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Trying To Learn a Foreign Language? Avoid Reminders of Home

Unknown Lamer posted about a year ago | from the what-about-esperanto dept.

Science 200

sciencehabit writes "Show a native-born Chinese person a picture of the Great Wall, and suddenly they'll have trouble speaking English, even if they usually speak it fluently. That's the conclusion of a new study, which finds that reminders of our home country can complicate our ability to speak a new language. The findings could help explain why cultural immersion is the most effective way to learn a foreign tongue and why immigrants who settle within an ethnic enclave acculturate more slowly than those who surround themselves with friends from their new country."

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Frost Poot (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44034979)

Rooty toot toot

Canada (1)

simonbp (412489) | about a year ago | (#44034993)

As an anglophone Canadian expat, my main exposure to French is occasional trips to Quebec or France. I've picked up much more French in Quebec than France simply because I understand the context better.

Re:Canada (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44035201)

I've picked up much more French in Quebec than France simply because I understand the context better.

Then as a fellow Canadian anglophone, let me assure you, you didn't pick up French in Quebec.

You picked up something the locals believe is French, but which people from actual French-speaking countries barely recognize or understand.

Quebecois French is, in the main, a borderline illiterate patois. Some people are a lot better, but the average person you meet speaks Frenglish.

Re:Canada (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44035261)

Congratulations. We have all observed the massive size of your anonymous linguistic e-peen.

I suggest you go find a dictionary and look up the word 'is'.

Re:Canada (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44035511)

So it's like English in the USA....

Re:Canada (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about a year ago | (#44035579)

So it's like English in the USA....

Actually the English spoken in the US is much closer to the "original", meaning the common dialect spoken on both sides of the Atlantic in the Colonial Era. I used to think American English was a slightly bastardized version of English, but it's just the opposite. It's really fun to tell that to anyone who is English.

P.S. In terms of accents Southern accents are generally closer to the original. We Yankees have deviated a bit.

Re:Canada (4, Funny)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year ago | (#44035731)

Actually the English spoken in the US is much closer to the "original", meaning the common dialect spoken on both sides of the Atlantic in the Colonial Era. I used to think American English was a slightly bastardized version of English, but it's just the opposite. It's really fun to tell that to anyone who is English.

The best part is that they drifted so that they would sound less like us. Talk about sour grapes: "Well, people sound stupid when they talk like that anyway, so now we're talking like this." Then they go on to use their new accent to tell us how to handle gun control.

Re:Canada (4, Insightful)

TranquilVoid (2444228) | about a year ago | (#44035839)

The best part is that they drifted so that they would sound less like us. Talk about sour grapes

A lot of change in pronunciation comes from this mechanism, whether it's the cool girls on the playground making up their own inflections, or the aristocracy saying "sarvant", language becomes a means of class identification and differentiation.

As to US English sounding more original, I've seen a lot of debate on this. Some say particular UK accents are closer to Old English and the US is closer to Modern English (16th century), whereas others claim the idea is simply part of American mythology.

Re:Canada (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year ago | (#44036335)

The analysis I've seen indicated that the US English was closer to the first modern English based on examination of the written word, and puns and rhymes used. They don't work as well in British English as US English.

Middle English was very phonetic, so it's not as hard to guess pronunciation, and it does sound more Welsh/Scottish than England's English, at least to me, I've never seen a formal analysis.

Re:Canada (1)

grouchomarxist (127479) | about a year ago | (#44035999)

What is your evidence for this claim?

Re:Canada (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44036735)

So, what you're saying is that you're a bunch of backwards hillbillies whose language hasn't evolved in 300 years?

Klingon Babies (2)

flyneye (84093) | about a year ago | (#44035055)

That makes me think of what happened in a section 8 neighborhood here a few years ago. A young couple battling to raise a family in the midst of roaches, dog shit, diapers and Coke cans, decided to home school. The children were taught and allowed to speak only Klingon....

          Welllll, you can just guess what SRS had to say about all that.
I'm gonna guess by now the kids speak English and whisper amongst themselves in Klingon, presuming they are in the same foster home.

Re:Klingon Babies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44035947)

[citation needed] so badly. Where can I confirm this story?

Re:Klingon Babies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44036079)

Try a textbook.
Try a professor.
Try attending class some time.

Re:Klingon Babies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44036167)

I looked online and all I could find was a guy named Speers [wikipedia.org] that taught his kid Klingon. He has a doctorate in computational linguistics and attempted to teach his kid Klingon and English. The kid wound up rejecting Klingon and gravitating towards English. There's no mention of section 8 or the child being taken away. To be honest, that part sounds like propaganda. Are you talking about someone else?

And this needed research? (-1, Redundant)

bogaboga (793279) | about a year ago | (#44035063)

The findings could help explain why cultural immersion is the most effective way to learn a foreign tongue and why immigrants who settle within an ethnic enclave acculturate more slowly than those who surround themselves with friends from their new country."

And this needed a study? Well, I where I come from, our samll country has over 66 tribes; each one of them with a different language and custom. Guess what; I fluently speak 11 of those with no difficulty at all.

I even speak English better than those who have it as their first language (grammarvwise). I also learnt German, Mandarin and Spanish faster than any students in my class. As a result, I got the reward[s] of mingling with the fairer gender easily (and reaped the rewards!!), while fellow students from the so called 1st world were grassing. No neeed for a study here. It is obvious.

Re:And this needed research? (-1)

flyneye (84093) | about a year ago | (#44035091)

" I also learnt German"
  I have also learned German.
Grammar wha?...

Re:And this needed research? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44035175)

learnt is, IIRC, an Anglicism. And IMHO 'I also' would be more correct than 'I have also' in the context. just sayin'. :)

The *descriptive* answer in British English is:
"learned" is used in phrases such as "a learned professor", in which case it is pronounced with two syllables.
Either "learnt" or "learned" are used interchangably in phrases like "I learnt a valuable lesson today".

The *descriptive* answer in American English is:
There is no such word as "learnt". Use "learned" always.

-- http://www.urch.com/forums/english/9214-learned-vs-learnt.html - not a definitive source, but there are many others with the same thrust.

Re:And this needed research? (4, Informative)

iggymanz (596061) | about a year ago | (#44035181)

You should study English a little more, that is a perfectly valid past tense of "learn", that is used more commonly now in other English speaking countries than the USA. Those of us who are older sometimes use it, it seems to have fallen out of fashion in America.

Re:And this needed research? (0)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#44035621)

True, but American English is the predominant form of English at this point. So, learnt and spelt are technically acceptable words, but as things go increasingly in the direction of American, you'll see fewer and fewer people accepting it as the correct words.

Re:And this needed research? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44035657)

True, but American English is the predominant form of English at this point.

A billion Indians disagree.

Re:And this needed research? (1)

drainbramage (588291) | about a year ago | (#44036303)

Wrong, so wrong, dear AC.
Or should I say "Police press won two bee corrected"?

Re:And this needed research? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44036007)

True, but American English is the predominant form of English at this point. So, learnt and spelt are technically acceptable words, but as things go increasingly in the direction of American, you'll see fewer and fewer people accepting it as the correct words.

Engrish is the dominant form of English. There are a lot of people in Asia who speak a poor hybrid of English with interjected words and grammar from their native language, this is the form of English spoken by the largest number of people.

Re:And this needed research? (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year ago | (#44036405)

That's because learning vocabulary isn't hard, but learning grammer without native speakers to help you with the rules leads to linguistic anarchy. Especially for a language with no tenses and no changes to the word for different uses (quick - adjective, quickly - adverb), you end up with a present-tense only language all the speakers understand. It's more a transliteration of Chinese than English. Without tenses, you say "I ran" as "I run ago", so that's closer to what the non-natives will speak. When they start working hard at getting native speakers to teach, rather than non-natives who studied abroad for 5 years, then you'll see some improvement.

Re:And this needed research? (1)

iggymanz (596061) | about a year ago | (#44036225)

You have not been watching world events of the last two decades; things are going increasingly away from America, the United States is in decline as is American English.

Re:And this needed research? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44036455)

I'm aware of that, but I'm also aware that the US and Canada alone represent more than half of all English speakers in the world. So, American English is the predominant version of English, regardless of what happens, the only way that could change would be if something chased everybody out of the US, or people in large parts of the world started taking up British English again.

Re:And this needed research? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44036703)

Wiki's "English Language" article indicates there are in fact more English speakers across India, Pakistan and Nigeria that the whole of north america.

But hey don't let facts get in the way of a good story.

Re:And this needed research? (1)

ScottyLad (44798) | about a year ago | (#44036509)

True, but American English is the predominant form of English in America at this point.

FTFY

Re:And this needed research? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44035695)

How curious. I've always assumed "learned = past" and "learnt = perfect".

Re:And this needed research? (0)

flyneye (84093) | about a year ago | (#44035733)

*citation needed

Re:And this needed research? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44036103)

When the discussion is spelling and grammar, typical dictionaries are implicitly cited.

Look it up yourself.

Re:And this needed research? (1)

iggymanz (596061) | about a year ago | (#44036215)

You do not own an American English dictionary?

"Learn: vb Learned also Learnt" -- Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, copyright 1976 by G. & C. Merriam Co.

Re:And this needed research? (1)

kaatochacha (651922) | about a year ago | (#44035269)

You know.....
Some people are better with languages than others.
I personally suck, while I have a friend who somehow manages to speak any language she learns with perfect pronunciation--no accent.

It may come from being around so many languages for you, but it's often an innate skill. Be glad you've got it.

Re:And this needed research? (1)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#44035631)

Sometimes it's an innate gift, most of the time though it's just a lot of work. Basically the process works differently for some people than it does for others, and if you're using the wrong methods, you could easily think that you have no talent, when really what's going on is that the method isn't compatible with your particular brain composition.

I've personally struggled a great deal with vocabulary. I wouldn't typically have too much trouble with grammars, but the spelling and vocabulary would take tons of work to learn. It turns out that I'm more of a right brained visual person, so if I want to learn a language, I have to do it backwards. Stare at the words written in multiple colors until they stick, and focus on picking up my vocabulary from written texts and TV.

Also, once one has the idea that they suck at something, it can become a self fulfilling prophesy that may or may not be true.

Re:And this needed research? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44035499)

Welcome to the research world of us universities. Rewrite the obvious in academic speak; perform a study that at best tells you about local students. Then give out a few masters or PhDs and celebrate. Oh and for extra fuck you points they make you pay to read the full article that taxpayers already paid for.

Re:And this needed research? (1)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#44035615)

This isn't obvious to people who haven't been in that situation and it's a phenomenon that deserves more attention.

What's more, you're completely full of it, if you're suggesting that this level of ease is normal. The people I've met that know 8 or more languages, all had to put in a substantial amount of time doing, time which they didn't have available for other tasks.

The first time that I personally encountered this was at Starbucks in China, where I couldn't decide whether to use English or Chinese and was barely able to blurt out comprehensible words in either language.

As for the 1st world, what does that have to do with anything? Part of the reason why the 1st world is the 1st world is the efficiencies inherent at being able to conduct business in just one language. The time it took you to learn those extra languages didn't just get spontaneously generated, you made choices to use your time in that fashion. In the 1st world, we generally use that time and energy on school and work.

Re:And this needed research? (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | about a year ago | (#44035749)

And this needed a study?

Yes, it does need a study. It may be obvious for you, hell it may be obvious for everybody, but unless people make actual quantitative studies we won't know the details, or if it's really true. And there are plenty of obvious things that once somebody studies them we discover that weren't true.

That explains it! (4, Funny)

Jethro (14165) | about a year ago | (#44035083)

Well that explains why I had trouble speaking Portuguese while I was in Brazil, since I was constantly being reminded of home! I mean they had all the same things as we do: trees, people... uh... stores. Yeah, it definitely wasn't because learning it in theory wasn't the same as speaking it in practice and it certainly wasn't MY fault. Hell, I tried speaking slower and louder and even THAT didn't help!

Re:That explains it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44035765)

Sometimes you just can't help dumb.

Re:That explains it! (1)

Jethro (14165) | about a year ago | (#44035805)

Actually that was fairly easy, wasn't it? (;

I knew I didn't speak /much/ Portuguese, and I did realise -- before I went over -- just how little it was. Still, I managed to communicate with people so it wasn't that bad.

Acculturate more slowly? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44035093)

My suggest is that immigrants who settle in an "ethnic enclave" are likely to acculturate not just slowly but possibly not at all. Sometimes the 2nd or even 3rd generations haven't really joined up with the society outside of their "enclave". Any why should they? Unlike the bad old days of 150 or more years ago, immigrating is no longer essentially permanent. It doesn't take a month on a boat to get here. It doesn't take a month for a letter from home to arrive. It doesn't cost most of your worldly goods to buy a ticket back home. Nobody was likely to spend all their money and months traveling just to say "hi" to the cousins.

In the bad old days there was almost no option but to acculturate and and do so quickly - there may have been a newspaper in the languare of the old homeland and a few stores selling familiar goods with familiar labels in the old language - but not outside the enclave. Now there are radio stations, TV stations, newspapers, magazines and so forth in the old language accessible everywhere. And a phone call home is essentially free and airline travel is so cheap that everyone travels abroad.

So why acculturate when there's apparently no real need to do so?

Re:Acculturate more slowly? (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about a year ago | (#44035349)

You're recalling a past that never was.

Unlike the bad old days of 150 or more years ago, immigrating is no longer essentially permanent.

During the so-called great ago of immigration, about 1/3 of the immigrants permanently returned to their native countries.

In the bad old days there was almost no option but to acculturate and and do so quickly

Before WWI there were entire towns in this country where the only language spoken was German. In some cases even the local public schools were taught in German.

Re:Acculturate more slowly? (1)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#44035651)

Indeed, people forget about that. I'm effectively a first generation immigrant because of that. My last arriving ancestor came to the US from Germany over a hundred years ago, but it wasn't until my Dad's generation that they stopped speaking German fluently. My Grandfather's working papers were even in German.

This is both my greatest point of pride about the US and one of my biggest concerns about the country. As long as it's dealt with in a mature way, it's a great resource to power our future.

Re:Acculturate more slowly? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44036131)

Sort of proves the point that settling in an "ethnic enclave" (aka "ghetto" or "barrio") discourages and possibly even prevents acculturation.

Language Confusion (4, Interesting)

Sonny Yatsen (603655) | about a year ago | (#44035131)

FTA: "For Chinese immigrants in the United States, speaking to a Chinese (vs. Caucasian) face reduced their English fluency, but at the same time increased their social comfort, effects that did not occur for a comparison group of European Americans (study 1)."

In my experience as a native speaker of Chinese, the reduced fluency in English when speaking with another Chinese person is due to the fact that in the back of my head, I'm trying to determine whether I should use English or Chinese to express an idea and it usually expresses itself as Chinglish. If the other person is Chinese but doesn't speak the same dialect as I do and I am using purely English to communicate, I don't get the same effect.

Re:Language Confusion (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year ago | (#44035643)

Yeah, I'm not sure the conclusions in the article are justified from the experiment. In my own experience learning to speak a second language fluently, I found situations similar to yours; for example, at first while doing live interpretation, it is quite difficult to remember which language to use. However, after a while you get used to it.

As for living in a foreign country, when you live in that country, you are forced to use the language a lot. You might be practicing the language for 8 hours a day. If you spent 8 hours a day practicing a language in your home country, you'd still learn the language rather quickly.

Further effect of this can be seen in people who live in the foreign country, but avoid opportunities to practice the language. They can go 30 years without actually learning it.

Re:Language Confusion (1)

locofungus (179280) | about a year ago | (#44037025)

It has been said that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to get really good at anything.

Even at 10 hours a day this means it will take three years to really learn a language.

I'm trying to learn Turkish - and been at it for about six months now. I'm probably managing to average less than an hour a day of study and it's somewhat depressing to think that it will take 30 years to get anywhere. So I've got Turkish playing in the background most of the time (including now) and I'm pleasantly surprised that I'm now getting pretty good at hearing what is said - to the point where I can often hear words well enough to put them into google translate (not whole sentences yet) and I've even managed to learn a couple of words just from the context of what I'm listening to.

Tim.

Re:Language Confusion (1)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#44035665)

Precisely. I saw the same thing when I went to a Starbucks in Guangdong province. I could order in English and in Mandarin, but my brain wanted to do both at the same time. I was ultimately able to order, but I would have gotten my point across better by pointing and grunting.

More recently I was having trouble getting take out from the local supermarket, because the woman working behind the counter spoke Chinese to a colleague, which temporarily caused me to revert to my typical ordering pattern from when I was in China. Trying to override that and order in English just made it worse.

Re:Language Confusion (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year ago | (#44036431)

When I was in Spain, speaking Spanish only for 2 weeks, I would dream in Spanish. I had a good sized vocabulary. Then I came home and couldn't remember half what I spoke well in Spain, when in Spanish class in the US. I never thought about it. But if I go back to Spain, I'll likely pick it up in a couple weeks, it's still wired in there, somewhere, I think.

Re:Language Confusion (1)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#44036463)

That's certainly possible, however you want to be mindful as any language, mother tongue included, will get forgotten if you don't use it. How long you can go without using will depend upon how thoroughly you learned it in the first place and likely other factors.

But, you do want to make sure exercise it a bit from time to time, just to keep it as firmly embedded as possible. What you're describing sounds like you still have a lot of it there, but access is the issue rather than forgetting it.

I have trouble speaking French (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44035151)

... when shown the statue of liberty. Because I suck at French.

We do what he have to (1)

uvajed_ekil (914487) | about a year ago | (#44035223)

We often do what we have to do, and nothing more. It has been said that necessity is the mother of invention, and I think if it becomes absolutely necessary for you to do something, like speak a new language, you're going to put more effort into figuring it out.

Put more simply, duh.

Re:We do what he have to (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about a year ago | (#44035523)

Exactly. Why are many Europeans bi and tri-lingual while being bi-lingual in the US is a rarity? Because there's a need to be able to speak multiple languages in Europe because within a small geographic area there can be many languages widely spoken, I mean, within Switzerland, German, French and Italian are all widely spoken whereas in the US, English reigns supreme in the vast majority of areas (Mexican restaurants and Chinese buffets aside)

Nomenclature (4, Funny)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about a year ago | (#44035397)

Q: what do you call someone who speaks three languages?

A: trilingual

Q: what do you call someone who speaks two languages?

A: bilingual

Q: what do you call someone who speaks one language?

A: American

P.S. before anybody gets their panties in a twist, I am a monolingual American.

Re:Nomenclature (2)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about a year ago | (#44035757)

You SPEAK a language? Like as in using your mouth with other people? You must be new here.

Re:Nomenclature (2)

wbr1 (2538558) | about a year ago | (#44035847)

Any cunnilingual Americans?

MOD PARENT -1 BRODOUCHE (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44035899)

that wasn't funny decades ago faggot

Re:Nomenclature (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year ago | (#44036435)

Heh, I lived in Dallas and could drive north, east or west for days and never hear anything but English. South would get some Spanish, but not until San Antonio or south of there. In Europe, you can drive for a few hours and pass 3 or more native language homes. It's the geography, not isolationism.

Re:Nomenclature (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44036651)

I grew even further inland. And I found that living overseas trying to learn a foreign language is very difficult when:

* You're teaching English six days a week and all your co-worker speak excellent English.

* You're girlfriend that you spend your day off with speaks English well.

* About 1/4 of the signs are in English because the locals think it is cool.

* There are just enough other foreigners around that the stores make some provision for people who don't speak the local language (like picture menus at restaurants).

One thing I never expected was how long it would take me to stop looking at the English signs on the street. When I was riding a bus in Taiwan and when I saw 10 Chinese signs and 2 English signs, my eyes gravitated toward the English from decades of habit. Forcing my eyes to focus on the Chinese and ignore the English was really difficult.

Re:Nomenclature (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44036959)

That's some seriously crappy grammar for an English teacher.

Re:Nomenclature (2)

locofungus (179280) | about a year ago | (#44036989)

It's not just the geography, it's that English is "everyone's" second language.

So, as an English speaker, unless you just happen to know their first language, your language in common will be English.

I did French at school. I was never very good but I got to the point where I could follow a conversation provided the speakers weren't speaking too fast although I couldn't join in because by the time I'd thought what to say they would be three topics on but since then I've never had a use for French. I've done work in Italy, Germany, Thailand, Dubai but in every case it's been English that has been the language of communication (and in no case did I live in the country so I didn't have a chance to learn a language on the job so to speak)

Had everyone's second language been French then I'm sure I'd be pretty fluent in the language now. Instead it's rusted over the last 20 years to the point that when I am in France I'm struggling to recognise individual words, let alone understand whole sentences.

Tim.

Pfft, B.S. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44035411)

I live in Southwest U.S., and I have yet to learn Spanish.

Re:Pfft, B.S. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44035783)

Yeah, my partner Tony used to call his sister "Nigre" because ; dark skin, no habla Espanol.

Of course... (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about a year ago | (#44035429)

Of course immersion is going to be more effective because it makes it actually -necessary- and useful to learn a foreign language. There's a big difference between sitting at a computer with Rosetta Stone and learning Spanish and being dropped in Argentina and have to figure it out. There's no real motivation in learning Spanish on the computer, after all, it doesn't determine whether you eat at night, it doesn't determine whether you can interact with people or anything more than a small intrinsic reward of knowing another language.

There's a reason why people who live in areas where multiple languages are spoken are generally fluent in more than one language, but in areas where everyone pretty much speaks a single language (such as the US and Canada) you see a much lower percentage of people who are fluent in multiple languages, it simply isn't needed.

Re:Of course... (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about a year ago | (#44035519)

in areas where everyone pretty much speaks a single language (such as ... Canada)

You'll shortly be receiving a visit from the Canadian Language Police. They be polite but very very firm. You may also be required to pay a fine of $10 American [movieclips.com] .

Re:Of course... (1)

Livius (318358) | about a year ago | (#44035777)

Vous attendez bientôt la visite de la Gendarmerie linquistique canadienne. On sera courtois mais dur. Vous pourriez être assujetti à une amende de 10 $ américains.

Re:Of course... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44035927)

Vous recevrez bientôt une visite de l' Office de la langue française. On sera courtois mais ferme. Vous pourriez être contraint de payer une amende de 100 $ Canadiens.

Fixed that for you.

(j'ai fait la correction pour vous.)

Re:Of course... (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year ago | (#44036441)

Yeah, I knew lots of people from Vancouver, none of which could speak French. I've driven through Whitehorse a few times, and I'd doubt an of them has even heard it spoken outside some mandatory class taught by a non-native speaker.

Works on dialects too? (2)

virgnarus (1949790) | about a year ago | (#44035449)

I'd like to try this out on southerners. You think showing them a picture of a fridge rusting out in someone's backyard will work?

I find it takes a week or two (2)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about a year ago | (#44035469)

I find that turning on a second (or third, or in my case fifth) language usually takes anywhere from 3 to 5 days in the location where the other language is used before you gain fluency, if you don't use it all the time. Accents usually only take a day.

When I was working at Century 21 in Richmond BC most of my colleagues in the office next to mine were French, so when I coded in French, I would mostly just speak French the whole day.

Even having someone with you who is not very good at the other language will slow you down, as you have to keep switching how you think to translate for them. Nothing wrong with that, but it seems to make it take longer to access those portions of your brain/memory.

Re:I find it takes a week or two (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44035689)

Fluency in 3 to 5 days? I suppose if you have a perfect memory, but for the rest of us it is not so easy.

Re:I find it takes a week or two (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44036205)

Fluency in 3 to 5 days? I suppose if you have a perfect memory, but for the rest of us it is not so easy.

Yes, I see that in English even short written passages baffle you.

Re:I find it takes a week or two (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44036771)

3-5 days is pretty remarkable, meaning you're either a savant or you're perhaps confusing fluency with having a conversational grasp of a language (still impressive).

Fluency, at least from my position hiring people based on language, typically takes months of study and exposure to native speakers. 3 days, even with prior study and basic exposure, is pretty optimistic.

Elementary (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44035485)

It's elementary, my dear Watson. Elementary chemicals that is. The way memory is stored is just a bunch of areas each with chemicals that react to stimulation. Memories that are stored in Chinese have the same chemical stimulations, so looking at a picture of The Great Wall stimulates the area of the brain that has memories stored with that set of chemical reminders, which includes the memories of language.

As to what element on the chemical table the brain contains, I have no idea. :S

Bullocks! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44035513)

Every time I visited China to try to get immersion training, the locals wanted to practice their English with me. I think had I gone to more of a country area it would have been better. Immersion study in the U.S.have been marginally better, with Middlebury's summer program being the best I have experienced.

Re:Bullocks! (1)

EvilSS (557649) | about a year ago | (#44036135)

Easy fix: next time you are in China get arrested and thrown into a Chinese jail. Forced emersion and I bet no one will be bugging you to practice their English.

Re:Bullocks! (1)

QQBoss (2527196) | about a year ago | (#44036893)

Easy fix: next time you are in China get arrested and thrown into a Chinese jail. Forced emersion and I bet no one will be bugging you to practice their English.

Perhaps they might be buggering you to practice their English, though...

Re:Bullocks! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44036931)

Perhaps they might be buggering you to practice their French, though...

FTFY.

I dont think that is the problem (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | about a year ago | (#44035529)

I think they were just taken back about blatantly racist you just were

"hey slant, check this out, now speak English!"

I would have trouble speaking English after that as well you dick

Autopilot (1)

mynamestolen (2566945) | about a year ago | (#44035591)

1. The most fun in learning a foreign language comes on the day you realise you've been speaking the language and not realising it. You're on autopilot, in the "zone". If something interrupts the flow - yikes. 2. When I began to learn Mandarin having already learnt Italian, Itallian began to come out of my mouth. Weird. 3. I was once in a language class with a diplomat who was professionally fluent in three languages. He'd just come back from three years in a post speaking French. Now he was doing a lunch time class polishing his already excellent Mandarin. To his incredible frustration he would switch to French without even realising what he was doing (much like the woman in one of the story links). Amazing to see. 4. I conclude there is a part of the brain where all foreign languages are coded - not sure what happens to people using sign language? Anyone?

Re:Autopilot (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year ago | (#44036465)

I've talked to people about similar things. The issue is that many people "think" in language. They have "default" and "other". They can choose "other" but it's unreliable in the manner you describe. I've met the daughter of a diplomat, and she grew up with 3 languages, and is fluent in 7. She doesn't have that trouble. Every language gets its own bucket, and there's no leaking. There's also a special bucket for those trained to hear one and think the other. It takes lots of translation practice to be a real-time translator.

childhood language (1)

shafty (81434) | about a year ago | (#44035641)

I was raised in the US by a Japanese mother who spoke to me in English with a few Japanese words thrown in (usually profanity). Hearing her voice now usually makes me switch to the hybrid language of my upbringing. If I talk to her in my adult manner I get the sense she thinks I'm full of BS.

You must THINK in the language to be truly fluent (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44035659)

I don't know where I heard it, but there's a compelling theory that the best way to learn to speak a foreign language is to stop translating to your native language and just start thinking in the new language. If you don't know a word, look it up IN THAT LANGUAGE. Soon you'll be able to form complex ideas in the new language, and you will be able to use your low level thought process to translate a concept into any language you know -- without having to think about which words to use.

Reminders of home cause you to start thinking in your native language, and that ruins your ability to form words in the new language, because you have to translate the ideas.

Software analogy: Your native language is compiled, self-hosting code. As you learn a new language, you're attempting to write a bootstrap compiler using an interpreter for the new language using the native language. As long as you think in the new language, you can use its JIT compiler for any subset of the language that you know, but if you start thinking in your native language, you generate a hardware fault that forces you to fall back to the clunky interpreter that runs 10-100x slower.

Re:You must THINK in the language to be truly flue (1)

Kagetsuki (1620613) | about a year ago | (#44036185)

As someone fluent in two languages I can tell you that in my experience this is absolutely the case. I learned both languages by actually being in the environment where they were spoken. In school however we were taught a different "foreign" language and I never got it because they were trying to base everything on our native language - that layer of abstraction made the language difficult to comprehend and I was never able to pick it up.

The worst part is the only things I remember from it are the stupid mnemonic devices they tried to teach us for conjugation - if you find yourself having to go through some mnemonic device to figure out how to conjugate something you're going to suck at a language forever. It's exactly like you say - it's like using an embedded interpreter to convert hashes from an external language into native structures in your host/native language.

Re:You must THINK in the language to be truly flue (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44036957)

The worst part is the only things I remember from it are the stupid mnemonic devices they tried to teach us for conjugation - if you find yourself having to go through some mnemonic device to figure out how to conjugate something you're going to suck at a language forever. It's exactly like you say - it's like using an embedded interpreter to convert hashes from an external language into native structures in your host/native language.

You kiss your mother with that mouth?

Assimiliation resistance has become... (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44035741)

...a CIVIL RIGHT.

Explains it all. Sometimes the truth is bigoted. However, it does not make it untrue.

Perhaps it's time to expand Godwin's Law to cover the word "racist". Oh, wait...that would be considered speech control.

--
Another fine opinion from The Fucking Psychopath®.

Face it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44035855)

For a native-born non-ethnic American having grown up in the Cold War, learning a foreign language is an admission of loss of national sovereignty via military conquest i.e. foreign occupation with all its consequences including but not limited to loss of liberties. Is that not what we have today?

Diversity activists may now rejoice. Soon the blue eye will be scrubbed from the gene pool.

--
Another fine opinion from The Fucking Psychopath®.

Not too surprising (1)

wbr1 (2538558) | about a year ago | (#44035861)

Happens to me quite frequently. I go order my chalupas, and am enjoying the fire sauce, when all that can come out of my mouth is "yo quiero taco bell"

Face it... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44035907)

For a native-born non-ethnic (meaning insufficient pedigree to obtain citizenship or immediate residency elsewhere in the world) male American who grew up during the Cold War, learning another language was an admission of loss of national sovereignty via military conquest i.e. invasion with its concomitant loss of political, cultural and personal liberties. Is that not what we have today vis-a-vis the federal debt and lack of border control?

--
Another fine opinion from The Fucking Psychopath®.

Battlefield Earth theory (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44036157)

I remember a line from that movie: "Just because you know Psychlo doesn't mean you are Psychlo!"

This is a major impediment in learning languages by reason of human nature. Native speakers of $LANGUAGE fear non-native speakers of $LANGUAGE by reason of loss of privacy that another language provides. They think espionage.

> boot c0d0s0:/hispanix

Bienvenidos al HispaniX

Tengo una manera de sonreír, para decir Hága el favor de ir(se) al carájo!

--
Un otra parecer la mas fina del Psicópata Totalmente Demen
pánico: violación de la partición de la memoria, imagen de la programación escrita al disco. Reinicie el sistema por favor.

Bilingual but not an interpreter (1)

Kagetsuki (1620613) | about a year ago | (#44036161)

I'm bilingual but having learned both languages natively I find I have difficulty doing real time interpretation. When I speak one language my brain wants to operate in that language and I suffer the effect mentioned in the article of all the sudden not being able to speak the other language well. I also get this degraded accent thing going where my tongue just doesn't want to roll correctly in either language and I sound like a foreigner in both.

It's intensely frustrating to be asked to interpret because of this. And when I am asked to interpret and do I always find myself getting stuck on expressions that are efficient to say in one language but not in the other. Not to mention the fact that having to switch back and fourth between languages as quickly as possible is mentally taxing and I quickly get frustrated.

In comparison I've seen some people do interpretation real-time flawlessly. I find that very impressive.

Re:Bilingual but not an interpreter (1)

mynamestolen (2566945) | about a year ago | (#44036457)

Even in monolingual people it's amazing to see that particular tiny pause following their utterance of a foreign word within a sentence, particularly when they've made an effort to pronounce it as they think it should be pronounced in the foreign language. Somehow the brain has to catch up before they continue the sentence.

Re:Bilingual but not an interpreter (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year ago | (#44036527)

Real-time translators are almost always not bilingual (not natively, as you are). They are primary speakers of the language they are translating into, and secondary speakers of the language listened to. This helps. It makes it easier to "think" in the "home" language. You listen in the home language, and still recognize the second language, though only think in home language.

Never thought I'd say it: (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about a year ago | (#44036325)

Drink the water!

Memory is state dependent (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44036469)

Interesting, I have a scientist friend who insists that from his research Memory is state dependent, and this would appear to support that.

Trying to read about stuff you already know? (1)

loufoque (1400831) | about a year ago | (#44036617)

Just come to slashdot.

I have been always telling this to my friends (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44036769)

emigrants. Talk to locals and forget about any other immigrants in your vicinity - they're generally poor as you, including in local language(s) as well.

Full cultural immersion is valuable (2)

raarts (5057) | about a year ago | (#44036897)

As a Dutch host family with much experience with foreign exchange students, I can attest that full cultural immersion is not only valuable in other ways, but also the best way to learn a foreign language. Internet actually hinders this process to a great extent. Foreign exchange students who stay in close contact to their home families and friends are having the most problems adapting to their new surroundings, and experience feelings of loneliness, estrangedness, and not learning a strange language.

For this reason I recommend as little contact with your home country as possible.

I speak 5 languages... (1)

spectrokid (660550) | about a year ago | (#44036979)

..and often end up in situations where I am using multiple at once. The big problem there is to keep track of which language to speak to whom, not the speaking itself. Switching languages can be harder that speaking them. My guess is the picture of the great wall makes these people flipflop languages in their head.
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