How many languages / What languages do you speak?

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Giambattista, Feb 26, 2007.


How many languages are you fluent in?

  1. 1

  2. 2

  3. 3

  4. 4 or more.

  1. hug-a-tree Live the life Registered Senior Member

    Okay, so Gaelic has to be one of the coolest languages in the world. I would say so.
  2. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement

    to hide all adverts.
  3. river-wind Valued Senior Member

    heh, sadly, I can't spell it

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    Luckily for me spelling is not a requirment for life. I would have forgotten to breath a long time ago.

    I like Hodenoshonee alot too, as far as pronounciation and word forms. Not nearly as much written on the subject, though. I'm just getting into a great book on common Unami jargon (Lenape of SE. PA, SW. NJ, N. DE), and it has some similarities, though the roots are completely different. Like a Latin Language vs a Germanic language.

    Lots of fun to see how a culture influences it's language, and vise versa.
  4. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement

    to hide all adverts.
  5. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    I meant for this to be a pretty coarse scale. Most people can make a good intuitive estimate of whether they know 1,000 or 3,000 or 10,000 words of a language. I guess I set a bad precedent by rating myself in increments of .5, but you don't have to do that.
    Hey hey hey! Does that mean you can answer the burning question that is perplexing us on another thread? How do they pronounce R in Gaelic??? Is it a trilled R with a tongue-flap as in most European languages, Japanese, and many others? A gargled uvular sound as in most Germanic languages and Parisian French? That strange semi-vowel of ours which, as far as I know, is unique to English? The simultaneous R and ZH that is, I guess, unique to Mandarin? Do the Scots and the Irish even pronounce Gaelic the same way, or is Scots Gaelic influenced by English phonetics?
    So you can tell I'm from California?

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    I think he's putting you on, or else like most people he's dismally bad at numerical estimates. It's certainly true that if you get into a specialty you may be communicating primarily with a limited number of words peculiar to the specialty. I suppose if a foreigner came here, learned those 2,000 words, and wrote a successful thesis, I would have no qualms about rating him at 6.3 in English. Because once he walks out the door of the university science building, he'll find that he's not really fluent in English, not even just barely fluent. He won't be able to order food, find his way around by reading signs, or even carry on a casual conversation with a drunk in a bar. He certainly won't be able to get a job doing anything more than menial labor or writing theses on the history of science.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    In most languages, you need somewhere around 5,000 words to "get along" comfortably and be able to handle yourself in typical real-life situations, if both you and the native speaker are patient with each other.
    Yeah okay, I suppose he is like me. I say a lot of things that are wrong too.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    Well aren't you brave. You and Athel. I was a little reluctant to rate myself that high. I think I remember hearing that Churchill had a vocabulary of around 30,000 words when I was a kid (and he was still alive) and I don't think I'm in his league.

    Ultimately it comes down to the definition of a "word." Obviously inflections don't count: see/sees/saw/seen. But what about syntheses from other languages that we still use as living tools: unify/unification? Or English-Latin hybrids like read/readable? As English continues to evolve from an inflected language into an analytic one, the concept of a "word" will be as difficult to define as in Chinese.

    How do we count Chinese on my scale anyway? 5,000 kanji = 5,000 morphemes, and that's considered to be a very good written vocabulary. But you can put them together analytically into around 25,000 combinations that many Chinese scholars would say are their equivalent of words. Ji qi jiao ta che = gas engine foot stroke vehicle = motor bicycle = motorcycle. All made with "words" in my Fenn 5000 dictionary. If you know the Fenn 5000 are you a 7.5, which seems stingy, or a 9, which seems generous?

    So my scale isn't perfect. Please don't anybody agonize over whether you're a 6.5 or a 7.0 in Swahili.
  6. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement

    to hide all adverts.
  7. w1z4rd Valued Senior Member

    English, Afrikaans, IsiXhosa and IsiZulu
  8. superstring01 Moderator

    English and Spanish. Ugh. I'd really like to learn Mandrin and/or Arabic.

  9. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Mandarin is surprisingly easy. The most difficult part is the pronunciation. If you're young that shouldn't be bad. And of course the writing, but nobody bothers with that unless they want to be a scholar and read Kong Fu Zi in the original.
  10. BelgoHead Registered Member

    What languages can you speak?

    Just wondering what languages everyone here can speak...

    as for me, my first language was french but i forget it when i moved to canada :bawl:
  11. orcot Valued Senior Member

    :bugeye: you forgot you own language...
    annyway dutch, english and a decend word of french
  12. Enmos Valued Senior Member

    Hey Orcot

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    I speak dutch (first language), english and a few words of german (very few).
    I understand dutch, english and german.
  13. mikenostic Stop pretending you're smart! Registered Senior Member

    English (native language)
    German, semi-fluently (was fluent when I lived in Germany)
    un poco Espanol
  14. draqon Banned Banned

    and a bit of french
  15. BelgoHead Registered Member


    Hey its pretty easy when your 4 year old and everyone speaks only english.
  16. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    * * * NOTE FROM MODERATOR * * *

    This thread has been merged with the one that already existed.
  17. Sir. Brilliance Registered Senior Member

    How many languages do you know?

    I though I saw this post a while back but I couldn't find it so...

    How many languages do you know and how well?

    English - Native
    German - Native
    Latin - Learning
    Spanish - going to learn
    Dutch- can guess at it
    another language - going to learn
  18. EmptyForceOfChi Banned Banned

    well, i cant honestly vote for over 1 language. i speak english, (try to) obviously. but im not fluent in any other languages. i know enough of the following to survive in the culture though. i have not got advanced with any other than english though.


    i can speak basic of the above. do you have to be very fluent in the votes?, and be able to use them as well as i can communicate in english?.

  19. Sir. Brilliance Registered Senior Member

    For the voting, I am assuming that you can speak well enough to converse about any general topic to decent enough levels. So not, hey what is your name. My name is John. But like Hey how are things today. Well at the office thigns are pretty good but my fiance is a fool. Or Hey, isn't that the guy we saw at wherever and be able to converse about it. Basically enough so that if you were to visti a country where the language is spoken, you wouldnt have to use a dictionary more then a few times to do everything you wanted.
  20. EmptyForceOfChi Banned Banned

    no i cant speak anything other than english at that kind of level. if i were living in another country for more than say 6 months, i will pick up anything quite fast. i am learning korean at the moment. im getting along ok, but as im not in the actual culture having to use it, im slacking ang going at a real slow pace.

    i tend to try and learn too much stuff at the same time.

  21. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    You can rate your own fluency. You're welcome to use Fraggle Rocker's Powers-of-3 Scale. (It's not copyrighted but I'd appreciate the credit if you share it.) It's based on vocabulary size, which is easy to estimate objectively. Obviouly it's assumed that you have a sufficient command of grammar at any level to make good use of that number of words, so you're not just a walking dictionary.

    0 = 1 word
    1 = 3 words
    2 = 10 words
    3 = 30 words
    4 = 100 words
    5 = 300 words
    6 = 1,000 words
    7 = 3,000 words
    8 = 10,000 words
    9 = 30,000 words
    10 = 100,000 words

    I find this to be a useful scale because the gradations are the right size to allow most people to give an integer rating. Although as you'll see in earlier posts, pedantic folks like myself get carried away and give ourselves fractional ratings. The logarithmic scale synchronizes with the way the rate of growth increases as we become more fluent: the second thousand words come far more quickly than the first thousand. And it fits neatly between a realistic maximum and minimum. Most cosmopolitan people know one word in almost any language they're interested in (sombrero, glasnost, shalom, fengshui), so that doesn't count. I don't think a human has ever lived who knew more than 100,000 words; Winston Churchill and William Shakespeare were estimated to have fallen just shy of that limit.

    "Fluency" is difficult to appraise. I've been persuaded that fluency means that you think in the language, rather than thinking in your primary language and translating in real time. This is the threshold at which you begin to pick up the culture that goes with the language, because your thought patterns are strongly influenced by the structure and limitations of the language in which you think. For me, and I suspect for most adults learning a second language, fluency begins around Level 6 or 7. Obviously the level is much lower for children and for the immersion technique. When I insisted that my Chinese girlfriend speak Chinese with me at home, I was thinking in the words I knew clear down at Level 5.

    Obviously this is designed by an American around the structures of the Indo-European languages I studied first. Feel free to reinterpret the scale (or the meaning of "word" in languages like Finnish and Chinese. If you know the entire Fenn Five Thousand in Chinese (or Japanese or Korean) you're surely at Level 9.5 .

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

  22. Oli Heute der Enteteich... Registered Senior Member

    Nice Fraggle - I will use that (and credit you).
    Now bookmarked.
  23. sniffy Banned Banned

    Does body language count?

Share This Page