Multilingualism in Europe

Feb 23rd, 2006, 03:17 AM
  #21  
 
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I somewhat disagree that when someone in another country starts conversing with you, in English, they are doing so solely in order to preserve their native language.

Many times I have encountered persons in other countries who, when they learn I speak English, readily lapse into that language because they want actual conversational opportunity which does not come from watching TV shows, reading signs or books, etc.
Intrepid1 is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2006, 03:43 AM
  #22  
 
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Intrepid's right. There's a great deal of difference between passive and active knowledge of a language. And Kate, it doesn't surprise me at all that people start to lose active use of their original language after time. It only took me three months in France to start me thinking - even dreaming - in French first. But it soon vanished after being at home for a week.
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Feb 23rd, 2006, 04:23 AM
  #23  
ira
 
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Hi all,

I will be visiting

Scandinavia - do I learn Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Latvian, Estoninan, Lithuanian and, maybe, Finnish?

Northern Europe - do I learn Dutch, German and Austrian and Belgian variations?

Western Europe - French, Spanish, Portugese and Italian

Central Europe - Czech, Hungarian, Polish, Serbian, Croatian, Albanian, Bulgarian, Romanian, Slovenian and Greek and Macedonian?

Eastern Europe - Turkish, Belarussian, Romanian, Bulgarian, Moldovian and Russian?

Not to mention all of the various dialects and regional accents?

Isn't it easier and more cost effective for thoe who are standing still to learn a little of the languages of those who are passing through?


Who needs 3 days in London to understand their form of English.
ira is online now  
Feb 23rd, 2006, 04:27 AM
  #24  
 
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After having lived in foreign countries for 35 years and speaking four languages fluently I noticed that few Americans/English speak any foreign language really fluently. It was made too easy for them to make an effort to learn any foreign language as most other people speak sufficient english to be able to communicate. In Germany mainly young people also speak that terrible 'Denglish' which is a Mischmasch of German and English as a result of english language imperialism of pop- Music and Hollywood. If you wait another 50 years european languages will be reduced to a local dialect used by old people. See what happened to any native indian language in the USA?
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Feb 23rd, 2006, 04:49 AM
  #25  
 
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As pointed out by several posters, it is a matter of need. English is now the dominant world language. English-speakers have much less need to learn another language than others have a need to learn English.

That's one of the big issues in the USA, and I would think Canada (except Quebec) and Great Britain, Australia, etc.--if you're going to start teaching a foreign language, which one do you teach? English is a no-brainer in non-English speaking countries.

I've learned 3 languages fairly well in my lifetime--Spanish, German, and Korean. I can no longer converse in any of them.

They were useful (though not essential) when I lived in the areas where those languages are spoken, but once I left those areas, I had no chance to use them. Use it or lose it.
RufusTFirefly is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2006, 04:54 AM
  #26  
 
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Hi

Here in Norway people start learning Englsish already in the first grade and we are also influenced by music, TV and movies. In many countries TV and movies are dubbed into their own language but here we only used subtitles (well, apart from movies for kids). So I think that most Norwegians can communicate pretty well in English. We also have the oppertunity to learn a third language and most people take French, German or Spanish. But it is hard to learn when you don't get to practice it that much.

Regards
Gard
http://gardkarlsen.com - trip reports and pictures
gard is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2006, 04:54 AM
  #27  
 
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"If you wait another 50 years european languages will be reduced to a local dialect used by old people."

Well, no, that will not happen. People who speak only one language donīt seem to understand that native language is a very precious thing to the speakers. It is more than a way to communicate, it is part of peopleīs identity, and it even affects peopleīs thought patterns. If I turn poetical, I could say that it is "language of oneīs heart and soul", and who would give a piece of his heart or soul away.

Where I live one cannot even graduate from high school or vocational school without knowledge of at least two foreign languages. That is considered just as essential as math or sciences. And just as normal. So even a plumber knows more than his own language.

But people have to remember that it is WORK, and no play to learn. So the first foreign language comes at the age of nine (and it does not have to be English, many also take French or German or Russian as their first foreign), and it goes on until the age of 18. Second foreign comes at the age of 11, and goes on till 18. And finally (for the high school students) the third one comes at the age of 16, and goes on for three years. Some with more talent or interest also take a fourth one at the age of 16, and that is usually "for fun".
elina is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2006, 05:02 AM
  #28  
 
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It seems quite likely that with time, English will become even more the international standard for a variety of reasons.

It is the language of five of the world's most prosperous and politically stable nations, to wit, the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

America continues to produce a huge amount of high production value entertainment.

The language of computers derives from English and computer standards are largely set by people who are speaking English when they do so.

But the principle reason that English will continue to increase its influence is that it is structurally superior.

There are, for example, approximately 986,000 words in the English language while, by way of contrast, there are only about 100,000 words in French.

The vast difference exists because English not only has a wider source base but has an adaptability which other languages don't possess. Take note of the frenzied attempts of the French Academy to invent purely French equivalents for usages such as "Le parking lot."

One of my Chinese uncles spends his time trying to figure out how to write things like "multirole advanced fighter aircraft" in Chinese.Anyone who has read an academic paper in Chinese will see English words scattered thru the text because one simply can't say some things in a language pretty much frozen at the time of Chin dynasty.

In the fullness of time, at least for the educated elites, English will be the language of the World.


Rillifane is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2006, 05:09 AM
  #29  
ira
 
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>a Mischmasch of German and English as a result of english language imperialism of pop- Music and Hollywood.<

I was waiting for Cultural Imperialism to be mentioned.

>Where I live one cannot even graduate from high school or vocational school without knowledge of at least two foreign languages. <

Which is different from being fluent, or even being able to speak or read them.

I passed my French and German exams, but that was a long time ago and I have not often had the opportunity to use those languages, with the result that that skill is now very, very rusty.

I thank all of you folks who have worked so hard to learn English.

ira is online now  
Feb 23rd, 2006, 05:11 AM
  #30  
 
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That's interesting Elina, which country are you from?

Here in the UK, we are automatically taught French first as they're our closest neighbours, but arguably Spanish or Madarin would be more useful. Many people learn French at school, lose it straight away because they don't spend much, if any, time in France. It's tragic but I can't really see how we can get over it if we're not constantly exposed to foreign languages. It's easy to be critical of english speakers for not speaking other languages, but without the opportunity to practise, can you really blame us?
Kate is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2006, 05:22 AM
  #31  
 
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Kate,
Finally the english speaking people are the victim of the success of the english language...
baldrick is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2006, 05:23 AM
  #32  
 
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Rillifrane, I'm not sure we can really make the case that english is superior to other languages. We have just as many oddities and inconsistencies as any other language. Most British people struggle with correct grammar and spelling because in many ways it just isn't logical.

"It is the language of five of the world's most prosperous and politically stable nations, to wit, the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand."

Let's not forget South Africa, and that in India, English is the language that binds the nation together, in a way that no single indian language does. That's an awful lot of people to influence the use of english.

Is it true that there was a legendary vote on whether english or german should be the official language of America back in the 1770s? A think it's just a legend, but what would have happened if America had opted to speak German? Would we all now be frantically learning German as a second language, or would english still dominate as the British Empire spread the language across a 3rd of the globe?
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Feb 23rd, 2006, 05:25 AM
  #33  
 
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"Which is different from being fluent, or even being able to speak or read them."

Not necessarily fluent, but they really have to speak, read, and write grammatically correct language. One cannot graduate without passing tests, and those tests are not easy ones (test for example contains a long essay). I think that I could not pass matriculation English nowadays.

Kate, I am from Finland, and my native language is not even Indo-European. That is what I meant with "thought patterns": When I speak Finnish my brains "arrange" things differently than when I speak English/Swedish/French etc. If I would start learning Mandarin I would again have to "arrange" my brains into a different pattern.
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Feb 23rd, 2006, 05:44 AM
  #34  
 
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I suspect there are MORE quirks and inconsistencies in English than in other languages. That's one of the things that both makes English such a expressively rich language and is caused by the richness of its sources.

I didn't include South Africa because I'm not convinced its politically stable to the degree the five named countries are. I'm also not entirely sure its spoken by a majority of South African citizens although I stand ready to be corrected about that.

English is a binding force in many nations created by the dissoultion of the British empire. Certainly that is one of the reasons for the popularity of English. The same can be said for all the languages of the former colonial powers.

I understand the Ben Franklin made the suggestion we adopt German as the official language to demonstrate our complete seperation from England. I don't believe it was a very serious suggestion. (He also advocated the Turkey rather than the Eagle as our national symbol...prescience perhaps?)
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Feb 23rd, 2006, 06:51 AM
  #35  
 
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Kate
I find what your roommate said interesting. When I go to the Netherlands to visit my relatives they will carry on an entire conversation with my mother in Dutch. I cannont understand a word they are saying but for some reason, either from their body language or from picking up a word here or there, I can understand the main concepts discussed in their conversation. When my cousin turns to me to translate I inform them of what I was able to pick up from the conversation. They are bewildered that I can understand the conversation but not the words being spoken. But on the same theory, I can read and write French and Spanish but cannot speak the language or understand when spoken too. It must be from the limited exposure.

My relatives always want to speak English when we visit. They learned the basics in school but they state that they keep their exposure by watching T.V. in English with Dutch subtitles and listening to American/British music.

Europeans required to learn a second and third language is not a new concept. My mother was in grade school prior to WWII in the Netherlands. Even then, they were required to converse in one language and before they could graduate from high school they had to have studied at least two other foreign languages.

parisnow is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2006, 08:04 AM
  #36  
 
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Kate--the "German as the USA's official language" missing by one vote story is legend. However, there was a bill proposed in the 1790s to require all acts of Congress to be published in German as well as in English. It died in committee.

Congress never approved an "official" language.

There is also a story with a bit more support that Pennsylvania failed by one vote to make German a co-equal language with English within the state. But a number of sources I've read have been unable to find any hard evidence (e.g., copies of proposed legislation) that this actually happened.

Several US states have declared English their offical language. Others have declared mulitiple languages as official within their jurisdictions.

Many government documents, information sources, etc. at both the Federal and state levels are produced in a variety of languages.
RufusTFirefly is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2006, 08:14 AM
  #37  
 
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Interesting, I guessed it could all be myth, but 'if' such a thing had come to pass, would we all (non-USAers) be frantically learning German?

I did German at school. I was even worse at German than I was at French.
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Feb 23rd, 2006, 10:02 AM
  #38  
 
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I would guess that if it had come about, it would have been overturned in pretty short order.

At that time, over 90% of US residents spoke English and under 10% spoke German. The mega-majority English-speaking population would probably have let their representatives know that they were unhappy with the decision.
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Feb 23rd, 2006, 10:15 AM
  #39  
 
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German not only has FAR more words than English. It's also completely impossible to for the so called "language imperialism" to win over the German language. New english words are cut, chopped into pieces and rearranged according to German grammar. The result must be really frustrating for native english speakers, that just thought they might have understood.
i.e.
to download is
downloaden
gedownloaded
downgeloaded
downgeladen .....
This IS German
logos999 is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2006, 10:31 AM
  #40  
 
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Most sources I've seen place the number of English words at around 500,000 plus another 300-400,000 specialized, technical words. German comes in second at between 180,000-225,000.

New words are added to various languages at varying rates.
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