Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

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Jadagul
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Jadagul » 30 Aug 2014, 19:59

JD wrote:Well, Spanish has finally gotten tough; the past tense is kind of kicking my ass right now. But I think it's also partly a weakness in Duolingo: it seemed like all of a sudden there were just all these random new things to learn, but once I looked up Spanish verb conjugation, I realized there was a pattern. But Duolingo doesn't give you patterns or rules much, just random examples. Once you know there's a pattern, you know that, for example, "bostezar", would go yo bosteze', tu bostezaste, e'l bostezo', etc. Without any rules, you're lost in a sea of "-aste"s and "-ieron"s.

Also, I had a realization about English. Spanish is regular enough that you can often guess what part of speech an unknown word is. English isn't like that, though. If you run across a new word like "glurkle", absent a lot of context you have very little idea what it might be - a verb, "to glurkle"? a noun, "a glurkle"? an adjective, "a glurkle car"?
The term you're looking for is "inflected language." Spanish is much more inflected than English.

We do have some inflections, and with some words the part of speech is clear; you can probably guess what part of speech I think "spungly" is, and you can at least narrow "nelter" down to two choices. But between our lack of language and our copious word-borrowing, you're in general right.

(The girlfriend and I discuss this periodically, since Romanian is highly inflected).

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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by thoreau » 30 Aug 2014, 20:11

English has one of the lowest levels of inflection among Indo-European languages. My understanding is that in the past most/all Indo-European languages had even more inflection, but have slowly lost it.

The original Indo-Europeans must have been really damn pedantic if they bothered to create so many inflections for so many different distinctions. We also know, from the record of their conquests across Europe and Asia, that they really liked their weapons. They were probably libertarians.
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JD
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by JD » 07 Oct 2014, 17:45

I actually had the chance to use Spanish today! Admittedly it was just two words, but still. I was going into the subway, and next to me was a family speaking (what sounded like) Castilian Spanish, and having a little trouble with the turnstiles. One woman was having trouble swiping her card, and another advised, "mamá, despacio" which didn't work (the NYC subway turnstiles prefer a faster, smoother approach). I suggested "No, más rapido", which worked; they looked surprised but were appreciative.

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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Jennifer » 07 Oct 2014, 17:50

That's better than I could've done! I know "rapido," but wouldn't have recognized "despacio."
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by JD » 10 Jan 2015, 10:45

Hoy estoy mu'y feliz, porque he completado el curso Duolingo.

The end actually took me as a little bit of a surprise; I finished up a module, and went to see what was next, and I said, "Huh? A picture of a golden owl statue?" and it took a minute for me to figure out what that meant. Mi vocabulario es todavi'a pequen~o, pero eso va a mejorar.

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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Fin Fang Foom » 10 Jan 2015, 13:25

JD wrote:Hoy estoy mu'y feliz, porque he completado el curso Duolingo.

The end actually took me as a little bit of a surprise; I finished up a module, and went to see what was next, and I said, "Huh? A picture of a golden owl statue?" and it took a minute for me to figure out what that meant. Mi vocabulario es todavi'a pequen~o, pero eso va a mejorar.
Por vocabulario, memrise es muy bueno.
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by JasonL » 10 Jan 2015, 14:58

Mi buho es solitario. Piensa suicidio.

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JD
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by JD » 30 Jan 2015, 15:55

The other day on the subway I happened to sit next to a woman who was studying a language that was very clearly not western European; I thought it was Arabic, but it turned out it was actually Urdu. I would think that having to learn Urdu script along with the new language would make it very difficult, but she said it actually wasn't that hard.

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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Eric the .5b » 30 Jan 2015, 15:58

JD wrote:The other day on the subway I happened to sit next to a woman who was studying a language that was very clearly not western European; I thought it was Arabic, but it turned out it was actually Urdu. I would think that having to learn Urdu script along with the new language would make it very difficult, but she said it actually wasn't that hard.
At the very least, you don't have to un-learn preconceptions of what sounds certain letters/glyphs/etc. should represent.
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Highway » 30 Jan 2015, 16:52

From learning Japanese, it's difficult, but it's not that it's amazingly 'hard'. Now, I'm not really focusing on being able to write in Japanese, and maybe I'd do better on remembering different kanji if I was more focused on writing (and would probably do better at reading handwritten Japanese). But it's just part of what you're doing. I never thought it would be worthwhile to learn "Japanese" in romaji. And I'm to the point where it's easier to read it in any form of Japanese characters, even katakana, than in romaji.
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by JD » 06 Feb 2015, 11:38

I've been hanging out on English Language Learners as a way of learning and thinking more deeply about English and languages in general. So far I've observed:

-A lot of ESL students have a great deal of trouble with "mass nouns" vs. "count nouns". (For example, "I am having a trouble understanding this sentence.") Admittedly, they're one of the odder features of English: hey, folks, certain nouns in this language are "mass nouns" and can't be referred to with an indefinite article or a numeric quantifier! And while there are some rules, there's not always a way to tell in advance what they are; you just have to know. Other words can be used either with or without a quantifier depending on the exact sense they have, like "If I eat a pie without a fork, there will be pie all over my face." Oh yeah, and sometimes we use count nouns like mass nouns if we want to express their nature in a different way, like "After the bomb went off in the cattle trailer, there was cow all over the place." Have a fun with that, kids!

-People get really confused about "can" and "could", probably because they have overlapping shades of meaning. "I can climb the fence" vs. "I could climb the fence (now)" vs "I could climb the fence (when I was younger)", and so forth.

-English tenses are tricky things. Sometimes I'm surprised that people get so confused about "I have done" vs. "I had done" vs. "I did" but when I really think about it, I realize that the rules for exactly when you when you use each one are somewhat slippery and subtle.

Likewise, errors like this are common: "Goodbye, my friend. Every time I will look at your picture, I will think of you." And you try and explain, no, you don't say "will look", because while it's in the future, it's a recurring action; and they say, so it's "every time I look at your picture, I think of you"? And you say, no, that's grammatically correct but it means something else, you have to say "will think" because it's in the future...

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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by D.A. Ridgely » 06 Feb 2015, 12:19

Or you could just tell them that English is a grammatically hodgepodge because of its shotgun marriage of vaguely Germanic languages with vaguely Romance languages, shaken, stirred and then subjected to grafts from everywhere else.

Are there rules? Sure. Are they dependable? Hell, no! Can you really process those rules; that is, recall them and apply them in a timely manner when you're engaged in conversation? Not a chance.

After they've got their basic vocabulary of several hundred words and a rough internalization of the tenses of regular and important irregular verbs, the best thing they can do is watch PBS and read novels, read them out loud, and copy the syntactic habits of the English voices they are listening to and reading.

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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by lunchstealer » 06 Feb 2015, 12:39

A similar situation is nouns that have implied prepositions in some circumstances. "I'm going home" rather than "I'm going to home". Latin has some similar constructions, and the 'going home' construction just blew the mind of the Spanish exchange student who sat next to me. You could see how much restraint it took to not tell us that we were just wrong and didn't know what we were talking about.
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by JD » 06 Feb 2015, 13:24

Oh yeah, "home" breaks a lot of people's brains too.

"I am going to home."
No, it's just "I am going home". It's a special case in which "home" is essentially an adverb; just get used to it.
"OK, so...'I am going my home'?"
No, because now "home" is a noun, so it has to have a preposition...

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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by JD » 06 Jan 2016, 11:47

Another weird belief that appears to be common among English teachers and ESL students around the world: you can't use an article with an abstract noun. I have no idea where people get this idea.

In general I am getting the impression that there are a lot of crappy English teachers out there in the world. (Admittedly this is probably part of Sturgeon's Law, and I'm sure that most foreign-language teachers in the US are pretty crappy too.) I encounter a lot of ESL students who seem obsessed with somewhat abstruse things like "collocations" and want to know if this thing or that thing is a collocation, and I just want to tell them, "No native English speaker (who is not a linguist) gives two shits about 'collocations' as such. Just listen to how people actually speak and stop worrying about how to label everything."

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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by tr0g » 06 Jan 2016, 12:18

JD wrote:Another weird belief that appears to be common among English teachers and ESL students around the world: you can't use an article with an abstract noun. I have no idea where people get this idea.

In general I am getting the impression that there are a lot of crappy English teachers out there in the world. (Admittedly this is probably part of Sturgeon's Law, and I'm sure that most foreign-language teachers in the US are pretty crappy too.) I encounter a lot of ESL students who seem obsessed with somewhat abstruse things like "collocations" and want to know if this thing or that thing is a collocation, and I just want to tell them, "No native English speaker (who is not a linguist) gives two shits about 'collocations' as such. Just listen to how people actually speak and stop worrying about how to label everything."
I have no learned what a collocation is. Thanks, JD. The wiki entry on collocations somewhat explains this. Apparently the language nerds decided this was important for speaking a language a long time ago. I would guess that's baked into a lot of curricula now.
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by JD » 27 Apr 2016, 12:52

I am attempting to further my Spanish by reading Harry Potter y La Piedra Filosofal. It's tough, but I think it's at a good level - there's a lot of vocabulary I don't know, but not so much it's overwhelming, and it's certainly giving me a lot of practice with tenses.

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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by the innominate one » 27 Apr 2016, 21:44

Wouldn't a better thread title have been "for cunning linguists"?
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Ellie » 16 Sep 2016, 00:00

I am trying to learn a little Swahili since that is what is spoken by the refugee family that my workplace is sponsoring. I'm shit at learning languages as it is, but this is even harder than the Spanish I am continually renewing and forgetting. All the Swahili words just somehow sound the same and I can't get any to stick in my head.
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Ellie » 22 Sep 2016, 23:15

I'm trying to avoid the problem I had with Spanish in high school, which was that I studied the shit out of the written language and had zero (literally zero) ability to comprehend spoken Spanish. Because unless the family is going to write me notes, I only need to understand spoken Swahili.

Anyway, I've been watching some kids' cartoons in Swahili on YouTube. There is this weird, disturbing quality to a lot of these low-budget productions. It's like the uncanny valley, but the thing it's distorting is typical American cartoons, not real life people. I haven't learned any new words and I'll probably have nightmares.
I should have listened to Warren. He was right again as usual.

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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Highway » 23 Sep 2016, 08:43

Ellie wrote:I'm trying to avoid the problem I had with Spanish in high school, which was that I studied the shit out of the written language and had zero (literally zero) ability to comprehend spoken Spanish. Because unless the family is going to write me notes, I only need to understand spoken Swahili.

Anyway, I've been watching some kids' cartoons in Swahili on YouTube. There is this weird, disturbing quality to a lot of these low-budget productions. It's like the uncanny valley, but the thing it's distorting is typical American cartoons, not real life people. I haven't learned any new words and I'll probably have nightmares.
I find that both studying written Japanese and then listening to a lot of it is important for understanding the spoken forms easier for me. That way I can see the differences between words that might sound similar in spoken language, and help to separate them in my head. Like you said above, it all sounds the same, so maybe adding that visual component in will provide some help in getting to the point of understanding it better. But of course, it takes time.
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Jennifer » 23 Sep 2016, 14:29

Ellie wrote: I haven't learned any new words and I'll probably have nightmares.
Were you at least able to recognize some words you did know? Maybe you were watching the Swahili equivalent of "Gee, Papa Smurf, these smurfy smurfberries are smurftastic!"
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Warren » 23 Sep 2016, 22:14

Just put it in terms of something you understand.

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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Ellie » 25 Sep 2016, 10:32

Jennifer wrote:
Ellie wrote: I haven't learned any new words and I'll probably have nightmares.
Were you at least able to recognize some words you did know?
Not many, but then, I hardly know any words even after weeks of practice :lol: :oops:
I should have listened to Warren. He was right again as usual.

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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Ellie » 03 Oct 2016, 12:05

I tried to say "late" (at night) and said "dead person"

THANKS, GOOGLE TRANSLATE

:lol:
I should have listened to Warren. He was right again as usual.

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