You know I'm a nutcase on this subject, but I just don't feel happy or comfortable without knowing at least some of the language for the place I'm going. Spain was actually the most uncomfortable place I've been because despite knowing a number of other languages, I don't know Spanish. It turned out using Italian and listening in Spanish worked fine. In places where no one speaks their language it's fine (for example, Scandinavia) because they speak perfect English, though I'd still try to learn a few words.
But I'm going to Greece (2 nights in Athens and 4 in Crete) which will now be my sixth trip, so I'm serious about learning modern Greek and not satisfied with me 4-6 words/phrases. Are there any Greeks among you with advice? I bought three books and Pimsleur 1-10 and was unsatisfied. (The elementary textbook with a basic CD turned out the best.) So last night I did the unimaginable because I don't like their process for language learning and ordered Rosetta Stone Greek 1,2,3. It had high reviews, and there is a six-month satisfaction guarantee. Has anyone used it? I can basically read the Greek alphabet (slowly, in small letters), so I have a start.
Speaking of which, I love reading local mysteries for places I've been or will be and recently found some great ones for Greece fans, by Jeffrey Siger (I just finished one on Mykonos/Delos, which I adored, and now am on another about Patmos, which was fascinating, and from which I got some of the most beautiful pottery anywhere. Since I do not know him and have never done anything but write a recent Amazon review, it's impartial. I also love Donna Léon for Venice mysteries; mm.
1) You must be serious about learning Greek, considering the cost of Rosetta Stone.
2) What is their process for language learning, and why don't you like it?
3) Do you want to learn the written language or just the spoken language? When I lived in Japan, I formally studied and practiced spoken Japanese, but not written (Kanji was just too much), so I could make meaningful connections, as well as get on with the locals around town and when sightseeing. I did try to teach myself some written, but only to unlock the mystery behind 'words' posted on signs and such.
4) I can be of no help to you, except to cheer you on (go girl!) IMHO, having some decent language skills is priceless when traveling, in terms of deepening the travel experience.
1) and 3) I definitely am! I'd first like to master spoken modern Greek, but from what I've heard if you can do that ancient will be easier to learn because there were fewer words then (true of medieval vs. modern French as well, and most other languages). But I also want to read it for inscriptions on tombs and ancient writings, but first things first. On Amex Delta Skymiles shopping I got it for $369, though they only have versions 1-3 for Greek. But I did get 7 miles per dollar spent, so about an extra 2400 miles.
2) RS (according to their demos) has you do picture memorization of scenes with phrases you learn and memorize. I don't like it because I need to know how a language works so I can picture and retain it mentally and form slightly different phrases. By far the best programs I've found are offered by Fluenz.com, where I completely and very successfully taught myself Italian with Ital 1-3. They have 30 lessons per level, so I did 90 total, and fairly intensively (though I had to wait till level 3 came out). What I really liked is that they started with a tutorial in English (5-8 minutes, with the same instructor throughout), then there were conversations you learned and repeated, screen exercises that helped imprint the vocab on your mind, ways of changing the sentences, etc. Also you get a diskette for the car, which helps ingrain it in you. Unfortunately they only have programs in French, German, Spanish, Italian and I think Chinese. I'm giving Rosetta Stone a shot because it has occurred to me that the different alphabet (even though I can slowly translate the small letters at least into their Greek equivalents) may make it necessary. I'll report back.
4)I couldn't agree more! And each language I learn makes the others seem easier. I noticed when I first learned Italian then went to France, speaking French was just like speaking English. Plus it keeps the old brain neurons firing!
καλησπέρα (kali spera in transliteration, which means good evening -- actually one of the few phrases I had already memorized thanks to Greek tour books), ProfC
Somewhere I had it in my mind that Rosetta Stone costs thousands of dollars. I have not heard of Fluenz. I will check it out. I am not the scholar that you are. No - I am not a scholar - period, unless you count the school of life. I just enjoy learning languages and reaching out to people. Maybe in my next life I can study inscriptions on ancient tombs! Oh wait. I already decided in my next life I'm going to be a Sub driver. Well, the one after that then.
It looks like it was pretty dicey in Syntagma Square today... I feel terrible for them. Not a good time to be Greek. I'm thinking I'd rather visit Paestum. Actually, Paestum is on my list. Looks fantastic. Anyway, best of luck. And someday we really should organize an Insiders tour group with you as our guide!
Actually, while I teach and write books it turned out that way because it was the only thing I could do well. I was raised in an extremely repressive household (no friends, parents hated each other, you get the gist). I lived in books and with my cat, which is how it has remained (despite two fairly unwanted marriages that ended up in friendly divorces) except that now I get to live the places in my books, which is pretty cool. No one in my family had ever gone to college let alone grad school. I worked as a secretary for the six years out of college till I got a scholarship and convinced my ex to move to Massachusetts. (A woman had to convince in those days; it was not really a matter of choice.)
So I am not one of the 'intelligentsia' but very much a normal person from a lower middle class family who both got very lucky and worked hard. Though I wanted to be a sportswriter in 1970 when I graduated HS, it was impossible for women. (Don't get me started on the NFL referee situation.) And I gotta say, every single odd thing you do or decision in life you make takes to where you are. For me it has taken me to eccentric personal and wonderful scholarly places. But I hope I never come across as an ivory tower type!
Language love came early. It fit in with living in my books and my mother told me I never could possibly learn German so I naturally started taking it in 8th grade for four years -- you just have to dare me not to do something to make me do it. I got A+'s in German throughout high school and even Harvard Div School, though I can hardly do better than conversational German (even during my first trip abroad -- I do better in Milwaukee ordering bratwurst). The most I have lived in Germany was 2 months, so that's a big part -- but despite my heritage it doesn't come naturally. I only had a year and a half of college French and a half year of intensive college Latin, but that's what made my career, then living in France for two years.
Don't trust your eyes so much with Syntagma/the media. While I always say that about the square and always avoid it, just like with a lot of recent Middle Eastern stuff, they're often focusing on a relatively few demonstrators who look large on the big screen. Greeks were shocked and horrified about a year and a half ago when 2-3 people actually died in a bank there as a result of a molotov cocktail. That's because they are mostly peaceful protests at the extreme austerity measures that are affecting youth [about 50% young unemployment, like Spain] and the very poorest (I'm a political independent so don't draw conclusions from that ), and all you need to add to the mix is the anarchists who always choose to appear at these protests. They are few, but cause almost all the damage.
Anyway, I have pretty much never felt as safe any place in the world as I have in the Middle East, Turkey, and Greece, so I'm not worried.
If you guys can figure out a way to get Marriott and an airline to pay my way, you got it! My problem is I pay for places like Egypt and Turkey on my own (or with FF miles and points), and really only the trips to France and Italy count as legitimate unreimbursed business expenses. It might change now that I'm teaching more ancient civ, but I will only ever get to places like Prague and Moscow, which I dearly want to see, if I use a totally free trip to do so since otherwise it's unaffordable
Buona sera, kalispera, bon soir!
PS -- Yes, Rosetta Stone is relatively affordable, though much more than Fluenz, esp. if you do one of their 1-5 programs, but I think the highest is about $575. But Fluenz is amazing. They'll be coming out with Italian 4 & 5 soon and I can't wait because last time I was in Rome, I only spoke English to Americans and felt utterly confident. I think since the founder is also one of the tutors, it's safe to say that at least the romance languages are all as good on Fluenz as their Italian program (and I think French and Spanish are more developed at the higher levels). Cheers!
I think you are right about the isolated anarchist violence causing the most sensation in the news.
I do not have anything like the dramatic background for learning foreign language as you. Since English as a second language is actually more prevalent than English as a first language in California, and my parents were both civil servants, they enrolled in Spanish classes for a few semesters at the local college while we were growing up. I insisted on taking French in junior high (middle school), and by the time I got to high school French, my brother was taking Spanish in middle school, and my little sister was learning Spanish on Sesame Street. So with all of the foreign language studies going on, my parents adopted a tradition where we spoke as little English as possible at the dinner table, in an effort to practice and solidify our newly developed foreign language skills. Everyone spoke Spanish but me; I was the odd man out. My dad used to just ignore me, which hurt my 'feelers' a little bit; he thought my decision to study French was foolish and impractical (and he was correct), but I am grateful that he let me make the decision, and I have never regretted it, nor the love of France that my studies ignited in me. To this day he thinks my foreign travels to be fanciful and impractical, but... whatever. We still don't always agree on everything, but I've always stood up to my dad (he was a harsh task master - 32 years in law enforcement), and I think he respects me all the more for it. It took a long time to work through issues, but for about the last 20 years now, my dad and I have enjoyed a fantastic relationship which I value with deep gratitude. And as I have stated in a previous post, as long as I shall continue to be able to get out of bed, I shall continue to return to France. Vive la France!
We actually sound so much alike in so many ways (except for my permanent relationship with my father, which could be classified as bad to awful, and that's the way it's been forever). My parents divorced each other at around age 75, and I finally saw my mother happy, living alone, for the first time in my life. As a result, I've learned lots about both of them in retrospect.
Well, I just got Rosetta Stone Greek and my worst fears were realized. I think the program itself may be mildly useful for the alphabet part of learning, but it took three hours to set up with no help from RS. Their instructions do not match what happens on your screen (different buttons to push instead of prompts). I first emailed and got back a case number, but no follow-up. Then I called, and after 10 minutes of holding I hung up. Then I did chat. That went fine for 10 minutes while I explained I couldn't set the d---ed thing up. Then I just got cut off. Then I called again and held for 30 minutes while doing other things. Finally, I just started over myself, and experimented with out of the way symbols and I finally managed to set it up, though it rejected my (not easy to see) serial number five times (G's look like 5's etc). By the time I started lesson 1, I knew I was at the easy part. It was all about women, men and kids, eating, drinking, reading and exercising. But unlike Fluenz, no explanations of anything and sometimes the picture still didn't make it clear what or who they were. I did manage to finish lesson 1 in less than 20 minutes and got 75% right. But it just felt stupid compared to the really sophisticated Fluenz programs. But alas, they don't do Greek.
PS -- When I stand up to my father (on the phone since I will not visit him after some very unpleasant events) on the phone, he starts screaming. Sometimes he just starts screaming for no reason. I think once I learn how to say shut up in Greek I will yell that back.
Thanks for a good laugh!
Sorry about your dad though. I think I may have unwittingly villified my dad in my above narrative. While it's true he was a harsh task master, he honestly did the best he could with what he had (his childhood stunk), and he taught us many virtues (honesty, personal responsibility, dependability and a good work ethic) and held us accountable for good character, even though his methods were less than pleasant. It's a kin to saying (and truthfully I might add) that I never got a spanking that I didn't deserve. His intentions were always honorable, and he has grown tremendously with age. This is a fortunate gift that not all humans receive!
Here you go: σκάσε
From google translate, so probably inaccurate!
Ciao for now.
Don't know if you could justify Prague based on the famous language school there.
A friend of a friend in the Ukraine studied there. It is 'the' place to study languages, especially slavic.
Also, another friend who learned Russia thanx to the Defense Language schools, also took up the Greek Orthodox religion, to better understand the origins of cyrillic and the Russian Orthodox religion. Sort of a backdoor approach.
How about the classic, Zorba The Greek?
It does take place on Crete where you will be going for 4 days. Regardless of how good or bad the book is, it should have some good background information on Crete, which always more digestable in story form.
The other book on Greece that I read was about Andreas Papandreou based on a recommendation of one of my boss's who like him as a leader, and thought it was a style to emulate. So I read the book primarily about the leadership style, but found the politics fascinating. Also, anything I have read about or heard in the news about greek politics has only made sense because of what I read in this book. It is great background on where Greece is politically and economically.
Great ideas, all! Thanks! And don't worry, Pluto, I got want you meant about your father -- and he's not like mine is.
Alas, GemPrincess, I could never justify studying in Prague, and have no need for Slavic languages in my teaching or research. While I did a fourth grad field in Russian history and have taught 19th/early20th C. Russia, I have done so through films, novels, and journalism, all of which is easily accessible in English. I think my next language will be Arabic, though the reviews of RS Arabic are really bad. Plus I won't buy RS again under any circumstances. Today I got an email from them in my first attempt at contact, and it basically reiterated what the instructions (that didn't work) said. But I'll keep at it. In the meantime I've ordered an ancient Greek language textbook as well as a Greek-English dictionary. (I've now spent whole lots of money on learning Greek, so I'll use them all.
Actually spent some time studying Arabic. Its a very interesting language and opens the doors to much research. My neighbors in college were related to Prince Bandar, and entertained alot. We had many an interesting discussion on why the west does not make use of Arabic sources of information and relies exclusively on Christian, and occassional Judaic historic references.
A very interesting book is, "The Arabists: The Romance of an American Elite", which looks at the relationship of the english speaking western world (primarily US and UK, some Canadian) over the last 200-300 years. One of the key points was that to operate in Arabic speaking countries, you really need to be fluent.
Another interesting article on learning Arabic written by someone fluent in several languages. The always say once you learn one foreign language the others are easier, but Arabic may be one of the exceptions to the rule
Judging by my efforts thus far with Greek, I think any language with a completely different alphabet is much harder even for people with lots of languages. My colleague speaks and reads Arabic and Farsi, and there is now a campus group of about 30 students learning Arabic. When I feel I have gotten as far in Greek as I did in Italian (again, thank you Fluenz!), I'll probably do that. It would be very helpful for me especially since I teach early Islam and the Crusades as part of my survey and church history courses, as well as the flourishing and (by the standards of the time) tolerant civilization of Muslim Spain from 750-950.
By the way, for others who like mysteries and want to get a feel for Greece, I highly recommend Jeffrey Siger's Inspector Kaldis series. I am glad, however, that I went to Mykonos before reading Murder in Mykonos. Though fictional, there's a lot of real life stuff in his books. I'm reading another on Patmos now.
Will be adding the book recommendations to the Travel Reading thread to try to keep them all in one place.
As for Arabic, at least it has an alphabet. Problem is that the letter is different when alone, at the beginning, middle or end of the word, so while there are 28 letters, there are 4 variations for each which is about 112 possibilities. While challenging, its still better than trying to learn Chinese where you need to know thousands of characters to read. Anyways, for chinese I cheat. Since I am mainly using it for restaurants to read the 'chinese-only' menu, I have a nice chinese restaurant dictionary. You count the strokes in the word, then flip to the section with all words with that number of strokes.
and then you look through the lists (pages) and basically do pattern recognition. Its really interesting even for menus where there is a translation as its never accurately translated. In chinese, every dish will tell you what the ingredients are and how it was cooked unlike the english like "heavenly delights"
I'm in awe of someone who has mastered not only what I call the 'regular' languages but Arabic and some Chinese. Wow.
BTW, after my scan of the dictionary today and another fairly useless RS session, I went back to one of the sets I had bought. Oxford's "Take Off in Greek: Complete Language-Learning Kit," which has both CDs and an actual dialogue and grammar book with it. I learned more in one hour with their book (without using the CDs yet) than I had with any of the other programs. I can now read the Greek alphabet (though still shaky on vowel combinations and a few consonant combos), pronounce almost everything I read, and figure out a lot. And the dialogues in the book start out with really useful stuff unlike RS and Pimsleur (which does things in Greek in such a way that it was all Greek to me.)
I guess I'm mostly a book l'arner except with Fluenz Italian (and probably most other European languages). But I really need to understand how the sentences work in order to remember the words. Just learning from the Oxford book how to say the/a (F,M,N singular and plural) and words like for and and suddenly made stuff I had heard on a few of the CDs comprehensible. Yippee - a step in the right direction.
I would not consider myself a master of any language. I have just done some basics, and read alot, tried to use as much as possible when I travel.
One group you might find helpful, though its a Facebook group is
Its for people speaking (or attempting to speak) 2 or more languages. Once you join there are lists of people who are looking to learn a language, and in exchange will help someone with a language they know. There are threads like these in all sorts of languages that you can join in. You can also use voice communication to speak as well. If you happen to be in the NYC area, they have a happy hour every week in town. It would require opening a profile on FB minimally. You could have tight security so nothing about you is visible. Nothing says you have to use your real name, or email. You can create an email address just for this purpose. and you really don't need to friend anyone. Just join the group, though you may wish to friend those that you end up trading language support with.
p.s. below is an example of a thread going on in French that anyone can jump into
member1...10 soirées par semaine cf http://polyglotclub.com ce soir Snax
member2....pour l'anglais c'est au majesty ? rue de rivoli ?
member1....Ce soir c'est à 19h jusqu'à 2h
Le Majesty Lounge Bar - 35 rue de Rivoli 75001 PARIS
Métro: Chatelet - Les Halles (lignes 1, 4, 7, 11, RER A, B, C)
Hôtel de Ville (lignes 1, 11)
p.s.s. another interesting thing to do is to friend someone from your travels. One of my guides from Guatamala is in my FB. He usually is engaged in dialogues with his friends in Spanish, and as of late has been in Columbia, so I get to read all the chit chat in spanish, learn about what they are doing, what they like, etc. Also, if I want to travel, its easy to get in touch and rendez vous!
or a suggestion from another member to get movies in the language you are learning but subtitled in english
Its mainly to communicate online and practice languages!
I think you will have a blast given all the languages you already speak, and all the ones you want to learn!
Even if you don't participate (respond) its a great opportunity to see how the language is used in every day life. and if you copy & paste to google translate, there is an option to hear it said
Like you, I love languages and know how much closer it gets you to the culture. So I'll have to find a Greek one for now so I don't confuse myself unnecessarily. Despite being almost bilingual in French I'm a tiny bit worried because I have spent so much time in Italy since the last time I was in Avignon a couple of years ago. The 'si' always comes out of my mouth instead of 'oui' even though I know the meaning in French is totally different. I do think in ten days when I'm there I'll do fine once I see the signs for things like billets instead of biglietti.
BTW, another cool thing I found while really using the Oxford program today (It is fabulous, and for about $310 less than the sale price of Rosetta Stone, so, so much better). Maybe it's just my learning style, but I wanted to know what o, i and to meant (I'm using English versions so there isn't a confusion between i and n) and neither Rosetta Stone nor the other tapes I have been listening to talked about the masc,fem,neuter the or a. I have already learned more phrases (and key point, remembered them) in one day than in the past three weeks of different programs. But also, I had really gotten a feel for the alphabet, which isn't that different once you're used not to saying a d for a delta or a g for a gamma. The compound vowels are harder. I was trying for the life of me to figure out how to pronounce μπύρα because my best guess with the two consonants was empire (hah). Then I went back to the excellent pronunciation section at the beginning of the Oxford book and stay that mu + pi = b. Since what looks like a p in Greek is an r, I immediately knew it was practically a cognate for the Italian and French words for beer.
Also I found online keyboards for Greek, which is helping tremendously. One of my main problems, which will require memorizations, is that there are so many ways to say the i (ee) sound.
Thanx ProfC for a great analysis of the different language learning options.
Oxford programs and books are usually 1st class.
I think there are a couple of schools of thought in language learning. The old school where you diagram out grammar, and learn the sounds, so that you learn language in a very analytical way.
The newer school is trying to emulate how you learned language as a child by listening to the sounds and associating them with the object or activity.
I have always learned much better when its the old school way. Takes me longer the new way, and I always have all these unanswered questions. I think both Berlitz and Rosetta Stone are based on the new approach.
When I lived in New England, I used 2 different language programs. One was Boston Language Institute that is affiliated with Harvard, and they use it to send either class overflow, or for languages with fewer students. I used it once for their French course, which I had never studied, but had been their many times, and learned enough to be thoroughly confused. It helped me to go through the old school method and sort things out. Also used the school for some friends wanting to study Spanish, and we had folks of varying stages of learning from never studied, to practically fluent. Everyone did have experience in multiple other languages though. If you have enough people, they do private classes which was really helpful. The basics were a good review for all of us. and our instructor was good enough to give the more advanced students all direcitons and communication in spanish, and as much english as necessary for the newer folks.
The other class that I took that was totally fascinating and mind boggling was a quinta lingual class where we studied multiple languages at once (french, spanish, portugese, italian, german, arabic, japanese). The instructor was a musician that was self taught, and learned the languages while traveling and performing. We would study the same words and grammar constructs for each of the languages at the same time. It was extremely helpful for the languages I already had studied formally (spanish, french, italian, german), ones that were similiar so easy to associate like portugese, helpful in clarifying the sounds between spanish, portugese and italian as the words look very similiar coming from the latin, but extremely difficult for languages I never studies before like Arabic and Japanese, and are not similiar in anyway, and incredibly difficult languages. One person in our group had previously studied arabic so I learned a bit that way. Mainly my takeaway on Arabic was just how difficult it really was, and some pleasantries. This approach was also old school.
Am thinking of doing the university adult night school program near me as they offer many languages. Just can't decide which one. I definately learn best the old school way, and then I need to practice with someone who is fluent and incredibly patient
I absolutely agree about the learning methods. I now find thanks to only three chapters and listening to the CDs of the Oxford program that using another program's oral only CDs in my car that I can understand and remember some of it.
Alas, I think a more difficult problem these days is that students are not being encouraged to take languages, aside from Spanish. Plus more and more we get students here who come with a letter from a psychologist stating they have a learning disability that does not allow them to learn languages. While I do not dispute the existence of learning disabilities, the multiplication of numbers claiming them makes me suspicious.
Wow, that other class sounds demanding -- and confusing. I have found, for example, when I go from France to German-Speaking Switzerland to Italy, I end up speaking polyglot (with the language of where I am the first I try to use but filling in words I know less or not at all with their equivalents in one of the other languages. I don't, however, revert to English even by accident. A linguistics prof here once told me why: the language parts of our brain, when we're in that situation, usually revert to our best foreign language, because somehow the brain gets that we're not at home. (He explained it much more eloquently.)
I envy you being near night classes. Obviously I could audit most language courses here except for the time factor, plus many have strict size limits.
Let's hear it for the old way!
Maybe it has to do with being right brained or left brained. I definately learned anything faster if its analyzed, categorized and mapped out. I can do the other, if I have the roadmap in my mind. Matter of fact the new school helps me practice and recall words faster for particular situations, but its difficult if I don't first have the lay of the land.
Since I learned Spanish 1st, its my go to language, especially in the romance languages where I recognize alot due to the latin stems, and then struggle to put the right words together. Just about always when I understand French or Italian, my mind goes to the spanish first, and then I have stop and think, now what was that word, or the pronunciation for the other languages.
I have always described myself as being languaged challenged, and I think its true of most Americans, not due to ability or interest, but because we are such a large country and don't come into contact with other languages. My scandinavian friends tell me they learned multiple languages as kids just watching TV because of the broadcasts from England, France, Germany and neighboring scandinavian countries. My Ukrainian friends tell me the same about learning Russian and Polish. If your going to watch TV, listen to radio stations, go to the movies, its in the language of neighboring countries. By the time they are teens they have mastered these other languages at some level without even studying them.
The attitude here in the US also contributes to it. I have liked languages since I was a kid. At 10 years old I wrote the local paper question and answer column inquiring about learning Chinese. Not realizing I was a kid, they recommended a university an hour away. My parents of course read the question and saw the first name and inital, and knew it was me. They were stunned of course and had no way to take me an hour away on a daily basis to study Chinese When we picked up our Chinese carry out (the only chinese restaurant in town) I pestered them to learn a few words, and they just smiled. To my parents credit, they did pester the school board about languages in the schools, but were told that it would ruin my english. I also pestered my GFs mom who spoke 5 languages to teach us German, which she agreed to, and I bought the textbook, but she had several kids and worked full-time so not much time for lessons. I did at least get use to hearing her speak with relatives in other languages, and do attribute this to my understanding more than I can speak. When I grew up in the midwest, the earliest languages were taught in school was usually high school. I went to a particularly good school so they started in junior high, but not much choice, either spanish or french, and not even that did you get to chose. When you started 7th grade which ever language they offered was the one you got to study. I did have a particularly good language teacher in school. She did her best to take us to the hispanic area of town to eat the food and see the movies, but a lot of effort went into it, and I do not have the proficiency that my European friends have. My quinta lingual language teachers point was that when in Europe you will hear different languages all around you, and people switch back and forth with ease depending on who speaks what. And I am truly envious. I tried again as an adult to get my girlfriends mother to work with us on languages, but she just laughed and said they were milk langages, that you need to learn as a child, are incredibly difficult as an adult, and what did I need with them anyways, that I was an american and everyone speaks english.
So, yes I am envious of their fluency in so many languages, and ease they switch back and forth. I guess I still study cause I enjoy it. I know no matter how much time I put into it, I will never be that smooth..
Wow, what an amazing story -- and what persistence! That is so cool what your parents did with the Chinese restaurant!
You're absolutely right about Europeans compared to Americans. Even before the EU, most spoke many languages. I had a Czech penpal (we still communicate) from the time of the Russian invasion in 1968, and at that time she knew Czech, Slovak, Russian, German and was learning English. Since then she told me she has learned Italian.
Languages are also a route to social (and geographic) mobility in Europe, since hotels and other service industries need people who can speak other languages. I have noticed that at the Marriotts I have stayed at in London that most of the front desk people are not native English speakers.
More and more I see language as a necessity for global jobs.
My step sister got a great job out of college, as she spent a year in Austria and was fluent in German. She also specialized in Japanese trade, so was hired by a German company to negotiate their Japanese trade agreements. In Germany, when you work there as a non-German citizen, your job is posted every 3 months. If a German applies with the correct experience you are out of the job. To her credit she was there 5 years, and only returned stateside because her husband didn't like working in Europe.
Another of my friends who married a Swiss fellow was initially employeed by one of the Universities there (with no PhD) to handle their computers because all the documentation was in English. So as an English speaking computer scientist she had a leg up on many others with more degrees than she had. And Europe is degree happy. She of course learned French, and is so good at it now, that the locals complain to her about the Americans, not realizing she is American due to her proficieincy in French and of course being married into a Swiss family.
This is why I am thinking of going back and working on my languages. There is just so many ways to use it on a daily basis, and so many doors it would open work wise.
Its just a toss up which language.
The Arabist made a good argument for Arabic, which is why many State Department folks took up this language, as its used in 22 countries. Course the dialects are very different, so if you want to be understood its best to go the classical route, which is how its spoken in Saudi, or the standard route, which is how its used in Egypt. One of Persian friends told me they had to learn arabic for religious classes, though the sermons were primarily in Farsi, however the texts were still all in Arabic.
Using this logic, according to Wikipedia, the most frequently spoken languages are in order of frequency, it looks like I should continue working on my Spanish, and follow my life long desire to learn Chinese.
1) Manadarin (935M)- interestingly coincides with my interest in early years. I did take a semester of Chinese, and am thinking of going back to it, as its definate a major market for global business
2) Spanish (387M) - not only is this useful for travel through Central & South America, but its useful domestically these days. Our entire support staff for the cafeteria, company stores, janitorial service, maintenance is spanish speaking. And we now have 2 major TV stations which makes it easier to practice.
3) English (365M) - this goes back to my Hungarian mother's point. She had to learn languages because only 7M people speak Hungarian, so grew up with a speaking German with her nanny, was in a French school by the age of 8, lived in a country that spoke both Hungarian and Romanian, and of course studied English.
4) Hindi (295M) - despite having many family members and friends that speak Hindi, I learned very little and have had no occassion to use it, as everyone speaks English, and their English is usually better than mine.
5) Arabic (280M) - interestingly enough this supports the thinking at state department that it is spoken in 22 countries, and used as a religious language in many more.
6) Portugese (204M) - perhaps due to the large population in Brazil
7) Bengali (202M) - a testament to just how populous the Indian Subcontinent is
8) Russian (160M) - Never realized how useful this language was till I traveled in Eastern Europe. Its usefully in all the former Soviet Republics, and Eastern European countries.
9) Japanese (127M) - another major international market (EU, China, Japan, US)
10) Punjabi (95.5M) - a testament to just how populous the Indian Subcontinent is
Sounds like a plan! I know absolutely from my Islamicist colleague that fluent Arabic can write you a ticket to almost any govt, military, diplomatic or just generally international job.
I completely identified with your comment about your friend and French. I have had it happen on multiple occasions, either when French people assume I am French and complain about (real, as in loud/rude) ugly Americans or Americans who assume I'm French because I've lived there so many years and feel like it's a second home. I really enjoy confusing people who when I speak fluent French (to a French person at a hotel or restaurant) and they respond in English. (I don't look at all prototypically French, much more Germanic, based on my Berne ancestry.) This leads to often rude (since I understand as well as I speak) comments about what I am. I think I wrote this in a previous post, but once I simply had too much when they suggested I was English (I usually get Belgian or Swiss, and sorry to Englishmen out there). I just shook my head no. This led to aghast looks from both the restauranteur and the patron (who was making the comments). Amusingly, though across the room from each other (empty because it was not yet French lunch time), we ended up having a lovely conversation.
Although I know pretty certainly now that Greek will not make the top 30 or so languages that are 'useful', I am plugging along. Today was very exciting (I don't teach Mondays). I got my Greek/English Bible, which has original Greek alphabet with basic English translations under it and the full English text of the New Testament on each side. I don't much need that because I teach church history, but I think I am close to mastering the alphabet. I practiced speaking whole pages out loud (there is no transliteration), and while a few of the weird consonants and odd vowel combinations still give me trouble, I can read a page out loud in less than ten minutes in Greek! Yippee! I also did something super easy -- the Lord's Prayer in Greek. It's obviously different in the Orthodox church, but I had no problem with speaking and even understanding since the text is basically familiar.
It is so cool learning languages. I know I am weird, but I derive huge pleasure from being in places where I can speak a little or a lot of their languages.
real question is useful to who?
The list above is what is useful in business and diplomatic circles.
Of course, if you do research like you do, I suspect the ancient languages (hebrew, arabic, greek, latin) and older European languages (old english, old french, old german) would be most useful. And probably most interesting. I also suspect that the older versions of the romance languages are actually closer to Latin. and my hungarian mother tells me that old german and old english are more alike than the old and modern versions of the respective languages. since she had to learn old german, she says old english is actually easier for her, e.g. Chaucer in the original
Your French seems really good but if you feel you need more, I strongly suggest Fluenz French (which probably goes beyond the three levels of Italian they offer). Votre français me semble très bien mais si vous voulez quelque chose en plus, jFluenz est formidable. En plus, si je me souviens vraiment, il y a plusieurs niveaux de français que l'italien.
The combination, if you do Fluenz and speak with a native speaker on Facebook or other sites, will make you an absolute pro! Though you already seemed that to me.
FB is a wonderful opportunity to practice languages.
I work in a very global business operation. For most folks, English is not their 1st language. Many would prefer to IM than talk on the phone, cause its easier to under what is being said when you see it, and respond in writing. You have more time to decode and recode, and you do not need to worry about pronunciation. I always try to use the pleasantries from their languages, though I am not required to, I find it a nice icebreaker, and helps me with my pursuit of learning other languages.
Google translate is wonderful for this. Sometimes translators are not all that precise so I will try a word or phrase forwards and backwards into severl languages to make sure it makes sense.
Mentioning Farsi just jogged my mind.
One of my friends who is Persian and speak Farsi, married an American guy, a scientist who loves mathematics.
He took up Farsi, since the parents and sisters live near by and they spend alot of time together (lots of conversation in Farsi).
Anyways, he said as a mathematician, the part he liked the best was the alphabet. That he was good at symbol manipulation, and learning to read in a new alphabet was easy for him.
Much harder was learning to speak and conversations.
This is why I think alot of this depends on the differences individuals have in how their brain operates.
Another case in point is my sister who studied in France. She is fluent to the point of sitting around in cafe's and telling jokes in French. Interesting enough, she is good at this in english. As far as reading the classics and writing papers, she was not so good at this. Course she isn't good at it in English either.
You're absolutely right! I speak not only modern French, Italian and German, but do most of my research in the Middle version of each. Since my research is not on English history, fortunately I don't have to deal with Old English -- though I did take a course on Chaucer in its original version in college. Happily, for Latin, the medieval version is MUCH easier than classical Latin, because it became more like the romance languages and uses primarily standard word order, whereas classical (and unfortunately Renaissance) Latin is intended to be poetic, witty, or whatever, and words can appear anywhere as long as they have the right endings.
Know that I'm going back to one of my basic college loves, ancient history, I'm starting to do more with those languages. Arabic fits somewhere in between since there are multiple periods of interaction from the 7th -14th C. with Europe.
I always have found reading languages the easiest, speaking next, listening next and then writing it (which I don't usually have to do except if giving a speech in French). French is the only language I'd say I've mastered all four. But interestingly I can read languages I don't know if they're enough like the others -- e.g., Spanish.
I also have a very different personality when speaking comfortably in a foreign language in a foreign country. I am much more outgoing (after all, I'll never see the people again ), talk a lot more than normal, and am willing to raise my voice, since it's not an unpleasant thing to do in Europe, esp. Mediterranean countries.
I can't tell jokes in English or any other language -- no gift there. But I've found when learning a language or living in a foreign country the key moment comes when you start dreaming in that language.
It must be wonderful to read source material in source languages! Very few people can do this, including me, so I can only imagine it must be very exciting.
I usually learn to read first,which is also my strongest language skill in English.
Next I am most comfortable with listening, and I usually start with news broadcasts as there are enough references to geogrphy and well-known people to keep me oriented. Also there are not alot of verb tenses to deal with. Also opera, or the more modern version, sitcoms are easy to follow as their are lots of dramatic cues to what is going on. when I first started learning French, I was with my sister, and she would be recounting our activities in French, and I found I could follow that, as I knew the subject matter, so there was less to piece together, or my Hungarian mom talking to German relatives as she was also recounting things I was involved with. Same is true of foreign movies, if I have seen them before, its a book I have read.
I learn to write before I speak, as I can take my time, look things up, and edit myself. My cousin who is in film always said he liked it cause he could edit himself, but he is first and foremost a writer and then a performer.
My french teacher always asked to see my written journal as she said it was usually correctly written where as my verbal recouting was not as good. So this is my biggest challenge, yet the most useful part of learning languages for business or politics.
Since alot of my travel has been Asia and Eastern Europe, where its not allowable to have an emotional display or say everything on your mind (well you can, but you will not get the outcome you desire), I stick to the less is more, which suits my speaking abilities.
It is really great to be able to do my research reading all the sources in their original language, but the funny part is the spillover into real life. When I am (especially at a French) movie with subtitles, I realize how far they are from the original.
The cultural differences are fascinating, as I am expected to be (and turn out to be) more overtly emotional in Europe than here at home. But of course when I was in Egypt, Turkey and the West Bank I was much quieter except at very touristy places or when I had my whole day with the Egyptologist visiting sites near Luxor.
I think that maybe in Spain and Italy this is true, but the French family in the south of France (Mougins) is very reserved, as is most of the family in northern Europe as well. I try to be observant of what is going on around me, and adjust accordingly. Being linguistically challenged in speaking this is kind of a natural damper unless the conversation is in English
Actually, I've had just the opposite for France (though I would agree that northern Germany is very reserved -- a story follows), but then I have not been to Mougins. I've spent my time in Lyon, Avignon, near Monte Carlo, the Pyrenees, Perpignan, Figeac and Cahors. When I lived with my French family in the 1980s when I was doing my dissertation, we went to camp in the Ardèche during summer. I found everything much 'looser' in the south of the country. The opposite was true when I was on a fellowship in Wolfenbüttel/Hanover, Germany in the 1990s. People were extremely stiff and unhelpful and I once was assaulted by an elderly woman with her umbrella for crossing the street against a light very late at night with no traffic; another happened near Stralsund when I didn't no bicycle paths existed and a guy practically ran me over then yelled what were almost certainly curses at me. At the same time, I will never forget my wonderful time at Insel Rügen, which is one of the more dramatically beautiful places in northern Germany.
Italy is definitely friendly the further south you get, at least to Rome. (Milan ain't my kinda town, though Venice is -- but each city so much resembles still its pre-Italian unification era that it's hard to generalize.) I've only been to Cordoba and Granada in Spain and don't speak any Spanish at all (though I can read it), but at the hotel my English was fine because the owner was half American/half Italian, born in Brooklyn. But on my tour to Granada, I had to speak Italian to my driver who spoke no English. Then all went well. I have never been to northern Spain except to walk across a French bridge from St. Jean de Luz and then right back.
You sure don't seem linguistically challenged!
The south of France has alot of foreigners, both tourists and immigrants, so its hard to separate out sometimes.
But when we are on the farm with the family, its all locals going back hundreds of year.s
When we go down the moutain to Cannes, we encounter all sorts of things. Most of the folks hawking things are doing so in English, and my sister and the family there force them to speak English. I tend to think they are immigrants that are more comfortable in English than French. Cannes and Nice are very cosmopolitan, and many people there, are not originally from there.
Eze is beautiful. Just down the mountain from there is Villefranche sur Mer which is my sister's favorite place to go for dinner. These can all be done as day trips from Monaco or Cannes where there are Marriott properties.
When we were in college we spent most of our time on the coast as my sister lived in the dorm at the Univerisity of Nice, and we have Eurorail passes so went on Friday to Ventimillia to shop, Friday night to Monaco forr boule and ice cream and the night clubs. During the day we were either in Nice (walking distance from the dorms) or Cannes/Mougins with the family. We only did one day trip inland to Grasse, as one of my friends was a tour guide and took some students and us there.We have been going to Grasse since college days, and on every trip we return. I especially like the Moulinard Perfumery.
So on our most recent trip back, my sister and I rented a car, and drove more inland, doing day trips from Mougins.
One of our favorite places was Tourettes sur Loup. It was quaint town, perched on a hill. We walked through the streets and stopped at the shops. They actually had the sugar coated liliac for dessert making. Food was excellent.
We also went to the galleries in St. Paul de Vence
We drove through Gorge du Loup and looked at the spectacularly gorge scenery
There are several other quaint townes in the area that are fun to look around
Bar sur Loup http://www.beyond.fr/villages/barloup.html
Its a very interesting school, and is geared towards the use of linguistics for analysis. I believe it was primarily applied to literature, but could be used for anything written or spoken. I find it very intriguing and would find it interesting if I did not have my work to consider.
While reading my dictionary, inspiration hit. If you know your Bible at all (or even own one), it's an excellent way to learn most languages, because the ecclesiastical language is simpler and most of it is somewhat or very familiar. After only one semester of classical Latin, I wrote my dissertation based on 1700 sermons in Latin. And what really improved it (my Eureka moment with the dictionary) was reading the Latin Vulgate Bible. So I just ordered more on Amazon...
Alas, Paris is full of rain, but at least it allows me to get this thread back to languages. After a half day working at the library I went to my favorite restaurant in Paris -- Le Navigator, 63 rue Galande in the 5th arondissement (very totally French, not touristy because it's a little hard to find) -- I just happened on it again today after passing many others and then remembered how amazingly good it was last time I was here.
So here's a restaurant/people/language review. I got there before noon because last time I was there it was filled -- with French people. Always go to restaurants where the locals go. This is equally true of Venice, and both are hard to find if you don't experience them firsthand.
I chose the 40 euros menu and spoke to the waiter in French and got my initial wine, water and escargots. I asked him what he suggested between the escargots and l'avocat et crevettes. He demurred, though when I said I really liked escargots he said they were very good. Actually avocado with shrimps is usually not very good in France since it's heavy on mayonnaise and light on salad shrimp. The escargots were marvelous.
At that point, two 60+ men were seated next to me. Happily, "what is she" seems to be going out of style in France. When I returned French to the waiter they spoke with me. This ended up being a three hour conversation. Their having rognons de veau was somewhat offputting since I will not eat veal and kidneys make me sick. But they were so nice and we continued the conversation. I had ordered my favorite -- and my test of a restaurant -- sole meuniere. The waiter asked me if he wanted me to debone it, but I actually learned by watching at the very restaurant years ago how to do so, so simply said "Ca va." I apparently impressed the men across from me enormously when I managed to scoop off both top and bottom filets of sole and leave the remaining skeleton in the bowl provided.
We had a wonderful conversation. They were curious about me, doubtful about the EU, and thanked me (ME???) as an American for what Americans did in both world wars. They said in French we will never forget the beaches of Normandy and the sacrifice Americans did for us. This is what Americans don't get about French people. They really do admire and love most of us. Sometimes, but not always, our government, but always us, if we act like good people.
These two men, both of whom worked at tourist sites, declared that they could not understand why Americans would pay 28 euros for a croque monsieur at the Eiffel Tower when they could have a whole meal at the Natigator, I could not agree more. At the end of my 40 euro l everything included lunch they ordered une offrande for me -- a glass of champagne. I'm use to that in Italy but it was the first time for me in France. It turned out one of the men didn't like champagne that much so I ended up with the equivalent of two coupes de champagnes.
What a lovely moment, what a lovely encounter. It made me think a new song needs to be made. I was thinking a lot about music in my other emails, but they played Edith Piaf La Vie En Rose and other songs during my lunch, which added to the conversation. When I said Edith! they looked at me like une copine.
And BTW, re other email,for 1995 the song was Those Were the Days (Mary Hopkin) and the theme song from Dr. Zhivago which includes my real name.
Salut de Paris, mes amis,
Oh, your making me hungry! We like the same dishes except for one, rognons de veau.
When I lived in Brussels for business, I returned to my hotel every night and ordered the sole meuniere, which was always deboned tableside for me, though I am quite capable of doing this myself, having worked through college in restaurants, that required we could do this, so I do appreciate watching someone else do it. I did though work my way through the Belgium beer menu, trying a different one every night to see how it went with the same dish. My Hungarian mother would have a heart attack if she knew I had beer instead of wine with my dinner, but I figured I was in Belgium, and that was there specialty so I was going to sample it all.
Surprisingly we rarely had escargot in France. The best place I can remember for escargot, is a restaurant in Montreal that was actually called Les Escargots. Don't know if its still there, but its near the train station. What I loved about the restaurnat is that they had escargots prepared in just about every imaginable sause. I was there with several friends, so I think we decided to try them all, and order nothing but escargot for our meal, sampling everything, and then ordering more of the ones we liked best. Also, when I picked cruise ships, this something I factor into my choice, as Celebrity has Escargot on their menu of items that are available every day. The last cruise that was almost 2 weeks long, had escargot for every dinner I think.
I do like shrimp in mayonnaise, and I use to make that, and also lobster in Mayonnaise, and then stuff half an avocado with it, as its easy enough to do, but since I have become highly allergic to shell fish, have been unable to eat this, which narrows my choices. The first time I had this dish was in college when my roommates father took us to Rockefeller Center to a restaurant there. I learned to make homemade mayonnaise when living in Moungins on the farm from Madam M., and so it was one of my favorite, easy dishes to make for entertaining, especially since it can be made in advance.
In WDC I actually get my favorite rognons de veau at a bistro that has been there since college days.
I guess what I like about Paris is that I can get all these dishes in one city. I can think of other options, but its like a progressive dinner going from country to country, city to city.
Even when we were in France in the 70s and the younger crowd was anti-American, their parents were very pro-American. When we went home to visit, they threw the doors wide open and wanted us to stay as long as we liked as they said there was no way they could repay what our fathers and uncles had done for their country. The summer we traveled around was just before a presidential election, and so we would stay up to the wee hours of the morning answering questions about the American political system, and why candidates said and did the things they did, what our families thought about it, etc.
Surprising, on my recent trip to the Amalfi Coast, I learned its now a national holiday the day the american troops landed and liberate Italy.
This has been a great thread, and I've enjoyed both of your stories. As much as I love learning languages (in general), I have to admit that at one point, the pair of you were getting just a wee bit too "cerebral" and academic pour moi! Vive votre intelligences et bon pour vous!
this is/was a great discussion!
I have spent 4 years (2007-2011) learning Chinese.
Every day about 2 hours (after work) + 1 to 2 days in the weekend; for about 20 hrs/week.
Would I have know upfront how difficult it would be, I would not even have started.
After every year of study, I passed a level of the HSK exam, which can be joined by paying a fee to the only university in Holland where they teach Sinology;
after 1 year, I passed level 1 (lower elementary), after year 2 level 2 (upper elementary), year 3 level 3 (lower intermediate) and after year 4 I (just) passed level 4 (upper intermediate);
It is a horrible language to learn and it cost me way too much time (to put things in perspective; with 20 hrs/week ?I learnt French in 6 months, to a level where I was able to function as a ICT business consultant for the French speaking market; with giving a "course" to users on how to use the software at the end of a project).
...but on the other hand, would I not speak "ok" Chinese right now, I would not have my current job; a job which I love!
Many years ago we were going to Italy with friends. None of us spoke any Italian. So I was "volunteered" to learn enough to get by on, and the others gave me the CD etc. I got reasonable in the basics.
Fast forward. Evening one in a restaurant in Italy, in a rural location, not a town or city by any means. So the first thing I ordered was "acqua minerale per favore" to which the waiter replied "with or without gas." Sigh!
Tommo781, haha! They do that to me, too. I was in Puerto Rico last week trying to practice my Spanish, but the locals all switched right to English. You can't blame them since it was probably a lot easier for us all! Funny thing is that the tourists were trying to practice their Spanish on me even though I wasn't a local. I recall an episode in Brussels where I was trying to buy a subway ticket but couldn't figure out how. A guy came up and tried to help but spoke French. My French is not very good. So I asked it he spoke English. But he didn't. My sister was along, and she asked if he spoke German (she does), and voila! He answered in German. It was a true comedy of errors, but we got things figured out.
Yep tommo that is an old story that we all have heard before many times, but it is always advisable to make an attempt to converse in the language of country. As I travel the world, I am always amazed of the multi lingual capability of the Continental Europeans,