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. ShyRebel Registered Member

    Native speaker of arabic
    Studied english at school
    Studying japanese at home because im planning tp move to japan/east asia.
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  3. wegs Matter and Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

    English first language, and studied french all through high school/college.
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  5. Twelve Registered Senior Member


    Did you learn all those languages for any specific purpose (work, hobby, travel, ...)? How do you manage to practise all of them?
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  7. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    How far back did you have to go to find that post? I went back to 2009 and I still didn't see it. I doubt that Brokenpower is still active on SciForums, so you may never get an answer.

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    It's easy to practice speaking a foreign language. That's what dogs are for.

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    As for finding people who will speak it to you, I'm sure there are YouTube videos in every language.

    But to find a live speaker and have a conversation, that can be a problem.
  8. Twelve Registered Senior Member


    I was afraid of it ... I went back to 4/11/2009. I was surprised at how many different languages someone could speak fairly well.

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    By the way, I had always heard that a total immersion in the language was the best way to learn a new language. Why do you think that can be a problem to find a live speaker and have a conversation?
  9. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    You've heard that old joke that Europeans tell?

    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 speakes one language? "American."​

    Depending on the language, it can be a really big problem. How many people in the USA speak Icelandic? You'd have to live in a rather large, cosmopolitan city with a major presence of foreign diplomats, students and/or corporate offices to find speakers of Danish, Korean and Russian!

    But moreover, once you find somebody, it has to be somebody who's interested in helping you. That varies greatly from one language to another. I've found that speakers of Spanish and Chinese are really charmed to meet somebody who is actually interested in learning their language. Complete strangers have sat down with me and spent fifteen minutes helping with pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary.

    But don't try that with a Frenchman or a Japanese. The French can't stand the sound of a foreigner "ruining" their language so they run away screaming. And the Japanese simply don't believe that anyone else can learn their language, so when you talk to them they don't even realize it's Japanese and say, "Sorry, I don't speak English."

    Yes of course these are stereotypes. There are rude Mexicans, haughty Chinese, kind Frenchmen and obsequious Japanese people. Not to mention, quite a few bilingual and trilingual Americans.

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  10. Twelve Registered Senior Member


    Well, it is perfectly understandable that most Americans don't speak a lot of foreign languages, as they speak the language that millions of people in the world are longing to speak.

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  11. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    One of the most difficult languages to master, especially the phonetics. And our prepositions are bewildering, they make absolutely no sense.

    But in its favor, it is very compact. It takes about 50% more syllables to translate an English (or French) sentence into, say, Italian or Japanese. This allows it to be spoken more slowly, which makes it easier to understand.

    Chinese is the only major language I know of that is even more compact and therefore is spoken even more slowly.
  12. quinnsong Valued Senior Member

    Why do you think that our prepositions are bewildering and make no sense?
  13. HEQ Registered Member

    Lithuanian is my native tongue and Russian is my second language. I've learned German and English too.
  14. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Because each one has about twenty definitions which often have very little relation to one another.

    I have often remarked that some foreigners seem to have a dartboard in their office with all the prepositions scattered at random. When they need one they throw a dart and use the one it hits.

    In other words, they seem to choose prepositions at random, yet their speech isn't particularly difficult to understand. In most cases, prepositions carry very little meaning; they're just placeholders for parsing the sentence.
  15. ontheleft Registered Member

    Began with father's Arvanitika and mother's Slav with Greek in-between and at the end.

    And now mighty English, which insists knight and night be pronounced the same and insists! that there is an "r" in Lt. Colonel.
  16. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Most of the other European languages had their spelling reformed in the 19th century. They had all undergone significant grammatical and phonetic changes since they were first transcribed in writing by Roman monks.

    But English avoided this. We still spell words the way they were spelled in the 14th century. Lots of silent E's at the end of words. Many letters have more than one pronunciation, especially the vowels: come, hope, who, store, fond, work.

    The other problem is that in the 14th century there was no "standard" version of English, so every county had its own dialect and they pronounced the words differently. When the London dialect was standardized, the pronunciation of many words was inherited from a distant county in which it was commonly used, due to that county's major crop, industrial product, topography, etc.

    And on top of that, English imports foreign words wholesale, and usually makes some attempt to conserve the original foreign pronunciation: tableau, gestalt, pizza.

    No one has ever tried to modernize English spelling, and it's too late now because there are too many old books in print.

    French has the same problem, only worse. Sometimes it seems that half of the letters in every word are silent, and it has bizarre phonetics, such as pronouncing OI as WA.
  17. Cyrus the Great Registered Senior Member

    English and Persian

    In addition, I am studying Linguistics
  18. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Interesting that you call it "Persian." I live in the USA, where there are a great many Iranians. I find that they do not like to use the name Persia or Persian. They call the country Iran, the people Iranians, and the language Farsi.

    Linguists use the name "Persian" for the group of mutually intelligible dialects that includes Farsi, Dari, Tajik, Hazaragi, etc.

    Persia was the old country, so it's okay to talk about Persian rugs and Persian cats.

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  19. ontheleft Registered Member


    I had a Persian friend in California who owned a store. He had employees from Iran who spoke Arabic. When he spoke to them his tone was the same that whites had when they spoke to blacks in the US.

    Islam made Arabs grubby, dirty parasites who made their once curious and interesting minds slack jawed and religious.
  20. Aqueous Id flat Earth skeptic Valued Senior Member

    They may be generational. There was a time in recent history when foreign students and ex-pats would avoid identifying themselves with the country that was behaving so badly. In those days, as Americans who took notice of such things began to shift from eye-ran to ear-ran to ear-ron and as refugees began to pour in during their deadly war with Saddam Hussein, many of whom were given asylum from atrocities by the mullahs and their Ko-mi-tehs (brutal enforcers of Shariah law), it was less inconspicuous for them to identify with Persia -- not as likely to get them into trouble. Working in their favor was the general ignorance about that part of the world in the West. Only a fairly well read Westerner would have known that the modern boundaries of that region (and many other places) and the official name of that state as Iran rather than Persia, were done by Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin at their post-WWII meeting in Tehran (which also justified Russia's creation of the Iron Curtain, and which ended up making Iran a base of US espionage against the Ruskies during the Cold War, leading to the myths that created popular resentment of the US there). In the US all of the Archie Bunker types wallowing in xenophobia had no clue that a Persian was an Iranian, and only an attentive ear could detect ee-ron-ee as their own admission, among themselves, that they indeed call themselves Iranians. Also interesting is their spelling "Ayran" (symbol for symbol) which I like to remind white supremacists is nothing the same as Northern Europe; those idiots need to research the reason Hitler picked up on the word Aryan in the first place.

    I think the designation "Farsi" has local significance in regions of the country where they once mingled with people who spoke neighboring languages such as Urdu or Pashto, and where the smaller populations had their own languages but which have never had a homeland (better known are the Kurds but how many of us have ever heard of the Qashqai?) . As in other places like Belgium where there is ambiguity about the official language, the better educated Iranian views Iran as a sort of melting pot, with up to about 40% of the population identifying with minority ethnic groups, many of whom did not speak Farsi until the recent oppression and ethnic cleansing of the mullahs rooted them out.

    It's interesting that Iranians view some of those languages with a kind of affinity, perhaps like many Americans like the lilt of Irish, or Scottish brogue, or perhaps the Jamaican English accent. Some Iranians also feel empathy for their neighbors who have suffered oppression (Armenians, Kurds, etc.) And then there are traditions and culture markers they enjoy (music, food, dancing, traditional ethnic clothing) which seems to be part of the attraction.

    If that's the consensus among modern Iranians and the millions who fled the atrocities there then it may be a sign of some sort of healing, although the homeland will never be cured of its present disease until some future generation throws off the yoke of Islamic Republicanism. In any case you're obviously technically correct.

    Presumably you mean white racists since whites and blacks talk normally to each other wherever they are living and working together cooperatively. For the rest -- the remaining racists and xenophobes who would like to lynch about 80% of the world's population based on some infantile sense of racial superiority -- they may be surprised to find that the people they feel superior to contains its own subgroup of racist supremacists. One of the stupidest things about supremacy is that it's obviously relative.

    I wasn't sure why the Iranians you mention were speaking Arabic -- that's fairly unusual. Evidently you mean to say that this Iranian employed some minority group of Iranian immigrants, and yet was hostile to them?

    It may come as a surprise to you that Islam is the offspring of Christianity, and its origins go back just a few hundred years after the first Christian Bibles came into existence (meaning the Vulgate). It would be hard for you characterize people of Arabian heritage prior to that time since very little is known about them, so you'd have a hard time telling whether they fared better or worse under Islam. But they made enormous progress under Islam. The 700 years of domination of the Ottoman Empire relied to an extent on Islamic influence. The "supreme whites" of the West simply were no match for them. And they made great strides in all kinds of technological advances on their own, including many we imported from them. They built many great cities and monuments, ruled the land and the sea, and created art, music and poetry. That's a long way from being "dirty" and "grubbing". Just as any religion, if taken as nothing more than advice on how to exist as merely a decent human being, Islam is no worse than any other in trying to help pull people up out of the muck.

    But why all the vitriol? Don't you find grubby dirty parasites in every culture? I feel the same way about people who dress well, behave politely and by all appearances are moderate, but who earn their living parasitically (mortgage investment bankers earned this stereotype) or just about any member of the Right Wing that grubs for money from big corporations to undermine the democratic process, esp. in opposing matters of social justice. As for dirty, that would cover just about everything Americans call "standard operating procedure" of any company, big or small, that's competing to make a profit.

    "Slack jawed" and "religious" often go hand in hand, esp. when the follower is practicing fundamentalism. It all depends on the individual. There are many ethnic Arab progressives and scholars who are moderates. But you'd have difficulty tracing the level of curiosity among entire ethnic groups. As for their status today, they have universities which turn out doctors, scientists and engineers who are anything but slack jawed even if they are religious. In the US and around the world many such scholars are represented in the faculties of many fine universities, labs and research sites. You seem to think they were better off in, say, the year 600 CE, which is not likely, although we hardly know who those people were.
  21. andy1033 Truth Seeker Valued Senior Member

    I would say that most people do not even speak one single language. I know i hardly talk, and although i speak english i doubt in real terms i can say i do, as i never speak it really.

    Your mouth loses the ability to talk properly if you do not talk to people for years i would think. I would not say i speak english although english is the only language i know. I doubt that many really know how to speak a language well.

    The only language i really know it me.
  22. ontheleft Registered Member

    Of course they are. And if you are privileged enough to live in that rarefied atmosphere you would not see where and how most of them live.

    No, you seem to think that there are no slums on the outskirts of Casablanca where the children throw rocks at trains.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 10, 2014
  23. Trooper Secular Sanity Valued Senior Member

    Maybe you should remove all of your rude remarks, Fraggle.

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