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Thread: Learning foreign languages. How many can you speak?

  1. #1
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    Thumbs up Learning foreign languages. How many can you speak?

    I've read that most Kiwis are as bad as Brits and Americans at learning other languages. I'm hopeless. Did badly in French at school and dropped it first chance I got. What about you? One, two or even more?

  2. #2
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    I learned German and Japanese in my college. It is rusty now. . As an Indian, it is common to know/speak at least 3 languages. It is usually English, Hindi and one regional language. It is not uncommon to see people speaking 5 or even 6 languages.

  3. #3
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    I speak and write French almost as easily as English. Rather rusty German and Spanish. A bit of Italian and Dutch. I don't believe in inability to learn languages, but I do think people get brainwashed by stereotypes of X nationality 'can't', which is only a pre-stated excuse for not getting started. If you make a point of finding out basic things like 'please', 'thank you', 'where is the - ?' 'hello', 'goodbye', etc., at the beginning in a new country, and really listen to what's going on around you, you soon start to understand, and also, it's only polite not to expect people in their own country to make all the effort to communicate with you.

    Rant over.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by jambo View Post
    I've read that most Kiwis are as bad as Brits and Americans at learning other languages. I'm hopeless. Did badly in French at school and dropped it first chance I got. What about you? One, to or even more?
    When you say bad at learning languages, do you mean in the sense of physically unable, or just lazy and not interested?

    If it is the latter, I think it is a question of being an English speaker that tends to make people lazy, as it is more difficult to see why you would need to learn another language if people speak yours.

    As for the former, there really is no physical reason for anyone not to be able to learn another language. You just have to want it enough

    I know a number of Kiwis who speak more than one language (most of them live in Europe), and very well, my OH speaks several without any detectable accent at all. But in general, there is no comparison with other (non English speaking) countries where most people have at least a basic knowledge of one other language (usually English).

    Daniela

  5. #5
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    My wife speaks Finnish, Swedish and English. Like most Brit's I could only speak English, but after living in Sweden for a couple of years I managed to pick up Swedish pretty well. Some people study well at languages, but I guess nothing beats living somewhere to pickup a language.

  6. #6
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    I speak English and bad English

  7. #7
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    First of all is - of course - English! Followed by French though I'm currently lacking exercising it.

    When I was younger I learnt several regional Germanic languages like Low German, East Frisian and later Plautdietsch. A little bit of Dutch and to a lesser degree Danish followed.

    During my time at varsity I learnt ancient Greek and Hebrew - and a bit of ancient Latin and Aramaic too.

    One problem remains: If you don't use it you'll loose it! So here in NZ the variety of languages I'm using is quite small.

  8. #8
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    Apart from English, I remember enough French and German from doing both at GCSE to get by in either country, although I really struggle with the nasal tones to do a convincing French accent, and despite years of practice I can't roll a letter r....this isn't laziness however. I also can't pronounce some Maori words because of this. My youngest and oldest child have no problem with this and have been trying to show me and middle child how they do it. Some people just can't make certain language sounds. I have a good friend with an English mother and an Italian father, and he was brought up in Spain. He speaks all 3 languages fluently as well as a excellent French and German, but has a speach impediment in 3 of those languages as he is unable to roll and r and yet his siblings can.

    I also think that it's worth mentioning that many people understand more of a language, either by absorption or being taught, than they are capable of speaking. Regrettably, my mother made the decision not to bring me up bilingual but did still speak some German to me as a small child, so although I can often understand the pattern of the language to get the gist, I don't know half as much vocabulary as I would like, and struggle with the formal grammer part. My grandmother (German) spoke fluent German, English, Polish, French and Italian, but due to the post-war social pressure of being a German living in the UK she refused to bring my mother and her siblings up bilingual, although they became reasonably fluent in German after spending much of their childhood living in Germany because my grandad was in the RAF.

    I think in NZ there are similar problems to other island nations (like the UK) with lauguages not being routinely taught in school from a young age, even though kids learn much more naturally at that age. Plus you get less opportunity to practice and maintain your language skills when you don't live in a country with land-borders to countries speaking different languages. That doesn't mean you can't learn another language if you have a strong enough desire or there is the necessity to do so, however there are more obstacles in NZ. At some high schools there are options for learning various European Languages as well as Japanese, Mandarin etc, and various ethnic groups also have their own language clubs and classes readily available all over NZ. It varies enormously from school to school though. I am less than satisfied with the commonly prevailing attitude I've come across in several schools we've looked at that Te Reo Maori will fill the foreign lanuguage requirements, and as such it is the only language option on offer. IMO it should be routinely taught from the beginning since it is actually a second official language in NZ, and foreign language options should be taught in addition to this.

  9. #9
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    Feb 2011
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    I speak English, und Ich spreche etwas Deutsch.

  10. #10
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    Jul 2011
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    mexico
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    Spanish, English and French.

    I'm just 22 though. I plan to keep on studying languages just as a hobbie for the rest of my life if possible.

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