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#20230 - 02/26/01 02:52 PM English a Global Language
patbieber Offline
stranger

Registered: 02/26/01
Posts: 1
Loc: USA, Iowa, Missisppi River Val...
Although many people speak English as a second language, it would not be a good choice as a global language. There are too many irregular forms in English, too many words of foreign extraction in English, and too many coined phrases for English to work well. As a matter of practicality and for good manners people should be able to speak the dominant language of the country they are living in, and should have at least a minimum proficiency (and be able to use dictionaries and phrase books) in the language of any country in which they are visiting for more than two weeks.


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#20231 - 02/26/01 11:39 PM Re: English a Global Language
Bingley Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 04/09/00
Posts: 3065
Loc: Jakarta
Although I'd agree with the general principle, I think two weeks is cutting it rather short. Who's going to learn a whole new writing system for a two-week stay in, for example, Thailand or Korea, let alone Japan or China? Please and thank-you and greetings would be enough, I think, although not all languages are as obsessed about please and thank you as English is.

Bingley
_________________________
Bingley

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#20232 - 02/27/01 01:57 PM Re: English a Global Language
David Gjerdrum Offline
stranger

Registered: 06/16/00
Posts: 1
It has on occasions been said that 'a bilingual is a person having equal difficulty with two languages'.

Since my own suite of such problems extends to several acquired languages and major groups (IE, Chinese, Japanese), I have a great sympathy for those seeking to visit new lands.

A two week visit into an unknown speech community is basically a challenging proposition (for me, first trips to Pakistan, Korea and Thailand -- all 'buffered' by a business agenda that starts with a generally soon to disappear 'introducing party' --- come to mind).

Without advanced warning, entering a new speech community can be quite off-putting; being armed with grammars, dictionaries, phrase books and the like may help, but there are no guarantees there; my first trip to Beijing (to deliver a paper on data entry methods to the Society for Chinese Information Processing) was nothing more than an exercise in stage fright (I ended up delivering the paper in English, and then speaking quite freely in Mandarin after the meeting was over).

All of this to say that assimilados should all try their hardest when seeking to live and work in a new community, and that the use of any and all resources to ease that stress is well recommended.

On the other hand, I see little logical linkage between a discussion on the need to develop personal skills in the language of use in a community to be visited and any assertion that English is somehow deprecated as a global language.

The reference to the many borrowings our lexicon contains seems particularly misplaced; to the extent a given language might be 'universal' in a world where 'language death' is a practical fact, the preservationist desire would be to increase borrowings for the limited diversity they do bring.

To the extent the students are from the communities of origin, I would think that borrowings are very much the stuff of ESL in building associations from the known to the novel.

As to the irregularities of our spelling system, etc., -- oh well; it may be accident of history or some other process that allowed our last major sound change to coincide with the printing press -- this medium suggest very strongly that technology again will chage how people transcribe their ideas and experiences.

But to the point at hand -- what other candidates are on the horizon for a useable global language? In the same way that I chose to learn Mandarin because more people speak it than any other language, English must be a primary choice because of its broad distribution.

Is it merely locale that makes English the language of choice in my (technology) workplace, or doesn't the fact that there are substantial populations of productive Arabic, Farsi, Tagalog, Russian, Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese and Korean speakers compel the selection of a common second (or later) language.

Moreover, were we to attempt to bring a specifically constructed language into use by fiat, we could at best hope for a form of diglossia (e.g. the use of koine in all Greek documents during the reign of the Generals).

There aren't that many examples of top-down language formation in recent history: Israel as a new country brought a theological language into productive use in about a generation (but they had to 'borrow' swear words -- other than those occurring in the bible -- from their semitic cousins the Palastinians), and of course it took a revolution in China for the introduction of "PUTONGHUA" (i.e. Mandarin) to occur.

Each of these reminds me of a quote from David Olmsted, "a language is a speech community that shares a common army." So the question becomes, 'short of at gunpoint, how does one introduce a global language?', with my answer tending toward letting market forces work.




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#20233 - 02/27/01 03:26 PM Re: English a Global Language
wwh Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 01/18/01
Posts: 13858
To demonstrate my remarkable command of the obvious, language is a tool so indispensable that the most widely useful language will be the dominant one. Quite possibly as China's economy reaches its obvious potential, Mandarin may become dominant, if computers make it easier to learn and write.


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#20234 - 03/01/01 07:29 AM Re: English a Global Language
belligerentyouth Offline
old hand

Registered: 12/20/00
Posts: 1055
Loc: Berlin
> 'a bilingual is a person having equal difficulty with two languages'
Sadly, this is, by and large, true. The more languages you learn; the more superficial your understanding of the subtle nuances of each is.


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#20235 - 03/01/01 08:53 AM Re: English a Global Language
Shoshannah Offline
member

Registered: 02/26/01
Posts: 116
Loc: Jerusalem, ISRAEL
'a bilingual is a person having equal difficulty with two languages'

This is why, as I mentioned in my original post on this subject (just under the chief's), having lived in Israel for the better part of the past 20 years, I have become 'not fluent in two languages' (actually three as I do know a few words and expressions in Arabic as well).

I've heard another expression on this subject since living here - trilingual means you speak three languages; bilingual means you speak two languages; and if you speak only one language, you must be American. Sad, I know, but unfortunately, still too true!


_________________________
suzanne pomeranz, tourism consultant jerusalem, israel - suztours@gmail.com

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#20236 - 03/01/01 12:40 PM Re: English a Global Language
wwh Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 01/18/01
Posts: 13858
As the legend of the Tower of Babel tells us, having many languages is a source of painful confusion. Having one universal language would not solve all our problems, but it might at least facilitate eliminating some of them.


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#20237 - 03/01/01 12:58 PM Re: English a Global Language
Shoshannah Offline
member

Registered: 02/26/01
Posts: 116
Loc: Jerusalem, ISRAEL
Having one universal language would not solve all our problems, but it might at least facilitate eliminating some of them.

Oooooooooo - I'm against having only ONE language - how boring life would be without all the fabulous differences in the world! I think that learning other languages and experiencing other cultures is a much better way to get along in the world than ELIMINATING something or other... after all, in that Tower of Babel story, what happened was that MAN (yes and WOMAN) decided he/she could be as all powerful as G-d and that having only one language would help facilitate that end... thus, G-d in His wisdom, confounded our tongues so we would have to actually LEARN about and respect differences in order to get along!

And that's MY sermon for today! Hey, Father Steve, how was that?

_________________________
suzanne pomeranz, tourism consultant jerusalem, israel - suztours@gmail.com

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#20238 - 03/01/01 03:36 PM Re: English a Global Language
Max Quordlepleen Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 08/12/00
Posts: 3409
In reply to:

Sadly, this is, by and large, true. The more languages you learn; the more superficial your understanding of the subtle nuances of each is.


What irks me is the facility with which children raised in polyglot households prove themselves the exception to this general rule. I agreee with your assessment, and it seems to me that the only way to be truly multilingual is to be exposed to the languages in question from birth.



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#20239 - 03/01/01 05:19 PM Re: English a Global Language
wwh Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 01/18/01
Posts: 13858
i venture to predict that English borrowings will increase steadily,amd more extensive pidgins develop until they are widely understood. No telling how long it will take, but eventually there will be only one language, and it won't be called English.


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#20240 - 03/01/01 05:20 PM Re: English a Global Language
AnnaStrophic Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 6511
Loc: lower upstate New York
As it seems we agree: Sadly, this is, by and large, true. The more languages you learn; the more superficial your understanding of the subtle nuances of each is.

Yes. You can count on the fingers of one hand the number of good bilingual writers: Samuel Beckett, Joseph Conrad (thinking hard here...)

Meanwhile, Max moans: What irks me is the facility with which children raised in polyglot households prove themselves the exception to this general rule. I agreee with your assessment, and it seems to me that the only way to be truly multilingual is to be exposed to the languages in question from birth.

Indeed, as set forth in "Language Acquisition" under Miscellany After puberty your language-learning center shrinks.


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#20241 - 03/30/05 02:53 AM Re: English a Global Language
BraveLad Offline
newbie

Registered: 03/29/05
Posts: 31
Loc: California
In "Love's Labours Lost" there is a phrase "they have been at a great feast of languages and stolen the scraps" or something like that. Our linguistic capacities may suffer the same finite limits as eating, learning speed aside. The person who 'consumes' many tongues may or may not possess the requisite ‘linguistic stomach capacity’ to master them all.

Part of the problem with adult learning of language is the theoretical rather than natural approach taken. Immersion is a better way for most people than the typical school approach. But even immersion is not really natural. Did you get adult language addressed to you as an infant and child? Typically adults 'talk down' to children. By simplifying the language we present children, we ease their task of leaning it.

Also the playmates of children do not speak to their companions in complex ways early on. Also natural language acquisition proceeds by accretion and connection to previous acquisitions. When we learn a new language by contrast it is like being asked to sprint before we can crawl or being thrown in the middle of a pond and being told to swim out before getting any swimming lessons except a theoretical briefing on the process. Things we have to learn to do, we learn by doing I think Aristotle said.

One example of language learning that impressed me as likely to succeed (and which did succeed by the way) was when two brothers from Spain immigrated to our town and entered the first grade even though it was 5 and 8 years below their grade level in Spain. In a few months they had proceeded through all the intervening grades relearning in English what they had already learned in Spanish. This had two advantages. First the language was simpler in the first grade. Second they already knew essentially all the material presented in each grade they whizzed thru!

In the case of expanding one's mastery of one's own native language the dictionary studying approach or getting a new word in the email every day is not natural. Hearing a word in a real and important context so there is a motivation is more natural. Also since few like to admit not knowing they don't know a word or do not have time to pursue such a question when they are getting the gist of the conversation, we typically form conjectures at least as to part of speech and general semantic category before we really learn the word. If we don't hear the word again, we will forget it. But if reinforcement occurs, then we will learn its meaning from context the gradual way, the natural way.

When we think we have heard a word for the first time, we are probably wrong. We just didn't notice it before. I offer the following in proof of this contention. After you hear a word for the first time, it often seems as if everywhere you turn you encounter it. Is there a great conspiracy afoot to teach you this word!? I think not. The fact is that now that this word has caught your attention, you have been sensitized to it and hence the remarkable number of times you hear it soon after you hear it for the 'first' time!

To reinforce my point about the unnatural means used to teach languages, the first one is that in the first place you are not 'taught' the language. It is more as if you caught it. Adults talk baby talk to you. You goo and babble after a certain point. You hold your peace for a considerable period though, just to make sure you don't make a fool of yourself. It can often take two to four years before any significant speech occurs. I started talking in earnest at age 14 months. In a couple of weeks, my father, who had recently returned from WWII, stopped counting the new words at 200.

You see on the surface how very unlike this procedure typical language schooling is. Of course I am not maintaining that lying on you back sucking on a bottle of milk is essential to language learning, but it might be worth a try! Keep an open mind is all I am saying. (Well not all, but part of it!)

Hi David! It's me, Markham (know as Mark) from Prodata days. Give Mary and me a holler real soon! My profile has my email address.

Oh and as to the vast size and complexity of English expression, only a core set of words is required to express oneself. Two or three thousand should do for a start. The 800 some word set of Basic English is a bit spare, but it makes the point. Comprehension is harder than such basic expression, but if you have the core, you can expand on it.

The ideal way to get that as an adult is much different than the approach we use. Here is how I think we should proceed. First we start with a “See Spot Run” English text, Then we introduce the ‘same’ text, but with some of the word order and inflections of the target language. We keep this up until we are fluently reading and speaking using the grammar of the target language without learning a single word of its lexicon yet.

The next step is to learn this book gradually substituting the target language word for the strangely placed and inflected English word. Now we have both lexicon and grammar and the language. We can now introduce more complex material starting again with a text using more complex forms and new inflections, then another series of lexicon substitutions. Has anyone ever tried something like this?


Markham Robinson,
CEO MasterPlan Financial Software
www.masterplanner.com

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#20242 - 03/30/05 05:28 AM Re: English a Global Language
maverick Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 09/15/00
Posts: 4757
Hi Mark, welcome to the board. I don't know which David you were greeting - we've got more than one with a tech background too!

You make some interesting remarks about language acquisition - my gut instinct is that you probably have a measure of broad truth in the proposal that the current 'normal' method of learning is both unnatural and less effective than some other ways, though I am not sure about the detail of your suggested reform. I am just trying to remember if there are any teachers of English as a foreign language around here - ASp, is that you, or indeed are there others perhaps lurking?


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#20243 - 04/05/05 04:14 PM Re: English a Global Language
BraveLad Offline
newbie

Registered: 03/29/05
Posts: 31
Loc: California
Hello Maverick! Thanks for the warm howdy.

The David I was referring to is indeed David Gjerdrum, the author of the post to which I replied. I met him in a tech context to be sure, but his most memorable aspects were his linguistic studies, involuted speech and inkhorn vocabulary. A most unforgettable character!

The points of my rambling comments on language acquisition were several. They may have been somewhat obscured by the 'steam of consciousness' style I fell into the day of my post.

You took my point about the unnaturalness of language teaching techniques indeed. What was less obvious was that I think that we cannot repeat our early linguistic learning context very well at all. This is true even if all the talk about a loss of linguistic plasticity is a heap of tripe.

The act of learning some language changes the state of our brains fully as much as 'natural' maturation processes. If we learned a new tongue the same as we learned our first, then it would have to go into a separate compartment and we would be hard put to even translate between the two.

The fact is that our minds insist on making connections with knowledge we have already acquired. When I learn new vocabulary the 'natural' way for instance I learn it in context from reading or hearing it.

Let me use an analogy. Consider a young sapling. Its growth is rapid in linear terms. From day to day you can see its progress. But when you look at a mature tree, it looks the same from day to day. This is quite deceptive. Its growth is spread out over a wide area. If you looked at the tips of the limbs, you would see a growth at the extremities much more like its youthful growth. And because there are so many such branches each of which is of the scale of the sapling, even at their slower growth rates, the overall absolute growth of the mature tree is much, much greater.

As long as one is actively engaged in reading a good quantity of material I believe the case of vocabulary acquisition is similar. By making small advances over a broad front, you may be surprised at how much you are really learning compared to when you were a youngling!

So the strategy behind my proposal was to find some way of connecting new linguistic facts about another language with what you already know. The other principle of learning that I was using was to go in tiny steps so that the process was relatively painless.

My proposal was motivated by my experiences with learning two languages: French and German. German I found more difficult. Both languages have those annoying gender inflections found so much less often in English. German word order I found difficult. By separating the order and inflection acquisition process from the vocabulary acquisition I am guessing that the way would be eased. By using familiar material progressively transformed, I hoped to make the steps of learning small and easy.

Another part of the process should be constant memory practice, otherwise known as testing. I think that we place altogether too much emphasis of the rating aspect of testing while ignoring its function of practicing access to what we have in fact stored. If you can successfully recall information on which you are tested, then you have practice remembering it. But, if you fail to answer the question, you get a different benefit. Now you have a question to which you do not know the answer and a greater readiness to receive information on that matter. So when you 'review' material, only part of it is review, the part of it you were or would have been able to answer. The other part of the review is what you did not pick up on the first time. Both aspects are useful in their own ways.

I believe that our whole approach to learning is flawed. I prefer the 100 percent mastery approach, where you learn all of the teaching objectives before progressing to the next phase. These phases of course should be much smaller than grade levels. The ability to follow such a procedure is much greater in contexts such as home schooling, which is probably why the results are so much better there as well as the exposure to other children at different stages of learning and their opportunity to act as teachers.

BraveLad


Markham Robinson,
CEO MasterPlan Financial Software
www.masterplanner.com

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#20244 - 04/05/05 05:01 PM Re: posts
AnnaStrophic Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 6511
Loc: lower upstate New York
Hi, BraveLad! Just a quick heads-up: the David you were replying to hasn't posted here in four (4) years. In fact, I was surprised you found this thread, so buried it was. Anyway, welcome and I'm glad you enjoy discussing words and language as much as we do!


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