Idea for language learning

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by phonetic, Jan 14, 2007.

  1. phonetic stroking my banjo Registered Senior Member

    As I was reading about A Clockwork Orange, the reviewer explaining that many of the slang words used in the book are Russian, I thought of an idea.

    The problem with my idea should be pretty clear, but I'll explain at the end anyway.

    The idea is to introduce foreign words into English text, slowly throughout a book. If the book was written in such a way that it wasn't ambiguous and it was clear what was being said, I reckon it would be easy to pick up foreign words.

    e.g. John sat down on the chaise.
    Mary poured from the carton and into a glass some orangensaft.
    John sat down on le chaise.
    Mary poured from die carton and into a glass some orangensaft.

    The flaws depend on how similar the languages are, I suppose. Feminine and masculine causes problems. The word order messes things up. The way words are altered depending what word they come after doesn't help.

    At best it looks like you could learn a lot of words but without a grip of how to use them in the language you're learning, but then it seems a bit of a silly way to do it.

    What are your thoughts?

    Do you have any original thoughts on language learning methods? Doesn't matter if they're useless, I'm curious about different peoples ideas.

    (edit - My French and German aren't great, I know)
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  3. Prince_James Plutarch (Mickey's Dog) Registered Senior Member

    The problem would be that you'd only get a limited amount of words this way. It could only go on so far until it becomes pretty insensible.
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  5. RubiksMaster Real eyes realize real lies Registered Senior Member

    It sounds like a good idea, and one I've never even thought of, but it's probably not as efficient as taking classes or immersing yourself in the language.

    The problem is what Prince James said. And plus, since the words you introduce would have to be easily understood from the text, it might be difficult to learn certain words. It would probably only work with cognates, or with words that had the same roots.
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  7. Oxygen One Hissy Kitty Registered Senior Member

    And they aren't guaranteed to catch on. I think they use "Chombatta" (some African language meaning "friend", sometimes shortened to choomba") quite a bit in Gibson's cyberpunk books, but nobody I knows that's even a huge Gibson fan uses "Chombatta".

    Cultural movements can also hamper the process. I live in California, soon to be Northern Mexico, I swear, and there is enough resistance to the forcing of the Spanish language on us where I live and in several other towns that we often just "blot out" the Spanish and use the English word as a matter of point. (When we're feeling particularly ornery, we totally Anglicize the pronunciation, calling a taco a tay-co for example, just to be pissy.)
  8. mabugenjfoley Banned Banned

  9. Lord Hillyer Banned Banned

    It's a very good idea, Phonetic. A footnote could explain the precise meaning of the word in that particular context, without superfluous definitions.
  10. francois Schwat? Registered Senior Member

    That's a very good idea, Phonetic. In fact, I like the idea very well. I'm just not sure how it would/could be implemented. What would the class be like? "Learn French/German/Japanese" at the same time? The problem is that eventually a single language would have to be learned at a single time, because they all have different grammar. While they usually have single words that mean the same thing as other words in different languages, the syntacies for putting words together in sentences would have to be different--not necessarily vastly different--but different to upset our sensibilities.

    To be curt, people who are inclined to learn different languages will. People who aren't, won't! People won't side-step significant problems to make learning language somewhat simple. It's true. That's why learning language on tape/CD is popular. That's why I study language on CD. Convenience/intuitiveness. You're missing that aspect. The whole human thing.
  11. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    It's la because its feminine and it's chaire because chaise is an obscure slang word from the 19th century when Parisians were trying to act sophisticated by imitating the pronunciation of the foreigners who can't pronounce the gargled northern French R.
    It's der carton because "from" takes the dative case.

    Not easy to do. You end up with garbled grammar so you can't really use your new words. It would work zuì h?o in Chinese because it virtually m?i y?u grammar.

    Except this stupid site won't display the characters right.
    Yo vivo ya cincuenta y cinco años en California y otras partes de Aztlán y tengo orgullo de hablar bien nuestras tres lenguas oficiales: el inglés, el español, y el chino. Los Angeles es el capital de la Cuenca del Pacífico y tratamos bien con toda gente que nos da el honor de su presencia.

    Y yo puedo decir seguramente que el Sr. Oxygen es un gran pendejo.
  12. francois Schwat? Registered Senior Member

    This site doesn't do Unicode?
  13. Zephyr Humans are ONE Registered Senior Member

    It does sound a good idea, and like most good ideas it's been done - I can't remember the name but I remember seeing an advert online touting a book using this method.
  14. §outh§tar is feeling caustic Registered Senior Member

    The way to learn a language is never by reading. The chronology alone should settle issues of precedence. Dialogue is the last and only way to learn a language, without which, in the presence of native speakers, you'd sound like an awkward 'Gringo' anyway.
  15. francois Schwat? Registered Senior Member

    I agree. Definitely the listening and talking back and forth is definitely the way to learn, at least for me. After all, for the most part, learning language is not a conscious process as they try to make it in high school classes. A lot of the phonemes and grammar structures are learned subconsciously, like learning to drive stick, rather than memorizing the elements of the periodic table. That said, I'm amazed as how easy it is to learn languages on CD. Right now I'm doing Mandarin and after only about a month, it's amazing how many words I have picked up and how well and intuitively I can use them. Granted, I can't read or write. It's just conversational. But yeah, dialog is the best way to learn. I feel so cheated when I was taking these long, pointless languages in junior high and high school. I could have been learning the easier, more effective way the whole time.
  16. phonetic stroking my banjo Registered Senior Member

    Audio does seem to be the quickest and easiest way, but I think you need a variety of methods to become proficient - speaking/listening, reading/writing, situational video, but most of all hands on experience. The bit that's always got me is grammar structures and the idea I put across would do nothing to help that.

    Francois - I was using two languages as an example, but the book would just cover one. I agree with you about the human aspect - learning anything is usually easier when you discuss it, but as language is communication you definitely need to give it a go with other people and try to nail the speaking part.

    Fraggle - Thanks for pointing out the mistakes. I didn't really get your pont with the Chinese. Mandarin seems like it would be impossible to do that way, with the different pronunciations of a word?

    Zephyr - I'd be very interested to have a look at that book. If you could try to remember the name or have a little look, I'd appreciate it greatly.

    Unless you're quite wealthy and don't have any commitments, throwing yourself in at the deep end and living in the country that speaks the language you're learning isn't likely. It's the best way to do it, no doubt.
  17. Zephyr Humans are ONE Registered Senior Member

    This isn't exactly the one I was thinking of, but I found that one company advertises the PowerGlide method, which, according to their page:

    "Uses Diglot Weave™. Students start with familiar stories in their own language and gradually transition word by word, into the other language. The context provides the meaning and thus makes the learning an almost effortless, natural process."

    There's a sample, too!

    And while moving to another country to learn a language may be expensive, remember that with the Internet you can find penpals, chatrooms, forums, online books etc in every language imaginable. This is admittedly more useful for languages with highly phonetic spelling (but apart from English, a surprising number have this feature). Once you've learned how to read it, of course, since phonetic spelling can still vary from language to language...
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2007
  18. phonetic stroking my banjo Registered Senior Member


    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    Thanks, Zephyr

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    You're right about the amount of help available. When you live in a country, you're forced to use the language to survive and get on with things. I'm a bit lazy and find being forced to do things is quite good.
  19. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    There are only four tones in Mandarin and they're represented by diacritical marks: macron, breve, accent ague and accent grave. Unfortunately this site doesn't display the macron and breve although they show up fine in the composition box. Many people simply append a numeral after the syllable, for tones 1 through 4. Or 1 through 12 if you're doing Shanghai Hua.

    I see that Sr. Oxygen realized he was spouting his anti-polyglot trash to exactly the wrong crowd.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    I wonder what his people think is going to happen when their grandchildren wake up in a world in which English is not the language of power. English is one of the world's most difficult languages, with its unnecessarily rich array of phonemes and its hopelessly poor array of prepositions. It's a miracle that immigrants learn it as well as they do. Yet Americans make it a point of honor to be unable to put together a sentence in any foreign language if it doesn't involve food.
  20. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    So this classy poodle walks into a sports bar and all the dogs start hitting on her. She says, "I am so tired of you lummoxes. Tell you what. Make up a sentence using the word 'liver' or 'cheese.' Best sentence gets a date tonight.'

    The border collie says, "That's easy! 'I love liver.' "

    The rottweiler says, "Hey, I can beat that. 'I love cheese.' "

    The poodle slaps her forehead in disbelief and starts to walk out. The collie and the rott start manhandling her and soon all the dogs are fighting over her.

    Suddenly, the Taco Bell Chihuaha walks in. He surveys the situation, rears up to his full height, and says with all the gallantry he can muster, "Liver alone! Cheese mine!"

    He gets the poodle.
  21. Oxygen One Hissy Kitty Registered Senior Member

    So the fact that I can't stand the Spanish language (as spoken by Mexicans and others south of the border with the exception of the educated ones I've met, the ones that don't use the dialect of the field worker class) bothers you? It must be wonderful to not be made to feel like a foreigner in your own land. (And before anybody starts whining about the indians, kiss my Cherokee ass, kiss my Chaco ass, and you can kiss my Latina ass while you're down there.)
  22. Roman Banned Banned

    That's well and good for learning vocabulary, phonetic, but how would you do syntax? Most languages put the adjectives and nouns in funny places. Then there's all the weird tenses for stuff like the subjunctive, and pecularities to the language. For instance, in Spanish, estar, ser and haber's conjugations can all be translated as "to be" or "there are," but each must be used is specific contexts.

    Simply trying to teach this in a book by word substitution would be very, very difficult, especially when the verbs are in all the wrong places.

    Then there's the problem with learning phonetics. French is written nothing like how it sounds. Hors d'overs? Rendezvous? Francois?
  23. Athelwulf Rest in peace Kurt... Registered Senior Member

    I should read that book sometime.

    It seems interesting, and I think I've had a similar idea once. The first problem I thought of is, one might learn the new words as if they were English words instead of ones from whatever language they come from. Consequently, it might be difficult to actually converse in that language with the vocabulary you learned, because it isn't stored properly. Or, that's what I think might happen. Who knows more about this?

    I agree. It's a good way to learn basic vocabulary. But to learn anything more than that might require more extensive and more complicated work than what you might do in a more traditional language class anyway, and it may not work so well.

    I can think of a couple other specific problems.

    Learning the written language, if it's not written in Roman script, might be difficult in the long run if the learner starts to rely too much on a Roman transcription of the language. I believe it's best to focus almost solely on the script the language is actually written in. For example, you will have great difficulty with Chinese characters if you learn to read only pinyin.

    Proper pronunciation would be tough as well. This method may inadvertently encourage the tendency to learn an anglicized pronunciation of the words. Also, it would just be difficult to deal with a foreign word with foreign sounds in the middle of an English sentence. I know I find it jarring to listen to the Spanish TV station and hear the speaker suddenly break out an English name for something, saying it with an American accent. Not quite what I'm talking about, but I think the idea is the same.

    Even with Chinese, I wonder about the effectiveness of this method. Like I mentioned before, it seems to me that the learner may actually learn these words as if they were English, which I don't think would be any help.

    By the way: I recognized 没有, but what was "zuì h?o" supposed to be?

    I've never had problems. Odd. Maybe these problems came with the updated software for the forums?

    Apparently not. I have my computer so that I can view Chinese pinyin (among many other things), but I don't see Fraggle's pinyin properly. This sucks.

    Different pronunciations of a word? As far as I'm aware, any word written in pinyin and with the proper tones can only have one possible pronunciation. Chinese characters can have varying pronunciations, however.

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