I used to know about 100 words of Amharic, about 50 words of Russian, a few dozens of Persian. I learned German at school (a long time ago) so I must remember a few hundreds words. I can understand some Spanish and some Italian too.
If I had to learn a new language I would hesitate between Persian and Greek. I love the sound of them both.
the second one also looks like malayalam. well the languages are quite close...
the variations i suppose have to do with transcription... every malayalam study book i find (the few there are) uses a different transcription... well, fortunately i can read most malayalam letters by now... though that has lots of variations too...
When people claim they're 'fluent' in a language it always makes me wonder how fluent they actually are, especially when they claim to be fluent in some 10 languages. Languages need to be maintained and I mainly wonder how people manage to have enough time to keep up their level of fluency in all those languages. Languages change, too and if you don't keep up you'll end up having a hard time reading newspapers or even understanding people. For instance my friend's mother has moved away from the UK some 30 years ago and she recently said that she has real troubles understanding some of the 20-year old nieces/nephews and found it increasingly difficult to read magazines/tabloids.
Anyways, here's my list: German Swiss-German Dutch English Turkish Italian French Afrikaans
The list is in descending order! If we include Swiss-German as a language I can claim that I speak 4 languages either as a native or near-native. But 3 don't really count, cause I learned them as a kid, coming from a binational family and growing up with Swiss-German as the daily language of use.
Afrikaans I actually can only read, cause it's so close to Dutch. I can't produce a single sentence, which is peculiar cause I can read entire books! Understanding the spoken language is also very hard, but I never get to hear/practice. My Turkish is still at beginner's level. I can carry on basic conversations and do have a vocab somewhere between 600-1000 words. I learned it when I lived there and now practice with theh husband. French and Italian, well, it's probably the 30 odd words or so. No active vocabulary I can produce, but I recognize a lot.
Btw. I have several friends who spoke a certain language as a kid but have now completely forgotten it.
I'm very, in fact extremely, fluent in Vietnamese. I can now count to three without pausing to think... mot, hai ba.
Riki, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu and Kannada are all closely related. And widely spoken in Malaysia (well, in the Indian population). If you're interested I'll ask around there to see if they have grammars or whatever.
Post by cheerypeabrain on Feb 1, 2011 16:35:55 GMT
I have a colleague who comes from Kerala in India....when he talks on the telephone to his family I'm fascinated...it's such a lovely musical language to listen to.
I took Spanish at School but only retained a smattering...I know a teensy bit of Arabic (OH worked in Saudi and Yemen in the 70s & 80s) but on the whole I speak only English. If I go abroad on holiday I make the effort to learn some basics before I go...but rapidly forget most of it afterwards. My brain's full anyway....if I learn something new I have to offload something else....
I said six because the specification was "over 30 words", but I am by no means able to speak six languages. I am a natural English speaker. I studied three years of French as a high school student and can get by as a tourist in that language. I grew up and live in Texas, so I come across Spanish regularly and can understand and speak a good bit by necessity. I took Tae Kwon Do at a school where classes were held in Korean for three years in college. I understand much more than I am able to speak. I dated an Icelandic fellow in college, and learned to speak a bit and understand a lot more hanging out with his Icelandic friends with him. Now I am learning to speak and read Japanese.
Yes, I put the level at "30 words" merely because I consider it to be the minimum survival level, but of course anybody who is good at sign language can go just about anywhere in the world. And electronic calculators have made bargaining possible everywhere -- in Southeast Asia, the calculators are passed back and forth with different figures without a word being exchanged, although a few grimaces or smiles are often part of the process.
I am late to the poll/party, but here is my contribution: English (native) Spanish (5 yrs class, lots of time in Mexico/Puerto Rico/Dominican Rep) French (2 yrs class, working on fluency) German (barely exceed Kerouac2's 30 words)
Growing up in the American public school system in the 80's/90's, I really wish more of an emphasis had been placed on learning a 2nd language early. By the time I started learning Spanish I was already 14 years of age. In some schools nowadays there is more of a focus on early learning, but it is not a universal thing by any means and the fact is that most Americans learn only English.
I found that when I studied both Spanish and French concurrently I was able to cross-reference and build vocabulary more easily. But in college I made an ill-fated attempt to learn Russian while taking Spanish class and had to drop the Russian because the difference in the alphabet was a big struggle for me. Can't remember a word of Russian other than "spasibo"!
I missed seeing Zona's wise words earlier. I grew up in the American public school system in the 50s/60s, & there was no emphasis on a second language then, either. I think everyone takes a language in high school, which is often wasted effort.
For the US, I think Spanish should be a compulsory second language from grade school on, simply because it's spoken in all but one of the rest of the Americas south of the US. As it's a relatively easy Romance language, it can give a grounding for the others, as Zona points out. Also, learning at least one extra language when young might prime kids to want to learn others and develop more interest in the rest of the world.
Spanish as a compulsory 2nd language, though an excellent idea, would lead to mercury poisoning across middle and SW US because of all the blood pressure guages gushing out the top. This is right up there with prying dead cold fingers off triggers for a segment of our population, the ones who are affronted because they have to listen to "para Espanol, oprima numero dos" on recorded messages.
Also there are small pockets of the country where you're more likely to encounter a French speaker than a Spanish. Maybe just making any second language mandatory would work, and let people figure out for themselves that Spanish makes a lot of sense.
Dutch (my mother tongue) French English German ... all four pretty fluent. Spanish - which I learned in college but never used afterwards. I still understand it but I'm a bit shy to speak. Italian - I would call it 'holiday Italian' that I learned over the years - also shy to speak.
But how much nicer it would be to be able to carry on a conversation.
Oh yes! We have been going to Portugal on holiday the last two years. With my knowledge of French and Spanish the Portuguese language is pretty easy to read, but the spoken language is totally different. They have a lot of 'sh' sounds which makes it unintelligible and - to me - very difficult to learn. I find it frustrating that I cannot communicate with the locals in their language, other than 'thank you' and a few simple words.
Amboseli, Dutch (of the Nederland or Flemish variety) is the language I speak least of your list. I can read it, both signs in shops and newspapers, but can only speak it for a few "social-interaction" phrases. Problem is, most of my time in Dutch-speaking environments has been in Amsterdam where most people speak better English than Anglophones do, and even if I'd pretend not to speak English there would be a French speaker.
Where I stay now for work is located in Eastern Amsterdam, and there are a great many allophones who speak no other European language than (sometimes shaky) Dutch. Well, to be more precise, many are Turks, so that is considered a European language.
A Flemish colleague who has seen me seamlessly reading Dutch papers and carrying on basic conversation (with workmen etc) and speaking some sort of German with German-speakers has been very proactive about me learning Dutch, which makes me happy. But realistically, I'd probably need a stay either in Flanders or in a less multilingual part of Netherlands.
I'm a person of your cohort, so though I speak several languages, language-learning is physiologically more of a challenge.
lagatta, we make the mistake of trying to answer people in English (or French, or German) when they do their best to speak Dutch. That is a commonly heard complaint on travel boards. And those foreigners are right! They try their best and we don't even give them a chance. I agree with you that, to become fluent in a language, it is essential to consistently (?) speak and read the language which is not easy in our multi-cultural life with people working here and there for some time.
I don't think anything has really changed for me since I started this subject, but that is not really surprising since I have been almost nowhere in the last 10 years. Perhaps some of the rest of you can brag about improvement?