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Author Topic:   Bilingualism
Straggler
Member
Posts: 9973
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006
Member Rating: 1.8


Message 46 of 71 (518842)
08-08-2009 7:46 PM
Reply to: Message 36 by dwise1
08-08-2009 5:56 AM


Re: Comedy Culture
Oni writes:

No never. I've been asked but spanish humor is sooo different from American humor. Sarcasm doesn't go over well. It's not understood to be funny, where as slap-stick comedy is hilarious to them. I don't do slap-stick, nor can I translate my sarcasm to spanish in a way that can be understood to be funny.

Straggler writes:

That is well interesting!! Why is that? Simply linguistic differences? Or more cultural?

dwise1 writes:

I guess that I would have to say that a lot is cultural.

I find it bewildering that a language can exist where sarcasm isn't just a natural part of humour. "The lowest form of wit" as the saying goes. And whilst slapstick can be funny I would suggest it is an inherently less sophisticated form of humour.

I will try out your joke on my son at some point. Although I expect I will get hist stock phrase standard reply to anything he doesn't understand at the moment. Namely "Why did you say that for?". Usually, I think (call me paranoid if you will), laden with a subtle but deeply sarcastic undertone

Edited by Straggler, : No reason given.


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Straggler
Member
Posts: 9973
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006
Member Rating: 1.8


Message 47 of 71 (518843)
08-08-2009 8:04 PM
Reply to: Message 32 by dwise1
08-08-2009 4:53 AM


Re: Bilingualism - Bringing Up Kids
In case I need to elucidate, my personal experience with German as when he was much younger. Your wife has established with your son that Spanish is a means of communication, and to me that is the vital point to be made with your offspring. In my opinion (such as it is), that is the all-important deciding factor. To my own limited opinion and experience, you are leading your son in the right direction.

Cheers!! I think so too!

Even if in moments of self doubt and contemplation I feel the need to explore the potential difficulties in doing so on an interent forum............ But that probably says more about my own neuroses than it does my sons linguistic development.

Anyway thanks for your comments O'wise one.

Edited by Straggler, : No reason given.


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Straggler
Member
Posts: 9973
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006
Member Rating: 1.8


Message 48 of 71 (518844)
08-08-2009 8:20 PM
Reply to: Message 34 by dwise1
08-08-2009 5:19 AM


Norman Tebbit's - "Cricket Test" of National Allegiance
More seriously, with what country should his loyalties lie? That is a kind of serious question to consider. Citizenship-wise, shouldn't he be British? Culturally, isnt' that a hazier question? Should he be tied to one particular national identity? Or should he transcend individual national identities? He is, after all, more than just merely British, is he not?

I will genuinely do all I can to make sure that he does respect and appreciate both cultures. Language is a part of that. Maintaining relationships with his family on the other side of the world is another key part of that.

In terms of sport.... Well if he is like me as a kid he will just support whoever is winning!!! I supported the West Indian cricket team (much to my dad's amusement) when I was a kid despite having no ancestral link to the Carribean whatsoever!! They were the best team. I was brought up in a very "black" neighbourhood. It was the natural conclusion for any self respecting kid in my situation.

This actually raises a serious point. A famous right-wing British politician raised what he called "the cricket test" as a means of testing the national and cultural loyalties of citizens. It was widely derided here and I personally have no time for it. Too simplistic and narrow minded approach to a complex cultural, social and historical issue made by a politician all too often associated with thinly veiled racism. But if you are interested here is a link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cricket_test

He is, after all, more than just merely British, is he not?

Of course!!!! He even has two passports. But having said that, in terms of sport alone, I still hope to indoctrinate him into supporting the "right" team. No matter how much better at football Argentina may be


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Rrhain
Member
Posts: 5720
From: San Diego, CA, USA
Joined: 05-03-2003


Message 49 of 71 (518845)
08-08-2009 8:25 PM
Reply to: Message 39 by xongsmith
08-08-2009 3:03 PM


xongsmith writes:

quote:
sounds like a variant on the Chevy Nova sales problem in Mexico.

"no go"


Except this is an urban legend. The word for a stellar explosion in Spanish is the same word in English: "Nova." It also has connections to the meaning of "new" as in "basso nova."

Nobody who speaks English would confuse "carpet" and "car pet," so why would anybody assume people who speak Spanish would confuse "nova" and "no va"? They aren't pronounced the same. "Nova" would be pronounced with the accent on the "no." "No va" would be pronounced with the accent on the "va."

Too, the Mexican oil company sells gasoline under the brand name "Nova."

And, in fact, the Nova sold very well in South America.


Rrhain

Thank you for your submission to Science. Your paper was reviewed by a jury of seventh graders so that they could look for balance and to allow them to make up their own minds. We are sorry to say that they found your paper "bogus," specifically describing the section on the laboratory work "boring." We regret that we will be unable to publish your work at this time.
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Blue Jay
Member (Idle past 76 days)
Posts: 2615
From: You couldn't pronounce it with your mouthparts
Joined: 02-04-2008


Message 50 of 71 (518847)
08-08-2009 9:13 PM
Reply to: Message 29 by caffeine
08-07-2009 9:07 AM


Re: Bilingualism - Bringing Up Kids
Hi, Caffeine.

I've always been somewhat jealous of Europeans because y'all have so many opportunities to learn foreign languages. All we get here is Spanish and English: you have to try hard to find anything else, and you don't get many opportunities to practice even if you can learn it.

When I started college, I was a linguistics major. I wanted to be able to speak several languages. I then tempered my passion and settled for mastering my Chinese. Then, I took a biology class and fell in love immediately, so linguistics had to take a back seat.

I keep hoping that another opportunity will come up, but it will surely have to wait until grad school is over.


-Bluejay (a.k.a. Mantis, Thylacosmilus)

Darwin loves you.


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dwise1
Member
Posts: 2173
Joined: 05-02-2006
Member Rating: 3.7


Message 51 of 71 (518849)
08-08-2009 10:18 PM
Reply to: Message 44 by Straggler
08-08-2009 6:40 PM


Re: Bilingualism - Bringing Up Kids
So when it becomes apparent that the person doesn't understand English, does the tourist repeat himself, only louder?

I've always understood Americans' monolingualism to be due to our geographical isolation from the rest of the world, with also accounts for outbreaks of isolationalism here. The only exception to that are the southwest border states, which actually used to be part of Mexico so they came with a Spanish-speaking indigenous population. And I've always understood that so many Europeans are polyglots because they needed to be, what with being surrounded on all sides by foreign languages.

But now my ideas have been challenged by the British. They're surrounded by foreign languages (indeed, English is mainly an amalgam of different languages) and yet they follow the isolationalist pattern. Is the UK being a group of islands what leads its population to be insular?

But thinking more about it now, I wonder if it's far more the society's view and approach to foreign languages that's at work, granted that that view is undoubtedly shaped by isolationalism. On the Continent and into Eurasia, foreign language education starts in the lowest school grades, whereas most American schools don't offer it until high school (the 10th or 12th year) or college. One of the things we were taught was that young children's brains are almost literally wired to learn a language, but then puberty rewires the brain and that talent and drive is largely lost. That means that while the Continent is teaching languages to children at the right time for them to learn them, the US is waiting until it's much more difficult for its students to learn a language and, as a result, many Americans walk away thinking that they can't learn a foreign language. Kind of like the messed-up way we tried to teach the metric system, which left most Americans thinking it was too difficult, when in reality it's so much more delightfully easy than the English system.

Question: when do British schools start to teach foreign languages?

Is it true that in the US some British, Australian and other accented but English speaking films are subtitled? I find that quite funny.

It happens, but I've only seen it twice in my 57 years. The second time was about a month ago, but I forget what the show or movie was. The first time was two decades ago in the PBS production, The Story of English.

Though it reminds me of that scene in Simon Pegg's Hot Fuzz where they talk with that farmer. His dialect is so thick that only the old constable and he can understand each other, and only Edgar Wright's character could understand the constable.


This message is a reply to:
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Straggler
Member
Posts: 9973
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006
Member Rating: 1.8


Message 52 of 71 (518983)
08-10-2009 8:30 AM
Reply to: Message 51 by dwise1
08-08-2009 10:18 PM


Language In School
So when it becomes apparent that the person doesn't understand English, does the tourist repeat himself, only louder?

Louder and slower. That is indeed the stereotype, source of much comedy and something I have seen actually happen on numerous occasions.

And I've always understood that so many Europeans are polyglots because they needed to be, what with being surrounded on all sides by foreign languages.

My experience of continental European countries is that the less internationally spoken their own language is the more able they are to speak several others. For example the Dutch people I have known all seem to speak a bit of every main European language and are fluent in a few. Germans too. The French and Spanish less so. The British least of all.

But now my ideas have been challenged by the British. They're surrounded by foreign languages (indeed, English is mainly an amalgam of different languages) and yet they follow the isolationalist pattern. Is the UK being a group of islands what leads its population to be insular?

There is definitely a mindeset in some (most?) that consider Europe as "over there". We often use the term Europe to mean continental Europe rather than something that includes Britain. Politically we are not part of the European currency and have a history of being a relatively reluctant part of the wider European political process. Geography and history must be part of the reason for this and for our relative linguistic ineptitude as a nation.

Question: when do British schools start to teach foreign languages?

I started French at 11 (first year of secondary school). I had never done any language classes of any sort before that age. I hated it. I think there have been a number of measures to encourage earlier language learning since I left school going on 20 years ago. But to my knowledge there remains no compulsory requirement, or even standard practise to do so, before the age of 11. If anyone else knows different I would be interested to hear what the current situation is.


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caffeine
Member (Idle past 155 days)
Posts: 872
From: Prague, Czech Republic
Joined: 10-22-2008


Message 53 of 71 (519004)
08-10-2009 11:43 AM
Reply to: Message 51 by dwise1
08-08-2009 10:18 PM


Re: Bilingualism - Bringing Up Kids
I'd agree with Straggler that the primary reason for the inability of the Brits to speak foreign languages is the same as for Americans - we speak the global lingua franca already. If you're brought up speaking Hungarian and only Hungarian, you can directly communicate with only 15 million other people. Anywhere too far from the borders of Hungary, you'd be surprised to find anything written in Hungarian, and if you try to get by anywhere else you will be forced to try and communicate in a different language.

However, if you're brought up speaking English, then you can already talk to more than 1,000 million people - possibly as much as a fifth of the world's population, depending on who you ask. All over the world, English-language publications will be available, there'll be English-language television and multilingual signs will often be written in English (except for all the older trains in eastern and central Europe which, despite having signs in five or six languages, seem to avoid English as a matter of principle. This is probably because they were all brought from the French).

This sort of thing is reinforced by feedback loops. When a native English-speaker encounters a foreigner abroad, the foreigner is usually more likely to speak some English than the English-speaker is to speak their language, so everything gets done in English. The foreigners can't do the same thing in England, so they emphasise the importance of langauge teaching - especially English - while it becomes devalued as inessential in English-speaking countries.

The interesting thing about English now is that way it's used as the language of communication between non-native speakers of different languagues. Swedish and Japanese tourists here in Prague who speak not a jot of Czech will almost invariably ask for directions or order their food in English. All of which makes it easier and easier just not to bother learning foreign languages for us, and more and more important for foreigners to learn English, so more do, which makes it easier again for us to get by in English and so on and so forth.

Incidentally, I'm not sure I agree with Straggler's impressions of Americans and Brits of various classes 'having a go' at the language. I don't think there's a significant class difference amongst British tourists (though maybe this is because they speak such an obscure language here that nobody knows enough to try), and Americans tend to be more likely to be offended that people don't know English (this could be due to the fact that I see a lot more American than British tourists, so I'm more likely to come across the ignorant minority).

All of these attitudes are common across the English-speaking world though, in my experience. It's significant that my Czech is still awful after three years living here, yet I'm regarded by most of my native-English speaking friends as fluent, simply because most of them can say nothing apart from ordering beer (and they get their plurals wrong when they do that!).

Edited by caffeine, : spelling mistake


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Straggler
Member
Posts: 9973
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006
Member Rating: 1.8


Message 54 of 71 (519008)
08-10-2009 12:43 PM
Reply to: Message 53 by caffeine
08-10-2009 11:43 AM


Re: Bilingualism - Bringing Up Kids
Incidentally, I'm not sure I agree with Straggler's impressions of Americans and Brits of various classes 'having a go' at the language.

I guess I was thinking more of those Brits who consider themselves to be reasonably educated "having a go" at French, German, Spanish or one of other main European languages. Even then I was suggesting that in most cases it is a rather pathetic token gesture instead of any genuine attempt at communication in another language.

Pretty much everything I have said in this thread is based on mere personal experience and anecdotal evidence. I will happily concede that such "evidence" can be as unreliable and fallible as it can be convincing.

So feel free to disagree. I am happy to be put right by those with more relevant experience.


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xongsmith
Member
Posts: 1385
From: massachusetts US
Joined: 01-01-2009
Member Rating: 1.4


Message 55 of 71 (519049)
08-10-2009 9:33 PM
Reply to: Message 49 by Rrhain
08-08-2009 8:25 PM


Except this is an urban legend.

yeah. ok then.

you're no fun....

(i did have one of my car pets die over the winter - somewhere in the ventilation system, creating a stink for awhile.)


- xongsmith
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xongsmith
Member
Posts: 1385
From: massachusetts US
Joined: 01-01-2009
Member Rating: 1.4


Message 56 of 71 (519057)
08-10-2009 9:53 PM
Reply to: Message 51 by dwise1
08-08-2009 10:18 PM


Re: Bilingualism - Bringing Up Kids
dwise1 remarks:
Kind of like the messed-up way we tried to teach the metric system, which left most Americans thinking it was too difficult, when in reality it's so much more delightfully easy than the English system.

Except the currency! Then it flips the other way!!

Two english-speaking countries with opposite halves of their numbering system stupid.

dwise1 also continues:

It happens, but I've only seen it twice in my 57 years. The second time was about a month ago, but I forget what the show or movie was. The first time was two decades ago in the PBS production, The Story of English.

Though it reminds me of that scene in Simon Pegg's Hot Fuzz where they talk with that farmer. His dialect is so thick that only the old constable and he can understand each other, and only Edgar Wright's character could understand the constable.

There's that Brad Pitt movie set in England, Snatch, where his pikey english & the much better pikey of the minor characters in his trailer camp is subtitled in the movie. Thick & fast, indeed.


- xongsmith
This message is a reply to:
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dwise1
Member
Posts: 2173
Joined: 05-02-2006
Member Rating: 3.7


Message 57 of 71 (519065)
08-11-2009 2:11 AM
Reply to: Message 53 by caffeine
08-10-2009 11:43 AM


Re: Bilingualism - Bringing Up Kids
Yes, we've be sabotaged by English having become a commercial lingua franca.

I'm coming from a slightly different perspective than most, I would like to think. My first 6 or 7 years in college, I was a language geek. My intelligence is a bit above average, so I basically just skated through school. But then in 11'th grade (around age 17), I decided to try to learn a foreign language and, since I failed to learn Spanish (audio-lingual conversational classes in 7'th grade, which was not how my own mind works), I decided to take German (Scottish-Irish as I am, my family name, Wise, is from a German ancestor 4 generations ago). That was the first subject that I would actually study for, so when I started college I continued with the same subject, along with a few other languages (French, Spanish, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Russian, Welsh, Old English). I lived and worked in Germany for two summers, 1973 and 1974, but then the only countries I as in were ones whose languages I had studied. Then I married and enlisted in the Air Force and turned to studying computer languages, which were surprisingly similar. Interestingly, I don't think that I have the ear for languages, but rather it was the structure of the other languages that had me.

Another interesting thing I noticed was that if the other people spoke your native language, you became reluctant to speak their language. In 1974, a woman working for the city had a room free (her usual Yugoslav tenent was gone for the summer), so I stayed with her family. She could also speak English, but she confided with me that, since I could speak German, she was reluctant to speak English with me. I've felt the same, as I'm sure my boys have, regarding Spanish.

Yes, I prefer to try to use the local language, but I'll try adjust to what the locals want to use. Eg, my first time at a local restaurant (in Santa Ana, Calif, AKA "Tijuana del Norte" -- you immediately know when you've entered Santa Ana, my birth place, when all the signs switch to being in Spanish), one of our party had already eaten, so I automaticallyh told the waitress, "Ya coma". Understand, I had been Mexican by marriage for 28 years. 5 years post-divorce, I'm just getting to where I don't automatically respond in Spanish.


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dwise1
Member
Posts: 2173
Joined: 05-02-2006
Member Rating: 3.7


Message 58 of 71 (519066)
08-11-2009 2:14 AM
Reply to: Message 54 by Straggler
08-10-2009 12:43 PM


Re: Bilingualism - Bringing Up Kids
I'm thinking that the more educated individuals are aware of the sterotypes and they want to "do it right". Not really "having a go", but rather trying to do it right.

Of course, as I have just mentioned, I've never been in a country where I hadn't already studied the language.


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dwise1
Member
Posts: 2173
Joined: 05-02-2006
Member Rating: 3.7


Message 59 of 71 (519068)
08-11-2009 2:26 AM
Reply to: Message 56 by xongsmith
08-10-2009 9:53 PM


Re: Bilingualism - Bringing Up Kids
British currency! Since I was a paperboy in the late 60's, I remember the stories of the "Decimal Dollies", the women who were hired in the stores to explain the new decimal money to the patrons. All my European time was in Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, and France, all of which had decimal currency, so money was all so very simple. I never had to try to deal with British currency.

Now, English system of measurements, that was a different matter! After 57 years, I still have to look up how many feet are in a mile (5280?). I remember that horrific year in 3rd or 4th grade. Our math book did not have any conversion tables for the English system. I was completely without a rudder. Argghhhhh!

The first summer I worked in Germany was on a construction site. The very first day on the job, I was handed a Meterstock and told to get some boards that measured so many centimeters across. Simple! A few years later, a co-worker needed to know how much the water would weight in a trough of certain dimensions. Simple! (1 ccm is one ml and one ml of water masses at 1 gram ... take it from there). The metric system is so simple, but they decided to teach it by converting from English to metric and back. Dumb!

I still prefer the metric system.


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caffeine
Member (Idle past 155 days)
Posts: 872
From: Prague, Czech Republic
Joined: 10-22-2008


Message 60 of 71 (519079)
08-11-2009 6:59 AM
Reply to: Message 56 by xongsmith
08-10-2009 9:53 PM


Metric measurements and monies
Except the currency! Then it flips the other way!!

Two english-speaking countries with opposite halves of their numbering system stupid.

Britain switched to a metric currency all the way back in 1971, you know, when most of our weights and measures were still imperial. Despite the general switch to metric measurements, many things are still commonly counted in the old imperial measurements - including some officially. Speed limits and distances on road signs, for example, are universally in miles, not kilometres.

Edited by caffeine, : No reason given.


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