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English vs other languages

Posted by Lotg on October 23, 2003

In Reply to: English vs other languages posted by Anders on October 23, 2003

: : : : : : "We need to get creative" -- absolutely, and how fortunate we are to have this rich language that -- despite the poverty of current usage nearly everywhere, and I include the overuse of profanity, too -- lends itself to imagery.

: : : : : : I read somewhere recently (yes, there's a connection here) that there are two ways in which to regard sexuality that are, simply, unhealthy. The first is to feel ashamed of it -- that used to be far more prevalent, with people feeling embarrassed to discuss even sex within marriage (and led to other problems, such as decades of failure to diagnose and treat breast cancer). The second is to treat it too lightly and casually, to have little respect for all the complexity (physical, emotional, social, spiritual) that sex brings -- that seems to be the view of many people these days, and leads to abuse, "hooking-up" and the spread of disease.

: : : : : : Well, these are also two ways in which language can be regarded. One can feel afraid of its potential, like the French with their barricade attempts to retain purity of their language -- and thus become unable to really discuss what's happening or accept that language mutates (otherwise the French would still be speaking Latin). Or we can accept everything that enters the language -- and end up with what? Mutual incomprehensibility. Which leads to fear and anger, as we cannot understand what the other person's saying.

: : : : : : Somewhere in there is the healthy mean between banning change, on the one hand, and total acceptance of everything spoken as appropriate English.
: : : : : :
: : : : : : Perhaps there's an analogy to accents in UK English -- years ago, RP (Received Pronunciation) was the only acceptable accent for radio, theatre, etc. Other accents (e.g., Cockney, Yorkshire) were described with the value-laden word "ugly". Yet now, although RP may still be preferred (and for certain roles, necessary -- a man playing Prince Charles ought to sound plummy), it's not necessarily mandatory. The fear that listeners wouldn't be able to understand, or that the speaker would be regarded as lower-class, seems to have abated a bit.

: : : : : : Sorry, this has been long, but I perceive passionately that English has so many strengths, why not use them?

: : : : : Without question, the English language has many strenghts. Frankly, I think it's the world's best language. I plan to come back as a native speaker :-) Anyway, thanks for using the word 'abate'. I like that too. I could be wrong, but it sounds quaint to me. Quaint is another good word, BTW.
: : : : : Anders

: : : :
: : : : ::: Ha ha, but Anders, English has to be one of the craziest languages too. Which makes it endearing I suppose. Not that I can make realistic comparisons. My only other language is French - and as my recent trip to France proved, a rather dodgy form of French at that. I think I'd have to call it 'survival' French, cos I managed to survive - even in Paris, where I found them to be far less tolerant.

: : : : But as an earlier response proved, even the different forms of English being shared here, ie. English English, Irish English, American English, Australian English, Danish English and who knows what other forms, not to mention the variations that exist within each country, can be interpreted in so many ways. I find myself being constantly misunderstood because I write the way I speak, and methinks it's a bit too 'strine' for most people. Almost everything I say is flippant or exaggerated and I'm often taken more literally than I mean.

: : : : So to all you people who speak multiple languages, how does English compare to other languages in terms of complexity and exceptions to the rules? English seems to have so many exceptions.

: : : : I notice that Scandinavians and Dutch people who speak English and come to Australia have less pronounced accents than say english speaking Europeans and Asians, etc.

: : : : They, along with Germans, also seem to speak the language fluently. This is obviously a sweeping statement and a very general observation.

: : : : I assume the relative lack of accent is because accents in these countries, must be somewhat similar to Australian accents. But why the fluency? Is it because of similar language rules, or because of the method of education?

: : : : And let's face it Anders, the way you write on this site, shows an incredible understanding of English to me. If this was a French site, I can assure you I WOULD NOT be capable of the level of discussion you show here, so why is that? Have you spent time in English speaking countries, was it your education, is it just a strength of yours, or it is an obsession (or I would normally say, are you just a wacko - but again, that would definitely be misconstrued as an insult, when in fact, I'm being very lighthearted). Ahhhh language, it's a pretty nifty thing, huh - it can do so much - both damage and good.

: : : Dear Lotg
: : : You're so sweet! I was thinking of emailing you the other night, and so I noticed your email address: Seriously dodgy! What can I say? Keep up the good work! I refrained from emailing you though - for the sake of this forum. Anyway, I learnt English in Denmark and in Scotland. In Scotland I was a student at university for two years. I have a minor degree in English from a Danish university. There is still so much for me to learn, and I only wish I had more time to study the language. I really appreciate your concept of there being a Danish English alongside the conventional varieties you mention. I hadn't thought of that. Whereas Australian, British and American English are all native variants, Danish English is not. Although not born into the language, I'd like to think one could become 'legitimate' nevertheless, but I'm afraid many native speakers would think that a bad idea.
: : : Cheers
: : : Anders

: : ::: Sweet - there's a concept! Can't really picture myself as sweet. But thanks for the compliment. Anyway, I'm fascinated to hear you learnt English in Scotland - my goodness what kind of accent do you have I wonder???

: : Still, on a less personal note and back to the forum, I'm still curious to know whether European and Asian countries place more emphasis on learning English and therefore have more comprehensive language programs. And what emphasis is placed on languages other than English in these countries? Our isolation means that there is no particular language that we 'need' to learn. Except perhaps the growing desire to learn Japanese because of the tourism potential. I actually live in a very tourist oriented area and I'm starting a business that will be very tourist driven and patronised by locals, Sydney weekenders and international tourists, mainly Japanese, Korean and German. As a result, I'm keen to hire employees who speak at least one of those languages, particularly Japanese.

: : However, I suspect our language education system falls short. Maybe again due to our isolation, I think the way we learn is wrong. Even when I speak French, I think in English, so I'm constantly converting, which doesn't work very well.

: : So do European countries teach ways to think in English? In fact can this be done?

: Hi Lap,
: Well, difficult questions! I started having English in the 5th grade. That was around 1980. Now, I think some start as early as the 3rd grade. The pressure from the English-speaking world has increased a lot over the past 25 years. Globalization and all that. Danish is closely related to German, but that language is generally rather unpopular at all levels, from prep school to university. Needless to say, Danish is even closer to Norwegian and Swedish, languages which we are never really taught. Swedish is amongst the world's most beautiful languages to my ear; still, I find it very hard to comprehend. We really ought to have some formal teaching in the language. I'm sure we could pick it up quite fast. Norwegian, on the other hand, sounds to us as virtually just a remote dialect.
: Even though Danish is most immediately related to certain other languages, English is still fairly close to us; certainly it is a whole lot closer to us than it is to Asians (to reply to your question). We have three additional letters of the alphabet. Some phonemes differ: we have some which you don't, and vice versa.
: About the educational system in Denmark, I'm afraid it's not as good as it once was. I'm sure many European countries are far better at it than we are. Here, you can't view Europe as a whole, I don't think.
: To conclude on a personal note, I didn't pick up a Scottish accent while I was there. I like it, though. The way they say ÆÆÆÆÆÆÆÆÆÆdinburah! (Let's see if that first letter gets displayed correctly.) The Scottish accent is somewhat rustic to my ear, and hence lends itself favorably to becoming integrated with a Scandinavian or German accent. Nevertheless, I didn't pick it up.
: Best
: Anders

This thread's getting too huge. I'm starting another one called accents, cos you've reminded me of something interesting that once happened to me.