Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

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

Post by Jennifer »

The more I think about it, the odder it gets. How can a language's syntax change so radically over time?

I can definitely, inherently "get" how vocabulary will be changed/corrupted over time, especially in the days before mass communication, when you could only speak with people in your immediate vicinity, so folks started adopting certain pronunciations in isolation from other regions. (I wonder: if the internet, or at least radio/TV, had existed when Rome fell, would various local dialects have still evolved into the modern "Romance languages," or would they have remained closer to true "Latin," without the gradual pronunciation changes which lead to today's Romance languages -- Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and French are the major ones? On a similar note, what if technology had largely been the same EXCEPT they had the printing press, so that when Rome fell, the majority of people in the provinces were literate in Latin -- if everyone kept reading and writing in that language after Rome fell, would it have remained "Latin" or would it still have changed into various Romance languages?).

So yeah: given isolated populations starting with the same language, especially one where the majority of people are illiterate and can neither write things down for future people to read nor read what people wrote in the past, over time their pronunciations will change, eventually enough to make them completely different words and vocabularies.

But how did different forms of syntax develop? I'm pretty sure the syntax of the Romance languages is that of Latin -- I had a well-duh insight just last night, regarding my previously mentioned difficulty grokking Spanish verbs because they conjugate theirs so differently than English -- we add entire extra words to a verb, whereas Spanish merely changes a suffix, so that a certain conjugation of "to try" requires a minimum of three words in English -- we will try -- but in Spanish you can say it in one word, the "trataremos" conjugation of "tratar": duh, that's the same way verbs work in Latin!

What specifically sparked THAT visit from Captain Obvious last night was my reading a book which mentioned Caligula's infamous quote "oderint, dem metuant" -- let them hate, so long as they fear. Latin also relies on verb conjugation WITHOUT the English method of adding extra words, and Spanish descended from Latin, silly me, how did it take me so freaking long to figure that out? (In Spanish, per Google translate, it only requires one word more than Latin: "déjalos odiar, mientras teman." OTOH, the Romance language of French added almost as many words as English: "laissez-les haïr, tant qu'ils ont peur.")

From that alone, it looks like French has corrupted away from the Latin far more than has Spanish. Oddly enough, it looks like Italian is also much more "corrupted" than Spanish, even though Italian speakers descended from the ones who stayed in Rome or at least on its peninsula: oderint dem metuant in italian is "lasciali odiare, fintanto che hanno paura."
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Jadagul »

My sense is that most languages move from more inflected versions to more particle-marked versions over time. Church Latin is more preposition-heavy and less inflection-dependent than classical Latin was; Koine Greek is a lot more preposition-heavy than Attic or Dorian Greek were.

Grammar drifts over time as you either need to clarify distinctions, or stop needing to. You can see it live in English right now; "this shirt needs washed" is a grammatical variant, as is the whole AAVE progressive "be" and distinct handling of double negation. The collapse of "who/whom" down to nearly-invariant "who" has basically happened over your lifetime.

(And then there's also various creolization processes; part of the reason English grammar is fucked up is that it's a mix of old Anglo-Saxon, old Norse, old Norman French, and old Parisian French. The pronoun "they" comes from Norse, not old English; I believe the "-s" pluralization and the way we handle negation are both heavily Norman-influrenced.)
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Jennifer »

Another thought: how much, if at all, will future languages change, now that mass communication and sound recordings both exist (and assuming it continues; no worldwide nuclear war or other catastrophe bringing down the worldwide comms grid and everyone's electricity, and so on)? Speculation: maybe in a thousand years, everything will have melted together into a single world language. We already have various languages borrowing words from others. English is close to a lingua franca in most of the modern business/tech world, though if China ever truly opened up (taking down the great firewall from its internet, so its people could also communicate freely with the rest of the planet), I expect you'd also see a lot of Mandarin words or phrases working their way into various languages too.

Or, conversely, will the various languages -- at least those languages which currently have mass media, with movies and prerecorded songs and such produced in their language -- mostly STOP the sort of "corruption" which eventually made Latin die out in favor of various corrupted "Romance languages?" Specifically, will this "corruption" halt because the sort of subtle pronunciation differences which over time evolved into different languages will not be an issue when you can actually hear recordings of how those words were pronounced by earlier generations? How much difference, if at all, is there between modern American English pronunciations, versus those you'd hear on radio recordings from a hundred years ago?
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

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Jennifer wrote: 15 Oct 2020, 18:33 Another thought: how much, if at all, will future languages change, now that mass communication and sound recordings both exist (and assuming it continues; no worldwide nuclear war or other catastrophe bringing down the worldwide comms grid and everyone's electricity, and so on)? Speculation: maybe in a thousand years, everything will have melted together into a single world language. We already have various languages borrowing words from others. English is close to a lingua franca in most of the modern business/tech world, though if China ever truly opened up (taking down the great firewall from its internet, so its people could also communicate freely with the rest of the planet), I expect you'd also see a lot of Mandarin words or phrases working their way into various languages too.

Or, conversely, will the various languages -- at least those languages which currently have mass media, with movies and prerecorded songs and such produced in their language -- mostly STOP the sort of "corruption" which eventually made Latin die out in favor of various corrupted "Romance languages?" Specifically, will this "corruption" halt because the sort of subtle pronunciation differences which over time evolved into different languages will not be an issue when you can actually hear recordings of how those words were pronounced by earlier generations? How much difference, if at all, is there between modern American English pronunciations, versus those you'd hear on radio recordings from a hundred years ago?
Language will continue to change because of new concepts and objects entering the culture. Consider the sentence. "I downloaded recycling instructions from the internet on my iPad." That would be incomprehensible to someone in 1970.

But local dialects will gradually disappear as mass communication smooths out the language over the whole world. In British Columbia alone, we have several First Nations languages that are down to a few score speakers. One died out last year because the last person who spoke it died.
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Jennifer »

Aresen wrote: 15 Oct 2020, 20:29
Jennifer wrote: 15 Oct 2020, 18:33 Another thought: how much, if at all, will future languages change, now that mass communication and sound recordings both exist (and assuming it continues; no worldwide nuclear war or other catastrophe bringing down the worldwide comms grid and everyone's electricity, and so on)? Speculation: maybe in a thousand years, everything will have melted together into a single world language. We already have various languages borrowing words from others. English is close to a lingua franca in most of the modern business/tech world, though if China ever truly opened up (taking down the great firewall from its internet, so its people could also communicate freely with the rest of the planet), I expect you'd also see a lot of Mandarin words or phrases working their way into various languages too.

Or, conversely, will the various languages -- at least those languages which currently have mass media, with movies and prerecorded songs and such produced in their language -- mostly STOP the sort of "corruption" which eventually made Latin die out in favor of various corrupted "Romance languages?" Specifically, will this "corruption" halt because the sort of subtle pronunciation differences which over time evolved into different languages will not be an issue when you can actually hear recordings of how those words were pronounced by earlier generations? How much difference, if at all, is there between modern American English pronunciations, versus those you'd hear on radio recordings from a hundred years ago?
Language will continue to change because of new concepts and objects entering the culture. Consider the sentence. "I downloaded recycling instructions from the internet on my iPad." That would be incomprehensible to someone in 1970.
I don't know if linguists make an official distinction here, but: I'd say what you're talking about is "additions" to a language, which IMO is not the same thing as "changes." Like, it's true that a 1970 person wouldn't understand what you were talking about ... but YOU could understand whatever the 1970 person was discussing, and also understand an English-language radio broadcast from 1920 (especially compared to trying to understand Shakespeare's English, or Chaucer's a couple centuries before that).

We have new words to describe new technologies, but (barring youth slang, which always comes and goes), whatever words we used in 1920 to describe things which existed back then can still be used to describe things now. Like, that thing you eat off of is a "table" now, and it was a "table" 100 years ago, and for at least two more centuries before that. Compare that to Latin's corruption over the years: "mensa" in Latin became "mesa" in Spanish and Portuguese (a tiny change, but still a change) ... compared to the Italian "tavolo" and French "table."

The only real changes in the language for the past 100 years that I can think of involve very early names for then-new technologies: "aeroplane" becoming "airplane," for example.
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

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We've lost the subjunctive. We've lost "whom". The way we use the pronoun "they" has changed/expanded dramatically.

You can also look at the way internet-speak has grown on the internet and then infiltrated spoken language; things like "tbh" and "because 2020" have become standard spoken phrases. (The way we use the word "Because" has changed a lot! We couldn't say "because noun" fifty years ago.)
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

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I picked up a few copies of El Especialito the other day...admittedly just to make some crumpled paper to fill a box I was shipping. But while I was doing that, I noticed that they feature "Crucigrama - aprendiendo inglés", where the clues are in English and the answers are in Spanish. But of course it works fine for "aprendiendo español" too. I confess that given the general level of El Especialito - weighing heavily on chismes, cómo ganar más dinero, and cómo perder peso - I was expecting the crossword to be easy, but it isn't so easy. Certainly "bunker" and "altar" are not words I use every day even in English, to say nothing of Spanish.
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Warren »

Jadagul wrote: 15 Oct 2020, 21:04
You can also look at the way internet-speak has grown on the internet and then infiltrated spoken language; things like "tbh" and "because 2020" have become standard spoken phrases. (The way we use the word "Because" has changed a lot! We couldn't say "because noun" fifty years ago.)
I don't think you blame the internet for "because 2020". And do people actually say TBH letter by letter? I've heard LOL, but never LMAO, BTW, TFW, etc.
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

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Warren wrote: 11 Nov 2020, 14:19
Jadagul wrote: 15 Oct 2020, 21:04
You can also look at the way internet-speak has grown on the internet and then infiltrated spoken language; things like "tbh" and "because 2020" have become standard spoken phrases. (The way we use the word "Because" has changed a lot! We couldn't say "because noun" fifty years ago.)
I don't think you blame the internet for "because 2020". And do people actually say TBH letter by letter? I've heard LOL, but never LMAO, BTW, TFW, etc.
People definitely say "tee bee aitch" out loud.

And linguists seem to think that "Because X" is an internetism---and it well predates 2020.
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

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I slacked off on my Spanish lessons for awhile due to my annoying health problems, but a week or so ago I went back to keeping the Spanish kids' programming on the TV, and also doing more work with books.

They're still playing the same small handful of show episodes as when I started this in August -- except it appears they're either no longer showing Spanish "Wonder Pets," or they're only airing when I'm asleep or during the ultra-rare moments I actually leave the house. Apparently they're filling in the gaps with MORE Pistas de Blue.

FWIW, I remembered about as much of the spoken Spanish as before (remember, I'm somewhat "cheating" in that a given episode of, say, Dora or Blue's Clues is NOT an episode I've never seen before, but one I've seen multiple times), but I still don't have enough knowledge to even give you a summary of what a given episode is about. As for the vocabulary words I'm picking up from the circa-1999 textbook I found in a thrift store some months back ... given how very little of "standard Spanish pronunciation/spelling" I learned back in the day actually applies to real-life Spanish speakers (like my earlier confusion with rojo/red and roco/rock), I have no idea how the characters on my shows would actually pronounce them: is letter "j" pronounced like an English H, and English C, or an English L? I've heard cartoon characters use all three pronunciations on various dubs.

I have NOT yet reached the milestone of "the TV characters said something I understood and recognized specifically from my books."
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

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Found a new Pluto stream which is all Spanish-language nature documentaries -- and, better yet, that channel has closed-captioning, unlike the Nick and Nick Jr. Spanish channels. Yesterday I caught a couple episodes of "La Europa mas salvage," which Google says means "The Wildest Europe," though technically it comes down to "The Europe Most Wild." A LOT of Spanish syntax sounds like an English speaker being either snarky or pompous -- like saying "house of Grandma" instead of "Grandma's house." Seeing the actual words the narrator said made it extra-obvious how very bad I am at hearing Spanish -- outside of the handful or words (mainly nouns and adjectives, definitely not conjugated verbs) I already knew, it wasn't merely a matter of "I don't know the meaning of most words he's saying," but "I don't even know where one word ends and another begins" -- my ideas in that regard turn out QUITE different from what the captions said.
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

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Finding the word breaks is genuinely one of the hardest parts of learning to understand a new spoken language.

I've had a few ESL speakers tell me that their big breakthrough towards fluency was being able to consistently recognize where words ended and began.
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

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I remember a loooong time ago, reading one of those question-and-answer columns where the question was "Why do speakers of non-English languages always talk so FAST?" And the answer was that non-English people don't speak any faster than us; they just SOUND faster because we can't understand them. It talked about how all languages rely heavily on context to make sense, and the example they gave was, the English phrases "a nice box" and "an icebox" are pronounced exactly the same; you can only tell them apart by understanding the context: "I bought my niece a necklace for her birthday, and wrapped it in anicebox" versus "I bought some ice cream, and to keep it from melting I put it in anicebox."

Of course, when I hear Spanish, that first sentence sounds more like "Ibought my neesa neck lissfor her birth dayand raptit inna nicebox." Unsurprisingly, almost none of those "words" will actually show up when you try typing them into a translator, which is why after all this time I STILL can't understand more than five or ten percent of a given Dora or Blue's Clues episode en espanol which I've already seen dozens of times since August.
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

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Jennifer wrote: 15 Dec 2020, 12:59 I remember a loooong time ago, reading one of those question-and-answer columns where the question was "Why do speakers of non-English languages always talk so FAST?" And the answer was that non-English people don't speak any faster than us; they just SOUND faster because we can't understand them. It talked about how all languages rely heavily on context to make sense, and the example they gave was, the English phrases "a nice box" and "an icebox" are pronounced exactly the same; you can only tell them apart by understanding the context: "I bought my niece a necklace for her birthday, and wrapped it in anicebox" versus "I bought some ice cream, and to keep it from melting I put it in anicebox."

Of course, when I hear Spanish, that first sentence sounds more like "Ibought my neesa neck lissfor her birth dayand raptit inna nicebox." Unsurprisingly, almost none of those "words" will actually show up when you try typing them into a translator, which is why after all this time I STILL can't understand more than five or ten percent of a given Dora or Blue's Clues episode en espanol which I've already seen dozens of times since August.
Funny thing is we do that even to our own language.

In early Middle English, people would protect their clothes while cooking by wearing a piece of cloth tied over it, called a "napron" (which I think is from the same root as "napkin", a different piece of cloth that protects your clothes from food). But after some rebracketing, "a napron" became "an apron".
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

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Heh. The Spanish textbook I found in a thrift store some time ago -- presumably an entry-level Spanish college textbook, judging from the college-bookstore "used" sticker still on its spine -- is supposed to teach "Spanish for global communication," so instead of being like the foreign-language lessons I recall from school, where you start out learning days of the week, months of the year, colors, etc., THIS starts you out with stuff like "Hello, my name is Jennifer, I'm from Connecticut, what's your name and where are you from?"

It also -- as much as is possible with only a book plus the accompanying CDs which I do not have, though luckily I have Google Translate -- tries teaching via "immersion" rather than "rote memorization." Like, instead of a vocabulary list of English words and their Spanish equivalents, they will instead have pictures, with only the Spanish word below them.

One of them had the word "lea" under a picture of someone reading a book, so I guessed (correctly) that lea meant "read." Looked up the Spanish for "to read," got "leer," read through all the possible conjugations of that -er verb .... wait a minute, there's no "lea" mentioned anywhere! WTF is wrong with this textbook ... until I realized the picture was of a woman reading a book, in which case "leo" (as mentioned in the conjugation chart) would indeed be "lea" in her case.
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

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Jennifer wrote: 15 Dec 2020, 17:06 One of them had the word "lea" under a picture of someone reading a book, so I guessed (correctly) that lea meant "read." Looked up the Spanish for "to read," got "leer," read through all the possible conjugations of that -er verb .... wait a minute, there's no "lea" mentioned anywhere! WTF is wrong with this textbook ... until I realized the picture was of a woman reading a book, in which case "leo" (as mentioned in the conjugation chart) would indeed be "lea" in her case.
Something seems wrong here. Spanish doesn't conjugate differently for genders. "leo" is first person, "I read". He/she/it reads would be "lee". "lea" isn't any conjugation of "leer" that I know.
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

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JD wrote: 15 Dec 2020, 17:58
Jennifer wrote: 15 Dec 2020, 17:06 One of them had the word "lea" under a picture of someone reading a book, so I guessed (correctly) that lea meant "read." Looked up the Spanish for "to read," got "leer," read through all the possible conjugations of that -er verb .... wait a minute, there's no "lea" mentioned anywhere! WTF is wrong with this textbook ... until I realized the picture was of a woman reading a book, in which case "leo" (as mentioned in the conjugation chart) would indeed be "lea" in her case.
Something seems wrong here. Spanish doesn't conjugate differently for genders. "leo" is first person, "I read". He/she/it reads would be "lee". "lea" isn't any conjugation of "leer" that I know.
Would "I read" be spelled differently depending on whether the "I" in question is male or female? (FWIW, Google Translate does give "read" as the translation of "lea.")
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

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JD wrote: 15 Dec 2020, 17:58
Jennifer wrote: 15 Dec 2020, 17:06 One of them had the word "lea" under a picture of someone reading a book, so I guessed (correctly) that lea meant "read." Looked up the Spanish for "to read," got "leer," read through all the possible conjugations of that -er verb .... wait a minute, there's no "lea" mentioned anywhere! WTF is wrong with this textbook ... until I realized the picture was of a woman reading a book, in which case "leo" (as mentioned in the conjugation chart) would indeed be "lea" in her case.
Something seems wrong here. Spanish doesn't conjugate differently for genders. "leo" is first person, "I read". He/she/it reads would be "lee". "lea" isn't any conjugation of "leer" that I know.
Lea would be singular subjunctive, which is also formal imperative (command) form.
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

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Jennifer wrote: 15 Dec 2020, 12:33 Found a new Pluto stream which is all Spanish-language nature documentaries -- and, better yet, that channel has closed-captioning, unlike the Nick and Nick Jr. Spanish channels.
Oh, rayos. Not every show on that channel has captions; in fact; NONE of the shows they've aired today (about various animals in Australia) have them. Dang.
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

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Okay, now I'm even more confused about the leo/lea thing. According to Google translate, "I read a book" is "Leo un libro." However, "I read the book" is "lei el libro" with an accent mark over the I in lei. But if you do it backwards, typing "leo el libro" into the Spanish translator, it gives you "I read the book" again.

I completely understand, in English, the difference between reading "A" book and "THE" book, and I'm guessing Spanish makes the same distinction between "un" book and "el" book ... but in English I am also accustomed to making this difference solely by changing the article, and leaving the rest of the sentence exactly alike: "I read a book" vs. "I read the book." But ... WTF, so in Spanish you don't just conjugate verbs to show differences in subject and tense, you have to change them for fucking ARTICLES, too?

And I still do not know if I, a woman referred to with an -a rather than -o ending, would say "Leo un libro" or "Lea un libro." Google Translate gives "lea un libro" as simply "read a book" rather than "I read a book."

In English, if I say "Read a book" with no subject, it is assumed the subject is an unspoken "you"; I'm telling whoever I'm speaking to to "read a book." However, it's already been established, much earlier on this thread, that in Spanish you're not grammatically required to always couple a verb with a subject noun, as you ar ein English, because the Spanish verb's conjugation alone makes the subject clear: "trataremos" means "we will try" -- the verb tratar, conjugated for "we will." If you wish, you can say "nosotros trataremos" -- nosotros on its own means "we" --- but you don't NEED to add that pronoun in Spanish, the way you do in English (you must say WE will try, because "will try" on its own doesn't work).
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by JD »

Kolohe had it right with the imperative thing. The verb "to read" is actually a terrible choice in English, because "I reed the book today" and "I red the book yesterday" are spelled the same but pronounced differently, so you can't tell just from the written word which one was intended, and Google Translate has to guess, and sometimes it guesses wrong, and it doesn't tell you which one it chose.

I read the book (present) = Yo leo el libro
I read the book (past) = Yo leí el libro (note the accent)
and
Read the book! (imperative) = Lea el libro (at least if you're addressing usted)
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

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Google translate as far as I can tell will tend to ‘autocorrect’ syntax errors in one language to the best of its ability and provide a ‘clean’ translation. And won’t always say it’s doing this, except fo sometimes a ‘do you mean xxxx?’
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

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Dojito and Mojito are learning Chinese at school and it's pretty adorable and funny. Dojito in particular has taken a shining to it. The cab drivers here love it and encourage them both. I'm a bit concerned about them learning a language neither I nor their mother can understand. Also, a minor concern is if we go back to the US, randomly speaking Chinese to Asian Americans.
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

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Mo wrote: 17 Dec 2020, 03:01 Dojito and Mojito are learning Chinese at school and it's pretty adorable and funny. Dojito in particular has taken a shining to it. The cab drivers here love it and encourage them both. I'm a bit concerned about them learning a language neither I nor their mother can understand. Also, a minor concern is if we go back to the US, randomly speaking Chinese to Asian Americans.
I get your fears.

That said man not getting the awful American foreign language education is a good thing.
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Jennifer »

Mo wrote: 17 Dec 2020, 03:01 Dojito and Mojito are learning Chinese at school and it's pretty adorable and funny. Dojito in particular has taken a shining to it. The cab drivers here love it and encourage them both. I'm a bit concerned about them learning a language neither I nor their mother can understand. Also, a minor concern is if we go back to the US, randomly speaking Chinese to Asian Americans.
If you do go back to the US, it would be cool (despite your valid child-conspiracy concerns) if you could somehow continue their Chinese lessons, say with a tutor. At their ages, the language-acquisition parts of their brains are like little sponges, absorbing everything. (If they'd been watching Spanish TV as long as I have, by now they probably WOULD be able to speak and understand it at least well enough to fully comprehend each show I've seen.) And when they're adults, knowing Chinese well enough to comfortably get by in the language will be a VERY valuable skill.
"Myself, despite what they say about libertarians, I think we're actually allowed to pursue options beyond futility or sucking the dicks of the powerful." -- Eric the .5b
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