Nations Reluctantly speak English

mike   Wed Sep 06, 2006 9:48 am GMT
I mean

in the real world

whether I like it or not...
Ben   Wed Sep 06, 2006 10:49 am GMT
Yes, Mike. We all know that. It is nothing new. So are you trying to make a point or are you just rehashing some hackneyed anecdote which has been repeated ad nauseam?

As for monolinggual being a usual state of life, I'd respectfully beg to disagree. I do not know anyone at all from my part of the world that only speaks a single language.

Of course, Benjamin brings up a very good point when he questions the linguistic abilities of polyglotic communities. In many cases, the language ability would leave much to be desired especially when the community has to juggle languages of different linguistic backgrounds e.g. English/Chinese. In the case of Mauritius, a former British colony, the official languages are English and French. However, French is the language of the media, English reigns supreme in schools while a French-derived creole is often spoken at work and at play.

Almost every Mauritian is hence theoretically trilingual and indeed, many of them are. However, they do not speak English as well as a native speaker nor do they compose their French as eloquently as a native francophone. They feel most at home in creole and this tells us a little about the limits of most human beings when it comes to effectively mastering more than a language.
Benjamin   Wed Sep 06, 2006 5:18 pm GMT
I also think that we should make a distinction between absolute monolingualism, where people know no ability in any language other than their native one, and functional monolingualism, where people may have some knowledge of other languages, but can only really use their native language in most common situations.

It's like functional illiteracy. The official literacy rate in Britain 99% theoretically, only 1% of British adults are incapable of reading and/or writing. However, various studies suggest that one in six British adults are 'functionally illiterate' this means that although they can read and write, they cannot do it well enough to be able to function properly in society.
Tiffany   Wed Sep 06, 2006 5:55 pm GMT
I agree with Benjamin 100% that we should make the distinction between absolute and functional monolingualism. I think most people in the world have knowledge of another language - but it usually is not enough to function properly in it.
Aquatar   Wed Sep 06, 2006 7:25 pm GMT
>>I also think that we should make a distinction between absolute monolingualism, where people know no ability in any language other than their native one, and functional monolingualism, where people may have some knowledge of other languages, but can only really use their native language in most common situations<<

Yes, I agree too. I would say that I am functionally bilingual in that I can only really use English and German. Yet I am quite surprised that when I read posts on here in French and Spanish, I am able to understand quite a lot of the content. Of course a lot of this has to do with the similar vocaulary and the fact that I already have an idea of the theme of the post, but still, it is not as though I were completely clueless about them, even though I doubt I could say much in either language.
Aquatar   Wed Sep 06, 2006 7:31 pm GMT
Benjamin

Was it you who said that you were once able to understand written Dutch without ever having studied it at all?
Joey   Wed Sep 06, 2006 9:56 pm GMT
The real secreat is not to mix your languages.I have been functionally trilingual and knew people that were quads on the other hand I knew people that couldn't even speak one language well rather scraped through it. Mixing there words and thus not speaking one language clearly.

Germanic languages are readable between themselfs but you might only get a very small understanding of the text. It realy depends on the text and which language it is written in.
Germanic languages have a huge amount of sound shifts and this reflects in the written language.
e.g
Dutch/Afrikaans 'g'= 'ch' German but using German phonetics

go(English)=ga((cha)Dutch)=gaan((chaan)Afrikaans)=gein((gein)Germain

I(English)=Ek((Ek)Dutch)=Ek((Ek)Afrikaans)=Ich((Ich)Germain)

In other words the Dutch 'g' is similar to 'ch' in Germain but in a different place while the Germaun 'ch' is normaly written as 'k'.
Benjamin   Wed Sep 06, 2006 10:52 pm GMT
Aquatar,

Was it you who said that you were once able to understand written Dutch without ever having studied it at all?

Yes.

Like you, I would say that I am functionally bilingual in English and French, because despite all the other languages I know bits of, French is the other language besides my native language (English) which I can use actively in all four skill areas speaking, writing, reading, listening.

I have a large passive knowledge of Spanish, especially in the written form, but a much smaller active knowledge of it. Thus, if someone posts something on this forum in Spanish, I can understand it straight away; I can post in Spanish if I want to, but it's slow and awkward.

It's similar for German, although I much better with spoken German than with written German.

I've also studied Afrikaans and Esperanto to some extent; I can pronounce it out-loud, explain grammar rules, translate a number of individual words and recognise many more, but I'm not confident enough in either just yet to be able to use them actively in any situation (never had the opportunity to practice either).

(By the way the reading Dutch thing was long before I ever started learning Afrikaans, in case you were wondering).
Aquatar   Thu Sep 07, 2006 6:54 am GMT
Benjamin

It's funny that you were able to understand Dutch like that. Even now after having studied German I can piece together the Dutch posts on this site far less well than I can the French and Spanish ones. Granted I have studied a bit of French and Spanish, but still I wonder how you were able to do it.

Na ja, wie kommst du mit deinem Deutsch voran?
Joey   Thu Sep 07, 2006 11:16 am GMT
Na ja, wie kommst du mit deinem Deutsch voran?

Nou ja, hou kom jy met jou Duits vooran? (Afrikaans)

I never studied German and can't realy speak it just looked at one of those phrase books. I don't like it when people say they can speak a language but then can't hold a conversation in it.
It's much better to say you have a notion of the language or know a little bit of it.
Like Romance languages you can understand the other written language of other Germanic languages. Even though not as much as Romance languages and you have to use a great deal of imagination.

Benjamin

Waarom het jy Afrikaans geleer?
Maurizio   Thu Sep 07, 2006 12:05 pm GMT
Talkinging about being monolingual or bilingual, I read this article about cows in England that have different accents. I suppose that they can also speak different languages. One cow that is sold to another country would have a foreign moo.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/5277090.stm
LAA   Thu Sep 07, 2006 6:30 pm GMT
<<I agree with Benjamin 100% that we should make the distinction between absolute and functional monolingualism. I think most people in the world have knowledge of another language - but it usually is not enough to function properly in it.>>

Yeah, like Texans who know how to say "amigo", "hola", "salsa", "gracias", and "adios". They're damn good at being bilingual.
Tiffany   Thu Sep 07, 2006 6:41 pm GMT
They are functionally monolingual. Are you trying to say something, LAA? Your point is not clear.
LAA   Thu Sep 07, 2006 6:52 pm GMT
Yeah, but I'm just kidding with you Tiff. Most of them know at least a few words in Spanish, such as the common ones I listed. And they'll know a few phrases like "Mi casa es su casa", but that is the extent of their knowledge of a second language. If this is what you mean by "functional monolingualism", then it's fine I guess. I mean, I could say I know French and German, and even Japanese, because I know a few numbers, words, and phrases. It's just that a lot of people here in Santa Maria, CA actually say that they are bilingual and can speak and understand Spanish. But, I get a knock on the front door on Saturday mornings asking for me to translate for them with the Mexican gardeners. And the Spanish speaking workers get a kick out of those who say, "Si, hablo espanol", in a thick English accent, after they say one simple sentence to them in Spanish, and get a blank stare from those who claimed to speak Spanish.
Tiffany   Thu Sep 07, 2006 7:19 pm GMT
And that's what I mean by functional monolingualism. However, you seem troubled by this definition. Why?