Foreign Languages

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Piotrek81
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Post by Piotrek81 » December 19th, 2011, 1:05 pm

Well, this awesome thread is certainly worthy of being revived :)

I'm a native speaker of Polish. I enjoy learning other languages, although, let's face it: my self-discipline is often way too weak. If it wasn't for that, I bet I would be better (possibly, much better) now at some of the languages I've been learning.

I studied English at a university, and it's thanks to that language that I found LV. One day I felt like reading "Carmilla", so I accessed Wikisources where I found the text file, but then I noticed that a read version is available, too, so I decided to give it a try. That's how my adventure with LV started...

I'm also actively learning Italian and Spanish. While I've been learning the latter for much longer (some 8 or 9 years now), it's the former that I feel more comfortable with.

At various stages of my education I had to learn German and French, but I discontinued them immediately after the teachers started paying attention... German is actually very useful in Poland, being by far the second most-used foreign language, but my recent attempt at resuming the learning ended almost immediately, as I didn't feel motivated enough.
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Post by gefairy » December 27th, 2011, 3:04 am

My native language is Hebrew but after a few years in London my English is as good as, if not better, than my Hebrew.
I know the grammar of German but have no vocabulary whatsoever and am currently in the midst of learning Arabic.

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Post by RuthieG » December 27th, 2011, 4:39 am

Like some other British people, I have an excellent understanding of French and German but absolutely no confidence in speaking them. I live far closer to France and Belgium than I do to London, but as I virtually never cross the Channel, the only opportunities I have of speaking are helping visitors, and that simply is not regular enough to improve my confidence. I did once do a town history talk in French to a visiting town-twinning party, and found the whole thing terrifying. I didn't try again.

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Post by NinaBrown » December 29th, 2011, 5:16 pm

Quote: I was just curious to know who is multi-lingual here on Librivox, and what we all speak. So, what is your native tongue, and what other languages do know? Do you know only a few words of one language; are you fluent in another?

This quote is from the original message that started this thread. I brought it here because reading comes before speaking, and one can read in a foreign language, but not necessarily speak (like in having a snappy conversation). Many people who posted in this thread feel that perhaps they should make better effort at learning a language. But ask yourself first - why do I want to learn it? Is it to travel? To speak with others? Is it to read? Is it to listen? To write? To translate? The purpose will shape your learning and you may find that you are doing just enough for what you need.

I was born in Poland, in times when Russian language was compulsory in all schools. Learning started in grade 5 - that's about 11-12 years of age. Russian went all the way to the university, no matter what was studied. In high school there was a choice of a 'western' language, French, English or German. I fought all my family to be sent to a school with French language. I hated the sound of German, it seemed so harsh, and the sound of English which I found most unladylike. Unlike many Poles, I never had issues with having to learn Russian. The conflict was with the Soviets, not with the language of Pushkin! I loved the sound of Russian language; soft, melodious, caressing. A beautiful language for singing, like Italian.

I left Poland like many others in 1981, weeks before the martial law. I stayed for a year in Geneva. That did wonders to my French :-) But I wanted to run as far away from Poland as I could, so in 1982 I came to Australia, the country of the unladylike language :shock:

The first book I've read in English was the adventures of Sherlock Holmes. I tried other books including children books but failed. My advice to anyone who wants to read in another language - begin with something you already know, and pick short format. Don't go for children books, they often use idioms and references to culture that may still be alien to you. Pick something familiar, something you enjoyed reading in translation.

So I could say that I know Polish, Russian, French and English at various levels (or lack of) fluency. I was always interested in what it takes to carry successfully literary works across the barriers of culture and language - so much more than just translating the words. There is a beautiful book by Douglas R Hofstadter, "Le Ton Beau de Marot - In Praise of the Music of Language" that speaks of these issues.

So now, after many years in Australia which become my beloved home, I speak English (also at home), I dream in English and I think it became my dominant language. Sure I speak Polish but when in 2010 I went to Poland (for the first time since I left) I realised how poor my Polish is now. I've lost the richness, the beauty, the fluidity, the soul.

I am working on regaining my Russian, long neglected. One of my favourite books is "Master and Margarita" by Bulgakov, and recently I bought a set of DVDs with Russian TV series based on the book. The DVDs have most horrible subtitles that take half of the screen and distract terribly, so when I watched for the second time I turned them off - and realised that I understand more than I thought I would. It helps, probably, that I've read the book so many times I can anticipate the dialog. But it made me very happy :-) This may be another way of learning the language - watching movies you love, first with subtitles, and then without.

What I find most interesting is that I do not enjoy reading poetry in English. Somehow it doesn't sing to me like the French, or Polish, or Russian. I see the beauty of words, and how they tell a story, but the inner music, the rhythm, I don't dig. Maybe one day :-) if I listen enough of LibriVox recordings?

I wonder if there is a similar place where volunteers can have a go at translating public domain texts? That could be fun, too!

warm regards
Nina

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Post by Kristingj » January 22nd, 2012, 1:15 am

My native language is Norwegian, though I speak English (dah). I can understand and read and to some extent talk Danish and Swedish, I can read old Norse (as that isn't a spoken language) and I can read, though not understand most it, French and German.

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Post by knotyouraveragejo » January 22nd, 2012, 8:59 am

NinaBrown wrote: I wonder if there is a similar place where volunteers can have a go at translating public domain texts? That could be fun, too!

warm regards
Nina
There was a grassroots effort to do this collaboratively by some of our members awhile back, but it eventually lost momentum and I don't recall if any of the projects were ever completed. The links to the wiki pages in this thread will no longer work, but here is the thread if you are interested in reading through the discussion:

viewtopic.php?f=22&t=10502

There is also the issue of recording non-published works for LibriVox that this would raise, which would require a whole different discussion....:)
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Piotrek81
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Post by Piotrek81 » January 23rd, 2012, 2:24 am

Kristingj wrote:My native language is Norwegian (...) I can understand and read and to some extent talk Danish and Swedish
That was what I always found rather cool and useful- you speak one language as your native one, but you understand others, which are related. I keep hearning and reading this from people living in Scandinavia or learning one of the languages spoken there. I wonder how far it goes... Do you think for example that you're at a good enough level with Danish and Swedish that you could use it professionally?
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Kristingj
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Post by Kristingj » January 23rd, 2012, 2:40 am

Piotrek81 wrote:
Kristingj wrote:My native language is Norwegian (...) I can understand and read and to some extent talk Danish and Swedish
That was what I always found rather cool and useful- you speak one language as your native one, but you understand others, which are related. I keep hearning and reading this from people living in Scandinavia or learning one of the languages spoken there. I wonder how far it goes... Do you think for example that you're at a good enough level with Danish and Swedish that you could use it professionally?
Well, that would depend a bit. I wouldn't even try using Swedish professionally, it's too different and it would most like come out as what we call "svorsk" which is a cross between Swedish and Norwegian that a lot of people that move across the border gets.
Danish, I could try in reading, because their writing is very similar to ours. (probably has something to do with the fact that they occupied us for several years.)

neckertb
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Post by neckertb » January 23rd, 2012, 3:29 am

Piotrek81 wrote:
Kristingj wrote:My native language is Norwegian (...) I can understand and read and to some extent talk Danish and Swedish
That was what I always found rather cool and useful- you speak one language as your native one, but you understand others, which are related. I keep hearning and reading this from people living in Scandinavia or learning one of the languages spoken there. I wonder how far it goes... Do you think for example that you're at a good enough level with Danish and Swedish that you could use it professionally?
Well, as a non-native Danish speaker, I can tell you that my understanding of Swedish is very limited, Norwegian is a bit better... And I am very fluent in Danish.
There are some Danes who don't understand Swedish or Norwegian either, but that's the minority.
But for someone like me, the worst thing that can happen at your work place is that a Swede gets hired. Then everyone but me understands what he says.
:mrgreen:
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Post by Carolin » January 23rd, 2012, 5:44 am

it appears the swedes that study here in oslo are the only foreigners that have any sort of clue what is going on when we are out together, although it seems they like to laugh at each others pronounciation.

as a native german speaker, my understanding of norwegian is just good enough to read (and by read i mean guess) short things such as warning signs or that class was cancelled, but i have no idea what is said when the words are spoken since the pronounciation is so different. i do have my first norwegian language class later today so lets see if it changes after a while :P

CK

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Post by Carolin » January 23rd, 2012, 5:44 am

and as for other languages: am i the only person who speaks turkish around here?

CK

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Post by Lucy_k_p » January 23rd, 2012, 5:47 am

My partner is German, and when watching The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and The Killing with subtitles he said he could understand the gist of what was going on without looking at the screen, although not the exact words.

His German is actually slightly limited as he came to England when he was 16 and has lived here ever since, so his professional and 'adult' vocabulary are in English and not German. He wrote his PhD in English. He first learnt English in America at age 5, so he is fluent and considers English his other first language rather than a second language.
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Piotrek81
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Post by Piotrek81 » January 23rd, 2012, 6:16 am

Kristingj wrote:Well, that would depend a bit. I wouldn't even try using Swedish professionally, it's too different and it would most like come out as what we call "svorsk" which is a cross between Swedish and Norwegian that a lot of people that move across the border gets.
Danish, I could try in reading, because their writing is very similar to ours. (probably has something to do with the fact that they occupied us for several years.)
Pity. It would be cool to have "3 at the price of 1" :mrgreen:
NinaBrown wrote:Unlike many Poles, I never had issues with having to learn Russian. The conflict was with the Soviets, not with the language of Pushkin! I loved the sound of Russian language; soft, melodious, caressing. A beautiful language for singing, like Italian.
When it used to be mandatory, it was hated, but guess what.... today it's actually a popular language of choice in Poland (or so I'm told) :) I never learnt it though. I'm too young to have had it as an obligatory subject, and later on it somehow never happened. Recently, I've been thinking- does having Polish as a native language help with Russian? I know that the grammar is similar (cases, perfective/imperfective verbs and all that) but what about other aspects of the language?
Carolin wrote:and as for other languages: am i the only person who speaks turkish around here?
Interesting. Sounds like a useful language to know in Germany. How did you learn it (in school, from fiends/relatives, etc.)?
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Post by Carolin » January 24th, 2012, 9:30 am

piotrek81 wrote: Interesting. Sounds like a useful language to know in Germany. How did you learn it (in school, from fiends/relatives, etc.)?
i took a course in turkish language for kicks and giggles during my first year of university, just to be able to understand a little bit of what the turkish people on the tram were saying. also i liked the food. then i travelled to istanbul and stuck around for a year and a half. i can only recommend this city to anyone who wants an amazing experience that none of the other european cities i travelled to so far was able to deliver. also, you will gain lots of weight because the food is the best thing ever and if you are a woman, you will very soon believe you must be the most beautiful woman in this world (despite the weight you gained).

i recommend you look up your flight tonight.

CK

Piotrek81
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Post by Piotrek81 » January 24th, 2012, 1:41 pm

Still, my impressions after a visit in Istanbul might be somewhat different given that I'm not a woman :mrgreen: But the good food part sounds great. Plus, a lot of history...

How was your first class in Norwegian? Do you like the language?
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