Foreign Languages

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Post by kri » January 28th, 2006, 4:06 pm

It's so wonderful to see so many different languages spoken on Librivox. I've always thought that foreign language learning (especially Spanish) should be a more important role in schools early on. That's the best time to learn. I can think myself of the many different ways that learning French helped me. It was definitely a big help in better understanding English. It also gave me a connection to a different culture. I'm sure it has strengthened other skills along the way as well. I'm sad that I was unable to study abroad to strengthen my skills (and abissmal vocabulary) but it seems my participation in Librivox may do just that.

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?

I'll tell you a little about my language history. Of course, I'm a native english speaker, but when I was in 7th grade we were given the option of starting a French or Spanish class. I was fascinated with the sound of French, so that's what I chose. I took all the French courses available through high school, and began in Intermediate French in college. I've completed the courses to get a minor in French, and finished half a German class. Sadly, the German class was at 8am, four times a week, and I didn't need the class so I had to drop it because I wasn't attending.

I'm sad that neither my college nor my high school offers Latin. I would still like some day to learn German, I really enjoy the sound and structure of the language. I know that I do need to learn Spanish one of these days, because it's just an important language for Americans to know. If I could just learn a million different languages I would.

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Post by jefuchs » January 28th, 2006, 4:19 pm


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Post by raynr » January 28th, 2006, 6:21 pm

kri wrote: and finished half a German class.
that's enough to record a German poem :lol:
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Post by thistlechick » January 28th, 2006, 6:26 pm

I took two years of French in high school... only enough that I can understand a word or two in reading it... I could probably read it aloud, but not have any idea what I'm saying.

A couple of years ago I decided that I would learn Hebrew... well, I managed to learn the alephbet, a few sentences like "where is the bathroom", and a few vocabulary words... but I haven't gotten very far on my own... oh, and I can also now sing "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes" in Hebrew... really useful stuff like that *grins*

So, essentially, I am only useful in English =)
~ Betsie
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Post by vee » January 28th, 2006, 6:32 pm

When I was little my parents only spoke Mandarin Chinese. I started learning English watching Sesame Street.

I hear recently that it is important for children to begin hearing other language when they are younger than 6. This allows them to wire the different tonal characteristics of the languages into their brains. After age 6 their language learning is essentially the equivalent of adults. It's especially difficult for say speakers of english to learn arabic or asian languages because the phonetics are so vastly different, but if they are exposed to it early they somehow are able to learn the sounds and then use them when they learn the language offically later. (we learn all sorts of weird things in my graduate classes)

My parents sent me to chinese school when I was young, but I got kicked out when my friend cheated off my final. So I am basically illiterate but I can at least communicate on a 5th grade level. Funny thing is I'm working with a client right now developing a Chinese textbook and multimedia software. Guess my Chinese is becoming useful at work, but now I have no excuse not to learn it :) The software/textbook is called Chinese Odyssey if any of you are interested. Volume 1 and 2 are published and we've got 4 more volumes to go.
Chris Vee
"You never truly understand something until you can explain it to your grandmother." - Albert Einstein

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Post by kri » January 28th, 2006, 7:27 pm

raynr wrote:
kri wrote: and finished half a German class.
that's enough to record a German poem :lol:
Eep!! With my 8+ years of French I'm having a hard time with Liasons Dangereuses, let alone German :P
vee wrote: hear recently that it is important for children to begin hearing other language when they are younger than 6.
I heard the same thing in my modern language class. This is why I think that learning foreign languages should be part of elementary school. It's not before 6, but it's a start.

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Post by Izze » January 28th, 2006, 8:31 pm

I can speak some German (took three years of it in high school), some Japanese (two years high school, two years college, and still studying it), some French (I took about five years when I was a child), some Spanish (two years when I was younger), some Norwiegen (another five years as a child), and I can tell the difference between Cantonese and Mandarin (I only know a few words in Mandarin).

Yeah, I can only really speak English to any degee of fluency, but I can read a script in German and sound decent, and I would be able to do readings for any books in Japanese (as long as they were in katakana and hiragana only, unfortunatly. My kanji still sucks.)

I get bored too much and find foriegn language study books waaaaay too easy. ^.^;

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Post by Kitoune » January 29th, 2006, 3:54 am

In France, we have a problem to learn the foreign languages. We are too chauvinistic :oops: !

When i was young, we learn a foreign language after age 11. But now after age 8, it's better.

Ours learning methods were not adapted...

I'm a native french speaker. I have learned german during 8 years at school and i can't understand two words now !!
I have learned english during 5 years and i can only read a little bit. I have much difficulties of writing. I can't read loud because my accent is french/german :roll:
I have learned Latin during three years at the university (I studied the french litteratur).

Alea jacta est !!

In french : En france, nous avons un probl?me pour apprendre les langues ?trang?res. Nous sommes trop chauvins !

Quand j'?tais petite, on commen?ait ? apprendre une langue ?trang?re ? partir de 11 ans. Mais maintenant, c'est ? partir de 8 ans, c'est mieux.

Nos methodes d'apprentissage ne sont pas adapt?es.

Le fran?ais est ma langue maternelle. J'ai appris l'allemand pendant 8 ans ? l'?cole et je ne suis pas capable de comprendre deux mots aujourd'hui !
J'ai appris l'anglais pendant 5 ans et je peux juste le lire un peu. J'ai de grosses difficult?s pour ?crire. Je ne peux pas lire ? voix haute car j'ai un accent entre le fran?ais et l'allemand trop prononc?.
J'ai appris le latin pendant 3 ans ? l'universit? (J'ai ?tudi? la llitt?rature fran?aise).

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Post by Gesine » January 29th, 2006, 6:05 am

I wish toddlers were taught different languages. Everyone should grow up at least bilingual. It's a shame foreign languages are still taught so late in school - I was 11 when I started English, though they start earlier now, but still not early enough. In the first few years, kids just soak up languages. Of course, the exposure needs to be there.

My native language is German. I learned English in school, read English at uni and lived in the UK for a number of years. I spent a lot of time and effort, so I'm pretty much bilingual now - as much as one can ever be truly 'bilingual.' There are subjects I know only in English, others I know only in German. It's the same for anyone.

I learned French in school (and Latin), but was so single-minded in my pursuit of English that I didn't develop it enough, so it's a little rusty. I learned some Danish and lived in Denmark for a short while, and travelled there a lot.

Currently I'm learning Italian and Maltese, and I'm brushing up my French. I'd love to learn Spanish and Japanese, too.

Does anyone know Pimsleur? I discovered it a while ago. Excellent programmes once one gets used to them. It's all based on listening and speaking drills. One doesn't learn the grammar explicitly, and the writing hardly at all, but it's an excellent starting point and gives one a half-decent accent. It's one 30 minute lesson per day, every day. I do it when I run or row, or when washing up. It's very well thought-out and keeps repeating things from earlier lessons so they go into the long-term memory. Lots of languages are available. I'd really recommend it.
"Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination circles the world." Albert Einstein

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Post by thistlechick » January 29th, 2006, 9:02 am

Gesine wrote: Does anyone know Pimsleur?
Yes, I'm familiar with these language courses... I have been trying to get their lessons on Hebrew for several years through interlibrary loan... they are too expensive for me to purchase myself. One of the things I've done to start learning to read Hebrew is to read children's books and look up each word that I don't yet know.... it's slow going on my own, and I've taken a long break from it... maybe I'll get back to that someday =)
Last edited by thistlechick on January 29th, 2006, 9:06 am, edited 1 time in total.
~ Betsie
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Post by thistlechick » January 29th, 2006, 9:05 am

As for Americans being mostly monolingual (though embarassing, I cannot deny it), I do have an understanding of why this is. As people immigrated to this country in the 1800s and early 1900s they wanted to fit in and there was a big push to suppress their native languages and cultures. They insisted on their children learning English and not the home country's language.

I see this quite a bit in the history of the area in which I live.... Finnish, Italian, Cornish, and other peoples moved here to work in the, at that time flourishing, mining industries. The company libraries stocked newspapers in many different languages for their employees ... now we're lucky that our libraries have a couple of local newspapers. However, American was the language and culture of their children. Though it made sense to them at the time... it is sad now to have lost so much of the rich cultures because of the need to fit in here. I often meet people whose grandparents primarily spoke the language of the country of their origin... but these grandchildren are now rekindling interest in their ancestry by doing family history research, holding cultural festivals, and wishing that they had recorded interviews with their grandparents when they were still with them.

There is clearly a swing in the attitudes towards "foreign" languages in the United States... and despite the cuts in language education in our schools, I think modern parents are more and more seeing the value in their children being exposed to languages at an early age. Perhaps not in my lifetime, but I forsee Americans being bilingual again.
~ Betsie
Multiple projects lead to multiple successes!

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Post by hugh » January 29th, 2006, 10:15 am

english first language, french second (fluent spoken, writing not so good, not sure about reading yet, we'll find out soon!).

note too, other than quebec, where many are at least bilingual (french english), the rest of canada is pretty unilingual english.

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Post by pberinstein » January 29th, 2006, 12:48 pm

Interesting observations about Americans and language, Betsie. I've been thinking about this too. I think part of the issue for us is that the U.S. is so big and quite set apart from other countries, so there's little need for us to learn other languages to get by on a daily basis. Of course, Spanish is very helpful here in L.A. Sad to say, mine is pretty bad, but I can get by a little with it.

I have spent a lot of time with Italian and Latin and can make do with the former, but as I don't use anything but English most of the time, my abilities have faded. A year or two ago I decided I would learn Arabic, but my first foray sent me running away screaming. It looked so difficult! If I had nothing else to do, I might try it again.

I also learned a bit of Hebrew back when I was in Sunday school (baruch atah adonai and all that), and my family was fairly big on Yiddish phrases, so I know some of those too.

But I do find that as I get older, language is much more difficult for me and of less interest than when I was in my teens and twenties. Other priorities, I guess.
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Post by kri » January 29th, 2006, 1:14 pm

I have so many ambitions of languages to learn, yet problems with motivation in everything. I think as I get older I will try to take classes, because I've always enjoyed them.

I agree, more foreign language learning at very early ages. When we have children, I want to incorporate French at least a little into their early education. I also would definitely like to learn and teach my children sign language. I know the alphabet, and a few other words!!

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Post by raouf » January 29th, 2006, 2:22 pm

Mother tongue is arabic, learned French and English in school and had some German as well (now almost forgotten).
Learning other languages was not a matter of choice, it was taken for granted.

There is no way to really learn a language without getting into the mindset of the natives of that language. You take in the litterature, the philosphy, the values and ways of expression.
When that happens everybody becomes less "foreign".

Two landmarks for mastering a language:
1. When you dream in that language.
2. When you can crack a joke that make the natives laugh.

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