Foreign Language

Old Apr 21st, 2008, 07:32 AM
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Foreign Language

I'm cross-posting, I know..but this is the 2nd time I'm posting this topic in Asia forum. The first one didn't show (or did it?).

Anyway......I was saying..

How hard to you try and learn the language of the country you're going to visit?

I'm going to Tokyo in 4 weeks (to stay for 10 days min), then to Paris in June (to stay for 8 days). While I've given up learning any Japanese phrases (too difficult and too unfamiliar), I've enthusiastically trying to learn French every minute I have cause it seems easier to learn. I might be making a mistake though. I heard that it's harder to get around Tokyo cause English is hardly spoken over there, while I know that almost everyone in Paris speaks it.

What say you?
Old Apr 21st, 2008, 08:52 AM
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I wouldn't put a great deal of time or money into actually "learning" another language just for a 10-day or 2-week vacation trip. Unless it's something you just enjoy doing as a hobby, or you think you might end up going there more often , or getting a job needing the language, etc.

On the other hand, the more you can learn, certainly the more you'll get out of your trip. Just about anyone can (and really should) learn basics like hello/goodbye, thank you, good morning/evening, excuse me, some numbers, "Where's the WC?'" simple directions, and such.
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Old Apr 21st, 2008, 09:14 AM
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Old Apr 21st, 2008, 09:48 AM
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I always try to learn a few phrases of the language anywhere I go. Even if it is just hello, thank you, etc. It's not an issue of being understood (English is the language of travel these days), but of showing my interest in the country and the culture.

I remember enouogh of my French from high school that if I was headed to France, I'd pick up some French language cds and brush up.
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Old Apr 21st, 2008, 11:32 AM
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>>Author: rhkkmk
Date: 04/21/2008, 01:14 pm case you did not know it is english that people these days most strive to learn...<<

Interesting comment.

Thanks for the replies guys.

I guess I will try to learn how to say good morning or good afternoon. Maybe at least learn how to say, "Do you speak English?" To me it's about being respectful by taking interest in the country I'm visiting.

I've seen enough seasons of "The Amazing Race" and it seemed to me that any team that knew the language of the country they were in had some kind of advantage over the teams who simply assumed the natives could understand English.
Old Apr 21st, 2008, 12:29 PM
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Well, Bob is being honest with his "zero" answer.

francophile, it is no surprise that you spent a good deal of time learning French, given your fodors name.

You wrote: "To me it's about being respectful by taking interest in the country I'm visiting." That applies to French apparently, but not Japanese because Japanese is too hard.

I took one of those informal courses at the local community college before I went to Japan. I wanted to understand the rhythym and sound of the language and to learn a few words. The number 1 reason I learned the few words was so that I would understand them in conversation. If I can pick up and understand a few words used in a conversation between other people, then I would be more comfortable. It wouldn't all just be strange noise. Of course I learned for practical reasons, too, since I was traveling around the country solo. But also did it to make a connection with them on their terms, so to speak.

I've learned a few phrases of Turkish, Greek, Chinese, Polish, and tried Hebrew and Arabic. Brushed up on German, Spanish, and French. But got lazy about learning any Thai. I enjoy learning languages as a hobby, but it is pretty much not necessary as an English speaker.

My efforts ar French were unappreciated in Paris. But saying a few words in another language elsewhere was appreciated by the locals.

Here is your first Japanese lesson:

1) Do you understand English?
Eigo wakarimasu ka?
Eh ee go wah kah ree mahss kah?

2) Ok to shorten it to "English?"
Eigo ka?
Eh ee go ka?
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Old Apr 21st, 2008, 12:59 PM
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Oh snap!

You got me there, mr wonderful. My username is what it is because I enjoyed my visit to Paris last year so much that I plan on going back this summer. I agree that the French don't always appreciate what trouble I had gone through in learning a few phrases before visiting.

But who knows, maybe I'll change my name to nipponlvr when I come back to the US. We enjoyed hosting Japanese students for the last 2 years on a cultural exchange program. Before they arrived, and I tried to learn every bit as much as I could, but it was just too hard to remember them. It was very frustrating. Must be my age.

Anyway, I was just curious how many here bother with the language before heading out to a foreign country. I assume learning a few phrases helps one get around.

Thanks for the lesson. I appreciate it. I might pick up a set of cd from our city library to learn more.
Old Apr 21st, 2008, 02:02 PM
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Give it a try. No reason to follow the needham Troglodyte's advice. Learn to say:

Thank You
Excuse me

At least you can show that you're trying.

In 1994, the Parisians would not speak any French to me. In Provence, appearently they were amused. In 2000, apparently my French got much better and the Parisians would speak to me in French.
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Old Apr 21st, 2008, 02:35 PM
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Language is fascinating, and learning even a very little bit can give you huge insights into a culture.

Don't give up on the Japanese: it's actually one of the most approachable of the Asian languages for us Westerners, because the basic sounds are like ours (and not tonal, like Thai or Chinese). The written script is obviously a major issue, and I certainly in no way shape or form speak Japanese, but I can say a dozen or so phrases ... and that has opened opened enormous doors for me in Japan. (It also provides that extra bit of reassurance that I can ask "Where's the nearest bathroom?" if necessary.)

If you live near a decent-sized city, there's a good chance that a local adult education program will offer low-cost courses in various languages. These are often taught by native speakers, and it's a great opportunity to hear the language being spoken and to get some insights on the culture.

Bob will no doubt be interested to know that the Cambridge Center for Adult Edu has a great selection of courses.
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Old Apr 21st, 2008, 04:04 PM
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I always try to know learn these four phrases:

1) Hello
2) Thank you
3) Where is...?
4) Excuse me

#3 is useful when pointing to a map or a business card, plus works almost everywhere with "toilet" "Bus" "police" "Taxi" or even had symbols for a telephone.

I say I try, because tonal languages like Chinese, Vietnamese, and Thai are pretty much beyond my ears, and please and thankyou are about all I can do in them!
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Old Apr 21st, 2008, 04:43 PM
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The majority of people I've come across have really appreciated that I took the time and energy to try to learn/speak their language. So, I'll keep learning. Happy Travels!
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