Stu Jay Raj
There's no denying this is amazing - he's fluent at such a high level in so many languages.
He says that the best way to increase language learning performance is to think in colours and shapes, and not in words - that way, it's easier to put your words into any language.
Which languages does he speak perfectly, without a trace of an accent? English, obviously - I'm guessing his Thai is perfect - what about his Hindi?
This guys been proven to be a fraud. On a Chilean TV show he was shown to not even understand the most basic questions in several languages including Russian and Farsi. That's not to say he isn't gifted and probably speaks quite a lot of languages fluently, but his ridiculously overblown claims of 30 languages or something is a farse.
I didn't know that SJR had been on Chilean TV. ZF was, but his claim was even greater.
Ah yes, you're right. Sorry Stu Jay Raj, I got you mixed up with another dude, a guy named Ziad Farah.
It's too bad that Stu Jay Raj doesn't appear to post here. His background in Southeast Asian and tonal languages could bring a breath of fresh air to Antimoon.
Perhaps we should hatch some kind of plan to lure him here some way!!
Nice thought, but I imagine he's too busy.
I don't know how many languages he speaks "perfectly", but he listed Mandarin and Danish as languages that he speaks. He listed Thai as one of his more proficient languages (in a video).
There are a couple of things that set him apart from some of the internet polyglots. He takes criticism very well and I'll bet his ear is more than decent. He is THINKING, not brooding or bragging about his languages.
He doesn't sound like a gladiator robot slashing his way through each language. Even in the languages he is simply learning, I can tell that he knows a bit about how the language should "sing" when spoken.
Hi guys... just found this thread here.
I don't think that I ever set out to learn as many languages as I could. It was just something that came as a by-product from the way my grandfather brought me up.
As for 'fluency'... it varies in all of them (and actually has gone up and down for some!). Some languages that I used to use a lot earlier on have gone by the wayside now... but they're still in there. It wouldn't take much to revive them again. In my profile on my blog (http://stujay.blogspot.com), I have done a rough guide as to where each language stands. This was done a year or so ago.. some have changed since then.
I really respect people like Ziad Fazah. I don't think that he ever set out to compete with someone to learn as many languages as he could. He probably just got a buzz out of learning / being able to communicate with other people in their own languages. That's what does it for me ... and also the fun of the 'decoding' element in learning how new languages work and are interrelated.
Are you really Stu Jay Raj? If so, welcome. I'm interested in how you teach tonal languages.
How do you teach tonal languages? It depends on the person.
For people who don't come from tonal language backgrounds, they might seem a little mysterious. For those people, I try and take the mystery away from the concept of tones. Tones are just throat positions... and we have similar sounds to most tones in tonal languages in English.
For some people, it helps to see them graphed, for others, mnemonics work well. In my Thai classes, I use emotion as well - tell a story about Dennis the Menace sneaking into the bathroom - he turns all the taps (faucets) on, sprays water all over the place, uses his mum's make up to draw graffiti murals on the mirror, shampoos the cat and just as he's brushing the dog's teeth with his mum's toothbrush, his mum walks in. Imagine her emotion... she lets out an increasingly angry..
why (high tone) why? (rising tone) WHY!!!? (falling tone)
Dennis then looks up at her sullenly an says 'Yeah' (common tone) 'Yeah' (low tone)
This way, the tones are locked into 2 different categories - dynamic and static, as well as locked into emotions. To recall the emotion of the story helps reproduce the tones in the beginning stages when people are still trying to recall them.
In the end though, if you're living with the language until it really starts to become a part of you, you end up producing them by second nature. They're just part of the rhythm of the language. I can tell you for most Thais, it would take a lot of brain power to sit back and analyse what tones are being used for each word. Chinese nowadays get a better education about Chinese grammar and linguistics, but they too don't analyse the tones as they use them. They just 'sound right'.
Thank-you for your interesting post. I don't expect you to post here regularly, but it was nice that you dropped by. We don't get much discussion here about tonal languages.
A few years ago I decided to listen to a speaker of Mandarin to see if he used consistent intervals with his speaking tones. I did see some consistent intervals, but I haven't followed up on that to see if this is consistent with a larger sample of speakers with different voice ranges.
As far as Asian tonal languages, I've looked at Thai, Mandarin, and Vietnamese. When I worked in a hospital with a more diverse patient population (refugees from Southeast Asia), I learned a little bit of Lao and other languages in order to have some minimal communication.
I've only studied these languages on my own, though and I am not a linguist.
I like the fact that you seem to use a variety of approaches both in teaching and in learning. Getting imput from a variety of sources has helped me a lot.
I think the problem with westerners analysing tonal languages is that they spend too much time looking at the 'pitch'... in my mind, this is just a by-product of what's really happening. Tones are movements of the throat.. the pitch is a result of what's happening with the throat from the beginning to the end of a syllable. Shanghainese tones are really interesting in that the tones will fall into 'sentence tone' patterns regardless of the words individual syllabic tone.
I think if people start to look at working their throat like native speakers of the given language, 'intervals' between tones don't become as important. They too will just become a byproduct of normal speech. It's all muscle memory. The human body will try to find the most economical route around a situation - so once the muscles are set, depending on what words come where in the sentence, the 'tones' or 'throat positions' will affect each other depending on where they appear.
I wonder if "throat positions" is the same as laryngeal position. Anyway, you've given me food for thought and I'll look into this. Thanks!
It's really interesting to see this. I find that whilst learning Mandarin Chinese, eventually it becomes instinctive to know which tone each word has, but I do encounter problems when it comes to lots of third tones, or a third tone then a second tone.
Presumably you know of 大山 (Da Shan) or Mark Rowswell. He's famous for having learnt Chinese to native standard - or even beyond, i.e. his Chinese is perfectly standard, however I got a Chinese friend to listen to him, and although apparently his Chinese is brilliantly native on his shows, when he was being interviewed, and actually having to form the sentences on the spur of the moment, although his Chinese was still exemplary, it was less so, and possible to detect as not quite native. What do you make of this?
Is a faucet another word for a tap? I've never heard it in my life!