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AJF

Posted: 01 May 2012
Bilingualism
Just been reading - href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-17892521">Being bilingual 'boosts brain power' - and thought I'd start a thread.
As some of you know, I speak Welsh, probably the least useful language to know, even in Wales (unless you're trying to steal a sheep). What languages do you speak? What would you say the most 'useful' ones are in life?
AJF

Posted: 01 May 2012
Re: Bilingualism
Well that f*cked up xD
stewiestrapon

Posted: 01 May 2012
Re: Bilingualism
I think all languages are useful in some way- even if just for keeping your brain active.

I speak French well enough for my own purposes. I am not fluent, but I know it well enough to pick up any text and get the general gist of what it's on about. I would also get by if I was in France because I can get basic points across and ask for clarification if I don't know what the responses are. In a way, I consider this nearly as useful as fluency to be fair.

Japanese I am aiming for the same stage that I'm at with French. At the moment I speak it at about the same level as a 4 year old in that I know enough words but my usage of them isn't always right and my grammar is weak. I can read all of the standard use Kanji though which is probably the biggest obstacle in the language.

And that's me (Y)


Avery

Posted: 01 May 2012
Re: Bilingualism
Right now I'd know how to speak creole if my mom taught me to like I asked her. She didn't and never does. I think she doesn't teach me stuff cuz she doesn't know how to well. But I'm bright I'll pick it up especially if I really want to learn it. But here we are.
foamyx

Posted: 01 May 2012
Re: Bilingualism
I speak German, or at least enough to mostly understand/be understood. Turns out that GCSE actually came in handy, since I've moved to Austria for a year. Although since most people here speak fluent English (more or less) and the working language is also English it's not essential, just helpful.

I think knowing a language that is widely spoken is most useful. But I guess on a personal level it depends on if you'll ever use it.
eversleep

Posted: 02 May 2012
Re: Bilingualism
Eh I gave up trying to learn anything. It's just so much easier to become bilingual when you're a baby growing into a kid. It doesn't feel like learning. There's no teachers, drills, studying. Unfortunately, both my folks only speak English, and I think their sets of folks did too. A foreign language hasn't been passed in my family in generations, and it kinda sucks that people just let go of these cultural assets without teaching their kids. =( But this came from people who came over here on the boat who wanted to "fit in" to the American lifestyle and only taught their kids English.
Gnarlee

Posted: 02 May 2012
Re: Bilingualism
Jag är för närvarande försöker att lära sig svenska! Tydligen grammatiken är verkligen svårt. EEP. På en sida notera, tack och lov för online översättare programvara.
iguanas

Posted: 02 May 2012
Re: Bilingualism
I speak French, Spanish and Portuguese and all 3 have proved very useful when I've been in the respective countries. Spanish has been the most useful personally though as my last serious boyfriend was Spanish... and there seems to be Spaniards everywhere I go.

As for other languages, I'd like to learn German as I'm training to be a languages teacher so it'd be nice to have the full set (FR, SP, GER).
Jetzt

Posted: 02 May 2012
Re: Bilingualism
Did we have the programming joke yet?

I speak C++,C,java,PHP and javascript D:
Abstract

Posted: 02 May 2012
Re: Bilingualism
@Gnarlee - Lära mig* och Tydligen är grammatiken verkligen svår*

It's not really though. You just need to get used to the V2 property which means the verb is always the second constituent in the sentence. As in the above example :p

Anyways, yeah. I speak French at about the same level as Stewie described, and I've done a year of Swedish now. My main problem with Swedish is lack of vocab which only practice will really fix...
freespirit

Posted: 02 May 2012
Re: Bilingualism
My first language is German (including Austrian German and some Austrian dialects/accents), second languages are English and French.

And to be fair, I hate German and French. Way too complicated, and therefore impractical in my opinion, and hard to learn.

And yeah, I guess bilingualism does boost brain power as in it forces your brain to make more neuron connections, which basically is always a good thing. However, for me, when I speak German, sometimes my brain actually forms sentences in English to a certain degree. Then I end up with the wrong word order.
Gnarlee

Posted: 02 May 2012
Re: Bilingualism
@Abstract Detaljer, detaljer...
Radiofred

Posted: 02 May 2012
Re: Bilingualism
ive just come back from a week in Holland, and whilst I can get by, tbh my dutch is awful. But better than most english people. Sergey speaks a few languages, and he's a pretty intelligent guy.
Radiofred

Posted: 02 May 2012
Re: Bilingualism
oh, and just READING swedish gives me a chubbs
stewiestrapon

Posted: 02 May 2012
Re: Bilingualism
@eversleep Everything that you have said is based on a combination of pre-conceived myths and a business focused language learning culture. I'm going to begin by letting you know that I have taken a lot of this from a linguistics book I have been reading, but which I agree with entirely and will share with anyone I come into language discussion with.

Firstly, "I'm not good at languages". If you have failed to learn a language, it is probably to do with the following:

1) Demotivation through a "I must pay out for dozens of courses and reach PhD level to be fluent in a language- and I know this because others with PhD's have said this and they have a PhD so they know what they're on about." attitude.

2)Demotivation through an "well everyone speaks some degree of English, so why bother".

3)Demotivation/loss of interest through language courses which are focused on my favourite quotation from the whole linguistics book "Hey, instead of getting students to actually enjoy learning a language, let's just force feed them grammatical rules and random vocabulary without any context and grade them on their ability to regurgitate them on tests".

Secondly "It's easier when you're a baby". Children struggle like hell with their first language. They spend years listening to the language around them before even attempting to speak. They just don't have the ability to communicate how frustrated they are with how bloody difficult it is. Also, even as adults, we hear new words we don't understand- we have just developed the ability to guess their meaning from the context by this stage, or learned how to use a dictionary, or learned how to ask for an explanation of a word we don't know and to understand the response.

I'm going to demonstrate using Japanese, supposedly a difficult language, giving an example of a baby's view, a language teacher's view and the correct approach.

水を飲んでいる (Mizu wo nondeiru). Translation: I am drinking water.

A baby would not have a clue how to process that in either language. What is water? What is drank? What is I? They do not have the logical facilities to think, okay then, what about beer instead of water? what about chocolate- why is I am drinking crisps incorrect, it's something you put in your mouth and swallow like water right?

Those logical functions take years to develop. Learning a language as an adult is so much easier because you know you can just substitute the word for "beer" instead of "water. You know that crisps involve "eating", a different concept altogether and that to say this in another language, you would need to know "eating" as well as "crisps".

I'm firstly going to deal with the correct approach. So back to 水を飲んでいる Which, may I add, you have the facility to compare with the above Japanese phrase and realise it is the same. You have learnt a meaningful sentence and know that if you want to say I am drinking beer or tea or whatever that you just need to go on google translate or something, look up the word for water, locate it in the sentence, look up the word for beer and substitute it. Fuck any grammatical knowledge, the sentence works and you instinctively guess that it should work.

Now for the language teacher approach. Well, firstly the sentence 水を飲んでいる would be presented in a textbook as みずをのんでいる = mizu wo nondeiru = I am drinking water. Hang on a moment, those sentences are different, you mean you can write it in more than one way? Technically, yes you can, but a native Japanese person would write it 水を飲んでいる, so what's the use of learning any other way of writing it? None is the truthful answer. Secondly, the language teacher would butcher the sentence into fragments of no real meaning. 水 means water, 飲む means to drink and 飲んでいる is the -ing form of that verb. Then you have を which is purely grammatical and signifies the subject- what did you drink? you drank water, so after water, you write を.

Now I don't know about anyone else, but what I've called the "correct approach" causes a lot less headache than the language teacher approach, which is why I and many linguists in the book I am reading believes it is wrong/misguided. It's easier to instinctively grasp the sentence structure *insert liquid here*を飲んでいる than it is to wade through all the technicalities of how the sentence works. If you wanted to adapt this sentence based on a language teacher explanation, you're looking at finding the name of the liquid in Japanese, you're looking at remembering your subject marker, you're looking at remembering to conjugate the verb correctly. I know which I find more efficient anyway...

I apologise for the lengthy post, but I am so against what is essentially a "communication is a skill that requires money and intelligence" attitude. Brief elaboration on "intelligence"- look at your Jeremy Kyle bunch, stereotypically seen as "thick"- they have the linguistic ability to go on there and moan for hours on end in a language that according to the system they should be too thick to have mastered.

If a single person has actually bothered to read this post and has been prodded to think about what I've wasted so much time typing out, for very little point, then I'm happy.
eversleep

Posted: 03 May 2012
Re: Bilingualism
@stewiestrapon The thing is though, as a kid, you're forced to try and learn it. You have no other way of communicating. Yeah, anyone can say "Fuck Italian, I'll never use it, everyone speaks English anyway" or "I don't wanna waste time and money". A kid doesn't have those options, they have to learn the language. If I was suddenly dropped into a foreign-language environment with no English at all, I'd have to do the same thing, except my brain is too old to absorb information like a young child's. I'd learn the language eventually due to being totally drowned in it, eventually I may have even forgotten English.

Basically, as long as I live in an English-dominated environment (and planet), I won't learn anything. If I went to another country, I bet the locals would just try to use English with me after being fed up with trying to understand my struggling second language.

Also, I have a friend whose parents are from India. He's been with them on trips to India before. It's obvious the parents aren't native English speakers because I've talked to them and they occasionally butcher grammar a little and have a thick accent. He has a bookshelf in his house and the books on it are written in some Indian script. So one day I asked my friend what his parents spoke, and he said "I dunno, Indian."
Are you fucking kidding me? He doesn't even know what language his own parents speak. And he has lived with them all his life and is very close with them, I've seen his dad come to our high school events. I can understand the parents wanting an English-speaking child so he didn't get held back or made fun of... I just think they tried too hard to get him to "be normal". =\ Also I know parents can keep secrets really well, and bring them to their grave with them.
iguanas

Posted: 03 May 2012
Re: Bilingualism
@stewiestrapon your post was really interesting. i do think though that language teachers teach the grammatical approach to provide the learners with rules they can adapt to any sentence. you can't teach them how to say everything and, even if you could, that would be detrimental to independent learning. for example, if they know how to say "i drank water", they can use the same structure and rules to form the sentence "i played football"
Radiofred

Posted: 03 May 2012
Re: Bilingualism
But @eversleep, it's not meant to be easy. You're supposed to pick a culture and a language that works for you, one that excites you. Read and learn and practice. Its never been easier to learn a language due to the aural practice the internet provides.

Go to another country, TRY your struggling language, and I guarantee the people will be amazed and impressed by the fact you have tried.
stewiestrapon

Posted: 03 May 2012
Re: Bilingualism
@iguanas, I suppose it depends on how your brain works.

In the examples you gave, "I drank water" and "I played football", there are complications. They have their complications and how do you know that it's "drank" not "drinked" and "played" not "pley/pliy/ploy/pluy" (logically one could assume you change the vowel to create past tense)?

I think, to a degree, certain areas of grammar are aesthetic. If a foreigner said "I drinked water", you would understand what they meant and would correct them. The embarassment of being corrected would probably teach them more than them sitting down for hours drilling the word "drank" into their heads? Even though it uses a different word all together, if a foreigner said "I ploy football", you would probably pick up that they had confused/misspelled "play" and you could probably gather from context that they meant the past tense "played"?

You can create your own immersion environment. To my parents horror I have labelled as much of the house as I can get away with in Japanese. I have changed my phone and my laptop to Japanese. I only read/watch Japanese things for as much of the time as I can get away with. I've even installed Japanese keyboard, which anyone in chat can tell you I forget to switch off sometimes. This kind of creates a mock "well you'll just have to learn it" environment.

Through this, I have learned a lot more words and phrases than I would through sitting down and drilling for hours on end. It's not about teaching individual words, it's about crediting people with their own ability to apply the logical functions of their brain. And about relying on native speakers to help you- there's an amazing site called lang-8 where you keep a journal in your target language and native speakers correct you.

Weird/obsessive example, I translate the warnings on my cigarette packets into Japanese. So rather than learning individual words/grammatical rules, I can now, for example, say "Smoking seriously harms you and others around you". From this, I have learned the individual words and I have learned how to express the concept of something "seriously harming" something else. This would take quite a few lessons/drills in a traditional language class.

I'm not saying language teachers are useless or detrimental. I'm saying that their role should be more to help learners find material in the target language that is suited to their level, rather than to "teach". I would probably benefit from a teacher who can read through a Japanese text and tell me if I stand a chance of understanding the gist and learning from it or if I'm just going to struggle.

Back to my arguement that a lot of grammar is aesthetic. The grammar textbook I am following (yes, I am following one) literally gives you an appendix of conjugations of each verb category in each tense, an appendix of the markers (subject, object etc) and then it takes you through different grammatical concepts in context rather than in isolation. I think you can pick up and remember a lot more things from context because it means something.

Back to what I initially said, I suppose it depends on the brain of the individual. I would read "I drank water" and think right well firstly I am going to find a longer sentence online that I can get more from, for example "I felt ill, so I drank water" or "I went out last night, but I only drank water". From these sentences, I learn a lot of things that can be applied to different contexts and they mean something to me so I remember them better.

Thinking about it, I think at the heart of the matter our brains work in much the same way with language. Your attitude of "okay, how does this sentence work, how can I use the structure to say something else" isn't really different to how I would approach it, it just seems like your approach would be a more overtly analytical one?
Avery

Posted: 03 May 2012
Re: Bilingualism
This thread has "Being bilingual 'boosts brain p">" above it.
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