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

    29.1%
  2. 2

    37.4%
  3. 3

    22.7%
  4. 4 or more.

    10.8%
  1. wanneszinnig God doesn't work 2day Registered Senior Member

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    201
    There are only +- 25 milion idiots like me that actually speak the language...so don't worry

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    Speaking the language has some advantages though: in Belgium you can order the best beer in the world

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  3. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    This is a problem in the logging. Presumably all of the Dutch speakers also know English so they should have checked English too. It would be difficult for them to participate if they don't also know English since virtually all of the posts on SciForums are in English. I've translated one that was in Spanish, someone else took one in French, and we had trouble with a guy spamming us in Turkish. But none of those were on the Linguistics board. A person who speaks Dutch but not English would be highly visible because his posts would probably be in Dutch.

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    As for ordering beer in Belgium, don't 95% of the people in Belgium also speak French, German or English--if not all three? Probably 100% for bartenders. In fact, don't the people in Vlanderland claim that the language they speak is Flemish, and not Dutch at all?

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    From our American perspective, it seems like all Europeans are bilingual. The old European joke:

    What do you call a person who speaks three languages? -- "Trilingual"

    What do you call a person who speaks two languages? -- "Bilingual"

    What do you call a person who speaks one language? -- "American"
     
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  5. wanneszinnig God doesn't work 2day Registered Senior Member

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    Lol...
    Most of us indeed speak different languages. We start learning French (our 2nd official language) at the age of 9. At the age of 12 we add English. Most of us don't stop there and add another 2 or 3 languages at age 14.
    At the end 90% of us are bilingual, 70% are trilingual and still a lot of people speak 4 or more languages.
    About the Flemish in flanders: officialy our language is Dutch. Still Dutch in Holland and Dutch in Flanders has a total different accent. Compare it with the difference between American and Brittish English.
    And about our beer: it realy is the best

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  7. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    America and England have been defined as "two peoples divided by a common language." The technology of the last century has served as a subversive reunification movement. We see each other's movies, listen to each other's music, watch each other's TV shows. We're not changing our pronunciation very quickly--although I do sometimes hear Brits pronounce "schedule" as SKEH-jool instead of SHEH-dyool--but we're picking up each other's slang. We understand each other much better than we did when I was a kid, a mere half century ago. If a British student tells an American colleague that he intends to "knock up" his sister, he will not be shot. ("Come to her door" in England, "Make her pregnant" lin America.)
    Most beer is mouse urine. I like beer that makes me notice what I'm drinking, so I order stout ale and porter, which are almost exclusively the products of the British Isles, Australia and a few progressive breweries in America. Do you guys make that good stuff too, or are your breweries giant warrens of guinea pig cages with tiny funnels, like Budweiser and Coors?

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  8. wanneszinnig God doesn't work 2day Registered Senior Member

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    Still you can compare the differences between Brittish and American English with the differnces between Dutch in Holland and Dutch in Belgium. I guess Someguy is from Holland, so he'l probably admit.


    Man, all the beers you have been drinking so far are crap..I am quiet sure.
    I don't know how easy you can get imported beers...but if you can let me know and I'll tell you the difference between ordenary piss and heavens piss

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    ..Oh and Heineken is a non-Belgian crap beer!
     
  9. shichimenshyo Caught in the machine Registered Senior Member

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    5,110
    I am learning japanese
     
  10. wanneszinnig God doesn't work 2day Registered Senior Member

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    Arigato Osaimas!!

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  11. s0meguy Worship me or suffer eternally Valued Senior Member

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    Is Japanese similar to Mandarin or Cantonese? I heard people say that Cantonese is more difficult to learn than Mandarin, is this true? I'd like to learn an Asian language but don't know which I should go for.
     
  12. shichimenshyo Caught in the machine Registered Senior Member

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    5,110
    Japanese has the most confusing writing system( in my opinion), but i dont believe that it is that similar to mandarin. dotashite mashite
     
  13. wanneszinnig God doesn't work 2day Registered Senior Member

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    201
    I have been in Japan and it totaly ddn't souned simillar to a Chinese language.
    Knowng Japanese is cool though!
     
  14. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    24,690
    It's easy to get imported beer in America. I usually like "dark" beers okay. Beck's and St. Pauli Girl dark from Germany, Bohemia and Dos XX negra from Mexico, etc. And I like stout, Foster's from Australia and there are several good stouts made in America. Oddly I don't like Guinness stout from Ireland and that is world famous; it tastes kind of sissy to me. I like Porter too. I don't even mind bock beer. I just don't like regular lager, that's what most Americans like. I think if you gave them a glass of ice cold hamster weewee they wouldn't know the difference. Really good beer does not have to be served cold.
    Chinese and Japanese are not related, or if they are you have to go back tens of thousands of years to find the common ancestor. Many linguists think Japanese is part of the Mongolic superfamily, with Korean, Mongolian, and the Turkic, Ural-Altaic and Finno-Ugric families. That includes a huge swath of languages from eastern Europe (including Hungarian) to the eastern edge of Asia and covers most of the southern ex-Soviet republics except Tajikistan. The Chinese languages are in a very small family with Tibetan and some minor languages to the southeast.

    However, Chinese Buddhist monks brought their culture to Japan around 1,500 years ago, and whenever that happens a lot of the vocabulary for new unfamiliar things and ideas comes with it. Japanese has an extensive vocabulary of words it borrowed from Chinese, just the way we have a huge stock of French words including everyday ones like very, use, beef, and question. If you know Chinese, learning Japanese can give you a weird sense of deja vu. They pronounce most of the words quite differently, due to 1,500 years of phonetic changes in both languages.
    As you surely know, the Chinese non-phonetic writing system unites all the Chinese languages in terms of vocabulary and syntax. They speak 99% of the same words in the identical sequence, they just pronounce them totally differently. So once you've learned any of the Chinese languages, all you have to do to speak another one is learn to pronounce every word totally differently.

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    You've already got the grammar and vocabulary.

    But yes, Kuangdong hua is much harder to speak than Beijing hua. It has (I think) eight tones instead of four. For speakers of non-tonal languages that is really difficult. The phonetics are more complicated in other ways: Mandarin syllables can only end in a vowel, N or NG. Cantonese syllables can end in a variety of consonants and they can start with NG. Shanghai hua is even harder, and every Chinese I know says Fujian hua is the hardest; it has twelve tones.

    Americans refer to them all as dialects, but since they are absolutely not intercomprehensible, they are distinct languages. There are some dialects of Mandarin, such as Sichuan hua. It has six tones and there are some predictable phonetic shifts (they call it Shicuan for example), but with a little work Sichuan ren and Beijing ren can understand each other. Since we Westerners don't hear the tones the way Chinese do, I find it easier to understand Sichuan hua than Mandarin speakers do. I've surprised a few Sichuan people who thought I couldn't understand what they were saying.
    Depends on what you want to learn it for. If you have any practical purpose at all, your only choice is Mandarin. You don't need to learn Japanese or Korean to work with Japanese or Korean people. Bit if you want to be a scholar, then you have to decide which culture you're most interested in.

    If you just want to enrich yourself, I would strongly recommend Chinese. It is a very powerful language that will break you free of the Stone Age paradigms of English: inflections, tense, number, gender, prepositions, etc. You'll learn to think in a more modern and more adaptable way in Chinese and you'll understand why their country is advancing so quickly despite the handicap of a repressive government with a schizophrenic economic system.
    The standard newspaper character set uses 2,000 han zi, or kanji as it's pronounced in Japanese. These are used for the important words in the sentence, the nouns and verbs. But Japanese has a phonetic alphabet of syllables that are used for connecting words, modifiers and inflections. It also has a second phonetic alphabet that is used for transcribing words borrowed from foreign languages, trademarks, etc. So you have to learn three parallel writing systems to read and write Japanese, two of which are phonetic and the third is borrowed from a totally unrelated language and is not phonetic at all.

    A Chinese person can puzzle his way through much of the meaning of written Japanese since most of the main words are Chinese borrowings. A Japanese can read written Chinese at an elementary level. Chinese are expected to know 1,200 characters at the end of the fourth grade, so they probably know the 2,000 that the Japanese know after the fifth or sixth grade. A really well educated Chinese knows 5,000. A scholar might know ten thousand or even twenty thousand, but that gets into ancient writings which used characters that are not present in normal writing any more, not even sophisticated modern scholarly writing.

    Koreans have a better phonetic alphabet, with each symbol representing one phoneme as in our Western alphabets. They use Chinese characters also, but not to the same extent as the Japanese. Mostly for names.

    A well-educated scholar in Japan or Korea who specialized in classic studies will have learned as many Chinese characters as the equivalent level of education in China, and they can read ancient Chinese philosophy as well as their Chinese peers. This is similar to Western scholars being able to read Latin and/or ancient Greek, Indian scholars reading Sanskrit, pious Jews outside of Israel reading Hebrew, and pious Muslims in any country reading Arabic.
     
  15. Enmos Staff Member

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    What about German ?

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  16. wanneszinnig God doesn't work 2day Registered Senior Member

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    Well all the beers you just named are piss...we are used to strong, tastefull beers.
    I ll give you a list...I would be surprised if you could find them...but if so...let heaven piss on yr tongue:

    Duvel (Blond, strong beer...8,5%)
    Westmalle (Blond...8,5%)
    Leffe
    Stella (regular pint, 5%)
    Rochefort (6, 8 and 10%..dark beer)

    Well we have + 2000 sorts of beer..
    Go to yr supermarket and check out what they have. Post it and I ll tell you what is good.One rule...never drink it ice-cold!! Beer being drunk ice-cold is no beer...it should be shilled.
    Guiness is ok, but it has a very bitter taste. I am not a big fan either.
     
  17. s0meguy Worship me or suffer eternally Valued Senior Member

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    1,635
    Or French
     
  18. I-Am-Invisible sick of it all. Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    247
    today many germans/swiss speak english aswell... the french and british are worse...
     
  19. Oli Heute der Enteteich... Registered Senior Member

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    11,888
    Nope, to the best of my knowledge the French are taught (certainly were when I was kid) English from 11 years old onwards.
    Any monolinguistic tendencies in the French tend to be *cough* snobbery rather than inability.

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    We Brits though... pah, I'm ashamed when I go abroad of the "they're not really foreigners, just stupid, and they can understand me if I'm loud and slow enough when talking" attitude.
     
  20. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    24,690
    Americans do that too, to other Americans. Especially women, but men do it too.

    "Why did you leave this like this?"

    "Like what?"

    "Like this!"

    "I don't understand what you mean."

    "L I K E - - T H I S - - ! ! !"
     
  21. keyfur Registered Member

    Messages:
    5
    Pedantically, Cantonese has ten tones. To switch from Cantonese to Putunghua is much more difficult than simply pronouncing words differently. Cantonese has many 'words' of its own, (incl. the characters) which do not appear in 'Mandarin'.
     
  22. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    24,690
    But it's even harder to go the other way. The four tones in Mandarin are real no-brainers: high, low, rising and falling. Americans can master them, even if we can never hope to sound like a native. For a Mandarin speaker to learn to differentiate among tones that are high, low and medium, rising low to medium and medium to high, etc., is a challenge. Not to mention, some of the tones in Guandong hua are differentiated by their length, which is not phonemic in Mandarin. I think the short ones end in glottal stops--another sound absent from Mandarin--which is variously transcribed as gwok, yip, etc. On the other hand, Mandarin uses Z and ZH as vowels, which are difficult for Cantonese, although they use M and NG as vowels.
    I think the Fenn Five Thousand, the standard set of pre-Communist hanzi, will service any of the languages of China. The written language has held the Chinese people together for a couple of thousand years. There are only a handful of important words in any of them that are incomprehensibly different to a scholar of another. Shanghai hua uses ala for the pronoun I instead of wo, ngo, nguai,etc. If you look up the characters they use to write a and la, they were just chosen for the phonetics. But that's remarkable and rare, and when they're not trying to stress the fact that a person is speaking Shanghai, they generally write it with the standard wo character. If you're talking about slang, then of course there are differences because slang is dialectal even within a single language.

    I've been told--by a Chinese who regarded it as a possible urban legend--that during the war years when some American G.I.'s were stationed in China, the incidence of rape by soldiers was quite a bit higher in Shanghai than in other cities. The supposed reason is that "I don't want to," which is wo bu yao in Mandarin, is ala fu you in Shanghai hua. Spoken in normal candence and interpreted by a drunken foreigner, it sounds a little bit like "Ah luff you."
     
  23. keyfur Registered Member

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    5
    Agreed on the 5000. I was thinking of the Cantonese "mow" (low rising) for 'negative have' and keoi (LR) for third person singular pronoun, as well as the pluralising suffix "dei" (low level).
    Loved the Shanghai story.
     

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