Questions About Language Learning

Discussion in 'General discussions' started by Rutherglen1794, Jun 8, 2019.

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  1. lynnie

    lynnie Puritan Board Senior

    I would say start them now with American Sign Language, but get a tutor, don't try to do it yourself. It is a lovely to be able to sign and it helps with getting jobs. My home schooled daughter was able to start volunteering at a deaf school with little kids when she was 16, and it has opened up other doors ever since.
  2. Grant Jones

    Grant Jones Puritan Board Junior

    That sounds like a great idea.
  3. bookslover

    bookslover Puritan Board Professor

    Well, if you must learn a language, make it Pig Latin.
  4. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Junior

    My dad was a high school French teacher, so I never could get away from learning French. I ended up studying it as a minor through university. I always liked the language. It's also fairly easy, coming from English. Though one is Germanic and the other Romance, both languages follow very similar verb tense structures, and there is of course an enormous amount of vocabulary in English that is drawn from French (thanks to those nasty Normans).

    My mother's side is Prussian, so I grew up hearing a lot of German (in a now-extinct Prussian accent!) but I never really learned it until I was able to take it in high school. German vocabulary is a lot to handle.

    I never really got a hold on grammar until I studied Latin in my first year of university. Latin was a lot of fun, and it is immeasurably useful. Grammar, vocabulary, sentence structure. You will improve your speaking and writing in your mother tongue.

    With my French, I can read a fair bit of Spanish, and because I'd studied German I was able to pick up Yiddish with remarkable ease. (Modern standard German and Yiddish are both descended from Middle High German.) With a background in German, and with a little bit of familiarisation, I can also read basic Dutch, Frisian, Norwegian, Danish, Swedish, Icelandic... As my Yiddish professor said, "All the Germanic languages are basically just dialects."

    A year of Latin helped prepare me for Koiné Greek, which I studied for about 4 months. Case systems take some getting used to. I think I was lucky in going from English to German to Latin to Greek. It'd have been a nightmare to attempt Greek having known only English! I figure an early start in basic Greek is helpful if you want to take it up later. Teach your kids to sing the alphabet and have them learn some words. There are a few books out there, but it seems not nearly as much as for Latin.

    Hebrew was tricky, since it was my first non-Indo-European language. Took a while to get the hang of it, but it clicked at the end of the term. I can hardly remember a word of it now, but I've already taught my son, now three, to sing the Hebrew alphabet. I intend to review it so I can teach him some basics when he's a bit older.

    I studied some Irish Gaelic and Welsh in university as well. Modern Welsh, though not particularly useful (since pretty much all the native speakers today also speak English) is very easy to learn. Just remember to keep hydrated and carry a handkerchief.

    Korean is hard. If there is a language opposite to English, Korean is it. Granted, I have not really applied myself to it, and I'm a little older than I used to be.

    If I had the time, I'd study Old English and Middle English.
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2019
  5. Harley

    Harley Puritan Board Sophomore

    @Tom Hart you are excellent proof that learning a second language does nothing for mainline international travel or expatriate residency. You live in Korea, and by your last post it sounds like maybe your Korean is not all that good :). You almost make me want to learn Korean for that fact alone, that it's hard for English speakers. I hear Japanese is the very worst for English-speakers.

    My two living languages are English and semi-proficient Spanish. Our children will learn Spanish first, maybe Greek and then Hebrew if they really want to. Guess who has been appointed Professor of Linguistics in our home?

    Advantage to Latin? Philosophically, yes, since we in America are in one sense latter-day Romans. If anything, it keeps connectivity open between us and our cultural past. And there are theological tomes in Latin waiting to be translated. These also make decent arguments to learn ancient Greek. I doubt any kid cares about these reasons, and the most effective education early in life will be the education they can use. Latin and Greek are probably more appreciative studies once you've got a grip on the immediate world around you. Maturing and being useful in their immediate world is more than enough for a child.

    If anything, language learning is an incredible mind exercise. Associations, new rules, and I think its taxation of memory alone is good reason to do it. Build new memories, learn new morphemes, connect them by rules, then learn to think and communicate in them. That's a great task for a monolinguistic mind.
  6. jawyman

    jawyman Puritan Board Junior

    I loved Latin and it helped me with French when I was learning. I recommend French, but that’s because my heritage is Québécois.
  7. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    There are two basic reasons to learn a language beyond whatever you grow up speaking. One reason is to expand your possibilities of communication; but that depends on learning well enough to speak and having someone to speak to, at least most of the time.

    Another reason is that different languages can do different things. This becomes particularly evident in poetry and song. Learning them well enough to appreciate the interplay of sound and sense opens up new possibilities of enjoyment and appreciation. Anyone with some literary culture should be aware that no language exhausts the store of things worth reading.

    On that score, there are strong reasons to learn Spanish, such as Amado Nervo, José Gorostiza, Salvador Díaz Mirón and astonishing lyrics from zarzuela and folk music. Of course those reasons would also apply to Middle English or many other candidates; but the idea that the only reason to learn Spanish is so that Central American immigrants don't have to learn English is patently absurd.

    As a concrete instance, here is the sonnet "¡Audacia!" from Salvador Díaz Mirón:

    Basta de timidez. La gloria esquiva
    al que por miedo elude la pelea
    y con suspiros lánguidos rastrea
    acogido a la sombra de la oliva.

    Solo una tempestad brusca y altiva
    encumbra la pasión y la marea,
    ¡y en empinados vórtices pasea
    el abismo de abajo en el de arriba!

    ¡Oh, rebelde! Conquista la presea;
    goza de la hermosura inebriativa
    y horror a los demás tu dicha sea!

    ¡Arrostra por la gracia la diatriba,
    y en empinados vórtices pasea
    el abismo de abajo en el de arriba!
  8. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Junior

    My Korean is dreadful.

    Recently Korean was ranked the No. 1 hardest language for English speakers. Japanese, I hear, has a very similar structure, with the added difficulty of the writing systems!

    Korean has the most efficient alphabet in the world. You can learn it in a day.

    There is a theory that Korean and Japanese belong to the same language family, Altaic, along with Mongolian and Turkic and a few others. For some reason that is still a controversial theory, and Korean is often considered to be a language isolate.

  9. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Junior

  10. Edward

    Edward Puritan Board Doctor

    I passed the brain test. My answer was the same even without having the chance to look at it to keep my story straight.

    Thanks for finding it.
  11. Edward

    Edward Puritan Board Doctor

    Real Germans eat Currywurst.
  12. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Junior

    Not my grandparents! Pickled herring was more to their taste.
  13. bookslover

    bookslover Puritan Board Professor

    Interesting. I assumed that Swedish and Finnish would be about equal, as far as learning difficulty is concerned, because I assume that the two languages are related. It turns out that, per the chart, Finnish is more difficult than Swedish.

    Also (not related to the chart), because Denmark ruled Norway for about 300 years, the Danes belittled Norwegian as little more than a dialect and not a real language. Well into the 19th century, if a Norwegian wanted to succeed as a writer (plays, novels, non-fiction, poetry), he needed to write in Danish if he expected to be read at all.
  14. Andrew35

    Andrew35 Puritan Board Freshman

    Because Finnish isn't a Germanic language. It's not even an Indo-European language; it's in the Uralic language family. So Hindi is a closer relative to Swedish and English than Finnish, which is crazy to think about.

    Their grammar is very strange, which is what makes it difficult. For example, prepositions are appended to the end of words like a suffix instead of in the position we'd expect (so "in the bus" would be "*busi," or something like that). Apparently this means Finns can hypothetically have words of infinite length, or so I've read.

    My great-grandmother was a Finn. Very interesting and under-appreciated culture.

    *not accurate Finnish; was too lazy to look it up.
  15. Edward

    Edward Puritan Board Doctor

    Per google translate: "bussissa"
  16. bookslover

    bookslover Puritan Board Professor

    Very interesting. Never knew that.
  17. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Junior

    As pointed out, Finnish is not Germanic. It is in the Finno-Ugric family, which also includes Estonian and Hungarian. From what I have read, the origins of that language family lie in the Asian portion of what is now Russia. Also interestingly, it appears that the languages have no close ties to ethnicity; so Finno-Ugric-speaking peoples have very different DNA.

    The Scandianavian languages are all quite closely related, but there are two main groupings. There is West Norse, which includes Danish and Swedish, and East Norse, which comprises Norwegian and its offshoots Shetlandic, Faroese and Icelandic. In about the year 1000 A.D. the Norse languages were much more mutually intelligible than they are today (and Danish, Swedish and Norwegian are still highly mutually intellible). You will read the sagas and find Norwegians conversing without difficulty with Swedes and Icelanders. Though the sagas were written down long after the events they tell of, they seem to accurately portray the Scandinavian languages in the late Viking Age. Scholars believe the divergence became greater over the course of the Middle Ages, after the Scandinavian kingdoms solidified. Denmark and Sweden still had a lot of contact (and not a few conflicts); Norway was somewhat more isolated due to its mountainous geography.

    It is interesting that you mention Norwegians having to write in Danish in the 19th century, since Norway actually belonged to the Kingdom of Sweden from 1814 until independence in 1905.
  18. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Junior

    Korean and Japanese also append prepositions to nouns. There's a limit of one preposition per word, however.
  19. Harley

    Harley Puritan Board Sophomore

    Wow, 2200 hours! I still think learning Chinese may prove worth the effort.

    How did Hebrew and Arabic get in two different classes when they are difficult for the same reasons, I wonder?
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