Being multilingual

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Trippy, Feb 1, 2010.

  1. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    As far as I know all Sanskrit is taught by private establishments. I personally do not know a single person who studied it as part of their curriculum
     
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  3. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    Interesting. I guess all my friends who are fluent in Sanskrit went to private schools.
     
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  5. Trippy ALEA IACTA EST Staff Member

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    And yet in New Zealand (at least, in the area I went to highschool in) Maori is compulsory right up until the same point that English becomes optional.
     
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  7. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    When I was in the 7th grade (in Arizona in 1955) Spanish was a mandatory class for all students.
     
  8. skaught The field its covered in blood Valued Senior Member

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    So... You're about 68 then?
     
  9. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    I'm assuming there are still people around who speak Maori. Sanskrit is a liturgical language. Its not spoken as a common language anywhere.
     
  10. Trippy ALEA IACTA EST Staff Member

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    Yeah, there's even a channel that's Maori with english subtitles.
     
  11. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    I'm 66.
     
  12. Cellar_Door Whose Worth's unknown Registered Senior Member

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    Well the same is true of Latin: I took my GCSEs last year and it was never even offered to us as a subject. On the other hand, a lot of my friends who went to a nearby private school studied Latin from Year 7.

    I'm not surprised! I know a bit of Welsh (which I imagine is pretty similar) but it was never compulsory at my school like it is in Wales. Welsh, like Gaelic, is making somewhat of a steady comeback, which is most likely something to do with a recent surge of patriotism in Wales. However, virtually no monolingual Welsh speakers actually exist, so it's not as if it's a particularly useful language to learn anyway.
     
  13. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    I have never seen an analysis of the similarities and differences among the surviving Celtic languages: Gaelic, Welsh, Cornish, Manx and Breton. However, judging by the closeness of their relationship, separated by more than 2,000 years, it would be no surprise if Welsh and Irish were as different as French and Spanish or English and German.
     
  14. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

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    Not that similar: Welsh is Brythonic (related to Breton, Cornish [Kernowek] and, of all things Cumbric [which I hadn't come across before]) whereas Scots and Irish is Goidelic (and has similarities to Manx).
    A quick Google (and memory) give these examples:
    English: Welcome - Good day - Good health (e.g. Cheers!)
    Scots: Fàilte - Latha math - Slàinte
    Irish: Fáilte - Lá maith - Sláinte
    (Manx): Failt - Laa mie - Slaynt
    Welsh: Croeso- Dydd da - Iechyd da (the famous Yakky-da).
     
  15. Darkie Registered Senior Member

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    The first foreign language may be a hard nut to crack, but when you've already got the tools, the new languages get absorbed much more easily. I speak 4 other languages besides my native Russian and Ukrainian.

    BTW, got a question to you all. I observed an interesting phenomenon while learning Hebrew. During the process of learning, I felt I was losing grip of my French and German. Someone said it happened because Hebrew was a language belonging to a different family (Semitic, unlike all other languages I know, which are Indo-European). It was claimed to be the reason for its "aggressive" behavior - I mean squeezing other languages out. Have you ever heard of any such theory?
     
  16. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    I had that experience too. I began studying Spanish when I was eleven. Then when I went on to study German, Russian, Yiddish and Chinese formally, and several other languages informally, it was much easier.
    I have not heard of that and I certainly did not have that experience myself. Chinese is in the Sino-Tibetan family, whose differences from Indo-European, IMO, are much greater than the Semitic family: no adjectives, adverbs or prepositions; no gender, number or tense; in fact no inflections at all: even pronouns are gender-neutral.

    I found, on the contrary, that having my world view expanded by exposure to the Chinese way of analyzing things, people, events and concepts improved the clarity of my thinking in all of my other languages. For example, I no longer thoughtlessly use the pronoun "she" to refer to a teacher or a nurse and "he" for a corporate president, and I miss the different words for "older brother" and "younger brother" or "maternal grandmother" and "paternal grandmother" when describing family relationships.

    One of the things I certainly got from Chinese was an improvement in my conscious understanding and unconscious use of phonetics. Everyone knows about tone being phonemic in Chinese, but it has other phonetic paradigms that are quite foreign to Indo-European speakers; for example there are no voiced stops, but aspiration is phonemic; and stretched-out Z and ZH are both vowels.

    This is something you surely experienced when learning English, because our language has more phonemes than most, even Russian with its palatalized consonants. Our two kinds of TH are tongue-twisters for most people, and it's quite a challenge to hear the differences between our huge array of vowels. One of my Russian friends still pronounces the name of the state Ohio as uh-KHAY-uh, and no one has any idea what he's talking about.

    But you surely did not have this experience with Hebrew. Modern Israeli Hebrew is basically liturgical Hebrew, a language that was dead for more than 2,000 years and used only in religious ceremonies. As such, the pronunciation of the words was adjusted to the phonetics of the languages spoken by the Jews in the Diaspora, originally Aramaic but more recently German and Russian. The phonemes represented by the letters Aleph and Ghayin (now spelled Ayin)--a glottal stop and an uvular fricative--are now silent. Daleth and Tau, dental consonants as in Russian, have become alveolar as in German and English. Ghimel (with no dot), a voiced velar fricative, has become a G, and Qoph, a voiceless uvular stop, has become a K. Waw, a semivowel, has become V and is now spelled Vav. Vowels have been elided, especially the Schwa, so four-syllable words become two or three syllables. The stress, which used to fall more often on the last syllable, has shifted to the first or second.

    Modern Israeli Hebrew sounds more like an Indo-European language because it was crafted by people who spoke Indo-European languages in an era when there was no voice recording technology. Ancient Hebrew sounded much more like its close relative, Arabic.
     
  17. Darkie Registered Senior Member

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    That's right. Modern Hebrew is being spoken with so many accents. I can define with almost 100% accuracy a person's descent, judging by their accent. The Hebrew of the Yemenite Israelis is the closest to the original pronunciation. They've got the clear difference between Chaf, Chet and Qoph, and their Ghayin is still distinct as it used to be.
     
  18. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    The Hebrew abjad sounds exactly like the Arabic abjad. I recognise all the consonants you just spoke of.

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    Hmm I should go to one of the synagogues in Mumbai and find out if they have classes - it may be easier to learn than I envisaged
     
  19. Darkie Registered Senior Member

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    Meanwhile, Hebrew has been the easiest one among the languages I tried to pick up. So neatly structured.
     
  20. scifes heckle the snobs Valued Senior Member

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    make the learned language a bridge to what you like, not a goal in itself.

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    i'm impressed.
    :roflmao:
     
  21. scifes heckle the snobs Valued Senior Member

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    lol, a person who makes a mistake corrected in the first reply to the op is called what?

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    those two ways of thinking crash a lot in my head, it frustrates me to no end..:splat:


    also, is there a difference between saying i'm bilingual or saying i'm fluent in "the second" language?
    i think one phrase means you know the language better than the other phrase.
     
  22. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    Well that's no surprise. They were both derived from the Aramaic abjad, which in turn comes from the Phoenician. Every alphabet, abjad and abugida, except Korean, is ultimately descended from the Ancient Egyptian abjad, which for a long time was imprecisely called "hieroglyphics."

    The letters in the Hebrew alphabet (ancient pronunciation and my own non-standard phonetic spelling):

    'alef beth ghimel daleth heh waw zayin kheth teth yodh kaph lamedh mem nun samekh ghayin peh tzadegh qoph resh shin taw

    Beth, daleth, kaph, peh and taw, with an added dot, become fricatives: veth, dhaleth, khaph, feh, thaw.

    This Egyptian connection does not apply to syllabaries like Japanese kana and the Cherokee script, and non-phonetic writing systems like Chinese logograms.
    Every temple must be served by a rabbi who teaches Hebrew on site or in the community. Every 13 year-old boy is required to read a selection from the Torah out loud during his bar mitzvah.
    I've only looked at a few lessons in Hebrew, but the grammar is certainly comfortable for a speaker of an Indo-European language. Singular-plural, present-past, a definite article, grammatical functions indicated by inflections, all the familiar paradigms.

    Apparently all the Afro-Asiatic languages share these patterns. It's enough to make one wonder if the two families are related.
    I consider "fluency" to mean that you can actually think in the other language, rather than simply translating really fast in your head. According to the only psychologist I've met who had investigated the issue, the telltale is that people speak the language in your dreams.

    Of course if you don't remember a lot of your dreams, that's not a big help.
     
  23. Trippy ALEA IACTA EST Staff Member

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    In a related note, I remember watching a movie set during WWII (might have been about Colditz Castle, not 100% sure) where the test for fluency was which language you swore in when you were kicked in the gonads.
     

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