Foreign Languages

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Post by thistlechick » January 29th, 2006, 2:25 pm

Kitoune, I would like to let you know that I really like your style of posting in both English and in French. I have yet to misunderstand what you are saying in English but am also enjoying learning some new words or phrases in French. I know it is probably a lot of extra work for you to write the same message out twice, but I appreciate it. =)
~ Betsie
Multiple projects lead to multiple successes!

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Post by raouf » January 29th, 2006, 4:17 pm

Betsie's comments about why Americans did not maintain their native languages upon migration to the US is very incisive.
There is also another reason why the US remains monolingual, Paula has touched on this but I think there is more to it.
In practise there is no pressing need in the US to learn a foreign language unless it is for personal interest or curiosity.
Most technical or scientific publications are in English, which means that the rest of the world needs to learn English. Since we can now talk to these individuals in English speakers, there is less need to learn their languages.
The more this goes on the less the need to know anyhting but English.

Most learners think the main benefit is learning the new tongue.
In fact the most benefit from learning one is the dedoctrination of one's original language (and culture).

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Post by pberinstein » January 29th, 2006, 4:38 pm

Raouf, I believe that you are correct about the reasons many Americans stick to English as much as we do. There are other reasons as well. Your example of English as the language of scientific literature illustrates one of them. Americans expect the rest of the world to come to us rather than venturing out. This is partly a function of U.S. economic and military power. It's also a result of rampant anti-intellectualism.

It's not just about Americans vs. non-Americans, however. There are plenty of Americans who don't want to know anything about other types of Americans who aren't like them.
Paula B
The Writing Show, where writing is always the story

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Post by LibraryLady » January 29th, 2006, 4:41 pm

Really great discussion going here, fascinating stuff. My first language is English. I started French in 7th grade and took it for six years all the way through high school. Since then I've had no occasion to practice it and I seem to have forgotten most of it.

However, like Betsie, I really enjoy reading Kitoune's posts because they bring back so many things I had forgotten. If someone asked me, what is the French word for some thing or other, I likely wouldn't be able to recall. But if I read a post in French that uses the word, I think, oh yeah, I remember that word means this. I think having it in a context helps.

Now that I'm working in a public library, I realize it would have been much more useful in a practical sense to have learned Spanish. Spanish speakers are the largest chunk of the non-English speakers in America so it's the language that I'm most likely to end up needing one time or another when I'm working reference and someone wanders up who can't speak English.

Having said that, at the particular library where I work, our largest minority by far is Asian-Americans. If I were to learn another language to increase my communication abilities with the non-English speakers, I'd be in quite a conundrum to determine which language to learn. Our non-English speaking Asian-American patrons seem to be about 1/3 Chinese, 1/3 Japanese, and the rest of mixture of Vietnamese, Korean, and others.

In the year I've worked at my library, I have encountered one patron whose first language was French, but she was so fluent in English that what little I know of French wasn't necessary anyway. But I can't tell you how many times I've gone to fetch my Spanish speaking coworker or had a discussion with a patron using their little electronic translator.
Annie Coleman Rothenberg

"I hear the sound I love, the sound of the human voice." ~Whitman

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Post by raouf » January 29th, 2006, 6:30 pm

That is what's most fascinating about language, it starts with words and grammar but very soon it get into the ineffable.
Great writers are those who, using words, can evoque what words can only hint at.
In spite of the fact that I am fluent in many langugages, I don't trust language as a mean of communication, something is always missing.
Part of the reason is that I am a lousy writer in all languages. The other is that being male I am more challenged to make the connections between words and emotions.

I also enormously enjoy Kitoune's postings because it brings forth these points.

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Post by kri » January 29th, 2006, 9:11 pm

raouf wrote: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".
That's a very good point. With my maybe some day could be fluent French, I catch glimpses of that myself. The way they structure their sentences, and how they put emphasis on things gives me some idea of their culture.

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Post by swampangel » January 30th, 2006, 8:49 pm

hugh wrote: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.
While this is mostly true, I want to point out that New Brunswick has a relatively large French-speaking population (they brag about being the only "truly bilingual" province), and Nova Scotia has our fair share of francophone communities too.

In at least some bilingual towns, conversation then turns into a sort of shorthand hybrid of English and French-- my favorite example is "veux-tu go au store?". I'm sure this region, or pair of languages, isn't unique in that respect.

As for myself, I'm a native English speaker but we were taught at least some French in pre-school and on. I took "late immersion" French classes in junior high and high school, and I still have enough to carry on a conversation (except, frustratingly, about anything computer-related) or watch French tv.
raouf wrote: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".
This can't be overstated! It's exciting to see it happen, too. It's been said (by someone who I'll quote properly later) that to write or speak well in English, a person should be well-read in at least French or Spanish or Italian. George Orwell went the other way with "newspeak", the idea that you could restrict thoughts by restricting the language you had to conceive of and communicate them.

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Post by Vlooi » January 31st, 2006, 1:06 am

First Language: Afrikaans (hit the link if you want to know what it sounds like)

Second language: English

I've been entertaining some of my work colleagues letting them teach me bits of Zulu (including the greeting sequence) and letting them grin at my pronunciation attempts, but I'd really like to learn it in more depth.

It is the most amazing feeling in the world being able to speak to someone in their first language (especially when they weren't expecting you to know it).

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Post by Gesine » February 8th, 2006, 1:10 pm

I know this is supposed to be the Off-Topic forum, but this is the perfect thread...

All of you multi-lingual people - head over to our collaborative OL (Other Languages - other meaning 'other than English') projects and grab a section! We have a bunch of non-native English speakers here who read and record in English - it works the other way round as well! :)

I've just started this Spanish project:
Don Quijote, by Cervantes -

Alessia could really do with some help for her Italian project:
La Divina Commedia, by Dante -

Still chapters to claim for Hugh's French project:
Les liaisons dangereuses, by de Laclos -

And finally, our German projects:
Buch der Lieder, by Heine (poetry) -

Maerchen, by Gebrueder Grimm -

Winnetou I, by May -

Deutsche Lyriksammlung 001 (poetry collection) -

I know that it's not easy... I won't record in anything but German and English for a long time...

Anyway, hope I'm forgiven for mentioning it here! :)
"Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination circles the world." Albert Einstein

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Post by hongawa » April 5th, 2006, 12:33 am

Bonjour tout le monde! (English, Japanese following...)

Je suis un peu decu que 95% des textes et fichiers sur le site est en anglais uniquement - les Francais se vantent (avec raison) du corpus de literature le plus beau du monde - il faut que ca se voie dans le 'public domain' (qu'est-ce qu'on dit en francais?)

Si une version du site Librivox etait disponible en francais, cela attirerait surement beaucoup de francophones, et on pourrait augmenter le contenu en francais de la collection.

Bref, je propose traduire moi-meme le site en Francais. Seul probleme, je suis Australien, et je ne l'ai pas parle du tout depuis 7 ans. S'il y a des francophones dans le coin, montrez-vous!!

vous pouvez tous m'envoyer un mel directement sur


English Version (almost the same, but much shorter)

Why is it that 95% of all the stories here are in English (apart from the fact that it was started by a Canadian)??

Because the Librivox site is in English!
That's great for us anglophones, but I was wondering, if we launched MULTILINGUAL versions of this site, instead of just MULTILINGUAL audio projects, we could bring a lot more people into the Librivox fold.

All my French friends are huge lit-heads, they'd really go for a site like this, and the French have (undoubtedly) the BIGGEST collection of 17th - 19th century lit in the world. And it's all copyright free!!!!

Right, I need someone from Librivox Central to run over this idea, and get back to me. I'm happy to translate the main parts of the site myself, but I'll need a native-speaker to iron out any small mistakes and stuff.

I have a similar idea for Japanese - maybe Kasuemin could help us out there???

Well, that's my two-cents' worth - give me some feedback please!

James (Hongawa)


サイトを翻訳したい日本語のnative speakersがいれば、このポーストに返事してください!

よろしく お願いします、

(現在 高知県に在留)

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Post by Kitoune » April 5th, 2006, 12:46 am

hongawa wrote:S'il y a des francophones dans le coin, montrez-vous!!
Moi, moi !! :D Je suis l? !! Je veux participer !! :wink:

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Post by ChipDoc » April 5th, 2006, 1:49 am

The only real downside is that we'll need folks who are fluent in order to maintain the different aspects of the site. But that is a pretty significant issue. I may know HTML, but I can't just step in and update the French (or Japanese, or Swahili, or Urdu, or Tagalog, etc) version of the LibriVox site. Before we do anything like that we really need to have at least two folks both willing and able to share the actual work of site maintainence in each language we set up.

At this point it seems most likely that we should try a version of the website in Deutch. There are enough German speakers here that we could probably find at least a couple who would be both willing and able to make the committment to keeping the page current.

I see that Kitoune (way to go!) is up for doing one en Fran?ais, but we'd still need at least one more capable of doing that.

Frankly it's a great idea! Equally frankly, it's a lot of work. I'd rather see this done right from the get-go than done with a lot of sparking enthusiasm up front but not enough support to keep it going in the long term. Best to do it right; but better to not do it at all than to do it badly.
[i]The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them.[/i]
~Mark Twain

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Post by thistlechick » April 5th, 2006, 7:16 am

There is already an Italian Librivox... but I don't know the url off-hand...
~ Betsie
Multiple projects lead to multiple successes!

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Post by kri » April 5th, 2006, 7:39 am

I agree with Chip. This is mostly an English project, but it would be great if we had other language versions to welcome other language speakers. However, in order to have active communities of other languages here at LibriVox, we'd need one or two active native speakers of that language to run things. I certainly am not comfortable nor capable to MC for say, a Japanese project, or preside as admin over a forum of people who speak Japanese. Part of the job of an MC is to keep an eye on the project.

We do have two (am I right Rainer and Gesine?) MCs who speak German and generally run that side of LibriVox. That would be the most likely place to start with translation, except I don't think we have anyone to do the translating. I'm sure Gesine and Rainer have enough to do. Now that I think of it, we have a lot of French speakers and it may be that we could handle a more thriving French community at LibriVox.

So James, if you're really interested in this I think you'll have to really take an active part in this. I think you'll definitely be glad to have Kitoune's help as she's a native French speaker. The reservations I have in the end boil down to lack of support. You may notice there is a good group of very active people in the forums. Ideally, if our numbers in other languages increased, we'd have a similar group of active volunteers sort of running things on that side.

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Post by hugh » April 5th, 2006, 10:42 am

Proposal: why not use the wiki to translate sections of the librivox site to other languages?

the problem with trying to be multi-lingual (as with so many wish-list projects): it takes lots of time to just run things in english. harder in french, spanish, german, persian too.

So: PLEASE anyone wishing to write some copy in another loanguage, please do on the wiki:

that would be fantastic.

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