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Foreign Languages
Elinox
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Post: #1
Foreign Languages
I've heard that countries other than America have fantastic foreign language programs in their primary schools. So much so that students are often fluent in their native language as well as English and sometimes even a third language. American schools tend to offer foreign language classes as a choice when a student gets to high school. And while this is not always the case, it seems to be the norm. (My cousin started learning Spanish in Kindergarden.)

I myself took two years of German in high school along with three years of Latin. When I got to college, I took two additional semesters of Latin. However, I cannot speak or write either fluently. I know enough Latin that I might be able to get by, but not enough to hold an everyday conversation with a native speaker (ignore the fact that Latin isn't really spoken any more!). And I know a few phrases in about a dozen other languages, but nothing I could use to communicate to a native speaker with. I feel that had I started learning a foreign language when I was young like my cousin, then I would probably be fluent in it today. Personally, I find it frustrating that I'm not!

So how many of you know a foreign language? Are you fluent in it? At what age did you start learning it and do you think that made a difference in how well you know it today?

And as a side note, if you could learn a new language (any language) what would it be and why?

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2009-12-22 15:41
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kahoku
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Post: #2
Re: Foreign Languages
my native language is german, i started learning english when i was a baby (my aunt is an interpreter), then stopped when my family moved, and started from scratch at primary school when i was 8. i must say that the internet helped me a lot with the language, and by playing wow on an american server and talking to people through ventrilo, i got really good at speaking, also learned to talk with an american accent instead of british. of course you can hear a german accent still...

as for other languages... bits and pieces. i deliberately forgot how to speak french after graduating from high school (including 4 years of french course, but i hated it), i could never actually speak latin despite learning it for 6 years, i could speak some czech when i was a kid but forgot most of it since i don't see the czech part of my family very often nowadays, i forgot what little hungarian i learned a few years ago, and i never really got into the japanese and spanish.

computer-wise, my "native language" is qbasic and other basic dialects, i "speak" php, c++ and java fluently, and many other programming languages at least partially (c, perl, assembler,... and no, html does not qualify as a programming language).

what i would like to learn is arabic and russian. also, na'vi sounds like a very cool language, i'll look into the course as soon as it's published. <!-- sSmile --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_e_smile.gif" alt=":)" title="Smile" /><!-- sSmile -->

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2009-12-22 16:39
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Seraphyna
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Post: #3
Re: Foreign Languages
I took Italian from 6th-12th grade and went on a school sponsored 2-week exchange program my junior year of highschool. I haven't taken a class in Italian since. I used to be semi-fluent, now I could probably hold my own in a conversation, but I'm nowhere near as fluent in it as I was...which is sad.

*goes back into hiding*

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2009-12-22 22:52
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Archer
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Post: #4
Re: Foreign Languages
Language teaching in the UK is pretty awful too. In my own little corner of the world, French was compulsory for five years (from age 11 to age 16), and I managed to get the top grade in French in my GCSEs (exams taken at age 16) . . . but in no way am I anything remotely close to being able to communicate in French.

I don't know if it's education that's the real problem, so much as English speakers having a feeling of "why bother?" Certainly a lot of the Europeans I know who are fluent in English as a second language were motivated by the internet, American films, British TV, and books. When we were being "taught" French in school, though, I don't recall anyone suggesting any reason to learn other than some vague "for your own education!" or "it will help on holiday" (when I have no desire to holiday in France anyway).

English speakers can go anywhere in the world and there's a reasonable chance that someone nearby will be able to communicate . . . so I reckon a lot of us feel like we don't see the point in learning anything else. Especially when it's idiot 11 year olds we're talking about (ie: all 11 year olds!). If someone had beaten it into my thick skull that learning French would have enabled me to live and work in Montreal, or learning German (which I had two years of, age 14-16) would allow me to travel to big chunks of Europe totally independantly and meet all sorts of interesting people . . . I might have worked at it.

Now, if I could choose anything to learn, it would probably be Spanish - for the potential to open up the Americas for travel. The next option would probably be Russian, because again it opens up huge tracts of Eastern Europe.

On top of that, Latin would be interesting to learn because it would allow me to read a whole lot of interesting things in their original translation (plus I could scam more people into thinking I'm cultured, heh heh) and Esperanto (which I spent a couple of months on, once, a while ago) would be nice to know because it makes communication with assorted Europeans easier.

If I had time and money I'd love to sit down and learn lots and lots of languages. But I don't have either. And it's kinda like learning to play the guitar - I'd love to do it, but I don't have the motivation to spend less time on other things I enjoy, and make that time productive.

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2009-12-22 23:58
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Post: #5
Re: Foreign Languages
For Kahoku: <!-- m --><a class="postlink" href="http://www.learnnavi.org">http://www.learnnavi.org</a><!-- m -->

I speak read and write very basic Japanese, and forgot about a year of French from high school. I also taught myself enough Latin that I can piece together basic sentences in most Romance languages as long as they're written down or spoken slowly. Because of the Japanese kanji I learned, I sometimes can figure out very, very basic Chinese hanzi by meaning only, and I've found I do terrible with languages with three or more tones. (Japanese uses two tones. There's usually one high tone per word, and some words are differentiated by which syllable has the high tone.) I've dabbled with quite a few languages including Romanian, Russian, Gaelic and Cherokee. And Old Icelandic. Of those, I'm most likely to continue Russian and maybe look into Icelandic, which I've heard is similar to it's older form. Except for French, any languages besides English that I know I taught myself, or at least began that way.

I used to know some Quenya from Lord of the Rings. If I was going to learn a conlang now, it would either be Klingon or Na'vi, but I'm working on a few of my own (technically a "family" of languages, since they all have the same source), so between keeping up my Japanese, trying to learn Russian and working on those conlangs, I'm a bit busy language-wise.

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2009-12-23 1:34
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House Hesson
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Post: #6
Re: Foreign Languages
We've had 3.5 years of Spanish, 0.5 year of QBASIC, a bunch of C++, and some microcontroller stuff that we intentionally forgot because of all the trauma. We don't remember much of any of them now. That was all high school and college; we haven't had enough opportunities to practice Spanish to keep up on it and we haven't wanted to do any more programming than we have to.

We'd like to learn German (language of our ancestors and hand up on learning the next one), Old Norse/Icelandic (language of the Eddas and other source documents for our religion), and Arabic (all the ancillary cultural stuff that goes along with learning bellydance). And of course we'd give two arms and two legs to learn our species' language but that's a bit harder...

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2009-12-23 1:35
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Post: #7
Re: Foreign Languages
I had 5 years of Spanish and Spanish culture in High School but completely lost the language while in College (no need for it).

I'm now in Texas and have begun picking it up again. When there's no one around who you want to speak to in another language (e.g. to get a better deal at a flea market) - there's no real incentive to keep it in the forefront of your mind let alone learn more of it.

As for going anywhere in the world just knowing English... well, I still think me traveling to Germany last year without knowing much German was a bad idea. I think you guys dang near wanted to kick me off the continent by the time I was done.

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2009-12-23 6:11
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Post: #8
Re: Foreign Languages
Kreyas Wrote:As for going anywhere in the world just knowing English... well, I still think me traveling to Germany last year without knowing much German was a bad idea. I think you guys dang near wanted to kick me off the continent by the time I was done.

That partially depends on the region and whether you look German. <!-- sSad --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_e_sad.gif" alt=":(" title="Sad" /><!-- sSad --> We've heard mixed reports from people who've visited Germany more recently than we have.

-Shainin

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2009-12-24 1:27
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Post: #9
Re: Foreign Languages
English/Irish would be my first languages, I'm learning French and know bits and pieces of other languages.

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2009-12-24 19:09
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Post: #10
Re: Foreign Languages
kahoku' Wrote:na'vi sounds like a very cool language, i'll look into the course as soon as it's published. <!-- sSmile --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_e_smile.gif" alt=":)" title="Smile" /><!-- sSmile -->

Referring to Avatar? I desperately want to see
that film <!-- s:| --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_neutral.gif" alt=":|" title="Neutral" /><!-- s:| -->

"Think you're escaping and run into yourself. Longest way round is the shortest way home."
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2009-12-24 19:16
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