 GMT
Hoi Hilma!

Dank je wel! I did find one informative link on that site, http://www.studyin.nl/ Study in the Netherlands. I'd actually like to study abroad in the Netherlands, if I can get the opportunity.

Kopspijkers is fantastic. I love the cabaret. It's fantastic that you can watch them all online, I love that.

Tot Ziens!

Heidi   Sunday, November 28, 2004, 16:32 GMT
I have always thought that learning more than one language at a time must be too difficult for obvious reasons. However, I live in Luxembourg (a very very multilingual country), and I can tell you that the children here learn multiple languages at the same time. They are up to three or four languages before they are even ten years old. In fact in the high school students might have history class in the French language, Mathematics in German, Science in English...
Seems like it would get too confusing, but I guess that English speakers put too many limitations on themselves!!
Joe   Sunday, November 28, 2004, 21:26 GMT
I think we do naturally put too many limitations on ourselves. In the United States especially.

Above all I think it's because so many Americans can't quite comprehend how a foreign language would be useful. When everyone in your country speaks or is expected to speak English (well sans Spanish speakers; it's actually great because the Spanish language is very accessible if you're learning it) and so many people the world over learn English, Americans become complacent. It's like everyone is making the effort to communicate with us, so if they can communicate with us in English why bother learning anything else?

But only a small percentage of the world speaks English, and a much smaller number well enough to communicate on an advanced level. One of my Dutch friends is pretty much fluent in English, yet just the other day we were having a complicated conversation and she admitted that it was way too difficult for her to word in English. If I spoke Dutch I would have been able to hear her opinions.

Anyway I think that we put in our heads that you need to be a genius to communicate in more than one language. But like you pointed out, it's a fact that in countries like Luxembourg and the Netherlands and even India and South Africa, most of the population grows up speaking two or more languages fluently.

It's all a matter of your outlook and your dedication, really. But I think that in the United States we really have to place a much higher emphasis on foreign language education from elementary school.
Easterner   Monday, November 29, 2004, 11:20 GMT
Joe said: >>Anyway I think that we put in our heads that you need to be a genius to communicate in more than one language. But like you pointed out, it's a fact that in countries like Luxembourg and the Netherlands and even India and South Africa, most of the population grows up speaking two or more languages fluently.<<

Quite true. I think multilingualism is normal in most parts of the world outside Europe, the US and Australia (with the US, I mean the regions where English prevails, certainly not the Hispanic population in the South). It is also quite normal for me, because I grew up bilingual (well, sort of, we were not bilingual in the family, just in the neighbourhood), started learning english at eight and French and German at high school. But this is not typical in Hungary or in Eastern Europe in general, even if it is a requirement to have a state certificate of a language exam for two languages at graduation. But passing an exam and speaking a language are two different things, we all know that. :-) The real problem is that most people do not have enough input to learn the language, and I sense that bad, unmotivating teaching methods are at play here, too. You have to realise the fun and use of learning a language before you get the drive to learn one or more of them.
Easterner   Monday, November 29, 2004, 11:32 GMT
English, sorry
Stéphane   Monday, November 29, 2004, 12:17 GMT
As a french person, i had much more difficulties to learn spanish instead of italain which was very easy (for a french as i said).
Tiffany   Monday, November 29, 2004, 18:59 GMT
I'm very interested in the links you have dug up because the trouble between learning Italian and Spanish happened exactly that way for me. I took Spanish for about ten years, starting at age 8. You'll understand why it is such a necessity, as I grew up in Miami. I was good enough in Spanish to hold a basic conversation though I'd still consider my Spanish pitiful.

However, two years ago I met my fiance who is Italian and I began to learn Italian so I could speak to his family (still living in Italy).

My Italian has replaced and advanced beyond all my Spanish that I have literally now think and translate from Italian when I want to say a sentence in Spanish. It's very frustrating. The only words I do remember are the ones that are different in the two languages like "to speak", "hablar" in spanish and "parlare" in italian and simple stuff like "breakfast", "colazione" in italian and "desayuno" in Spanish.

I'm not sure this would have happened if I kept learning both at the same time, but they are very similar.

By the way, can someone who speaks espanol clarify that "gordo" does indeed mean "fat"? My relatives recently went to "Punto Gordo". We all know punto must mean "point" - same in Italian, but my father swears "gordo" means "fat" and all I can think of to mean fat is "grasso" - of course in Italian.
Jordi   Monday, November 29, 2004, 19:05 GMT
Gordo (feminine "gorda") does mean fat. I live in Spain. "Grasa", in Spanish, refers to "grease".
Toasté   Monday, November 29, 2004, 20:09 GMT
When we use the term Inuit, we are generally not referring to the Inuit language group but to Inuit ethnicity.

The Inuit language is now usually referred to as Inuktitut.

The term 'Inuit' is a self-selected word that Arctic aboriginal peoples have requested be used to describe their ethnicity. They see the term Eskimo (or Esquimaux) as pejorative.

The Inuit also use a special alphabet to write their language. When you see Inuit documents you know what it must feel like to be illiterate... to people unfamiliar with the language it looks completely alien.

For anyone who is interested, here is a good site on Canadian Inuit people.


(it includes an Inuit alphabet)
Brennus   Monday, November 29, 2004, 22:05 GMT
Jordi, I agree with your assesment of the name "Occitan".
Brennus   Monday, November 29, 2004, 22:15 GMT

I discussed Italian and Spanish briefly with a man I met from Naples once (back in 1978). He said that about 50% of the vocabulary of Spanish and Italian were the same or virtually the same. That is my impression of them too. In many respects, Spanish is closer to Italian than any of the other Romance languages. This is probably due to the fact that Spain was a very Romanized province in the Roman Empire. However, more of the native influence remained elsewhere including Lusitania (Portugal) . Portuguese like French appears to have a non-Latin substratum of some kind in it , possibly Celtic. In the tiny Bilbao area people still speak Basque, the oldest of the pre-Roman languages of Spain.
Joe   Monday, November 29, 2004, 22:41 GMT
Yes, gordo/gorda is fat. I believe you're talking about the Floridian city of Punta Gorda? That's about three hours from where I live, I've never personally been there. It recently got hit hard of course by Hurricane Charley.

Easterner, I completely agree with you when you say "The real problem is that most people do not have enough input to learn the language, and I sense that bad, unmotivating teaching methods are at play here, too. You have to realise the fun and use of learning a language before you get the drive to learn one or more of them."

I took Spanish in high school for three years. After three years, I can hardly say anything. I can understand bits and pieces, but I would say that it's the point where when I do start teaching myself Spanish in the future, I'll reach that stage again within 3-4 months. The American HS system for language teaching is pitiful. Actually, it seems like it's a problem in other nations as well. It is, of course, a subjective thing, as some teachers are just fantastic. Our German teacher was one of the best in the nation, but of course, I didn't take German. Figures. lol

Because of the experience many people have with the high school language classes, they think that learning a language will take forever and is just not possible. I know far more in the 5 going on 6 months I've been learning German (and that includes a good month and a half of just reviewing while I started the college semester and didn't get new material) than I learned in three years of high school Spanish. I would be comfortable going right now to Germany and speaking German. While I don't know a ton, I would be able to communicate and get around. I can't say the same for my Spanish. In fact, when people ask what languages I know I don't even feel I should say Spanish at the moment. I plan to start over from scratch with Spanish later.

Portuguese and French do share elements that aren't found in other Romance languages, and the first thing that comes to my mind is the cedilla.
Brennus   Monday, November 29, 2004, 22:57 GMT

Dear Joe,

One isogloss that French and Portuguese share is rue and rua "street" from a Vulgar Latin word *arrugia possibly of Gaulish (Celtic) origin. On the other hand, Spanish has calle and Italian strata. Some Portuguese words are more like Sicilian words. For example, the Portuguese pronounce carne "meat" the same way as the Sicilians (kar-nee) but Spaniards and Italians say "karn-ay". Some historical linguists believe that even in ancient times the Lusitanians (i.e. Portuguese) were seafarers and that they had trading contacts with Nantes, Bordeaux and Sicily that their landlubbing neighbors in Spain did not have.
Tiffany   Monday, November 29, 2004, 23:23 GMT
That's really interesting Brennus. One mistake I'd like to correct, in Italian it's "strada" not "strata" for "street" :) What is your nationality, Brennus?

I don't remember where I read it on this forum (something about words dying out in languages) but they said that the Spanish used to use the word "hiniestra" for window instead of the "ventana" they use now. It's so interesting because in Italian "finestra" is "window" and "hiniestra" is obviously very close. I always wonder what influenced the changes that we see today between related languages.
Joe   Tuesday, November 30, 2004, 01:04 GMT
Of my Italian ancestry, I'm part Sicilian. Sicily was controlled over the centuries by so many different cultures, from the Greeks to Romans to the Spanish and Arabs, so it has quite a distinct culture from that of mainland Italy. Southern Italy in general is quite distinct from the north.

I didn't know until recently that there was a separate Sicilian language, but there are many differences between it and standard Italian. In fact, I learned that modern Italian is based off the Tuscan dialect, and prior to the adaption of one language each region spoke its own. They continue to do so, but everyone speaks standard Italian. Of course, it's like this almost everywhere in Europe where you have so many dialects.