how many languages do you speak?

May 26th, 2000, 12:11 AM
Posts: n/a
Fluent: English, French, Spanish, German
Passable: Portuguese
Emergency use only: Finnish, Japanese

Louise, I don't speak Afrikaans but own a very impressive English-Afrikaans dictionary; I have a collection of Dictionaries and language coursebooks, featuring weird wonderful lanuages such as Maori, Mapuche, Basque and Kalka-Mongol.

For anyone really interested in playing with (European) languages, here's a whilarious website:
May 26th, 2000, 12:13 AM
Posts: n/a

I can understand Afrikaans because it sounds very much like the Flemish Dutch I speak and I know a few words ("braai" for instance). I love Afrikaans because it says so literaly what it means. And I hope to be able to visit Zuid-Afrika soon.
May 26th, 2000, 05:42 AM
Posts: n/a
American English - Mother tongue
Fluent - British and Australian English :0)
Able to manage in German - read/write better than speak.
Basic traveler stuff - French, Spanish
Enough to get giggled at - Japanese, Russian.

I always attempt to get at least a basic traveler's vocabulary before I go anywhere. Unfortunately, I haven't gone anywhere lately, so my skills are shaky. We're heading to Germany and France in a week, so I've been brushing up my spoken German, and am starting on the French. Since I am starting to develop a group of friends on the Internet who speak something other than English, I have more opportunities to practice the languages.
May 26th, 2000, 06:15 AM
Beth Anderson
Posts: n/a
Hi all,

Your replies are all so interesting! So many talented people out there! I think it is very interesting that this has invited people to talk about their ancestors/background, too.

My next question might be - are you more interested in European travel (and learning European languages) because your family comes from there (or do they not come from Europe - don't want to paint with too broad of a brush).

or, for you, is the European travel just the tip of the iceberg? after all this is a forum on Europe so it follows that is much of what would be discussed.

For my part, roughly 100 years ago, all "my people" were to be found somewhere in Europe. Sweden, Germany, Austria-Hungary - as it was called in 1902 when my Great-Gramma (Baba) came over here as a young girl of 16 (alone! to visit friends, then she decided to stay...)

Another point I thought I might share with you, for I find it interesting: I am very interested in history and especially am drawn to European history, especially more so than "American" history. A British Colonel whom I stayed with in Normandy (Col Chilcott, for those of you who have not read my other posts) is an avid historian. He pointed out that he thought one difference between Americans and their view of history versus the British viewpoint was that Americans tend to say "my history started in 1776" (or thereabouts) and they limit their viewpoint of "their history" to what happened on American soil... whereas the British (and other Europeans I would imagine) tend to look at the WORLD'S history as their history. Romans? British history (a lot of England was under Roamn control 2000 years ago. France? British history (1066). etc etc.

For my part, I tend to think of "my history" as belonging to Europe. In 1776, my people were not even on this continent, nor were they here in 1860-65! Germany did not even exist in its present form - not to mention Austria-Hungary, etc...

anyway.... food for thought.

I had no idea I would get such a big response to this question, I wonder how many more will be waiting for me when I get back from Ireland I leave in a few hours - so, maybe I can add "a few words of Gaelic" to my list when I return.

I forgot to add in "a (very) few words of Hungarian/Slovak" too... (not even enough to get arrested, alas!)

Myriam - I have to tell you, I have heard from various friends that the Dutch really tend to be polyglots - that it is not at all unusual for many of you to speak 4 or more languages, fluently! I think that is amazing. I could only wish I would be up there someday. (I don't consider myself fluent in French, even though I can read it pretty well - and I have actually had several native speakers tell me I speak very well - I guess it is a confidence thing more than anything)

and so everyone, I am off to the Emerald Isle shortly, have a wonderful holiday weekend and I will see you all in about 10 days or so! (no matter how addicted I may be to this forum, it does not extend to accessing it while I am actually ON vacation!!)


May 26th, 2000, 07:40 AM
Posts: n/a
Beth, have a great trip in Ireland!
We look forward to your posting upon return, and thanks for the great question.
My languages, in descending order of proficiency are:
Russian, French, Italian, Spanish, Latin, German, Finnish
I was once able to read Tolstoy in Russian, but have lost that facility through disuse.
French I picked up in one conversational class plus living in Ontario, so near Quebec, and then travel in France.
Italian is lovely and easy to pick up, with a little French as a base. Italian seems easier, but I don't know why.
Maybe it was the two years of Latin I studied.
And Finish, well, I stayed in Finland one summer while I studied Russian, and picked up some, which is now down to a few cherished words.
I always thought I wanted to learn German, but after four trips to Austria and Germany, I see how hard it is. It needs to be studied, not picked up, IMHO.
Au revoir, folks.
May 26th, 2000, 09:43 AM
Posts: n/a
good question
english -native language
french-fairly fluent
spanish-can get by on vacation
chinese-just learning

i just like to study languages to keep the brain cells in shape. you never know when you might need to use one of them.
have a nice trip.
May 26th, 2000, 09:51 AM
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Louise. I learned conversational Afrikaans while at high school in Johannesburg and also a smattering of Setswana because 'home' was Gaberone. Don't have either anymore. It has been 25 years. Not much chance to practice either here in Victoria. I have almost totaly lost my French also. I can only translate fragments of movies now. How do people hang on to languages without having a chance to practice them.
May 26th, 2000, 10:06 AM
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I am fluent in English and can get by in Spanish and French when necessary. I had 8 years of Spanish so I should be able to do more than "get by" but that is life. I took a semester of Italian in college but remember none of it. I also understand a small bit of Ladino since most of my family speaks it. Every few months I try to teach myself Hebrew. I usually give up after a few days only to start again a few months later.
May 26th, 2000, 04:43 PM
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After many years of taking French courses at all levels plus a stint
living in Paris shortly after the Romans
left I still go into panic-mode when
forced to attempt French in France;
however, after a bottle of wine I
become miraculously fluent - complete
with Gallic gestures. Many a native
French speaker finding themselves in
a tete-a-tete avec moi has backed off
quickly with a look of stunned bewilderment - but I continue in full
spate much to the amusement of my mono-
lingual North Amer. friends.....but,
luckily for me, mon mari is absolutely
unable to absorb any language - after
six months of French lessons he asked
in all innocence what "oui" meant....
so he honestly thinks I make sense when
I speak in tongues in Toulon.
We leave for France in a few weeks and I
hope the Language Police are en vacance!

A bientot!
May 28th, 2000, 03:14 PM
dan woodlief
Posts: n/a
Fluent in English

Fluent in Southern English (U.S.), although 8 years in Wisconsin left me slighly less than perfectly fluent (just a joke)

Studied four semesters of German in college; was my best subject - can speak it pretty effectively, but my reading needs some work

Studied French in high school; my best subject; took a little in college and reading knowledge of French classes prior to grad school; used it primarily for my thesis research in French history - now, I can speak it well enough to get by and read it fairly fluently

Studied Spanish in jr. high and high school - brushed up for a trip to Mexico two years ago - only know some basic phrases and words, but knowledge of French helps in reading some

Studying a little Italian now

Constantly studying French and German to hopefully be fluent some day; also would like to learn some Russian
May 28th, 2000, 03:57 PM
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Whew. This makes me very embarrassed. I envy those of you who so easily pick up another language. I have absolutely no ear for languages. Fortunately, I learned reading (English!) by the sight method, because I have found in adulthood that I also have no ear for phonics! It has made me very sympathetic to the young readers that I work with. I took 4 years of French, and, when I keep up, I can read it pretty well, but beyond the basic "bonjour", etc., I am a complete deadbeat. My husband is learning some Italian for our third trip to Italy in three years. I am still very self-conscious about "bouna sera". I found myself saying "grazie" in France last November, so I suspect I will "merci" everyone in Italy this summer! I do so try, but it just is not there. Appreciate your talent and contribute your skill to more than the hard work that you put into it. Is there anybody else out there with my problem?
May 28th, 2000, 11:12 PM
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I recognize your problem. My husband has just the same. But although he only speaks less than basic English and French, he will always get what he wants and never needs my help. He just doesn't mind to make mistakes or to mix up the various languages.
May 29th, 2000, 12:51 AM
Posts: n/a
Great Question! What a wonderful chance for everyone to share a little of themselves!
Native language: American English (specifically, Southern dialect)

Tourist and in an emergency: French

I was born and raised in the South, graduated high school in 1985. Didn't really plan for the future too well, and certainy never thought I'd travel anywhere outside the U.S.
Well, as Fate would have it - I married a wonderful man who was in the military, and we have traveled quite a bit!
A whole new world has opened up for me, and now I kick myself on a regular basis for not becoming fluent in at least one other language. Looking back, I don't remember ANY of the schools I attended encouraging the students to learn other languages. The courses were just "there" on the the curriculum, but not well publicised or supported. Having made friends in other countries, I have seen the result of how schools outside the US widely and enthusiastically encourage the learning of other languages.

Parents of America - encourage your children to sign up for Foreign-Language classes!!! Knowing how to converse fluently with people from other cultures will serve them well in two areas: self-confidence when travelling and future employment.
May 30th, 2000, 06:19 AM
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Five. Chinese, English, French, Malay and Spanish. And also two other Chinese dialects (Cantonese and Hokkien). I am learning Italian in Italy at the moment, so far I can hold a decent conversation with the locals and read the headlines of Italian newspapers. Where I come from (Malaysia), most people are bi or tri lingua. Oh, just in case you are wondering, my job has nothing to do with languages or travel industry. I just love languages.

May 30th, 2000, 07:06 AM
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My native language is Hungarian,
I'm fluent in English,
Have studied German for 8 years,
Russian in grade 3 -> almost completely forgot,
High-school French,
university intro. Spanish,
I count to ten in Japanese,
and want to get fluent in Frech, Spanish, pick up Russian again, and Greek. Still have 3 years of university left, so I hope I can make it. Next year I will study advanced university German and French at the same time, I hope I won't mix them up!
Jun 2nd, 2000, 07:26 AM
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Jun 2nd, 2000, 08:12 AM
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English, German fluently(Lived there), COBOL, Basic, PL/SQL, SQL, Assembly, Enough Spanish and Swedish to get my face slapped by a young woman, a few words of Italian and Hungarian. I'm always impressed with most Europeans and South Americans that speak several languages. I'm also impressed with all of you Fodorites that have taught yourselves multiple languages.
Great Travels
Jun 2nd, 2000, 08:19 AM
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5 languages including my mothertoung:

swiss german (mothertounge): perfect
german: perfect
italian: very fluently (living there)
english: between fluently and very fluently
french: learned it in school and use it once in a while, it's better when i'm in the country

intresting how people are able to communicate and it's important too!
Jun 2nd, 2000, 08:31 AM
Posts: n/a
Can't prevent myself from bragging any longer:

German and French, mother- and fathertongue, respectively

Latin: 3rd language (8 years in high school, and loved it); semi-fluently

English: 4th language, fluently, still loving it

Italian: 5th language, fluent for food, medical, sports and art subjects

Spanish, Portuguese, Swedish, Dutch: won't starve in countries where these languages are spoken....

Greek, Finnish: Basic phrases, menus, road signs, timetables.

I'm a language junkie, can't wait to try learning more...(ah, Europe!).

Enjoy your travels, learn languages.


P.S. Didn't tell you the language I use most frequently...
Jun 2nd, 2000, 10:02 AM
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Native English speaker (American)
Fluent in British English
Pretty good in French (French in school, French-Canadian relatives), which gets better the longer I'm in France, and the more I drink.
Rudimentary Japanese like numbers and "stop" and "elbow".
I understand a lot more Italian than I think I do.
German completely escapes me, but Flemish is easy to read.
I have a book I bought in Malta on learning their language (spoken Phoenician, as I'm told).
I have books on language and English etymology.
If I could find a class or person to teach me Basque, I'd be all over it.
Spanish is seeping into my brain by osmosis.

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