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Americans need learn foreign language?

I want the answer because I plan to develop a new software which help Americans improve pronounciation and listening of foreign language (Spanish or French) for example.

What foreign language they learn?
How many American learn foreign language?

I have already investigated through google. but got no answer.

BTW:
As an American, do you know a kind of software which can replay word or sentence again and again?

redguardtoo
Monday, August 30, 2004

+++BTW:
As an American, do you know a kind of software which can replay word or sentence again and again?+++

Most $5 tape recorders can do this superbly.

muppet
Monday, August 30, 2004

Americans don't want to learn a foreign language.

Mr. O
Monday, August 30, 2004

Americans don't have to learn a foreign language.

muppet
Monday, August 30, 2004

Have you seen their foreign policy? Americans don't know there are other countries.

Ogami Itto
Monday, August 30, 2004

In my experience (being an American) we kind of learn a foreign language a little bit in "Junior" & "High School." Some go on an extend that knowledge in College while many do not. However, to say that we can actually speak the language after such courses is a joke! Maybe we understand a little - but that's about it.

The typical languages individuals study are Spanish, French & sometimes Latin (Catholic Education).

Most Americans (thinking derived from the English) feel that everyone on the planet should conform to the English language and therefore do not really put too much emphasis on really learning a foreign language. (I am not saying that I agree with that thinking but that is reality)

Genx'er
Monday, August 30, 2004

I'd say the most popular languages Americans study are Spanish, French and German. But as a whole most Americans know only English.

It's quite pathetic, really.

Yoey
Monday, August 30, 2004

I am an American that does want to learn a foreign language but because I dont have to, I do not. I would like to learn spanish

j
Monday, August 30, 2004

University-bound high school students will take anywhere from 2 - 3 years of a foreign language, usually French, Spanish, or German.  As part of an undergraduate curriculum, one might take another year or two in college.

It's my observation that in spite of the foreign language requirements of the typical undergraduate curriculum, most Americans do not retain much of that and the number of Americans who are fluent -- or even able to converse -- in a language other than English is small.

AMS
Monday, August 30, 2004

It would be nice if Americans learnt English first.


Monday, August 30, 2004

My point is :
As an American, the ratio of your friends who studying foreign language (for example).

How serious they regard learning foreign language (for example, here in China, we are forced to be able to understand VOA standard English in 3-6 months)

If the ratio is too low, I quit.

--------------------------------------
D2KSoft, Different and Elegant
http://www.d2ksoft.com
We provide advanced tools only for YOU,
the smart, tasteful and lazy hacker!
--------------------------------------

redguardtoo
Monday, August 30, 2004

Most Americans study a foreign language, but only a very tiny percentage are actually interested in LEARNING that language.  Most study to meet minimum requirements and then promptly forget everything they learned.  If your product is to be marketted to Americans interested in actually learning to speak a foreign language fluently, you might have better luck selling novelty bad teeth to the British.

muppet
Monday, August 30, 2004

Most people in the US don't live in close proximity to another country that speaks a diiferent language.  Over 50% of the US population lives within a 500 mile radius of Cleveland, Ohio.

As for neighboring Mexico, most people don't feel compelled to learn Spanish just for that occasional trip to some resort where the staff all speak English.

So this stuff about US citizens not caring about the world is BS.  When there isn't a pressing need or even a chance to practice the language, the point becomes moot.

Yet another anon
Monday, August 30, 2004

+++So this stuff about US citizens not caring about the world is BS. +++

Ask 1,000 average American citizens to name 5 heads of state outside of the US.  I'll lay money that above 80% of them can't.

muppet
Monday, August 30, 2004

"But as a whole most Americans know only English.

It's quite pathetic, really."

No, it isn't pathetic - it's a reality of circumstance. English just happens to be the "global standard" for cross-cultural communications (if anyone wants to seriously debate this then really it's a futile conversation), so English speakers don't have the same motivation to learn an additional language (or to practice to an extent that maintains it when they do). Sorta ridiculous when some righteous uppity person from a small European country surrounded by centers of differing languages parades the fact that they speak more than one language when it's purely a necessity of circumstance.

Dennis Forbes
Monday, August 30, 2004

Most Americans don't really learn a second language (or more), even though quite a few take foreign language courses during high school.  I think the "usual" offerings at the elementary-high school levels are French, Spanish, and German.  Our high school also had Latin, but that's not particularly useful to most people.

I enjoy studying foreign language (more as a hobby than anything else) and have so far picked up some French, Italian, and Russian.  A number of audio-based training series use native speakers to teach the language, so I would expect pronunciation to be fairly good for those who learn through audio methods.  Having the courses on CD also allows for easy replay of difficult sections.

While I enjoy the audio courses, they don't offer much help in learning to write or read the language, the latter of which is very helpful to anyone actually visiting a foreign country.

Jack B. Nimble
Monday, August 30, 2004

What do you call a person that can speak three languages? Trilingual

What do you call a person that can speak two languages? Bilingual

What do you call a person that can speak one language? American

Alain Roy
Monday, August 30, 2004

What do you call a person that can speak two languages? Canadian

What do you call a person that can speak one language and probably hasn't ever travelled further than the nearby town? Quebecois

.
Monday, August 30, 2004

In the USA the most common second language for English-speaking people is probably Spanish, and in Canada it's probably English.

Many English-speaking people don't learn any second language.

English is probably the most common second language being studied: i.e. recent immigrants to North America who are studying English.

Christopher Wells
Monday, August 30, 2004

English is the VB of the languages.

Java is the Italian and all self respecting C#'ers know French.

Jean Guy Botecelli
Monday, August 30, 2004

People from non-English speaking country learn English other than their native language because they "have to" ... not necessarily because they are smart or because they CARE for the rest of the world. If they don't learn English than they can simply not prosper.

America's language is "American English" and that happens to be the business language of the world. So Americans don't "have to" learn any other language.

If and when, chinese becomes business language of the world, Americans and everybody else in the world will start learning chinese, than this argument will be used for chinese that they don't know any other language.

Raju Patel
Monday, August 30, 2004

I mean, "English" happens to be the business language of the world ...

Raju Patel
Monday, August 30, 2004

> Sorta ridiculous when some righteous uppity person from a > small European country surrounded by centers of differing  > languages parades the fact that they speak more than one > language when it's purely a necessity of circumstance.

Dennis, not quite. Here in Europe, both the French and the Spanish have a reputation for avoiding to learn new languages. On the other hand, countries that use subtitles on television, like Sweden or Portugal, end up with a fairly large base of english speakers.

Ogami Itto
Monday, August 30, 2004

ASK:

Why so many Indians don't know French, but they know Enlgish?

Why so many French don't know Hindi, but most of them know English?

But when it comes to Americans ...

It becomes big deal that "why Americans don't know French and/or Hindi?

Raju Patel
Monday, August 30, 2004

+++English is the VB of the languages.+++

You've got to be kidding.  English is one of the most difficult latin-based languages to learn.  There are a ridiculous number of exceptions and special cases in grammar, spelling, conjugation, etc etc.. which is why most foreigners can't speak it properly :P

What a load of horseshit.

muppet
Monday, August 30, 2004

Language is the most important skill there is. Go to another country and try to get a low-paying job as a cashier and you'll see that no matter how smart you are you will be denied if you can't speak to the customers. I know, because I lived abroad for 7 years.

We, as Americans, can be lazy to learn other languages because (American) English is, arguably, the de-facto language of the world.

However, that doesn't excuse us from the fact that we, in general, only speak English. One of the problems, as noted in earlier posts, is that a lot of us will take a year or two to study Spanish, for example, in high school.  By that time, the ability to learn another language is much harder than if we are a young child learning it.

Many other countries that have excellent language systems begin teaching foreign languages at an early age, so that by the time the kids are in high school they are pretty fluent.

Yes, we as Americans don't live so close to other countries like the Dutch, but that's a silly excuse. The world is getting smaller and smaller everyday, and the notion of splendid isolation makes anyone who argues against the fluency of languages not his own is a fool.

Yoey
Monday, August 30, 2004

+++However, that doesn't excuse us from the fact that we, in general, only speak English+++

It absolutely does, for largely the same reason that we don't all have to have Windows/Linux/FreeBSD/Unix on our machines in dual/triple/quadruple boot schemes.

muppet
Monday, August 30, 2004

Hehe, a nice Troll that redguardtoo.
He even managed to get in some links to his webpage in the later posts.
But I have seen this topic being trolled about much better on other sites..

Name Required
Monday, August 30, 2004

++ Have you seen their foreign policy? Americans don't know there are other countries. ++

That's what happens with a government run education system.

KC
Monday, August 30, 2004

"Yes, we as Americans don't live so close to other countries like the Dutch, but that's a silly excuse. "

This is absolutely inane, and it's countered by your own post - What is the practical value of additional languages (as you mentioned - getting a job). For an American (or even an English speaking Canadian) the likely value is extremely low - the probability of emmigrating to, or getting a job, in a non-English area is very remote. And even if I did like the idea of opening my horizions a bit, what language do I learn? Mandarin, German, Japanese, Spanish, Hindi (?), Portuguese? Or should I just cover my bases and learn all o them?

People who learn a second language purely out of practical necessity need to hop off that high horse.

Dennis Forbes
Monday, August 30, 2004

"People who learn a second language purely out of practical necessity need to hop off that high horse. "

I completly agree.

People for whom English is a second language, they learn English because they know that they will have better opportunities because of it.

Thats the only fact.

Americans will also learn different languages when its advantageous to them.

Raju Patel
Monday, August 30, 2004

>You've got to be kidding.  English is one of the most difficult latin-based languages to learn.  There are a ridiculous number of exceptions and special cases in grammar, spelling, conjugation, etc etc.. which is why most foreigners (and natives) can't speak it properly.

This is correct. I speak several languages (my sister and father have a similar talent with musical instruments). Other than english, the most difficult language I have learned is Japanese (although I am in the process of forgetting it, since the number of japanese speakers in the US is miniscule).

The first language you ever learn is incredibly hard. Just watch a child learning and making mistakes. The second language you learn is just very hard. After that, it really gets easy.

English is more like a magpie mugger, any pretty word laying around will get clubbed on the head in a dark alley and kidnapped. All those crazy exceptions? Part has to do with where we mugged that word from. Part of it has to do with the way english was written down in the first dictionaries: there were 3 guys going around england, and they each transcribed the words differently. In Germany, there was one guy, that is why there is one and only 1 way of spelling. We had a committee of bandits. Better hide any pretty words you don't want us to swipe!

Peter
Monday, August 30, 2004

If you would like to estimate which second languages are popular, and aren't finding this information on the 'net, then you might look at international trade figures (for example, the existence of a lot of trade with Japan would imply a demand for Japanese-speaking Americans); or look at immigration figures (for example my colleagues are eastern european and my Tai Chi shi-fu is chinese, which would give me an incentive to pronounce those languages).

Christopher Wells
Monday, August 30, 2004

"+++So this stuff about US citizens not caring about the world is BS. +++

Ask 1,000 average American citizens to name 5 heads of state outside of the US.  I'll lay money that above 80% of them can't. "

You're probably right.  But I'll lay money that most of those 80% care about the people of the world, just not the politics.

Yet another anon
Monday, August 30, 2004

Muppet: I might be wrong, but english is a Germanic word, not Latin-based. For latin languages you'd have Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, French and Romanian.

Ogami Itto
Monday, August 30, 2004

Back to the OP's orginal question:

Yes, there is plenty of educational software available to learn Spanish and French.  I've got an kid's oreiented one for my children and it allows the user to repeatedly play back a word or phrase.

I don't know how good your Google skills are, but search 'Spanish software' seemed to work fine for me.

Yet another anon
Monday, August 30, 2004

I believe English is considered a Germanic derived language.  However, a good portion of our language includes Latin and Greek derived words.

Yet another anon
Monday, August 30, 2004

I stand corrected on the technical origins of English.  Still, it's a complex and difficult language and certainly not comparable to VB.

muppet
Monday, August 30, 2004


The benefits from learning another language, in term of awareness and understanding of other cultures, go far beyond the ability to be understood by a few more people.

So (imho) to neglect foreign languages because one's country speaks the common international language so 'there is no need' shows lack of care for the rest of the world (plus you can probably argue about the 'international status'.. in north america and europe english is the common language, spanish would probably be it in south america, french in africa, ... )

I have no statistics to back that up (so maybe I'm wrong), but I wouldn't be surprised if english people learnt more foreign languages than americans - yet they also speak the 'common' language.

ps: it's not only a problem/critic of the USA. In France for instance, people also tend to be lazy too with foreign languages (french is also spoken on 5 continents and rather widespread) - with the same bad consequences imho.

an european
Monday, August 30, 2004

Hook, line, sinker.

Jean Guy 1, Muppet 0

Haha

Jean Guy Botecelli
Monday, August 30, 2004

"So (imho) to neglect foreign languages because one's country speaks the common international language so 'there is no need' shows lack of care for the rest of the world"

And conversely learning another language simply because there is a need doesn't show any depth of care for the rest of the world. The vast majority of people learn additional languages for completely practical reasons (I know we romanticize that it's the learned scholars and worldly travellers, but that's the exception not the rule), and the simple cold harsh reality is that there isn't as much of a practical reason for an American to bone up on language X.

None of this says that one shouldn't pursue alternate languages - I already have my 18 month old daughter lined up for French immersion school - but rather the haughty anti-Americanism is confusing practicality with worldliness.

Dennis Forbes
Monday, August 30, 2004

Actually English is one of the easiest languages to gain a basic fluency in, as easy as Mandarin and for similar reasons.  Both languages have multiple root languages but a very simple word order mechanism.  Indeed, you can entirely scramble the word order and still get a fairly understandable  result (all your base...).

English is one of the hardest to master entirely only because there are so many variations, even in the continental US there are a couple of dozen dialects, in the UK there's some form of dialect for almost every town and settlement.

People from the British Isles are also well known for their reluctance to learn another language and for the same kind of reason, everyone else wants to speak English at you (well ok, apart from the French).  However, I've found that even a tiny use of their language and customs (like not pointing if its rude to point, putting one's hand over one's mouth etc), gets you well past the point of 'stupid english foreigner'.

Given current demographic changes, California will be largely spanish in its population (though its wealth may be mostly owned by english speakers), within a generation.  There are already multiple languages spoken within the US and there always have been.  It would do any citizen of any country well to know the major languages spoken in its own country.

Not that my knowledge of Cwmraeg is anything beyond please, thankyou and a few swearing expressions, even less in Gaelic.

Simon Lucy
Monday, August 30, 2004

Why would I need to learn another language when I know that _anyone_ can understand english if you speak it loud enough?  :-)

More toward the real - at this point in the US the only additional language that is going to provide real value in day to day life is Spanish.  If you are looking for a platform language then lean Latin. Unless you know you are headed to France or  Germany  they aren't near as useful as Spanish.

K
Monday, August 30, 2004

"The first language you ever learn is incredibly hard. Just watch a child learning and making mistakes."

The first language you learn is by far the easiest.  Kids don't even know how to talk, and they absorb their first language fluently.  Meanwhile adults anguish for years in college using the latest techniques, textbooks, tapes, flashcards, software, etc, to get rudimentary and probably fleeting skills in a second language.

How many people do you know that tried to learn a second language and failed?

Now tell me one healthy person who couldn't learn *one* language.

profound insights galore
Monday, August 30, 2004

It is not so much people underestimating the Americans, as them overestimating their own compatriots.
I agree with Dennis that foreign language aquisition is 99,999% needs driven. In my own country there is actually a rapid decline in speaking foreign languages (other than former mothertongues by imigrants), because the cost of entertainement production dropped sharply over the last 20 years.
People here had music, tv, film etc. mostly in English, since it was bought in from the world market. They picked up English along the way. Nowadays more mass entertainment is in the local language, so spread of English is suffering as a result.

Just me (Sir to you)
Monday, August 30, 2004

> Not that my knowledge of Cwmraeg is anything beyond please, thankyou and a few swearing expressions

How about "Araf", and "llwybr cyhoeddus"?

Christopher Wells
Monday, August 30, 2004

There is a certain humor (on so many levels...) that there are people dutifully learning Klingon though.

Dennis Forbes
Monday, August 30, 2004

OK, here's another reason to learn another language:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/3794479.stm

Yoey
Monday, August 30, 2004

I am living in India. I learned German for one year.
I was not learning it because I wanted to know more about German Culture, or for the love of rest of the world.
It was just to add weightage to my resume. It was all job driven and practicality.

And, I can't understand why anyone has to relate, the Americans lack of concern for rest of the world with their lack of interest for learning new foriegn language.

So, "GUTEN MORGEN" (GOOD MORNING)

:-)

Indian Perspective...
Monday, August 30, 2004

I may be completely wrong, but the study seems ridiculous, as is shown by the comments :

"However, the results of this particular study need to be interpreted cautiously as they were comparing groups of individual of different nationalities, educated in different systems. "

Couldn't they find old bilingual Canadians ? Well, maybe not.

Pakter
Monday, August 30, 2004

Pakter:

My daughter's pediatricians, both in the USA and abroad, both quoted similar studies.

I don't get why people are so vehemently opposed to learning a second language.

Yoey
Monday, August 30, 2004

People aren't vehemently opposed to it, it's just not necessary.  I don't learn Japanese for much the same reason that I don't learn how to fly a Cessna.  I simply don't need to.

muppet
Monday, August 30, 2004

>> Java is the Italian and all self respecting C#'ers know French.

Italian has a garbage collector?

Messer, Gabel, Feuer, Licht
Monday, August 30, 2004

No, but you can overload the + operator to fart the French National Anthem.

muppet
Monday, August 30, 2004

"I don't get why people are so vehemently opposed to learning a second language. "

Nobody is opposed to learn more than one language. Its cool, no problem.

But you CAN NOT tell somebody who only knows English, that there is something wrong with you, and that too coming from people who learn English because thats the business language of the world.

I am personally for knowing more than one language, it helps!

Raju Patel
Monday, August 30, 2004

> the Americans lack of concern for rest of the world

This is perception but not reality. How many American charites and foundations give billions to others. Benovelance or evil? You decide.

For example: "Evil Americans" give Billion(s) of Dollars per year to all sorts of countries.

http://qesdb.cdie.org/gbk/index.html

From :
http://esdb.cdie.org/cgi-bin/broker.exe?_program=gbkprogs.country_list.sas&_service=default

Egypt, 1946-2002, 55 Billion dollars.
Israel, 1946-2002, 84 Billion dollars.
Saudi Arabia, 1946-2002, 328 Million.

And for our trouble, we are hated and many extreme factions want to kill us and our "evil" way of life.

And of course we will keep sending money.

Even North Korea, 506 Million from 1962-2002, including 140 million in 2002.

Signed,
Evil American

An Evil American
Monday, August 30, 2004

Egypt, 1946-2002, 55 Billion dollars.
Israel, 1946-2002, 84 Billion dollars.
Saudi Arabia, 1946-2002, 328 Million.


yes, let's think about these contributions and their destinations for a moment, shall we?

muppet
Monday, August 30, 2004

Pakter;

"However, the results of this particular study need to be interpreted cautiously as they were comparing groups of individual of different nationalities, educated in different systems"

Nationality matter's!
A person in India from say Tamil Nadu (State of India) is good at engish, tamil and little bit hindi.

Same a person from Punjab( State) , is good english, punjabi and hindi.

But in your case, it is just one language, english.

In schools we are taught in English ( talking about private schools), at home we speak in our mother-tongue.

But I guess in your case it is not such. It is english everywhere. ( School, home....)

A child who has to learn 3 language simultaniously in his/her growing days would be in far better position to grasp a fourth new language than a child who learned just one.

Indian Perspective...
Monday, August 30, 2004

>The first language you learn is by far the easiest.  Kids don't even know how to talk, and they absorb their first language fluently.
Your brain is wired to learn languages at an early age. You spend ages 2-4 saying things like "blah blah blah" and NO! Learning a language under age 8 is far easier than learning one at 13, which is far easier than learning one at 18, which is far easier than learning one at 33 (when I started learning japanese). Children locked in a room where they don't have another human to talk to until they are 9-10+ have a very difficult time learning grammar of any kind.

>How many people do you know that tried to learn a second language and failed?
People who tried to learn as adults. 

Also, part of the difficulty with adults (learning other languages)  is that adults are afraid to laugh at themselves (or get laughed at) when they make a mistake.

Peter
Monday, August 30, 2004

I don't want Americans to learn a new language because it gives me a competitive edge as a trilingual.

F. x. German is spoken by an estimated 126 million people. That's a nice little extra market I can have all for myself... (Take that with a barrel of salt, I'm just proving a point here.)

http://german.about.com/library/weekly/aa020298.htm

Peter Monsson
Monday, August 30, 2004

An Evil American,

---This is perception but not reality----

What about IRAQ!?
I guess, you are doing a lot of charity work there too.
So let us not discuss this issue here!

 

Indian Perspective...
Monday, August 30, 2004

"in the UK there's some form of dialect for almost every town and settlement"

Oh, come now, please, let's not get carried away.

The only difference in spoken English across most of the British Isles these days is in accent and the occasional use of a few different words. The vast majority of people everywhere across Britain are all plainly understandable to each other. You have to go a long way back in time (centuries) to find local dialects noticeably different from standard English.

One exception I might make is for Glaswegian as heard in the BBC comedy Rab C. Nesbitt (played by Gregor Fisher). That pretty much needed subtitles for anybody not born and brought up in Glasgow!

Ian
Monday, August 30, 2004

++A child who has to learn 3 language simultaniously in his/her growing days would be in far better position to grasp a fourth new language than a child who learned just one.++

sure, however, there are studies which show that children who simultaniously learn more than one language at the developmental stage don't achieve the same level of mastery at one language as a child who learns just their home tongue...

Kenny
Monday, August 30, 2004

To go back to the original point of this thread there is a lot of software around teachng foreign languages. Little of it is that good, but it will certainly be better than a Chinese programmer can produce off his own bat.

There are various factors involved in the production of language software (apart from the most important which is a massive marketing machine) and they include capital (think hundreds of thousands of dollars), domain knowledge, pedagogic knowledge, imagination, creativity and perseverence. Programming skills are almost irrelevant; bookbinding skills don't win you the Nobel for Literature.

Stephen Jones
Monday, August 30, 2004

Dear Ian
              The only century you need to go to to find dialects clearly different from standard English is this one, though you are more likely to be talking about social dialects than regional ones.

              It is true however that pretty well all the population understands standard English and can produce some approximation to it, which certainly wasn't true 120 years ago. It is also true that compared to many other languages English is fairly homogenous.

Stephen Jones
Monday, August 30, 2004

Yawn.

I'm so weary of hearing these Euro weenies who brag about the fact they are bilingual and snub their noses at Americans who are not.

The reason most Europeans learn English as well as their native tongue is because they know English is the predominant language in the world. So for them, the purpose of learning a second language is to be able to communicate and compete in a global environment. The cultural reasons are secondary.

For Americans, we already speak English so the need for a second language really boils down to a cultural thing, not a competitive advantage like non-English speaking countries.

Don't get me wrong, I think learning other languages is a great intellectual excercise and I encourage everyone to do it. But I'm just sick and tired of these pricks overseas acting as if they are so superior because their countries education system long since realized that they needed to learn English to survive.

IANAL
Monday, August 30, 2004

Whilst it is true that many non-English speakers learn English because they need it as a lingua franca or bridge language, people who give figures like 99.9999% of people learn a foreign language out of necessity are grossly exaggerating.

For one thing extrinsic motivation has much less effect on language learning than instrinsic motivation, and the desire to learn about the culture of the speakers of the other language is the greatest indicator of future success in learning the language.

Secondly it totally fails to explain the large number of native English speakers who achieve a high level of fluency in foreign languages. You could say that they are impelled by social necessity, but that is not always true (I had read over a hundred French novels and had an active vocabulary of thousands of words before I ever spoke to a Frenchman) and it still doesn't explain why some people learn the language flluently and others not a word, nor why some people learn some languages and don't bother with others. To give my personal example I could speak, read and write French before I ever went to France, and learnt both Spanish and later Catalan to near native proficiency despite a marked English accent in Spanish, and yet my Arabic is rudimentary and my Sinhala almost non-existent.

Life is not that simple.

Stephen Jones
Monday, August 30, 2004

Stephen,

I agree that you can find dialects noticeably different from standard English today in Britain, but they do not have an important impact on the life of an everyday speaker of the language.

Simon Lucy implied that one reason English is hard to master is that almost every town and settlement in Britain speaks a different variety of the language. This is plainly not true. I can go to Southampton, Bristol, Cambridge, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Newcastle, Cardiff, Caernarvon, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and all sorts of places inbetween and never have any difficulty understanding or being understood. Regional variations in accent are just not that great these days, and the occasional inclusion of dialect words presents no important difficulty.

Ian
Monday, August 30, 2004

Kenny,

---stage don't achieve the same level of mastery at one language as a child who learns just their home tongue...-----

Probably, yes!

But does that gives you any competitive advantage over a person who knows two language. In your field of work ( Programming).

So, as I earlier said it is all need driven, add more attributes to your personality and education qualifications, you are in otherwise wait for the turn.

Indian Perspective...
Monday, August 30, 2004

>sure, however, there are studies which show that children who simultaniously learn more than one language at the developmental stage don't achieve the same level of mastery at one language as a child who learns just their home tongue.
My ex would be a perfect counter example to your statement. She grew up in Cuba and the US.

Peter
Monday, August 30, 2004

I have googled "Spanish  Software" or "learn Spanish".

The googled results implied that ADULT Americans possibly do not care to learn a foreign language because those softwares seems outdated compared to Chinese "learn English" software (for example, some voice pattern recognition algorithm are very popular in Chinese learn English softwares).

So I think I'd better investigate here at first.

--------------------------------------
D2KSoft, Different and Elegant
http://www.d2ksoft.com
We provide advanced tools only for YOU,
the smart, tasteful and lazy hacker!
--------------------------------------

redguardtoo
Monday, August 30, 2004

>But does that gives you any competitive advantage over a person who knows two language. In your field of work ( Programming).

Unless you are either very fortunate in your choice of language, then the chance of it being useful is not particularly high.  After all, there are hundreds of languages to choose from--what are the odds that the one you choose is one that will actually help you?  Stephen Jones's example is great here--he knows French fluently, but not Arabic--so where does he end up working?  In Saudi Arabia.

This is especially true in programming--it's not a particularly language-intensive job.  Frex, I happen to have studied Japanese, out of random interest, and a couple of years back I was working for a company that was doing a big project for a Japanese firm.  I thought I was all set, but it didn't work out that way at all--I had virtually no contact with the customer, everything was handled in English; I think I used my Japanese for about 5 minutes one day to come up with a test case, and even that could've been handled by someone with no Japanese.

Gav

Gav
Monday, August 30, 2004

Its fun being quoted, but it would be better if it were accurately done.  I did not imply that English was difficult to master, I said it was difficult to master.  For speakers of English as a second language many dialects are difficult, this does not mean they speak or understand English badly.

For native speakers of  English its easier to ignore or gloss over dialect and vocabulary differences, but those differences are still significant.

As an example, in working around the Pacific Rim I found that in Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia people had little difficulty in understanding me either as one to one or in public seminars;  in Taiwan and South Korea the local ear was used to american intonation and vocabulary and I had to modify my speech and to a degree my accent in order for them to listen to what I said.

Simon Lucy
Tuesday, August 31, 2004

I'm not sure why people think dialects are relevant to the question of English being a difficult language or not. Do native English speakers seriously believe other languages don't have dialects?

Chris Nahr
Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Kenny is wrong. Studies show that childern raised in a consistent multilingual environment are actually better at language than monolingually raised children. Consistent means that the different languages are separated by context, preferably by person speaking (e.g. mother speaks French always, Father speaks English always).
Only childeren that are raised in inconsistent linguistic environments (people mixing different languages all the time) tend to get slightly confused as to the proper separation of one language from another.

Just me (Sir to you)
Tuesday, August 31, 2004

> Why would I need to learn another language when I know that _anyone_ can understand english if you speak it loud enough?

Actually you need to know two sentences in any given foreign language -
1) Do you speak English?
2) Find me someone who does.

I suppose "A beer, please" is also useful.


Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Hmmm, let me repeat.  English is reasonably easy to learn as a foreign language, you can speak it attrociously and be understood and you can understand a great deal with a relatively small vocabulary that and the trading patterns of the 19th and 20th century made English a lingua franca.

I did not say that dialects made it difficult to learn English, I said it made it difficult to master it.  Yes there are dialects in other languages and sometimes those dialects are confusing.  German usage varies widely, not simply the pronunciation of ch and sh across north and south but whole vocabularies and there's no way I'm going to understand Swiss German (SchweitzerDeutch).

English adopts foreign words and constructions easily and for the most part almost without notice and so wherever English is spoken in non-English speaking countries borrowed words enter the language.  This has also helped make it an almost lingua univeralis.

There's no discernable gender in English and very simple modifying rules for verbs, virtually all the modifications are actually conjugations of the verb 'to be' with a few word endings, 'ed', 'ing', 'est' and so on.

English can make any noun into a verb and verbs into nouns and adjectives and so squish any combination of phonemes from any other grammar into its own grammar.

English has been polyglot even since before the Norman Conquest, it (or at least its precursor), had Gaelic, Latin, Danish, Old High German and  god knows what already layered into it before Norman French was skewered into it.

So, with all that, its hardly surprising that its become the commercial language of the world.

Simon Lucy
Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Isn't it a pitty that the americans could get isolated because they do not do anything to get closer to the rest of the world? Learning a foreign language is part of it. 

Actually, at the moment it is the rest of the world who gets closer to the americans (not the americans who get closer rest of the world) but that could end.

I don't think the americans should feel confident just because the others learn english.  Yes, because it is the others who decide. When the interest in english ends and the others decide that japanese or chinese is the "new language" the americans will have to change their mind.

Samurai
Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Start holding your breath now on that whole English interest ending thing.

muppet
Tuesday, August 31, 2004

"Americans need learn foreign language?"

Sounds like Americans need _to_ learn english grammar first.

Mr Jack
Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Samurai;

----Isn't it a pitty that the americans could get isolated because they do not do anything to get closer to the rest of the world?Learning a foreign language is part of it.----

How many language you know, and did you learned them to show your love for other countries!?

----Actually, at the moment it is the rest of the world who gets closer to the americans (not the americans who get closer rest of the world) but that could end.----

At this point of time, whether you accept it or not, they are in commanding position. 

----When the interest in english ends and the others decide that japanese or chinese is the "new language" the americans will have to change their mind.----

Do you want to say learning languages is that easy!? It consumes lot of time and energy. It is not that simple!

Anyway, your comments shows that you have something against Americans. I also don't agree with them as far a WAR and other such issues are concerned. But at this point of time you are rather being insane and harsh on them.
 

Indian Perspective...
Tuesday, August 31, 2004


The first language you learn is by far the easiest.  Kids don't even know how to talk, and they absorb their first language fluently. ...
How many people do you know that tried to learn a second language and failed?

The difference being, in the first few years of life you're bombarded with language. Whether you want to learn it or not, sooner or later you're going to understand.

Most adults give up after a short while.

Move to a country that speaks a foreign language (at least to you) and immerse yourself in it for 2 or 3 years and then come back to me and tell me you couldn't learn it.

Jack of all
Tuesday, August 31, 2004

"At this point of time, whether you accept it or not, they are in commanding position."

that is true, but... they would get more friends if they were more "open" to the world.  It is a bit sad that people learn english just because it is convenient (business/money) and do not learn more about the people.
I would prefer people to learn english because they are interested in people and culture.

mmm, maybe I am a dreamer....

Ninja
Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Simon,

Sorry if I quoted you inaccurately, and perhaps I did, but in that case I even more strongly disagree with you. You said: "English is one of the hardest to master entirely only because there are so many variations".

That English is one of the hardest to master, I can completely agree with. That it is because there are so many variations, I don't believe so.

I believe English is hard to master because there are so many subtleties in word order, in appropriate use of colloquialisms, in choice of the correct word amongst a family of near synonyms, and other such matters. All these things make even standard English hard to master, whether it be British standard or American standard varieties of the language.

I found your examples of working around the Pacific Rim very interesting, since this coincides quite closely with my experience. On my first visits to America, I sometimes found myself having a tremendously hard time being understood. It seemed that with some American listeners, as soon as they heard me speak, their brain shouted "aaargh, foreign!" and switched off. Thereafter, nothing I said made any sense to them and I had to have an American friend interpret for me (all the while trying hard to keep a straight face and avoid rolling on the floor with laughter).

Ian
Tuesday, August 31, 2004

While we are on the topic does anyone think that Spanish will replace English as the "official" language of America given that the hispanic minority will be a majority in the not too distant future given the US birthrates at present?  Should the US make it a law that English be the official language? 

Curious George
Tuesday, August 31, 2004

No, I do not think Spanish will replace English in America any time soon. The Spanish speaking population, however numerous, generally form a sub-class and have almost no power or influence amongst the ruling elite.

Ian
Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Hispanic birth rates are much higher in the US because you get a bigger welfare check with more children.

muppet
Wednesday, September 01, 2004

---"Hispanic birth rates are much higher in the US because you get a bigger welfare check with more children. "----

The kind of crap we've come to expect from you. A large proportion of hispanics are illegal immigrants who don't qualify for welfare or any other benefits.

Birth rates are inversely proportional to income pretty well anywhere.

Stephen Jones
Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Willfull ignorance is pretty much directly proportional to the minority population in most communities, too.

muppet
Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Yea, and you're in a minority of one.

Stephen Jones
Wednesday, September 01, 2004

I hardly think so.

muppet
Wednesday, September 01, 2004

First. I assume that by "Americans" you mean people bvorn in USA. To the rest of us lesser mortals, an American is anyone born in the American Continent.
What about learning some Geography first?.  Through my contacts in Internet & when I say that I am Spaish, I find that a  very high proportion of  respondents often ask WHERE IS SPAIN???????? As well as clasifying me as Hispanic. (Mexican??????)

It must be remembered that the Spanish Language is the second language sppken in USA.

Elias
Thursday, September 02, 2004

Camarada Elias,
¡Eso que tu has dicho... está bien!

Fidel
Thursday, September 02, 2004

Elias -

I can assure you that a majority of Americans know where Spain is.

Also, sorry, but 'American' universally means citizens/denizens of the United States.  Has for years, will for many years more.

Otherwise you're Canadian, Mexican, Brazillian, etc etc

muppet
Thursday, September 02, 2004

So now the States is the Universe.

Fidel
Thursday, September 02, 2004

Hardly.  But 'American' is a lot more convenient to say than 'United States Citizen' over and over.

Quit being an ass.

muppet
Thursday, September 02, 2004

Dear Muppet

Your willingness to call  anybody who knows something you don't an ass, would be endearing if you were about ten years old.

In Spanish, if you say somebody is "americano" it will be taken to mean that they are from Mexico downwards. If you wish to refer to somebody from the US you say he is "norteamericano", which of course irritates the Mexicans no end as they are North Americans as well.

A perfect mirror image of the situation in English where you use "American" for US citizens, and South American for those Soutn of the Rio Grande,  even if half of them are actually North or Central Americans.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, September 02, 2004

Stephen Jones, that is true. We spanish speakers are used to call nationalities according to the name of the country. (England- English, France - French, Cuba - Cuban, Chile - Chilean, China - Chinese, etc.) In the case of the USA citizens (EEUU (Estados Unidos) in Spanish), we call them "norteamericanos" and sometimes "estadounidenses", when we are lazy we prefer to call them "gringos".

¡que viva la revolucion!

Fidel
Thursday, September 02, 2004

I have visited few countries, mostly in Asia (Japan, Hong Kong, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka etc.) and couple in Europe (UK and Holland), my experience is that when you talk about somebody or something "American" they KNOW I am talking of somebody or something from United States of America. I've so far NEVER seen any anybody refering to Americans and Canadians as "North Americans". Never.

Raju Patel
Thursday, September 02, 2004

No, it's true that spanish speakers use "norteamericano", but it's essentially the same thing.

These are folks who feel their penis size is linked to their country's relative political presence, and can't otherwise handle their envy of the United States as the singular superpower in the world.  It's maddening to them, and so they lash out.

muppet
Thursday, September 02, 2004

You have a strange penis fixation muppet. Freud would be proud of you.

Dear Raju

The reason you have never heard 'American' refer to people from South of the Rio Grande is that your list of countries doesn't actually include any of the thirty-odd American and two European countries, where it does. But I am sure that in all the countries you list writing in all caps ALWAYS shows a lack of linguistic (and probably argumentative) competence :) 

Stephen Jones
Thursday, September 02, 2004

Muppet;

You are an Idiot.
Got it!
If not, let me repeat it again.
You are an IDIOT.

It's me...
Thursday, September 02, 2004

FYI:
http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&ie=UTF-8&q=%22estadounidense%22

991,000 hits tell that this word is commonly used in the spanish/latam world.

Fidel
Friday, September 03, 2004

ooops! I forgot!
I was talking about the word "estadounidense"

Fidel
Friday, September 03, 2004

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