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Stupid Kids! Ninos Estupidos! Dumme Kinder!

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Beefy Phil, May 17, 2010.

  1. Beefy Phil

    Beefy Phil
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    Surprise! Children in the United States are linguistic morons.

    Every time I go overseas, I'm embarrassed by how deficient my language skills are. I have some Egyptian Arabic and have lost a lot of my Spanish, and that makes me a fucking genius compared to some of the other Americans with whom I've traveled. Most of the foreigners I met spoke at least one other language besides their mother tongue, and often two or three. I'm not talking about French tour guides, either. I'm talking about rural Moroccan taxi drivers. There is no good excuse for our shortcomings in this arena.

    FOCUS: Discuss the article.

    ALT. FOCUS: What languages other than English do you speak? Where did you learn? How has it benefited you?
     
  2. Haterade

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    I think one reason American's are deficient in the language department is we don't border a bunch of countries that speak other languages (like many countries do in Europe). Too the north we have Canada that mostly speaks English like us (there is the French portion), and to the south we have Mexico.

    When I grew up (North Carolina) Spanish was always stressed as being very important to learn, even in elementary school. None of our language classes, K-12, ever had really good language departments though. Maybe a handful of kids graduated high school each year knowing decent Spanish, and most of the "super smart" kids who were very serious about college took Latin, because it looked good on your transcript.

    Maybe another reason American's don't stress learning other languages is because most of the country thinks of ourselves as the #1 country in the world still. Rightfully so since for a long time America was #1, and still have major influence in world politics, but I believe that has slowly been changing. "Fuck everyone else, we're 'Merica, we won't learn 'yer Spanish, or convert over to your stupid metric system.
     
  3. McCann

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    By and large, people from the UK are the same in terms of language deficiencies. It basically stems from the fact that English is the 'language of business and money' so to speak. People in foreign countries working in the tourist trade need English because 90% of their customers won't have any of the native tongue, apart from 'Two beers please'.

    I went to a Gaelscoil so I'm fluent in Irish, and I'm handy enough at Spanish since I've been doing it for 6 years in school and am continuing it in college. I love Irish though, because it means myself and my buddies can be having conversations where even most Irish people won't know what we're talking about, great craic altogether
     
  4. Evildreams

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    I'm fluent in two languages, english being my second language. My native language is Maltese and I started learning engish at the age of five. By the age of eleven I could watch a movie in english and understand pretty much everything and hold a conversation, however I didn't reach fluency until the age of around 13. While I studied english at school from the age of 5, watching television in english and reading books helped me a lot.

    I don't think the article is completely fair and here's why, I learnt english because it was more or less a necessity, for one thing you can't be successful unless you speak english, growing up if you wanted to watch a movie the options were english or italian. I bet none of you faced this problem, up till the age of ten, I couldn't watch a movie alone, because I needed a grown up to translate from English or Italian to Maltese. Since we live in a world were english is the global language, children from english speaking countries aren't pressured into learning a second language. Beefy phil mentioned that even Maroccan taxi drivers could speak english, well of course they do, it's part of their job. Also, I doubt that 90% of European children speak english, for example most Italians I know don't speak english, but maybe that's just a coincidence, however I haven't meet many native english speakers who are fluent in a second language.

    I know we don't discuss politics here, so I'll try to keep politics out of this but before the last election I remember Obama said something about teaching school children spanish, and someone from the Republican party said that Americans shouldn't learn another language because Europeans should learn to speak english, because of the American's part in the war. Now, both sides had political motives to say what they said and I disagree with both. Learning a second language isn't just a method of communication, it's another way of thinking and this opens new doors. It think every child from an early age should be taught a second language. The alt focus asks 'How has it benefited you?' I believe learning a second language was instrumental in helping me became the person I am today.
     
  5. Maltob14

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    I'm fluent in english and arabic which I learned at the same time. I can also speak a bit of French and Spanish.
    As for the article, I agree with it: a) theres no real sense of urgency to learn new languages in our part of the world and b) It's not easy to learn a new language especially when its not a Roman alphabet based. Like many of you multilingual people know, learning a language is just the first step. You need to keep practicing it or you can forget it pretty easily. Lets face it though, not too many people have that opportunity to use these second/third languages in their every day life so they become forgotten or it just kills a persons motivation to learn new languages in the first place.
     
  6. downndirty

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    I learned Spanish, am learning both Portuguese and Indonesian right now. I find languages interesting and I like learning them. If you travel, it means a lot to someone when you speak to them, however feebly, in their native tongue. New language skills are very beneficial, by learning other languages I communicate better in English. My bilingual friends and I have a special "Spanglish" mix that gets us weird looks, but we communicate more effectively mixing both languages, due to subtle differences.

    The argument for Spanish is you'll need to learn it to communicate with the Latino community and it means a little more on your paycheck. I haven't seen this personally, but if you work in construction, collections, emergency response, or a handful of other jobs it definitely makes you more of an asset.

    I think learning another language is beneficial in a similar way that living abroad is beneficial. It gives you new eyes to view your own culture.
     
  7. Fernanthonies

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    If this makes me sound ignorant than so be it, but I've never learned another language because I have never had a need to be able to speak one. I think that if you do a lot of traveling or interact with foreign people on a regular basis but refuse to learn another language to make it easier just because you're american, than you're a dumbass.

    I have considered learning another language in the past, and would still like to at some point, because I think it makes you a more well rounded person. However in school and any studies I've done in my personal time, I focused on improving skills I already had so that I would be better at what I do for a living, and speaking a foreign language isn't a part of that.
     
  8. PewPewPow

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    English is my second language, I moved to the states when I was five from Belgium. I still speak Flemish at home with my parents so I've retained a ten-year old's vocabulary and grammar.
     
  9. Bogan

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    We're just as inept at foreign languages down under too. I work with a fairly large number of people from Europe and Asia who are all fairly fluent English speakers, and always feel guilty that I don't know any additional languages. One girl I work with can speak and write in at least 6 different languages, as could my grandfather before the alzheimers got him.

    I'm currently trying to teach myself Spanish as I want to do a bit of travelling in South America next year, but it's difficult without a person to help correct me on things. I may also move to Germany for work in the next few years so learning German is on the cards too.

    As others have said - for the most part there's no need to learn a language other than English to get ahead and be successful, hence the motivation is not there. I always have respect for those who have learnt English as a second language though, and would like to get that same appreciation when overseas myself.
     
  10. lust4life

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    In high school, I studied Latin for 4 years, Classical Greek for 3 years, and Italian for 2 years (Latin was required for 2 years, as was a modern language). Not a lot of everyday application for any of them in last 30 years (with the exception of honing my cruciverbalist skills) which proves the old adage, "If you don't use it, you lose it," (I don't know too many people outside of scholars who regularly read Latin or Greek text), though the study of classical languages did provide a strong foundation for the etymology of words and helped me to cultivate a broader vocabulary, which proved most beneficial on standardized tests such as the SATs and to a greater extent, the GRE.

    Still, if I were in a non-English speaking country, I'd be screwed.
     
  11. ecc1290

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    I used to believe that learning a second language was stupid, and because of that I didn't pay attention at all in Spanish class. It's a shame, because I took it for almost eight years, and remember nothing. However, when I was 17 I took a trip to Israel and really identified with the culture and people, and eventually decided to join the army here.

    I've been living here for 10 months now, and god damn, trying to pick up Hebrew might be the hardest thing that I've ever done. I did a five-month program (in Israel) where I would study Hebrew four-hours a day, and I finished it barely able to hold a conversation. Now that I've continued living in Israel for another five-months, it's still frustrating that there's so much that I don't know. It's not for a lack of effort, because I study all the time and take Hebrew class twice a week in Tel Aviv. Most people tell me that my Hebrew is pretty good given how long I've been speaking, but the bottom line, there is still so much that I don't know, that I can't even fathom it in my mind.

    I think that it's a pretty cool thing to be able to speak another language, especially one that's nothing like English (my only other language). I won't go into a politics and religion and all that except to say that as a Jew/zionist, it means a lot to me to be able to speak Hebrew. It makes me more connected to everything here; the people, the land, and the country. I've learned that it's impossible to truly connect with the place that you live in if you don't speak the language.

    Also, I have much more respect now for the people I knew from back in the States who themselves came to America and learned English as a second language. To truly master a second language (to the point where you can read, write, and speak, on a collegiate level) is an amazing accomplishment if you ask me, and I hope that in the next few years I'll reach that goal so that by the time I'm done with my service I'll at least have the option to study here if I want to.
     
  12. Aribidi

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    Flemish is just Dutch with a crazy accent. Anyways; here in the Netherlands they put a lot of emphasis on learning other languages. I studied English, German and French in high school, while also following courses on Latin and Greek. The reason we're so hung up on other languages has something to do with the fact that most of our economy is based on trade with other countries and that we can be really smug about it. "Ooh, look at us, we know multiple languages." I mean, when tourists approach us on the street, a typical Dutchman will probably start speaking to them in their language.

    As for me, I learned English from a very young age. It wasn't intentional, but I was practically raised by the television. So I learned it by spending countless of hours in front of the tv watching American shows with subtitles on. Being able to also speak a little bit French and German really helps while vacationing in Europe. You get treated a lot better at restaurants and bars if you don't yell really loud in your own language while pointing to whatever you want.
     
  13. bewildered

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    I took Spanish in highschool for two years and I still remember random words and general sentence structure.

    My parents own rental houses, and one of them was rented last year by about 8 Mexican construction workers. We were over there for about 4 hours one night because of a break-in, and during that time, one of the guys took a liking to me and tried to teach me Spanish. A Honduran dude at another house we own has been hitting on me consistently over the past week (me and my dad have been priming, painting, power washing, and cleaning up the window frames), and he too has decided that I must learn Spanish. A THIRD Mexican guy that I met while salsa dancing also went through the whole "Bewildered must learn Spanish!" thing. I don't know if teaching me Spanish is a conversation piece, or if they decide that I am more date-able if I know their language, but either way, every single ethnic Spanish-speaking person I have met has tried to teach me.

    I have to echo everything most of the other North American posters have said: if you don't use it, you lose it. I really would love to be fluent in Spanish, but most people that I communicate with on a daily basis don't know any other languages and I would soon forget it.
     
  14. ex Animo

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    I took French for two years in High School, in my Sophmore and Junior year. That was back in 2004. The next time I had a chance to speak it, I was in France the Summer of '08 and, to my surprise, my French started coming back to me.

    I speak German, almost fluently, because my dad speaks it. He taught himself German over 40 years ago while he was in the military.

    Embarrassing as it is, I'm half Filipino and I can't speak more than 5 words in Tagalog. My mom never taught me. She said that when I was 2 (FUCKING 2 YEARS OLD), I claimed that I didn't want to learn it because I was American and not Filipino.

    Can't believe she's holding that over my head. At least I can tell when she's talking shit about me to her friends.
     
  15. Primer

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    Same boat, different reasons. Why? Learning languages is my nemesis. Throw Calculus in front of me or ask me to paint a picture and you'll get a result; getting me to ask that nice lady what size of a bra she is wearing and it'll take me years. I've tried and as hard as I work at it, it never comes.
     
  16. kuhjäger

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    Language skills pop up in my family. I have a great uncle who speaks Irish, French, Russian, Chinese, Japanese and German all perfectly. He was in the Navy in the cold war. He rose through the ranks really really fast with his skills.

    My aunt is a professor of Spanish, and was Adam Sander's high school Spanish teacher.

    Outside of them, I am the only one with any skills, I speak German, Spanish, and Swedish.

    I speak pretty good Spanish. I took it for 5 years through middle and high school, and had additional private tutoring. Speaking Spanish is claimed to be super useful in southern California, however it really isn't. Most hispanics that you encounter on a daily basis speak English, and starting off a conversation in Spanish is seen as presumptuous, and kinda racist in a way. I recall a time when I was in college and some white girl started speaking Spanish to a guy working in the dining hall. He looked at her and said: " I don't speak Spanish. Try English."

    However I kept up with my Spanish, and the first time I went to a Spanish speaking country I was shit out of luck as we went to Barcelona and everyone seemed to speak Catalan.

    After school I moved to a town here in California that is predominantly Hispanic, and the massive amount of Spanish around sparked that part of my brain, and it all came back to me really quickly.

    As my username implies, I speak German, and I speak it fluently. I took it for years in school, lived in Germany, and studied there. It is a useful language in as far as you can read German signs. I encountered the problem that Germans love to speak in English with native speakers, maybe to show how good their skills are, in a bragging way. "Hey, look I speak your language." Yeah Fritz, and I speak yours too.

    However I learned High German, which is typically the business German, however people said I talked like a bureaucrat because I spoke official German, while no German talked at all like I do. I picked up on Berlin German to an extent, but over all German is incredibly dialectized.

    I had a professor for a class on Central European History that I could not understand a word he said. I knew he was speaking German, but he had grown up in a very small town behind the wall, and spoke only in the dialect of that town. His accent was too thick to decipher the words and he wrapped words in ways I couldn't figure out. So I just showed up to class and sat there for 2 hours staring off into space, while maybe gleaning a couple of words that he said. I figured being a non native speaker was the issue, so I asked a German kid in the class if he could understand the professor. He shrugged and said "about 20% of the time".

    Oddly, the most useful language that I speak has the fewest speakers in the world of the languages I speak; Swedish. Jägerette's first language is Swedish, and naturally all her family speaks it. Her mom speaks English poorly, and if you want to have her say a short sentence in less than a minute, Swedish is the way to go. However they are so used to no one understanding Swedish that they try to talk in secret, only to have me remind them that I know exactly what they are saying.
     
  17. no use for a name

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    Off focus, but on topic: Has anyone here used the Rosetta Stone product? I'd like to become fluent (or atleast acceptable) in Spanish, but that product is expensive and I'd like to know if it works before I commit to it.

    I don't speak any other languages, except a very broken and limited Spanish. I can speak it well enough to get by when I absolutely have to, but I can't really comprehend a native speaker. I hate travelling and not knowing the native language, and I do think it's offensive to not even attempt to speak the native language. I went to France with a girl who could speak French fluently, and there was a dude with me in Italy who was a native Italian speaker, so those went smoothly. Almost everyone I met in Switzerland spoke English, and they loved Americans anyway, so that was nice. Greece could be incredibly awkward at times, because I don't know the first word in Greek, and the locals got offended very easily. I can get by in South America with my Spanish, and locals appreciate the effort. Also, if you're not a dick in the surf lineup they'll like you anyway.

    I'm apprehensive to visit places without a person who doesn't know atleast a little bit of the language. I would like to learn some European languages, but there's no way I have time to learn more than one, and South American Spanish is by far the most useful language for me to learn for my travelling and dealing with Mexican laborers at work.
     
  18. Decatur Dave

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    Seven years of German, and I've probably used it three times. Twice I used it to conversate with German females while out and once at the airport with a German trying to practice her English. I still count myself as borderline bilingual.

    On a completely separate note, the more I drink the more I can remember. The interesting thing there is I spent the last four years of learning German stoned and/or drunk while doing it.
     
  19. Roxanne

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    My brother speaks fluent Persian, but since he couldn't speak English until he was 5 he almost wasn't allowed into kindergarten. When I was little, my parents decided not to teach me because they were worried I would get held back in school.

    Stupid fear. I've been studying Persian for two years and I can read and write like a middle schooler, but speak like a two-year-old, mainly because my mom hates speaking Persian with me and its hard to find native speakers here who aren't assholes about teaching you the language. Either way, it's my goal in life to become proficient.
     
  20. Supertramp

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    I think mastering the English language has proved to be difficult enough. By mastering I mean in the strictest, academic sense. Otherwise I can speak two other languages, French and like twelve words of Iranian (Persian? Farsi?) with one set of my grandparents. I can't write or read "scribbly" at all though.

    Interesting note: I speak French almost fluently when I'm drunk and not afraid of sounding stupid.