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map-language-difficulty

(via /r/MapPorn)

This ranking by the Foreign Service Institute seems fairly plausible. I agree with the decision to move French up a tier, it is certainly harder than Spanish or Portuguese. My casual impression is that Romanian is a bit harder than the Iberian languages.

Not sure if the two tier gap between Swedish and German is justified.

Incidentally, I wonder how such a map would look for Slavic language speakers (does one exist?). Obviously the Slavic world would be all green, but I am wondering if the Latin or Anglo/Germanic languages will be harder for them.

Chinese is pretty easy, I am almost tempted to lower it a tier. Grammar is very easy; “long time no see” is a literal translation of a Chinese phrase that has made its way into English via immigrants. German or Russian grammar, to say nothing of Japanese, is far harder. It’s really only the characters that make Chinese a hard language, though obviously that’s a major component – even if it’s one of decreasing relevance.

Even so, it’s certainly no harder than Finnish – probably easier. I have a friend who is studying Finnish for idiosyncratic personal reasons. Although he’s mastered much of the torturous grammar and can use it in a “classroom” setting, he is still unable to understand Finnish people on the streets. Too much shortening of their overly long words.

 
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  1. Hungarian is very easy, I learned it at age 3 without effort.

    • Agree: melanf
    • Replies: @RadicalCenter
    At age three, any language should be learned without conscious effort. That’s pretty much a native language. That says little about how hard Hungarian is for an adult native-English-speaker to learn, even a young adult. It seems hard and is typically rated as such. Naturally it will be easier to learn a Romance or Germanic language, as English vocabulary is almost entirely Latinate or Germanic.
  2. This ranking by the Foreign Service Institute seems fairly plausible. I agree with the decision to move French up a tier, it is certainly harder than Spanish or Portuguese.

    The vocabulary (which is the most time consuming part of learning a language) is significantly easier for English speakers.

    • Replies: @Giuseppe
    My personal experience as a native English speaker is that French is easier to get to an intermediate level than Spanish, Portuguese or Italian, due to the vocabulary. The complexity becomes more noticeable when trying to get through the morass of idioms and expressions in order to really master the language. Since I haven't fully mastered an entire foreign language, I am not in a position to say whether French is harder than Spanish and Portuguese, but it surprises me to hear that claim.
  3. And I somehow speak English like a native. Funny dat.

  4. Grammar is very easy; “long time no see” is a literal translation of a Chinese phrase that has made its way into English via immigrants

    Not really true. For example, see a real book for a more thorough exposition: http://www.booksgid.com/humanities/38172-300-grammaticheskikh-pravil-kitajjskogo.html

    It just feels that way because Mandarin is structured like a European language. It looks and feels like a European creole language that developed an elaborate literary language. (Imaging Tok Pisin with a long literary tradition.) A weird but ultimately very comfy feel for speakers of European languages.

    I don’t know much Japanese, but I’d imagine it’s not like that for them. (As evidenced by things like the ‘kaeriten’.)

    • Replies: @DFH

    It looks and feels like a European creole language
     
    That is an astute observation since I believe creole languages tend to be very analytic and lack morphology, like Chinese. I would be interested to see if there is some correlation between the spread of a language and analyicicity, but unfortunately I always find it very difficult to find papers discussing such issues.
  5. • Replies: @Triumph104
    This is an old list. Six weeks had to be added to both the French and German course because people weren't graduating on time.

    Chinese is pretty easy, I am almost tempted to lower it a tier.
     
    The problem with the Foreign Service Institute and the Defense Language Institute is that the programs still use the same antiquated test-based drill-and-kill lessons that they used 60 years ago, only now with iPads.

    Polyglots Vladimir Skultety and Mike Campbell (Glossika) are fluent in Mandarin and both say wait until you are an upper intermediate before learning Chinese characters and Skultety says don't worry about learning tones at first.

  6. @Triumph104
    https://www.effectivelanguagelearning.com/language-guide/language-difficulty

    http://dastornews.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/List-of-Languages.jpg

    This is an old list. Six weeks had to be added to both the French and German course because people weren’t graduating on time.

    Chinese is pretty easy, I am almost tempted to lower it a tier.

    The problem with the Foreign Service Institute and the Defense Language Institute is that the programs still use the same antiquated test-based drill-and-kill lessons that they used 60 years ago, only now with iPads.

    Polyglots Vladimir Skultety and Mike Campbell (Glossika) are fluent in Mandarin and both say wait until you are an upper intermediate before learning Chinese characters and Skultety says don’t worry about learning tones at first.

    • Replies: @keuril

    Polyglots Vladimir Skultety and Mike Campbell (Glossika) are fluent in Mandarin and both say wait until you are an upper intermediate before learning Chinese characters and Skultety says don’t worry about learning tones at first.
     
    I looked up a video of Skultety speaking 15 languages. His Chinese sounds very good, with a Taiwanese accent reflecting his five years spent in Taiwan (this sounds a bit funny for people used to Mainland Chinese accents simply because he’s a foreigner, but he does very good job). In order to gauge his true proficiency, it’d be necessary to hear a longer stretch of more extemporaneous speaking, but he is clearly gifted at a neurological level. That means his advice on learning tones is irrelevant because he can simply pick them up through mimickry. I would disagree with the advice not to start learning the tones right away, if you plan to learn the language to any extent. The problem is, some learners will get the idea that you don’t need the tones, and after several years it’s hard to correct bad habits.

    As to whether one should hold off on learning the characters until the upper intermediate level: if you know that you simply want to stop at the stage of what a phrase book will teach you, fine; but as a practical matter, all the quality texts I know of present the characters starting much earlier, and many don’t even present romanizations after the beginner level. Of course, Chinese children learn to speak before they can read, but as a foreigner, it really helps to understand something of the characters even from a basic level. The one heresy (from the perspective of conventional Chinese pedagogy) that I agree with for most foreigners is to not waste time learning to *handwrite* the characters, because it takes a lot of time and you will rarely need to handwrite outside of a language class (smart devices let you type in Roman letters and convert to the characters).

    In the video I watched, he spoke some Japanese with a strong foreign accent, but he said he didn’t study it that long and is rusty to boot. I would assume he could acquire a good accent if he had as much exposure to Japanese as to Chinese. This points to the practical limits of mastering a lot of languages, especially non-IndoEuropean ones (for a Westerner)—no matter how talented you may be, you only have one body and the same 24 hours in a day as everybody else, some of which must be spent sleeping and doing other things.
  7. I speak Japanese well and Korean badly. I think the fact that Korean does not use Chinese characters actually makes it harder. Characters are time consuming, but not difficult to learn, and once you know them, most unfamiliar vocabulary items make sense, often even in speech.

    Japanese and Korean are actually very similar grammatically, except that Korean grammar is somewhat more complicated. It has more tenses, more irregular forms and verbs that modify a noun have different endings from the main verb. In Japanese hey don’t.

    Both languages show different levels of respect or humility using different verb endings.

    You can butcher Korean and they will still understand you, Japanese not so much.

    Chinese is deceptive. It looks easy, but it has hidden depths. I can read an academic article, but my attempts to learn to speak the language failed miserably and I cannot read fiction.

    HBD comes up here as well. Latin Americans often look at me blankly when I use my bad Spanish on them, whereas I have never been unable to communicate with a Spaniard and mostly I can get my meaning across with Italians.

    Spaniards are smarter, by and large.

    Koreans are smarter still. I can communicate fairly easily with Koreans and it is not possible to speak a language worse than I speak Korean.

  8. Not sure if the two tier gap between Swedish and German is justified.

    Then at least a 1 tier gap. Swedish grammar is much easier to learn then German one. For starters, we don’t have the ridicolous habit of having feminine or masculine words. So you spell “threw” the same regardless if it was a she or a he who threw whatever it was that was thrown. In that sense we’re closer to English than to German.

    Also, it is my impression that we have fewer long and complicated words like the Germans have (“Weltanschauung”). Even though I personally like that habit of the Germans, it certainly makes Swedish easier to learn.

    In general, a good deal of languages ought to be greatly simplified as there is much space to do so without losing complexity. Complexity for complexity’s sake is not intelligence. The Chinese character system is certainly a prime example of that, but a lot of idiosyncratic grammar in many languages also ought to be cut.

    • Replies: @Digital Samizdat

    Swedish grammar is much easier to learn then German one. For starters, we don’t have the ridicolous habit of having feminine or masculine words. So you spell “threw” the same regardless if it was a she or a he who threw whatever it was that was thrown. In that sense we’re closer to English than to German.
     
    ???

    'Threw' is a verb. I can assure you that the German equivalent doesn't have any gender either, since verbs don't have gender in German:

    Er hat den Löffel geworfen. (He threw the spoon.)
    Er hat die Gabel geworfen. (He threw the fork.)
    Er hat das Messer geworfen. (He threw the knife.)

    See? In each case, regardless of the noun's gender, the verb (geworfen) is the same. The only exception I can think of is when a past participle is used as an attributive adjective--i.e., directly in front of a noun:

    verlorener Löffel (lost spoon)
    verlorene Gabel (lost fork)
    verlorenes Messer (lost knife)

    But in that case, it's no longer really a verb anymore; it's an adjective.
    , @ganderson
    I studied both German and Swedish, and I agree with Thulean. However, I think Swedish pronunciation, at least for this native English speaker, is more difficult.
  9. Armenian is definitely much harder than Farsi, which might be slightly easier than Russian (simpler grammar, transparent meanings except Arabic loans). Romanian is slightly harder than other Latin languages except French but still not difficult. Not sure why Turkic languages are considered Slavic-tier, I thought they’d be harder.

    Other than the huge waste of time that is Chinese characters, I think Finnish/Estonian are the hardest I’ve come across. Ugliest language in the world? Toss up between Hindi or Vietnamese.

    • Replies: @DFH

    Ugliest language in the world? Toss up between Hindi or Vietnamese.
     
    I cannot discuss Oriental languages, but in Europe I think it is Portuguese by a long way.
  10. German harder than Romance languages for English speakers? What, because grammar? Especially dubious given the difficulty ranking for Dutch, which might as well be a dialect of German.

    Come on.

    • Replies: @Cagey Beast
    It's likely because the Germans adopted far fewer modern technical and managerial terms with Latin roots than did the English or Romance language speakers. Maybe over the last few centuries, the Dutch tended to go with the English and French on this and therefore modern Dutch is easier for English speakers to pick up today than the more Germanic German?
    , @songbird
    In the day of the pocket dictionary/ cellphone translation, grammar is the end-all, be-all.

    Dutch is easier than German. No cases. Easy plurals. Only two genders. More similar vocab to English.

    Spanish is really easy compared to German. Armed with a pocket dictionary, you can say nearly anything, except for perhaps some of the really fine meanings of the subjunctive tense, which can be expressed in less refined ways. I'd say it is easier than English.

    Most of English vocab actually comes from the Romance languages. It bears little similarity to German, IMO, despite being Germanic. A pity the very odd language of Germany, which Twain used to like to lampoon, did not protect it from its invasion. But I suppose too many Germans speak English, and, besides, there is not a fuzzy-wuzzy who would not learn Welsh to get out of Fuzzy-wuzzyland.
  11. @Thorfinnsson
    German harder than Romance languages for English speakers? What, because grammar? Especially dubious given the difficulty ranking for Dutch, which might as well be a dialect of German.

    Come on.

    It’s likely because the Germans adopted far fewer modern technical and managerial terms with Latin roots than did the English or Romance language speakers. Maybe over the last few centuries, the Dutch tended to go with the English and French on this and therefore modern Dutch is easier for English speakers to pick up today than the more Germanic German?

    • Replies: @Peter Akuleyev
    Yes, Dutch has a lot more borrowings from French/Latin than German does, and thus resembles English more closely. Modern Dutch grammar is much simpler than German grammar. The main problem with Dutch for English speakers is that there is little motivation to learn it - most Dutch and Flemish speakers can manage English just fine. While Dutch can certainly boast some great novelists and poets the literature is nowhere near as rich and varied as Spanish, French, Russian or German.
  12. Chinese has a huge difficulty also in the phonemes it uses, which may all sound very similar to a native English speak (but maybe less so to Slavic speakers). the differences between j, q, x, sh, ch, zh, etc are minimal and would all be rendered as alophones in most western languages.

    also, this coming from a native Portuguese speaker, so that i naturally have a little expanded phonetic range than would someone who just spoke one language.

  13. @Thorfinnsson
    German harder than Romance languages for English speakers? What, because grammar? Especially dubious given the difficulty ranking for Dutch, which might as well be a dialect of German.

    Come on.

    In the day of the pocket dictionary/ cellphone translation, grammar is the end-all, be-all.

    Dutch is easier than German. No cases. Easy plurals. Only two genders. More similar vocab to English.

    Spanish is really easy compared to German. Armed with a pocket dictionary, you can say nearly anything, except for perhaps some of the really fine meanings of the subjunctive tense, which can be expressed in less refined ways. I’d say it is easier than English.

    Most of English vocab actually comes from the Romance languages. It bears little similarity to German, IMO, despite being Germanic. A pity the very odd language of Germany, which Twain used to like to lampoon, did not protect it from its invasion. But I suppose too many Germans speak English, and, besides, there is not a fuzzy-wuzzy who would not learn Welsh to get out of Fuzzy-wuzzyland.

    • Replies: @Unzerker

    Most of English vocab actually comes from the Romance languages.
     
    This is wrong. Most common words have a Germanic background.

    And the words with a Latin or French origin are there in every European language, given that these two languages were the langua franca at some point in time. The practice of using Germanic names for farm animals and French names for their respective meats is specifically English though.
  14. The tonality of chinese is in my view even more difficult than their writing system. Ill take japanese with its arcane grammar any day.

  15. This is for English monophones? I magine once one has picked up 2-3 languages in the same broad family it is not so hard to pick more.

  16. The cynic might ask: how long does it take to forget a language?

  17. @anonymous coward

    Grammar is very easy; “long time no see” is a literal translation of a Chinese phrase that has made its way into English via immigrants
     
    Not really true. For example, see a real book for a more thorough exposition: http://www.booksgid.com/humanities/38172-300-grammaticheskikh-pravil-kitajjskogo.html

    It just feels that way because Mandarin is structured like a European language. It looks and feels like a European creole language that developed an elaborate literary language. (Imaging Tok Pisin with a long literary tradition.) A weird but ultimately very comfy feel for speakers of European languages.

    I don't know much Japanese, but I'd imagine it's not like that for them. (As evidenced by things like the 'kaeriten'.)

    It looks and feels like a European creole language

    That is an astute observation since I believe creole languages tend to be very analytic and lack morphology, like Chinese. I would be interested to see if there is some correlation between the spread of a language and analyicicity, but unfortunately I always find it very difficult to find papers discussing such issues.

    • Replies: @anonymous coward
    Chinese is actually the classic example of a language that demonstrates the full grammaticalization cycle.

    Middle Chinese seems to have been analytic and lacked morphology, but modern Chinese definitely isn't. Modern Chinese feels more like an agglutinative language. Too many function words for it to be analytic. I expect in a few more centuries they'll start fusing together and Chinese will gain a bona-fide synthetic grammar. Maybe along the way tone sandhi will get rid of tones and phonemic tone will turn into diphthongs. Future Chinese will come full circle and start resembling ancient Chinese, lol.
  18. @Yevardian
    Armenian is definitely much harder than Farsi, which might be slightly easier than Russian (simpler grammar, transparent meanings except Arabic loans). Romanian is slightly harder than other Latin languages except French but still not difficult. Not sure why Turkic languages are considered Slavic-tier, I thought they'd be harder.

    Other than the huge waste of time that is Chinese characters, I think Finnish/Estonian are the hardest I've come across. Ugliest language in the world? Toss up between Hindi or Vietnamese.

    Ugliest language in the world? Toss up between Hindi or Vietnamese.

    I cannot discuss Oriental languages, but in Europe I think it is Portuguese by a long way.

    • Replies: @Jim Bob Lassiter
    What do we mean by ugly languages; ugly when read or listened too or observed coming from speaker?
  19. @Thulean Friend

    Not sure if the two tier gap between Swedish and German is justified.
     
    Then at least a 1 tier gap. Swedish grammar is much easier to learn then German one. For starters, we don't have the ridicolous habit of having feminine or masculine words. So you spell "threw" the same regardless if it was a she or a he who threw whatever it was that was thrown. In that sense we're closer to English than to German.

    Also, it is my impression that we have fewer long and complicated words like the Germans have ("Weltanschauung"). Even though I personally like that habit of the Germans, it certainly makes Swedish easier to learn.


    In general, a good deal of languages ought to be greatly simplified as there is much space to do so without losing complexity. Complexity for complexity's sake is not intelligence. The Chinese character system is certainly a prime example of that, but a lot of idiosyncratic grammar in many languages also ought to be cut.

    Swedish grammar is much easier to learn then German one. For starters, we don’t have the ridicolous habit of having feminine or masculine words. So you spell “threw” the same regardless if it was a she or a he who threw whatever it was that was thrown. In that sense we’re closer to English than to German.

    ???

    ‘Threw’ is a verb. I can assure you that the German equivalent doesn’t have any gender either, since verbs don’t have gender in German:

    Er hat den Löffel geworfen. (He threw the spoon.)
    Er hat die Gabel geworfen. (He threw the fork.)
    Er hat das Messer geworfen. (He threw the knife.)

    See? In each case, regardless of the noun’s gender, the verb (geworfen) is the same. The only exception I can think of is when a past participle is used as an attributive adjective–i.e., directly in front of a noun:

    verlorener Löffel (lost spoon)
    verlorene Gabel (lost fork)
    verlorenes Messer (lost knife)

    But in that case, it’s no longer really a verb anymore; it’s an adjective.

    • Replies: @utu
    So you spell “threw” the same regardless if it was a she or a he who threw whatever it was that was thrown.

    It is about who does the throwing and not what is the gender of the thrown object.

    In Slavic languages in the past tense there is a difference. You can tell a gender of an anonymous memoir author while you can't do in English.

    Gender depended language like Slavic languages might be an extra barrier against the tarns-gender BS. When reporting in the past tense "I gave a blow job." you must decide if you speak as woman or man at that very moment. So flipping between genders on a whim might be harder in Slavic languages.
  20. Scandinavian is extremely easy for English speakers who take the time to realize long words are usually just logical compounds of short ones. Like English, the grammar is highly degenerated, plus if you take the time to check the etymology, you can “map” nearly all words into Germanic or Latin cognates in English. About the only hard part is the mumbled accent nearly all Scandinavians speak in, nothing like the precision pronunciation most Germans and Russians use.

    I tend to think English speakers make too much of learning German. It’s just an exercise of “winding back” both English and German. Know that t became s in German and D was often th and das becomes that, wasser-> watter, endless examples. You can be reading German in 3 months part time studying, and talking like a cab driver in 6. Not as easy as scando, but not too hard. Easier than a Latin or certainly Slavic tongue.

  21. I will also add that the etymological approach can supercharge Indo European learning. I’m blow away by how often I spot deep etymological connections as I learn Russian. Once I spot them, I never forget the word. Germanic word for cloud is just like Russian lightening, Latin new is like Slavic new, Germanic for people is like Slavic for people leute/ludi. Old English bread hlaf is like Russian hleb.

    • Replies: @Maximoose

    Germanic word for cloud is just like Russian lightening
     
    Uhhh, Wolke / molniya? Don't sound very similar to me. Could not find any info that they could be etymologically related (one article mentioned, however, that Wolke could be related to Volga, lol.) What am I missing?
  22. There must be a lot of individual variance though. I found Russian easier than German which in turn was easier than French. The reverse of the difficulty ranking shown in the report. I am not strictly speaking a native English speaker as they probably define one, having learned Italian and English simultaneously as a child, but I don’t know how that would have inverted levels of difficulty for me.

    • Replies: @Rosie

    There must be a lot of individual variance though. I found Russian easier than German which in turn was easier than French.
     
    What about case in Russian? I wasn't able to crack it with the time and energy I had available on my first attempt.
  23. This, of course, is a complex issue. What level of proficiency? Spoken and/or written? Active or passive? From which language area?

    And then, there are individuals who are very gifted for languages- Richard Francis Burton, Victorian explorer, translator & adventurer, who mastered more than 30 languages, comes to mind immediately: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Francis_Burton

    On the other hand, Leonardo da Vinci, one of the greatest geniuses of all time, could not learn a single foreign language, not even Latin; Einstein learned, to some degree, English only after being more than 20 years in the US (his French was atrocious)- he remained, basically, a German mono-speaker.

    So, it depends…

    • Replies: @utu

    So, it depends…
     
    Richard Francis Burton and Leaonardo are good examples that brains are different.

    Here Feynman talks about how his brain worked differently form that of John Tukey.

    http://generallythinking.com/richard-feynman-on-thinking-processes-did-he-know-nothing-about-psychology-v/
    He’d count to a minute in his head and learn that when he got to 48, a minute had passed. Then he tested what else he could do while doing this, and he could read but not talk.

    [] when Feynman told mathematician John Tukey about this, Tukey could do the reverse — talk but not read. The reason was that Feynman would talk to himself in his head, while Tukey would see an image of a clock ticking over. Feynmann suggests this could be because people think differently, and if you’re having trouble getting a point across, it might be because what your saying is more difficult to translate into the other person’s favoured modality than it is your own.
     
  24. @Thulean Friend

    Not sure if the two tier gap between Swedish and German is justified.
     
    Then at least a 1 tier gap. Swedish grammar is much easier to learn then German one. For starters, we don't have the ridicolous habit of having feminine or masculine words. So you spell "threw" the same regardless if it was a she or a he who threw whatever it was that was thrown. In that sense we're closer to English than to German.

    Also, it is my impression that we have fewer long and complicated words like the Germans have ("Weltanschauung"). Even though I personally like that habit of the Germans, it certainly makes Swedish easier to learn.


    In general, a good deal of languages ought to be greatly simplified as there is much space to do so without losing complexity. Complexity for complexity's sake is not intelligence. The Chinese character system is certainly a prime example of that, but a lot of idiosyncratic grammar in many languages also ought to be cut.

    I studied both German and Swedish, and I agree with Thulean. However, I think Swedish pronunciation, at least for this native English speaker, is more difficult.

  25. It’s really only the characters that make Chinese a hard language

    Tonality might be much harder barier for some.

  26. @Bardon Kaldian
    This, of course, is a complex issue. What level of proficiency? Spoken and/or written? Active or passive? From which language area?

    And then, there are individuals who are very gifted for languages- Richard Francis Burton, Victorian explorer, translator & adventurer, who mastered more than 30 languages, comes to mind immediately: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Francis_Burton

    On the other hand, Leonardo da Vinci, one of the greatest geniuses of all time, could not learn a single foreign language, not even Latin; Einstein learned, to some degree, English only after being more than 20 years in the US (his French was atrocious)- he remained, basically, a German mono-speaker.

    So, it depends...

    So, it depends…

    Richard Francis Burton and Leaonardo are good examples that brains are different.

    Here Feynman talks about how his brain worked differently form that of John Tukey.

    http://generallythinking.com/richard-feynman-on-thinking-processes-did-he-know-nothing-about-psychology-v/
    He’d count to a minute in his head and learn that when he got to 48, a minute had passed. Then he tested what else he could do while doing this, and he could read but not talk.

    [] when Feynman told mathematician John Tukey about this, Tukey could do the reverse — talk but not read. The reason was that Feynman would talk to himself in his head, while Tukey would see an image of a clock ticking over. Feynmann suggests this could be because people think differently, and if you’re having trouble getting a point across, it might be because what your saying is more difficult to translate into the other person’s favoured modality than it is your own.

    • Replies: @Bardon Kaldian
    Definitely. As regards Feynman & languages.... https://forum.koohii.com/thread-9047.html

    While in Kyoto I tried to learn Japanese with a vengeance. I worked much harder at it, and got to a point where I could go around in taxis and do things. I took lessons from a Japanese man every day for an hour. One day he was teaching me the word for "see." "All right," he said. "You want to say, 'May I see your garden?' What do you say?" I made up a sentence with the word that I had just learned. "No, no!" he said. "When you say to someone, 'Would you like to see my garden? you use the first 'see.' But when you want to see someone else's garden, you must use another 'see,' which is more polite." "Would you like to glance at my lousy garden?" is essentially what you're saying in the first case, but when you want to look at the other fella's garden, you have to say something like, "May I observe your gorgeous garden?" So there's two different words you have to use. Then he gave me another one: "You go to a temple, and you want to look at the gardens..." I made up a sentence, this time with the polite "see." "No, no!" he said. "In the temple, the gardens are much more elegant. So you have to say something that would be equivalent to 'May I hang my eyes on your most exquisite gardens?" Three or four different words for one idea, because when I'm doing it, it's miserable; when you're doing it, it's elegant. I was learning Japanese mainly for technical things, so I decided to check if this same problem existed among the scientists. At the institute the next day, I said to the guys in the office, "How would I say in Japanese, 'I solve the Dirac Equation'?" They said such-and-so. "OK. Now I want to say, 'Would you solve the Dirac Equation?' -- how do I say that?" "Well, you have to use a different word for 'solve,' " they say. "Why?" I protested. "When I solve it, I do the same damn thing as when you solve it!" "Well, yes, but it's a different word -- it's more polite." I gave up. I decided that wasn't the language for me, and stopped learning Japanese.
     
  27. @utu

    So, it depends…
     
    Richard Francis Burton and Leaonardo are good examples that brains are different.

    Here Feynman talks about how his brain worked differently form that of John Tukey.

    http://generallythinking.com/richard-feynman-on-thinking-processes-did-he-know-nothing-about-psychology-v/
    He’d count to a minute in his head and learn that when he got to 48, a minute had passed. Then he tested what else he could do while doing this, and he could read but not talk.

    [] when Feynman told mathematician John Tukey about this, Tukey could do the reverse — talk but not read. The reason was that Feynman would talk to himself in his head, while Tukey would see an image of a clock ticking over. Feynmann suggests this could be because people think differently, and if you’re having trouble getting a point across, it might be because what your saying is more difficult to translate into the other person’s favoured modality than it is your own.
     

    Definitely. As regards Feynman & languages…. https://forum.koohii.com/thread-9047.html

    While in Kyoto I tried to learn Japanese with a vengeance. I worked much harder at it, and got to a point where I could go around in taxis and do things. I took lessons from a Japanese man every day for an hour. One day he was teaching me the word for “see.” “All right,” he said. “You want to say, ‘May I see your garden?’ What do you say?” I made up a sentence with the word that I had just learned. “No, no!” he said. “When you say to someone, ‘Would you like to see my garden? you use the first ‘see.’ But when you want to see someone else’s garden, you must use another ‘see,’ which is more polite.” “Would you like to glance at my lousy garden?” is essentially what you’re saying in the first case, but when you want to look at the other fella’s garden, you have to say something like, “May I observe your gorgeous garden?” So there’s two different words you have to use. Then he gave me another one: “You go to a temple, and you want to look at the gardens…” I made up a sentence, this time with the polite “see.” “No, no!” he said. “In the temple, the gardens are much more elegant. So you have to say something that would be equivalent to ‘May I hang my eyes on your most exquisite gardens?” Three or four different words for one idea, because when I’m doing it, it’s miserable; when you’re doing it, it’s elegant. I was learning Japanese mainly for technical things, so I decided to check if this same problem existed among the scientists. At the institute the next day, I said to the guys in the office, “How would I say in Japanese, ‘I solve the Dirac Equation’?” They said such-and-so. “OK. Now I want to say, ‘Would you solve the Dirac Equation?’ — how do I say that?” “Well, you have to use a different word for ‘solve,’ ” they say. “Why?” I protested. “When I solve it, I do the same damn thing as when you solve it!” “Well, yes, but it’s a different word — it’s more polite.” I gave up. I decided that wasn’t the language for me, and stopped learning Japanese.

    • Replies: @utu

    “Well, yes, but it’s a different word — it’s more polite.” I gave up. I decided that wasn’t the language for me, and stopped learning Japanese.
     
    Japanese apparently is not for Jews from Brooklyn or perhaps even for Jews in general. The complex structure of Japanese leaves less room for semantic gymnastics and sophistry and iconoclasm that seem to be natural to Jews. Look at our own AaronB attempts of ingratiating himself. It is already his third take where he changed the tune and changed skin colors like a chameleon. But his objectives has not changes. Still trying to undermine people realities even at cost of becoming a self professed materialist.

    I am afraid that Chinese language with its rudimentary syntax might offer less defenses than English. We will see.

    In a separate comment I suggest that heavy dependence on gender in Slavic languages where even tenses are gender dependent may offer some defense against gender bending social constructions. It takes much more effort to become tans man or trans woman in Russian than in English. New gestures and postures are not enough. You need to learn to use different syntax, to rewire your brain.
    , @Peter Akuleyev
    This excerpt is a great example how native speakers are often the worst language teachers. At its core Japanese grammar is actually fairly regular and logical, but native Japanese tend to obfuscate that or focus on very grown- up issues like politeness levels. When you are a Japanese child there is one basic way to say "May I see your garden", just like in English. The right way to teach Japanese is to teach basic "home" Japanese and then add the honorifics and politeness levels later, the way a Japanese learns it.
  28. @Digital Samizdat

    Swedish grammar is much easier to learn then German one. For starters, we don’t have the ridicolous habit of having feminine or masculine words. So you spell “threw” the same regardless if it was a she or a he who threw whatever it was that was thrown. In that sense we’re closer to English than to German.
     
    ???

    'Threw' is a verb. I can assure you that the German equivalent doesn't have any gender either, since verbs don't have gender in German:

    Er hat den Löffel geworfen. (He threw the spoon.)
    Er hat die Gabel geworfen. (He threw the fork.)
    Er hat das Messer geworfen. (He threw the knife.)

    See? In each case, regardless of the noun's gender, the verb (geworfen) is the same. The only exception I can think of is when a past participle is used as an attributive adjective--i.e., directly in front of a noun:

    verlorener Löffel (lost spoon)
    verlorene Gabel (lost fork)
    verlorenes Messer (lost knife)

    But in that case, it's no longer really a verb anymore; it's an adjective.

    So you spell “threw” the same regardless if it was a she or a he who threw whatever it was that was thrown.

    It is about who does the throwing and not what is the gender of the thrown object.

    In Slavic languages in the past tense there is a difference. You can tell a gender of an anonymous memoir author while you can’t do in English.

    Gender depended language like Slavic languages might be an extra barrier against the tarns-gender BS. When reporting in the past tense “I gave a blow job.” you must decide if you speak as woman or man at that very moment. So flipping between genders on a whim might be harder in Slavic languages.

    • Replies: @Josep

    Gender depended language like Slavic languages might be an extra barrier against the tarns-gender BS. When reporting in the past tense “I gave a blow job.” you must decide if you speak as woman or man at that very moment. So flipping between genders on a whim might be harder in Slavic languages.
     
    That's great, but I have just one issue: if someone were writing a second-person narrative in a Slavic language (addressing the player/reader) that uses the past tense, what form is used? Is it the masculine, neuter, or plural form?
  29. @Bardon Kaldian
    Definitely. As regards Feynman & languages.... https://forum.koohii.com/thread-9047.html

    While in Kyoto I tried to learn Japanese with a vengeance. I worked much harder at it, and got to a point where I could go around in taxis and do things. I took lessons from a Japanese man every day for an hour. One day he was teaching me the word for "see." "All right," he said. "You want to say, 'May I see your garden?' What do you say?" I made up a sentence with the word that I had just learned. "No, no!" he said. "When you say to someone, 'Would you like to see my garden? you use the first 'see.' But when you want to see someone else's garden, you must use another 'see,' which is more polite." "Would you like to glance at my lousy garden?" is essentially what you're saying in the first case, but when you want to look at the other fella's garden, you have to say something like, "May I observe your gorgeous garden?" So there's two different words you have to use. Then he gave me another one: "You go to a temple, and you want to look at the gardens..." I made up a sentence, this time with the polite "see." "No, no!" he said. "In the temple, the gardens are much more elegant. So you have to say something that would be equivalent to 'May I hang my eyes on your most exquisite gardens?" Three or four different words for one idea, because when I'm doing it, it's miserable; when you're doing it, it's elegant. I was learning Japanese mainly for technical things, so I decided to check if this same problem existed among the scientists. At the institute the next day, I said to the guys in the office, "How would I say in Japanese, 'I solve the Dirac Equation'?" They said such-and-so. "OK. Now I want to say, 'Would you solve the Dirac Equation?' -- how do I say that?" "Well, you have to use a different word for 'solve,' " they say. "Why?" I protested. "When I solve it, I do the same damn thing as when you solve it!" "Well, yes, but it's a different word -- it's more polite." I gave up. I decided that wasn't the language for me, and stopped learning Japanese.
     

    “Well, yes, but it’s a different word — it’s more polite.” I gave up. I decided that wasn’t the language for me, and stopped learning Japanese.

    Japanese apparently is not for Jews from Brooklyn or perhaps even for Jews in general. The complex structure of Japanese leaves less room for semantic gymnastics and sophistry and iconoclasm that seem to be natural to Jews. Look at our own AaronB attempts of ingratiating himself. It is already his third take where he changed the tune and changed skin colors like a chameleon. But his objectives has not changes. Still trying to undermine people realities even at cost of becoming a self professed materialist.

    I am afraid that Chinese language with its rudimentary syntax might offer less defenses than English. We will see.

    In a separate comment I suggest that heavy dependence on gender in Slavic languages where even tenses are gender dependent may offer some defense against gender bending social constructions. It takes much more effort to become tans man or trans woman in Russian than in English. New gestures and postures are not enough. You need to learn to use different syntax, to rewire your brain.

    • Replies: @Maximoose

    It takes much more effort to become tans man or trans woman in Russian than in English. New gestures and postures are not enough. You need to learn to use different syntax, to rewire your brain.
     
    Meh, it actually seems pretty easy. You just alter verb endings a little bit (and then only in the past tense); no extensive rewiring is required. I know a couple of women who for some reason prefer to use masculine verbs when referring to their own actions. Both are heterosexual, none gave any hint that they self-identify as anything other than women. So the grammar part was apparently easier, at least for them=)
    , @Yevardian
    AaronB is just a nuisance playing along with his dumb schtick, Kamran and Art Deco were better. The quality drop in trolls here at Unz recently has been truly alarming.
  30. @Dan Bagrov
    I will also add that the etymological approach can supercharge Indo European learning. I’m blow away by how often I spot deep etymological connections as I learn Russian. Once I spot them, I never forget the word. Germanic word for cloud is just like Russian lightening, Latin new is like Slavic new, Germanic for people is like Slavic for people leute/ludi. Old English bread hlaf is like Russian hleb.

    Germanic word for cloud is just like Russian lightening

    Uhhh, Wolke / molniya? Don’t sound very similar to me. Could not find any info that they could be etymologically related (one article mentioned, however, that Wolke could be related to Volga, lol.) What am I missing?

    • Replies: @Hyperborean

    Uhhh, Wolke / molniya? Don’t sound very similar to me. Could not find any info that they could be etymologically related (one article mentioned, however, that Wolke could be related to Volga, lol.) What am I missing?
     
    In Swedish cloud is 'moln'. Although for most Germanic languages it doesn't sound close to 'molniya'.
  31. @utu

    “Well, yes, but it’s a different word — it’s more polite.” I gave up. I decided that wasn’t the language for me, and stopped learning Japanese.
     
    Japanese apparently is not for Jews from Brooklyn or perhaps even for Jews in general. The complex structure of Japanese leaves less room for semantic gymnastics and sophistry and iconoclasm that seem to be natural to Jews. Look at our own AaronB attempts of ingratiating himself. It is already his third take where he changed the tune and changed skin colors like a chameleon. But his objectives has not changes. Still trying to undermine people realities even at cost of becoming a self professed materialist.

    I am afraid that Chinese language with its rudimentary syntax might offer less defenses than English. We will see.

    In a separate comment I suggest that heavy dependence on gender in Slavic languages where even tenses are gender dependent may offer some defense against gender bending social constructions. It takes much more effort to become tans man or trans woman in Russian than in English. New gestures and postures are not enough. You need to learn to use different syntax, to rewire your brain.

    It takes much more effort to become tans man or trans woman in Russian than in English. New gestures and postures are not enough. You need to learn to use different syntax, to rewire your brain.

    Meh, it actually seems pretty easy. You just alter verb endings a little bit (and then only in the past tense); no extensive rewiring is required. I know a couple of women who for some reason prefer to use masculine verbs when referring to their own actions. Both are heterosexual, none gave any hint that they self-identify as anything other than women. So the grammar part was apparently easier, at least for them=)

  32. @utu

    “Well, yes, but it’s a different word — it’s more polite.” I gave up. I decided that wasn’t the language for me, and stopped learning Japanese.
     
    Japanese apparently is not for Jews from Brooklyn or perhaps even for Jews in general. The complex structure of Japanese leaves less room for semantic gymnastics and sophistry and iconoclasm that seem to be natural to Jews. Look at our own AaronB attempts of ingratiating himself. It is already his third take where he changed the tune and changed skin colors like a chameleon. But his objectives has not changes. Still trying to undermine people realities even at cost of becoming a self professed materialist.

    I am afraid that Chinese language with its rudimentary syntax might offer less defenses than English. We will see.

    In a separate comment I suggest that heavy dependence on gender in Slavic languages where even tenses are gender dependent may offer some defense against gender bending social constructions. It takes much more effort to become tans man or trans woman in Russian than in English. New gestures and postures are not enough. You need to learn to use different syntax, to rewire your brain.

    AaronB is just a nuisance playing along with his dumb schtick, Kamran and Art Deco were better. The quality drop in trolls here at Unz recently has been truly alarming.

  33. Don’t the Scandinavian languages have tones? I would think that would make them harder than French or German.

  34. @DFH

    Ugliest language in the world? Toss up between Hindi or Vietnamese.
     
    I cannot discuss Oriental languages, but in Europe I think it is Portuguese by a long way.

    What do we mean by ugly languages; ugly when read or listened too or observed coming from speaker?

  35. Anonymous[270] • Disclaimer says:

    Depends on degree of proficiency. How old were you when did you stopped talking mostly in Russian? You probably don’t notice it but to this day there are some [rare] signs that your Russian is not quite native. I am sure it will be eventually fixed over time now that you live in Russia but it will take some time.

    On the other hand, I started learning English as an adult and even after 25 years living in the US still have smaller vocabulary than my Russian one and have rather shaky idea of proper English grammar. People like Nabokov are quite rare.

    • Replies: @Peter Akuleyev
    Nabokov started learning English as a child from his English nanny. He also attended Cambridge as an undergraduate. Some people have even suggested his command of English may have actually been better than his Russian. He just, logically, preferred Russian.
  36. @Alfa158
    There must be a lot of individual variance though. I found Russian easier than German which in turn was easier than French. The reverse of the difficulty ranking shown in the report. I am not strictly speaking a native English speaker as they probably define one, having learned Italian and English simultaneously as a child, but I don’t know how that would have inverted levels of difficulty for me.

    There must be a lot of individual variance though. I found Russian easier than German which in turn was easier than French.

    What about case in Russian? I wasn’t able to crack it with the time and energy I had available on my first attempt.

  37. It seems that Spanish is harder to learn to mastery than many people presume. I have seen strikingly few non-native speakers using the language completely and correctly, moving seamlessly between tenses, using natural (‘Spanish-sounding’) expressions and constructions as opposed to awkward phrases which sound as though they were translated from some other language, etc. In that sense, it seems like a bit of an inverted cylinder, where a lot can be mastered quickly, but after that, it takes much more effort to raise the level within the cylinder.

  38. It seems that Spanish is harder to learn to mastery than many people presume.

    Those who claim that Spanish is easy most likely never came to to the point where the learning curve gets steep.

    • Replies: @songbird
    Which is?

    I'm really only familiar with two foreign tongues, but it is hard for me to conceive of an easier language than Spanish. Maybe some type of pidgin or Esperanto.

    It's spelled completely phonetically. Most of the sounds are easy. Easy plurals, easy genders (with a mere handful of easy to remember exceptions). No declensions. Lots of irregular verbs but they are easy to learn or reference. There's a lot of verb tenses, but they are mostly pretty easy for an English speaker, except for what might be considered idiomatic shades for the tenses of certain verbs. In a pinch, you can even use the present tense as the future tense if you include a future time reference.

    A lot of nouns derive from other nouns. Some of their idioms are close to a direct translation in English, like "capa y espada", "cloak and dagger." I used to correctly guess nouns I had never even heard. For instance, you can guess "Scottish" if you know "Nova Scotia." Not to mention, there are a lot of Spanish words in American culture.

    I think it is a beautifully logical language, although some others are more pleasing to my ear.
  39. @utu

    It seems that Spanish is harder to learn to mastery than many people presume.
     
    Those who claim that Spanish is easy most likely never came to to the point where the learning curve gets steep.

    Which is?

    I’m really only familiar with two foreign tongues, but it is hard for me to conceive of an easier language than Spanish. Maybe some type of pidgin or Esperanto.

    It’s spelled completely phonetically. Most of the sounds are easy. Easy plurals, easy genders (with a mere handful of easy to remember exceptions). No declensions. Lots of irregular verbs but they are easy to learn or reference. There’s a lot of verb tenses, but they are mostly pretty easy for an English speaker, except for what might be considered idiomatic shades for the tenses of certain verbs. In a pinch, you can even use the present tense as the future tense if you include a future time reference.

    A lot of nouns derive from other nouns. Some of their idioms are close to a direct translation in English, like “capa y espada”, “cloak and dagger.” I used to correctly guess nouns I had never even heard. For instance, you can guess “Scottish” if you know “Nova Scotia.” Not to mention, there are a lot of Spanish words in American culture.

    I think it is a beautifully logical language, although some others are more pleasing to my ear.

    • Replies: @utu
    I was having similar impressions but my initial fast progress was halted. I did not manage to get to the hard stuff. Perhaps I could have overcome the difficulties if I began learning Spanish when I was young.
    , @Josep

    It’s spelled completely phonetically.
     
    I know, right? It's times like this when I'm envious of anyone who's fluent in languages such as Russian.
    As a native English speaker myself, I find it hard to believe that a language as inconsistent as English could become the dominant one in international trade. If the various homophones that plague it aren't bad enough, to say nothing about the lack of gendered nouns, wait until you see these:
    * the ough in "cough" (koff), "through" (throo), "though" (dhou) and "tough" (tuff)
    * "anger" (ang-ger) vs "danger" (dayn-jer)
    * "slaughter" (slotter) vs "laughter" (laff-ter)
    * the L in "solder" is silent in American English ("sodder")
    * the ea in "beat" (beet), "heart" (hart), "break" (brake), and "head" (hed).
    * the ch fluctuates between a k and a tʃ with little to no indication
    * the S in "aisle", "isle" and "island" are silent
    * depending on the variant, "lieutenant" is sometimes pronounced "LEF-tenant"
    * "colonel" and "kernel" are homophones despite the former having an L instead of an R
    It amazes me that non-English speakers are willing to sit through this. If anyone is reading this whose first language wasn't English, I'd be willing to hear your strategy.
  40. @Maximoose

    Germanic word for cloud is just like Russian lightening
     
    Uhhh, Wolke / molniya? Don't sound very similar to me. Could not find any info that they could be etymologically related (one article mentioned, however, that Wolke could be related to Volga, lol.) What am I missing?

    Uhhh, Wolke / molniya? Don’t sound very similar to me. Could not find any info that they could be etymologically related (one article mentioned, however, that Wolke could be related to Volga, lol.) What am I missing?

    In Swedish cloud is ‘moln’. Although for most Germanic languages it doesn’t sound close to ‘molniya’.

    • Replies: @Swedish Family

    In Swedish cloud is ‘moln’. Although for most Germanic languages it doesn’t sound close to ‘molniya’.
     
    It is indeed. Interestingly enough, our word for lighting, blixt, is also found in many Slavonic tongues (e.g. Polish błyskawica). It seems blixt is of Sanskrit origin, however -- unlike moln, which is of Swedish origin -- so this may be coincidence.

    Other Russian words that might derive from Germanic words include хлеб (cf. German Laib), селедка (cf. Swedish sill) and работать (cf. German arbeiten), but it's hard to tell for sure without looking them up in a good Russian dictionary.
  41. @songbird
    Which is?

    I'm really only familiar with two foreign tongues, but it is hard for me to conceive of an easier language than Spanish. Maybe some type of pidgin or Esperanto.

    It's spelled completely phonetically. Most of the sounds are easy. Easy plurals, easy genders (with a mere handful of easy to remember exceptions). No declensions. Lots of irregular verbs but they are easy to learn or reference. There's a lot of verb tenses, but they are mostly pretty easy for an English speaker, except for what might be considered idiomatic shades for the tenses of certain verbs. In a pinch, you can even use the present tense as the future tense if you include a future time reference.

    A lot of nouns derive from other nouns. Some of their idioms are close to a direct translation in English, like "capa y espada", "cloak and dagger." I used to correctly guess nouns I had never even heard. For instance, you can guess "Scottish" if you know "Nova Scotia." Not to mention, there are a lot of Spanish words in American culture.

    I think it is a beautifully logical language, although some others are more pleasing to my ear.

    I was having similar impressions but my initial fast progress was halted. I did not manage to get to the hard stuff. Perhaps I could have overcome the difficulties if I began learning Spanish when I was young.

  42. After 3 college courses in Russian, I still needed 3 hours per day over another 4 years to actually read Russian well. There are different sets of skills in learning a language: listening, speaking, reading, writing. Some people master conversation easily n stop there. My focus is reading, the other skills take a back seat. So under the FSI program when someone learns Russia I suspect they have acquired conversational ability but are still not ready for Dostoyevsky or technical works. IMO Russian is just too hard to truly master inside of a decade.

    Arabic is a quantum leap beyond Russian in difficulty due to many factors. The FSI does not take into account that Arabic is aactually a cluster of similar languages, not just one. Fus-ha, or modern standard Quranic Arabic, is literary. While necessary to read newspapers n literature, uneducated Arabs barely understand it when spoken. They speak colloquial dialects that have smatterings of non-Arabic languages. Moroccans n Iraqis can barely understand each other. So mastering Arabic requires 2 levels of study that are only superficially related. But both educated Moroccans n educated Iraqis will know Fus-ha, n thus Fus-ha unites the Arab world n also non-Arabic speaking regions that are Muslim.

    Another reason why Arabic is difficult for Westerners is the lack of a common culture. Russia has the same art, music, religions, n political conceptions as the West. The Islamic does not! Unlike Russian, there are virtually NO direct vocabulary equivalents to Western words. Every word has subtle cultural differences that can completely invalidate an attempt at direct translation. I can read newspapers n books in Fus-ha, n maintain simple conversations, but after 25 years I am still just scratching the surface. Mastering Arabic is truly a lifetime endeavor whatever FSI says.

    • Replies: @Anon
    So like Sanskrit & Prakit even beyond the false Dravid Aryan divide?
  43. @DFH

    It looks and feels like a European creole language
     
    That is an astute observation since I believe creole languages tend to be very analytic and lack morphology, like Chinese. I would be interested to see if there is some correlation between the spread of a language and analyicicity, but unfortunately I always find it very difficult to find papers discussing such issues.

    Chinese is actually the classic example of a language that demonstrates the full grammaticalization cycle.

    Middle Chinese seems to have been analytic and lacked morphology, but modern Chinese definitely isn’t. Modern Chinese feels more like an agglutinative language. Too many function words for it to be analytic. I expect in a few more centuries they’ll start fusing together and Chinese will gain a bona-fide synthetic grammar. Maybe along the way tone sandhi will get rid of tones and phonemic tone will turn into diphthongs. Future Chinese will come full circle and start resembling ancient Chinese, lol.

  44. @Sin City Milla
    After 3 college courses in Russian, I still needed 3 hours per day over another 4 years to actually read Russian well. There are different sets of skills in learning a language: listening, speaking, reading, writing. Some people master conversation easily n stop there. My focus is reading, the other skills take a back seat. So under the FSI program when someone learns Russia I suspect they have acquired conversational ability but are still not ready for Dostoyevsky or technical works. IMO Russian is just too hard to truly master inside of a decade.

    Arabic is a quantum leap beyond Russian in difficulty due to many factors. The FSI does not take into account that Arabic is aactually a cluster of similar languages, not just one. Fus-ha, or modern standard Quranic Arabic, is literary. While necessary to read newspapers n literature, uneducated Arabs barely understand it when spoken. They speak colloquial dialects that have smatterings of non-Arabic languages. Moroccans n Iraqis can barely understand each other. So mastering Arabic requires 2 levels of study that are only superficially related. But both educated Moroccans n educated Iraqis will know Fus-ha, n thus Fus-ha unites the Arab world n also non-Arabic speaking regions that are Muslim.

    Another reason why Arabic is difficult for Westerners is the lack of a common culture. Russia has the same art, music, religions, n political conceptions as the West. The Islamic does not! Unlike Russian, there are virtually NO direct vocabulary equivalents to Western words. Every word has subtle cultural differences that can completely invalidate an attempt at direct translation. I can read newspapers n books in Fus-ha, n maintain simple conversations, but after 25 years I am still just scratching the surface. Mastering Arabic is truly a lifetime endeavor whatever FSI says.

    So like Sanskrit & Prakit even beyond the false Dravid Aryan divide?

  45. • LOL: Anatoly Karlin
    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
    Yes, the poor fellow has gone rather insane.
  46. I don’t think that in next 10-20 years languages will have been a big problem. Learning languages won’t be a major issue. I suppose that sophistication, functionality, availability & power of machine translations, both audio & visual for written words, will change our priorities.

    Another option is direct intervention in genome to boost some capabilities, but it is too far- in my opinion not before next ~50 years…

    • Replies: @Triumph104
    "Another option is direct intervention in genome to boost some capabilities …"

    An extreme language learner has a more-than-random chance of being a gay, left-handed male on the autism spectrum, with an autoimmune disorder, such as asthma or allergies.


    https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/09/03/the-mystery-of-people-who-speak-dozens-of-languages
     
  47. @Anonymous
    https://twitter.com/Glossophiliac75/status/1035378909804670977

    Yes, the poor fellow has gone rather insane.

    • Replies: @AP
    It'a good that you live on another continent. He probably has a shrine dedicated to you in the corner of his mother's basement where he lives.
  48. @songbird
    In the day of the pocket dictionary/ cellphone translation, grammar is the end-all, be-all.

    Dutch is easier than German. No cases. Easy plurals. Only two genders. More similar vocab to English.

    Spanish is really easy compared to German. Armed with a pocket dictionary, you can say nearly anything, except for perhaps some of the really fine meanings of the subjunctive tense, which can be expressed in less refined ways. I'd say it is easier than English.

    Most of English vocab actually comes from the Romance languages. It bears little similarity to German, IMO, despite being Germanic. A pity the very odd language of Germany, which Twain used to like to lampoon, did not protect it from its invasion. But I suppose too many Germans speak English, and, besides, there is not a fuzzy-wuzzy who would not learn Welsh to get out of Fuzzy-wuzzyland.

    Most of English vocab actually comes from the Romance languages.

    This is wrong. Most common words have a Germanic background.

    And the words with a Latin or French origin are there in every European language, given that these two languages were the langua franca at some point in time. The practice of using Germanic names for farm animals and French names for their respective meats is specifically English though.

    • Replies: @for-the-record
    This is wrong. Most common words have a Germanic background.

    What Songbird said ["Most of English vocab actually comes from the Romance languages"] is actually correct, at least in the sense defined below:

    An English speaker learning Spanish starts with one huge, though generally underutilized, advantage: he or she is already speaking a Romance language, and with a little bit of help, can easily recognize and learn to use a very large number of Spanish words. Th e “romance” of English may come as a surprise to those who have been taught that English is a Germanic language. Nonetheless, in terms of its vocabulary, English is overwhelmingly Latinate; in the Shorter Oxford Dictionary, for example, there are more than twice as many Latin-Romance words as Germanic ones . . .

    A very clear pattern emerges: the large majority of articles, pronouns, prepositions, and conjunctions—what linguists would call grammatical words—are Germanic, while the vast majority of the verbs, nouns, and adjectives—lexical words—have Latin or Romance origin. Although one could easily find examples with a less pronounced Latin/Romance influence, the general conclusion remains unaltered:

    Although the “highways” of English (i.e., grammatical words) have remained (almost entirely) Germanic, the “merchandise” transported on these highways is predominantly of Latin and Romance origin.

    Without perhaps consciously being aware of it, English speakers thus have a natural foundation on which to build a deeper knowledge of Latin and the Romance languages.

    Spanish Vocabulary, An Etymological Approach
     
    , @songbird
    Top 100 words? Mostly Germanic probably. The shorter, the more Germanic. Could it reach >50% spoken? I don't know. What about proficient? Probably not.

    In 1973 there was a computerized analysis of the roughly 80,000 words in the old third edition of the Shorter Oxford Dictionary. The results were:

    Latin, 28.34 percent; French, 28.3 percent; Old and Middle English, Old Norse, and Dutch, 25 percent; Greek 5.32 percent; no etymology given, 4.03 percent; derived from proper names, 3.28 percent; all other languages, less than 1 percent.

    What would this be for the most frequent 1,000-10,000? I suspect the percentage of Germanic would go up, but I can't possibly believe it would clear 50%. Could it eclipse French or Latin? Yes, but certainly not them both together.
  49. @Hyperborean

    Uhhh, Wolke / molniya? Don’t sound very similar to me. Could not find any info that they could be etymologically related (one article mentioned, however, that Wolke could be related to Volga, lol.) What am I missing?
     
    In Swedish cloud is 'moln'. Although for most Germanic languages it doesn't sound close to 'molniya'.

    In Swedish cloud is ‘moln’. Although for most Germanic languages it doesn’t sound close to ‘molniya’.

    It is indeed. Interestingly enough, our word for lighting, blixt, is also found in many Slavonic tongues (e.g. Polish błyskawica). It seems blixt is of Sanskrit origin, however — unlike moln, which is of Swedish origin — so this may be coincidence.

    Other Russian words that might derive from Germanic words include хлеб (cf. German Laib), селедка (cf. Swedish sill) and работать (cf. German arbeiten), but it’s hard to tell for sure without looking them up in a good Russian dictionary.

    • Replies: @AP
    Ukrainian word for "roof" is dach (though in Russian it is krysha).
    , @for-the-record
    It seems blixt is of Sanskrit origin, however — unlike moln, which is of Swedish origin — so this may be coincidence.

    Not from Sanskrit, actually. The Swedish, Polish, German (blitz), Old English (blican, "to shine, glitter"), etc., words all come an extension *bhelg- of the basic Indo-European root *bhel- ("to shine, flash, burn").

    Other Russian words that might derive from Germanic words include хлеб (cf. German Laib)

    It could come from the Germanic, or perhaps they share a common origin. In any event, it is not of Indo-European origin.

    селедка (cf. Swedish sill)

    sill is said to come from IE *seitlo- (related to Eng. sow and seed). Again this could be a borrowing, or common origin.

    and работать (cf. German arbeiten),

    Definitely not a borrowing from Germanic. From IE *orbh-, also robot (from Czech robota) and, perhaps surprisingly, orphan.

    but it’s hard to tell for sure without looking them up in a good Russian dictionary.


    A good etymological dictionary would also be of use. For comparisons with Slavic and Germanic, perhaps the best source (in English at least), albeit old, is Carl Buck, A Dictionary of Selected Synonyms in the Principal Indo-European Languages.
  50. @Bardon Kaldian
    I don't think that in next 10-20 years languages will have been a big problem. Learning languages won't be a major issue. I suppose that sophistication, functionality, availability & power of machine translations, both audio & visual for written words, will change our priorities.

    Another option is direct intervention in genome to boost some capabilities, but it is too far- in my opinion not before next ~50 years...

    “Another option is direct intervention in genome to boost some capabilities …”

    An extreme language learner has a more-than-random chance of being a gay, left-handed male on the autism spectrum, with an autoimmune disorder, such as asthma or allergies.

    https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/09/03/the-mystery-of-people-who-speak-dozens-of-languages

    • LOL: Hyperborean
    • Replies: @songbird
    Maybe, they are all gay sex tourists or something.

    For instance, Richard Halliburton who wrote The Royal Road to Romance


    is a homosexual well known in some specialized establishments. He is in the habit of soliciting on Saint-Lazare Street
     
    , @keuril

    An extreme language learner has a more-than-random chance of being a gay, left-handed male
     
    The gay aspect may be related to the fact that learning and maintaining a lot of languages is very time-consuming. Most wives would not put up with it.
  51. @Anatoly Karlin
    Yes, the poor fellow has gone rather insane.

    It’a good that you live on another continent. He probably has a shrine dedicated to you in the corner of his mother’s basement where he lives.

  52. @Swedish Family

    In Swedish cloud is ‘moln’. Although for most Germanic languages it doesn’t sound close to ‘molniya’.
     
    It is indeed. Interestingly enough, our word for lighting, blixt, is also found in many Slavonic tongues (e.g. Polish błyskawica). It seems blixt is of Sanskrit origin, however -- unlike moln, which is of Swedish origin -- so this may be coincidence.

    Other Russian words that might derive from Germanic words include хлеб (cf. German Laib), селедка (cf. Swedish sill) and работать (cf. German arbeiten), but it's hard to tell for sure without looking them up in a good Russian dictionary.

    Ukrainian word for “roof” is dach (though in Russian it is krysha).

    • Replies: @for-the-record
    Ukrainian word for “roof” is dach (though in Russian it is krysha).

    Ger. dach ➜ Pol. dach ➜ Ukr. dach
  53. @Cagey Beast
    It's likely because the Germans adopted far fewer modern technical and managerial terms with Latin roots than did the English or Romance language speakers. Maybe over the last few centuries, the Dutch tended to go with the English and French on this and therefore modern Dutch is easier for English speakers to pick up today than the more Germanic German?

    Yes, Dutch has a lot more borrowings from French/Latin than German does, and thus resembles English more closely. Modern Dutch grammar is much simpler than German grammar. The main problem with Dutch for English speakers is that there is little motivation to learn it – most Dutch and Flemish speakers can manage English just fine. While Dutch can certainly boast some great novelists and poets the literature is nowhere near as rich and varied as Spanish, French, Russian or German.

  54. @Bardon Kaldian
    Definitely. As regards Feynman & languages.... https://forum.koohii.com/thread-9047.html

    While in Kyoto I tried to learn Japanese with a vengeance. I worked much harder at it, and got to a point where I could go around in taxis and do things. I took lessons from a Japanese man every day for an hour. One day he was teaching me the word for "see." "All right," he said. "You want to say, 'May I see your garden?' What do you say?" I made up a sentence with the word that I had just learned. "No, no!" he said. "When you say to someone, 'Would you like to see my garden? you use the first 'see.' But when you want to see someone else's garden, you must use another 'see,' which is more polite." "Would you like to glance at my lousy garden?" is essentially what you're saying in the first case, but when you want to look at the other fella's garden, you have to say something like, "May I observe your gorgeous garden?" So there's two different words you have to use. Then he gave me another one: "You go to a temple, and you want to look at the gardens..." I made up a sentence, this time with the polite "see." "No, no!" he said. "In the temple, the gardens are much more elegant. So you have to say something that would be equivalent to 'May I hang my eyes on your most exquisite gardens?" Three or four different words for one idea, because when I'm doing it, it's miserable; when you're doing it, it's elegant. I was learning Japanese mainly for technical things, so I decided to check if this same problem existed among the scientists. At the institute the next day, I said to the guys in the office, "How would I say in Japanese, 'I solve the Dirac Equation'?" They said such-and-so. "OK. Now I want to say, 'Would you solve the Dirac Equation?' -- how do I say that?" "Well, you have to use a different word for 'solve,' " they say. "Why?" I protested. "When I solve it, I do the same damn thing as when you solve it!" "Well, yes, but it's a different word -- it's more polite." I gave up. I decided that wasn't the language for me, and stopped learning Japanese.
     

    This excerpt is a great example how native speakers are often the worst language teachers. At its core Japanese grammar is actually fairly regular and logical, but native Japanese tend to obfuscate that or focus on very grown- up issues like politeness levels. When you are a Japanese child there is one basic way to say “May I see your garden”, just like in English. The right way to teach Japanese is to teach basic “home” Japanese and then add the honorifics and politeness levels later, the way a Japanese learns it.

  55. @Anonymous
    Depends on degree of proficiency. How old were you when did you stopped talking mostly in Russian? You probably don't notice it but to this day there are some [rare] signs that your Russian is not quite native. I am sure it will be eventually fixed over time now that you live in Russia but it will take some time.

    On the other hand, I started learning English as an adult and even after 25 years living in the US still have smaller vocabulary than my Russian one and have rather shaky idea of proper English grammar. People like Nabokov are quite rare.

    Nabokov started learning English as a child from his English nanny. He also attended Cambridge as an undergraduate. Some people have even suggested his command of English may have actually been better than his Russian. He just, logically, preferred Russian.

  56. @Unzerker

    Most of English vocab actually comes from the Romance languages.
     
    This is wrong. Most common words have a Germanic background.

    And the words with a Latin or French origin are there in every European language, given that these two languages were the langua franca at some point in time. The practice of using Germanic names for farm animals and French names for their respective meats is specifically English though.

    This is wrong. Most common words have a Germanic background.

    What Songbird said [“Most of English vocab actually comes from the Romance languages”] is actually correct, at least in the sense defined below:

    An English speaker learning Spanish starts with one huge, though generally underutilized, advantage: he or she is already speaking a Romance language, and with a little bit of help, can easily recognize and learn to use a very large number of Spanish words. Th e “romance” of English may come as a surprise to those who have been taught that English is a Germanic language. Nonetheless, in terms of its vocabulary, English is overwhelmingly Latinate; in the Shorter Oxford Dictionary, for example, there are more than twice as many Latin-Romance words as Germanic ones . . .

    A very clear pattern emerges: the large majority of articles, pronouns, prepositions, and conjunctions—what linguists would call grammatical words—are Germanic, while the vast majority of the verbs, nouns, and adjectives—lexical words—have Latin or Romance origin. Although one could easily find examples with a less pronounced Latin/Romance influence, the general conclusion remains unaltered:

    Although the “highways” of English (i.e., grammatical words) have remained (almost entirely) Germanic, the “merchandise” transported on these highways is predominantly of Latin and Romance origin.

    Without perhaps consciously being aware of it, English speakers thus have a natural foundation on which to build a deeper knowledge of Latin and the Romance languages.

    Spanish Vocabulary, An Etymological Approach

  57. There is one point no one has, I think, mentioned: in modern, not even highly developed, societies- to live mentally active life, you don’t need foreign languages. I see this in neighboring Slovenia (Mrs. Trump’s homeland), where they got virtually everything translated into Slovene language. Not just literary classics, but numerous other works covering all areas. And there are ca. 2 million native Slovene speakers.

    Of course, if you want a career in diplomacy or jet-set, you need English (add some other language, too). But even with humanist & social sciences, let alone exact ones- you don’t have to have a high proficiency in any other than your mother tongue. If you’re a dentist, electrical engineer or lawyer, then your mother language is more than sufficient.

    Perhaps it is different in cultures like Danish, Swedish…where multilingualism is rooted in history. But, if you see Czech or Polish libraries- they got everything in their national languages. Of course, it is practical & funny to know other tongues. In some respects, this widens your horizon. But, necessary- it is not.

    • Replies: @RadicalCenter
    Good point overall, sir.

    But it seems like Spanish will be highly advisable, practically necessary, in all too much of the formerly United States. Not just here in LA or in Miami, which we always hear about b in this regard, but Chicago, Nebraska, kansas, Florida, New Jersey, Texas, etc. This process will be Accelerating further, until Spanish is a permitted language in government courts, agencies, and eventually schools for instruction in all subjects.

    Mandarin may come to be seen as advisable, especially for higher-paying jobs in import-export, commercial real estate, finance, negotiating transportation of goods and logistics, working with managers and owners of Chinese-owned factories and Chinese suppliers, not just in China’s neighborhood but all across Russia into Europe with the New Silk Road’s development of vast highway and train lines from Beijing to Berlin.

    People working in hotels and restaurants in major international biz and tourism cites, will also find it worthwhile to know some mandarin. The wave of Chinese tourists is still growing. It fluctuates, but ever upwards. It’s not hard to see Chinese tourists outnumbering all UK, european, Japanese tourists combined, if they haven’t already.

    , @Hyperborean
    I don't know for Polish or Czech, but I find that there are a lot of books written or translated to French or German that are hard to find in Scandinavian languages, particularly heterodox writers.

    Of course knowing English helps, but I still feel like there is a large literary sphere that I am unable to access.
    , @Yevardian
    Well, it's not like the time past where one had to know German to stay updated on the latest Science, French for diplomatic communication, Italian for music or Greek/Arabic for medicine. A shame, really.
  58. @Unzerker

    Most of English vocab actually comes from the Romance languages.
     
    This is wrong. Most common words have a Germanic background.

    And the words with a Latin or French origin are there in every European language, given that these two languages were the langua franca at some point in time. The practice of using Germanic names for farm animals and French names for their respective meats is specifically English though.

    Top 100 words? Mostly Germanic probably. The shorter, the more Germanic. Could it reach >50% spoken? I don’t know. What about proficient? Probably not.

    In 1973 there was a computerized analysis of the roughly 80,000 words in the old third edition of the Shorter Oxford Dictionary. The results were:

    Latin, 28.34 percent; French, 28.3 percent; Old and Middle English, Old Norse, and Dutch, 25 percent; Greek 5.32 percent; no etymology given, 4.03 percent; derived from proper names, 3.28 percent; all other languages, less than 1 percent.

    What would this be for the most frequent 1,000-10,000? I suspect the percentage of Germanic would go up, but I can’t possibly believe it would clear 50%. Could it eclipse French or Latin? Yes, but certainly not them both together.

    • Replies: @RadicalCenter
    The majority of very commonly used basic words in English are, in fact, Germanic.

    As to the whole English vocabulary, French/Latin words are a solid majority.

    https://hooktube.com/watch?v=2OynrY8JCDM
  59. @Triumph104
    "Another option is direct intervention in genome to boost some capabilities …"

    An extreme language learner has a more-than-random chance of being a gay, left-handed male on the autism spectrum, with an autoimmune disorder, such as asthma or allergies.


    https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/09/03/the-mystery-of-people-who-speak-dozens-of-languages
     

    Maybe, they are all gay sex tourists or something.

    For instance, Richard Halliburton who wrote The Royal Road to Romance

    is a homosexual well known in some specialized establishments. He is in the habit of soliciting on Saint-Lazare Street

  60. @reiner Tor
    Hungarian is very easy, I learned it at age 3 without effort.

    At age three, any language should be learned without conscious effort. That’s pretty much a native language. That says little about how hard Hungarian is for an adult native-English-speaker to learn, even a young adult. It seems hard and is typically rated as such. Naturally it will be easier to learn a Romance or Germanic language, as English vocabulary is almost entirely Latinate or Germanic.

    • Replies: @for-the-record
    At age three, any language should be learned without conscious effort.

    I think you missed the joke -- Hungarian is his native language.
  61. @songbird
    Top 100 words? Mostly Germanic probably. The shorter, the more Germanic. Could it reach >50% spoken? I don't know. What about proficient? Probably not.

    In 1973 there was a computerized analysis of the roughly 80,000 words in the old third edition of the Shorter Oxford Dictionary. The results were:

    Latin, 28.34 percent; French, 28.3 percent; Old and Middle English, Old Norse, and Dutch, 25 percent; Greek 5.32 percent; no etymology given, 4.03 percent; derived from proper names, 3.28 percent; all other languages, less than 1 percent.

    What would this be for the most frequent 1,000-10,000? I suspect the percentage of Germanic would go up, but I can't possibly believe it would clear 50%. Could it eclipse French or Latin? Yes, but certainly not them both together.

    The majority of very commonly used basic words in English are, in fact, Germanic.

    As to the whole English vocabulary, French/Latin words are a solid majority.

    https://hooktube.com/watch?v=2OynrY8JCDM

  62. @Bardon Kaldian
    There is one point no one has, I think, mentioned: in modern, not even highly developed, societies- to live mentally active life, you don't need foreign languages. I see this in neighboring Slovenia (Mrs. Trump's homeland), where they got virtually everything translated into Slovene language. Not just literary classics, but numerous other works covering all areas. And there are ca. 2 million native Slovene speakers.

    Of course, if you want a career in diplomacy or jet-set, you need English (add some other language, too). But even with humanist & social sciences, let alone exact ones- you don't have to have a high proficiency in any other than your mother tongue. If you're a dentist, electrical engineer or lawyer, then your mother language is more than sufficient.

    Perhaps it is different in cultures like Danish, Swedish...where multilingualism is rooted in history. But, if you see Czech or Polish libraries- they got everything in their national languages. Of course, it is practical & funny to know other tongues. In some respects, this widens your horizon. But, necessary- it is not.

    Good point overall, sir.

    But it seems like Spanish will be highly advisable, practically necessary, in all too much of the formerly United States. Not just here in LA or in Miami, which we always hear about b in this regard, but Chicago, Nebraska, kansas, Florida, New Jersey, Texas, etc. This process will be Accelerating further, until Spanish is a permitted language in government courts, agencies, and eventually schools for instruction in all subjects.

    Mandarin may come to be seen as advisable, especially for higher-paying jobs in import-export, commercial real estate, finance, negotiating transportation of goods and logistics, working with managers and owners of Chinese-owned factories and Chinese suppliers, not just in China’s neighborhood but all across Russia into Europe with the New Silk Road’s development of vast highway and train lines from Beijing to Berlin.

    People working in hotels and restaurants in major international biz and tourism cites, will also find it worthwhile to know some mandarin. The wave of Chinese tourists is still growing. It fluctuates, but ever upwards. It’s not hard to see Chinese tourists outnumbering all UK, european, Japanese tourists combined, if they haven’t already.

  63. @Swedish Family

    In Swedish cloud is ‘moln’. Although for most Germanic languages it doesn’t sound close to ‘molniya’.
     
    It is indeed. Interestingly enough, our word for lighting, blixt, is also found in many Slavonic tongues (e.g. Polish błyskawica). It seems blixt is of Sanskrit origin, however -- unlike moln, which is of Swedish origin -- so this may be coincidence.

    Other Russian words that might derive from Germanic words include хлеб (cf. German Laib), селедка (cf. Swedish sill) and работать (cf. German arbeiten), but it's hard to tell for sure without looking them up in a good Russian dictionary.

    It seems blixt is of Sanskrit origin, however — unlike moln, which is of Swedish origin — so this may be coincidence.

    Not from Sanskrit, actually. The Swedish, Polish, German (blitz), Old English (blican, “to shine, glitter”), etc., words all come an extension *bhelg- of the basic Indo-European root *bhel- (“to shine, flash, burn”).

    Other Russian words that might derive from Germanic words include хлеб (cf. German Laib)

    It could come from the Germanic, or perhaps they share a common origin. In any event, it is not of Indo-European origin.

    селедка (cf. Swedish sill)

    sill is said to come from IE *seitlo– (related to Eng. sow and seed). Again this could be a borrowing, or common origin.

    and работать (cf. German arbeiten),

    Definitely not a borrowing from Germanic. From IE *orbh-, also robot (from Czech robota) and, perhaps surprisingly, orphan.

    but it’s hard to tell for sure without looking them up in a good Russian dictionary.

    A good etymological dictionary would also be of use. For comparisons with Slavic and Germanic, perhaps the best source (in English at least), albeit old, is Carl Buck, A Dictionary of Selected Synonyms in the Principal Indo-European Languages.

    • Replies: @Swedish Family

    Not from Sanskrit, actually. The Swedish, Polish, German (blitz), Old English (blican, “to shine, glitter”), etc., words all come an extension *bhelg- of the basic Indo-European root *bhel- (“to shine, flash, burn”).
     
    Oho, thanks for the correction!

    It could come from the Germanic, or perhaps they share a common origin. In any event, it is not of Indo-European origin.
     
    Turns out that хлеб is related to German Laib and English loaf by their common ancestor, Proto-Germanic *hlaibaz. Interesting!

    https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Reconstruction:Proto-Germanic/hlaibaz
    https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Reconstruction:Proto-Slavic/xl%C4%9Bb%D1%8A

    sill is said to come from IE *seitlo- (related to Eng. sow and seed). Again this could be a borrowing, or common origin.
     
    I can't find anything on *seitlo-, but Wiktionary and SAOB, the Swedish counterpart to OED, say that sill derives from Old Norse sild, which in turn derives from Proto-Germanic *sīlą ... and look what we find here!

    сельдь
    From Old East Slavic сельдь (selĭdĭ) (1497), from earlier *сьлдь (*sĭldĭ), from Old Norse síld. Compare Belarusian селядзец (sjeljadzjéc), Ukrainian оселедець (oselédecʹ).
     
    https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%D1%81%D0%B5%D0%BB%D1%8C%D0%B4%D1%8C

    1-0 for Team Sweden!

    Definitely not a borrowing from Germanic. From IE *orbh-, also robot (from Czech robota) and, perhaps surprisingly, orphan.
     
    Thanks for pointing this out. From here on, I shall correct any Swede who makes this claim.
  64. @AP
    Ukrainian word for "roof" is dach (though in Russian it is krysha).

    Ukrainian word for “roof” is dach (though in Russian it is krysha).

    Ger. dach ➜ Pol. dach ➜ Ukr. dach

  65. @RadicalCenter
    At age three, any language should be learned without conscious effort. That’s pretty much a native language. That says little about how hard Hungarian is for an adult native-English-speaker to learn, even a young adult. It seems hard and is typically rated as such. Naturally it will be easier to learn a Romance or Germanic language, as English vocabulary is almost entirely Latinate or Germanic.

    At age three, any language should be learned without conscious effort.

    I think you missed the joke — Hungarian is his native language.

  66. What? Arabic isn’t hard to learn. It’s like French. In terms of syntax it’s pretty much the same. The only difficulty I had was distinguishing the dialects and accents. Like the illiterate usage of G instead of -th by Egyptians or Ch instead of K by Iraqis.

    Nothing as hard like that thick ass British or Cockney accent versus deep American south accent when I was learning English. Jesus H Christ….

  67. @Bardon Kaldian
    There is one point no one has, I think, mentioned: in modern, not even highly developed, societies- to live mentally active life, you don't need foreign languages. I see this in neighboring Slovenia (Mrs. Trump's homeland), where they got virtually everything translated into Slovene language. Not just literary classics, but numerous other works covering all areas. And there are ca. 2 million native Slovene speakers.

    Of course, if you want a career in diplomacy or jet-set, you need English (add some other language, too). But even with humanist & social sciences, let alone exact ones- you don't have to have a high proficiency in any other than your mother tongue. If you're a dentist, electrical engineer or lawyer, then your mother language is more than sufficient.

    Perhaps it is different in cultures like Danish, Swedish...where multilingualism is rooted in history. But, if you see Czech or Polish libraries- they got everything in their national languages. Of course, it is practical & funny to know other tongues. In some respects, this widens your horizon. But, necessary- it is not.

    I don’t know for Polish or Czech, but I find that there are a lot of books written or translated to French or German that are hard to find in Scandinavian languages, particularly heterodox writers.

    Of course knowing English helps, but I still feel like there is a large literary sphere that I am unable to access.

    • Replies: @Bardon Kaldian
    Perhaps because Norwegian, Swedish, Danish .... cultures are traditionally more to the "left" than the rest of Europe. If you take a look at UNESCO Index of translations, you'll see that these languages are highly positioned re translations (just, the question is- what is translated?): http://www.unesco.org/xtrans/bsstatexp.aspx?crit1L=4&nTyp=min&topN=50

    The link above is an incomplete & somewhat dated number of different titles translated from 1979 to 2017. German is evidently the dominant target language & Dutch is highly over-represented.
  68. @Hyperborean
    I don't know for Polish or Czech, but I find that there are a lot of books written or translated to French or German that are hard to find in Scandinavian languages, particularly heterodox writers.

    Of course knowing English helps, but I still feel like there is a large literary sphere that I am unable to access.

    Perhaps because Norwegian, Swedish, Danish …. cultures are traditionally more to the “left” than the rest of Europe. If you take a look at UNESCO Index of translations, you’ll see that these languages are highly positioned re translations (just, the question is- what is translated?): http://www.unesco.org/xtrans/bsstatexp.aspx?crit1L=4&nTyp=min&topN=50

    The link above is an incomplete & somewhat dated number of different titles translated from 1979 to 2017. German is evidently the dominant target language & Dutch is highly over-represented.

  69. Anyone have an estimate of how many hours esperanto would take?

    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
    Very little. https://www.unz.com/akarlin/esperanto/
  70. @Bardon Kaldian
    There is one point no one has, I think, mentioned: in modern, not even highly developed, societies- to live mentally active life, you don't need foreign languages. I see this in neighboring Slovenia (Mrs. Trump's homeland), where they got virtually everything translated into Slovene language. Not just literary classics, but numerous other works covering all areas. And there are ca. 2 million native Slovene speakers.

    Of course, if you want a career in diplomacy or jet-set, you need English (add some other language, too). But even with humanist & social sciences, let alone exact ones- you don't have to have a high proficiency in any other than your mother tongue. If you're a dentist, electrical engineer or lawyer, then your mother language is more than sufficient.

    Perhaps it is different in cultures like Danish, Swedish...where multilingualism is rooted in history. But, if you see Czech or Polish libraries- they got everything in their national languages. Of course, it is practical & funny to know other tongues. In some respects, this widens your horizon. But, necessary- it is not.

    Well, it’s not like the time past where one had to know German to stay updated on the latest Science, French for diplomatic communication, Italian for music or Greek/Arabic for medicine. A shame, really.

    • Replies: @songbird
    French has become something of a joke as the language of diplomacy. It may hold partly true for a large region in Africa, but only to facilitate political graft and the Africanization of France.
  71. @for-the-record
    It seems blixt is of Sanskrit origin, however — unlike moln, which is of Swedish origin — so this may be coincidence.

    Not from Sanskrit, actually. The Swedish, Polish, German (blitz), Old English (blican, "to shine, glitter"), etc., words all come an extension *bhelg- of the basic Indo-European root *bhel- ("to shine, flash, burn").

    Other Russian words that might derive from Germanic words include хлеб (cf. German Laib)

    It could come from the Germanic, or perhaps they share a common origin. In any event, it is not of Indo-European origin.

    селедка (cf. Swedish sill)

    sill is said to come from IE *seitlo- (related to Eng. sow and seed). Again this could be a borrowing, or common origin.

    and работать (cf. German arbeiten),

    Definitely not a borrowing from Germanic. From IE *orbh-, also robot (from Czech robota) and, perhaps surprisingly, orphan.

    but it’s hard to tell for sure without looking them up in a good Russian dictionary.


    A good etymological dictionary would also be of use. For comparisons with Slavic and Germanic, perhaps the best source (in English at least), albeit old, is Carl Buck, A Dictionary of Selected Synonyms in the Principal Indo-European Languages.

    Not from Sanskrit, actually. The Swedish, Polish, German (blitz), Old English (blican, “to shine, glitter”), etc., words all come an extension *bhelg- of the basic Indo-European root *bhel- (“to shine, flash, burn”).

    Oho, thanks for the correction!

    It could come from the Germanic, or perhaps they share a common origin. In any event, it is not of Indo-European origin.

    Turns out that хлеб is related to German Laib and English loaf by their common ancestor, Proto-Germanic *hlaibaz. Interesting!

    https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Reconstruction:Proto-Germanic/hlaibaz
    https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Reconstruction:Proto-Slavic/xl%C4%9Bb%D1%8A

    sill is said to come from IE *seitlo- (related to Eng. sow and seed). Again this could be a borrowing, or common origin.

    I can’t find anything on *seitlo-, but Wiktionary and SAOB, the Swedish counterpart to OED, say that sill derives from Old Norse sild, which in turn derives from Proto-Germanic *sīlą … and look what we find here!

    сельдь
    From Old East Slavic сельдь (selĭdĭ) (1497), from earlier *сьлдь (*sĭldĭ), from Old Norse síld. Compare Belarusian селядзец (sjeljadzjéc), Ukrainian оселедець (oselédecʹ).

    https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%D1%81%D0%B5%D0%BB%D1%8C%D0%B4%D1%8C

    1-0 for Team Sweden!

    Definitely not a borrowing from Germanic. From IE *orbh-, also robot (from Czech robota) and, perhaps surprisingly, orphan.

    Thanks for pointing this out. From here on, I shall correct any Swede who makes this claim.

    • Replies: @for-the-record
    Turns out that хлеб is related to German Laib and English loaf by their common ancestor, Proto-Germanic *hlaibaz. Interesting!

    English loaf has lordly connections:

    OE hlafweard ➜ OE hlaford ➜ Mod Eng lord

    Thus a lord is literally a loaf-ward(en), i.e., the one who guards the bread.
  72. @Swedish Family

    Not from Sanskrit, actually. The Swedish, Polish, German (blitz), Old English (blican, “to shine, glitter”), etc., words all come an extension *bhelg- of the basic Indo-European root *bhel- (“to shine, flash, burn”).
     
    Oho, thanks for the correction!

    It could come from the Germanic, or perhaps they share a common origin. In any event, it is not of Indo-European origin.
     
    Turns out that хлеб is related to German Laib and English loaf by their common ancestor, Proto-Germanic *hlaibaz. Interesting!

    https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Reconstruction:Proto-Germanic/hlaibaz
    https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Reconstruction:Proto-Slavic/xl%C4%9Bb%D1%8A

    sill is said to come from IE *seitlo- (related to Eng. sow and seed). Again this could be a borrowing, or common origin.
     
    I can't find anything on *seitlo-, but Wiktionary and SAOB, the Swedish counterpart to OED, say that sill derives from Old Norse sild, which in turn derives from Proto-Germanic *sīlą ... and look what we find here!

    сельдь
    From Old East Slavic сельдь (selĭdĭ) (1497), from earlier *сьлдь (*sĭldĭ), from Old Norse síld. Compare Belarusian селядзец (sjeljadzjéc), Ukrainian оселедець (oselédecʹ).
     
    https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%D1%81%D0%B5%D0%BB%D1%8C%D0%B4%D1%8C

    1-0 for Team Sweden!

    Definitely not a borrowing from Germanic. From IE *orbh-, also robot (from Czech robota) and, perhaps surprisingly, orphan.
     
    Thanks for pointing this out. From here on, I shall correct any Swede who makes this claim.

    Turns out that хлеб is related to German Laib and English loaf by their common ancestor, Proto-Germanic *hlaibaz. Interesting!

    English loaf has lordly connections:

    OE hlafweard ➜ OE hlaford ➜ Mod Eng lord

    Thus a lord is literally a loaf-ward(en), i.e., the one who guards the bread.

    • Replies: @Swedish Family

    English loaf has lordly connections:

    OE hlafweard ➜ OE hlaford ➜ Mod Eng lord

    Thus a lord is literally a loaf-ward(en), i.e., the one who guards the bread.
     
    The things you learn!
  73. @DFH

    This ranking by the Foreign Service Institute seems fairly plausible. I agree with the decision to move French up a tier, it is certainly harder than Spanish or Portuguese.
     
    The vocabulary (which is the most time consuming part of learning a language) is significantly easier for English speakers.

    My personal experience as a native English speaker is that French is easier to get to an intermediate level than Spanish, Portuguese or Italian, due to the vocabulary. The complexity becomes more noticeable when trying to get through the morass of idioms and expressions in order to really master the language. Since I haven’t fully mastered an entire foreign language, I am not in a position to say whether French is harder than Spanish and Portuguese, but it surprises me to hear that claim.

    • Replies: @Jim Bob Lassiter
    The problem with French is its uncrisp faggoty nasalized irregular pronunciation.
  74. @Yevardian
    Well, it's not like the time past where one had to know German to stay updated on the latest Science, French for diplomatic communication, Italian for music or Greek/Arabic for medicine. A shame, really.

    French has become something of a joke as the language of diplomacy. It may hold partly true for a large region in Africa, but only to facilitate political graft and the Africanization of France.

  75. @Giuseppe
    My personal experience as a native English speaker is that French is easier to get to an intermediate level than Spanish, Portuguese or Italian, due to the vocabulary. The complexity becomes more noticeable when trying to get through the morass of idioms and expressions in order to really master the language. Since I haven't fully mastered an entire foreign language, I am not in a position to say whether French is harder than Spanish and Portuguese, but it surprises me to hear that claim.

    The problem with French is its uncrisp faggoty nasalized irregular pronunciation.

    • Replies: @DFH

    The problem with French is its uncrisp faggoty nasalized irregular pronunciation.

     

    The nasal pronounciation is what makes it much better than any other Romance language.
  76. @for-the-record
    Turns out that хлеб is related to German Laib and English loaf by their common ancestor, Proto-Germanic *hlaibaz. Interesting!

    English loaf has lordly connections:

    OE hlafweard ➜ OE hlaford ➜ Mod Eng lord

    Thus a lord is literally a loaf-ward(en), i.e., the one who guards the bread.

    English loaf has lordly connections:

    OE hlafweard ➜ OE hlaford ➜ Mod Eng lord

    Thus a lord is literally a loaf-ward(en), i.e., the one who guards the bread.

    The things you learn!

    • Replies: @for-the-record
    The things you learn!

    More: the Lord's spouse is of course the lady:

    OE hlǣfdīge ➜ Mod Eng lady

    where dīge is related to dough, so that the hlǣfdīge was literally the "bread kneader". [The vowel in hlǣf is ǣ rather than ā because it was "umlauted" by the ī in dīge]

    So the Lady kneads the bread, while the Lord guards it. But there was also a 3rd member of the feudal bread chain:

    OE hlāfǣta ("servant" or "retainer"), literally he who eats the loaf (!),

    which, alas, did not make it to modern English.
  77. @Swedish Family

    English loaf has lordly connections:

    OE hlafweard ➜ OE hlaford ➜ Mod Eng lord

    Thus a lord is literally a loaf-ward(en), i.e., the one who guards the bread.
     
    The things you learn!

    The things you learn!

    More: the Lord’s spouse is of course the lady:

    OE hlǣfdīge ➜ Mod Eng lady

    where dīge is related to dough, so that the hlǣfdīge was literally the “bread kneader”. [The vowel in hlǣf is ǣ rather than ā because it was “umlauted” by the ī in dīge]

    So the Lady kneads the bread, while the Lord guards it. But there was also a 3rd member of the feudal bread chain:

    OE hlāfǣta (“servant” or “retainer”), literally he who eats the loaf (!),

    which, alas, did not make it to modern English.

  78. More: the Lord’s spouse is of course the lady:

    OE hlǣfdīge ➜ Mod Eng lady

    where dīge is related to dough, so that the hlǣfdīge was literally the “bread kneader”. [The vowel in hlǣf is ǣ rather than ā because it was “umlauted” by the ī in dīge]

    How lovely! And dīge isn’t a hundred miles from modern Swedish deg, with the same meaning.

  79. @Jim Bob Lassiter
    The problem with French is its uncrisp faggoty nasalized irregular pronunciation.

    The problem with French is its uncrisp faggoty nasalized irregular pronunciation.

    The nasal pronounciation is what makes it much better than any other Romance language.

  80. @marginalrealist
    Anyone have an estimate of how many hours esperanto would take?
  81. The Chinese languages are tonal. That, and the several thousand kanji one needs to learn to be functionally literate, makes Chinese more difficult for English speakers than most other languages. Japanese grammer is really not that hard. Interesting pop culture tidbit. Yoda, in Star Wars, speaks with essentially Japanese grammer. I think Russian is at least as difficult for English speakers as myself to learn as either Japanese or Chinese. I have heard about its noun case system (which actually does make logical sense) along with the verb conjugations.

  82. Chinese is pretty easy, I am almost tempted to lower it a tier

    Unintentionally hilarious example of the Dunning-Kruger effect. Chinese is harder than you can begin to comprehend. Study for another decade and you’ll understand a bit more why this is so.

    German or Russian grammar, to say nothing of Japanese, is far harder

    Utter rubbish. German and Russian grammars are child’s play compared to Chinese. Japanese grammar is on par, but no more difficult for the Western learner.
    Do not be fooled by the superficial simplicity of Chinese. This is like being fooled by the simplicity of English articles.
    I discussed the relative difficulty of Chinese (including Moser’s article) at length in another post:
    https://www.unz.com/isteve/at-what-age-to-teach-foreign-languages-in-schools/#comment-2324620

  83. @Triumph104
    This is an old list. Six weeks had to be added to both the French and German course because people weren't graduating on time.

    Chinese is pretty easy, I am almost tempted to lower it a tier.
     
    The problem with the Foreign Service Institute and the Defense Language Institute is that the programs still use the same antiquated test-based drill-and-kill lessons that they used 60 years ago, only now with iPads.

    Polyglots Vladimir Skultety and Mike Campbell (Glossika) are fluent in Mandarin and both say wait until you are an upper intermediate before learning Chinese characters and Skultety says don't worry about learning tones at first.

    Polyglots Vladimir Skultety and Mike Campbell (Glossika) are fluent in Mandarin and both say wait until you are an upper intermediate before learning Chinese characters and Skultety says don’t worry about learning tones at first.

    I looked up a video of Skultety speaking 15 languages. His Chinese sounds very good, with a Taiwanese accent reflecting his five years spent in Taiwan (this sounds a bit funny for people used to Mainland Chinese accents simply because he’s a foreigner, but he does very good job). In order to gauge his true proficiency, it’d be necessary to hear a longer stretch of more extemporaneous speaking, but he is clearly gifted at a neurological level. That means his advice on learning tones is irrelevant because he can simply pick them up through mimickry. I would disagree with the advice not to start learning the tones right away, if you plan to learn the language to any extent. The problem is, some learners will get the idea that you don’t need the tones, and after several years it’s hard to correct bad habits.

    As to whether one should hold off on learning the characters until the upper intermediate level: if you know that you simply want to stop at the stage of what a phrase book will teach you, fine; but as a practical matter, all the quality texts I know of present the characters starting much earlier, and many don’t even present romanizations after the beginner level. Of course, Chinese children learn to speak before they can read, but as a foreigner, it really helps to understand something of the characters even from a basic level. The one heresy (from the perspective of conventional Chinese pedagogy) that I agree with for most foreigners is to not waste time learning to *handwrite* the characters, because it takes a lot of time and you will rarely need to handwrite outside of a language class (smart devices let you type in Roman letters and convert to the characters).

    In the video I watched, he spoke some Japanese with a strong foreign accent, but he said he didn’t study it that long and is rusty to boot. I would assume he could acquire a good accent if he had as much exposure to Japanese as to Chinese. This points to the practical limits of mastering a lot of languages, especially non-IndoEuropean ones (for a Westerner)—no matter how talented you may be, you only have one body and the same 24 hours in a day as everybody else, some of which must be spent sleeping and doing other things.

    • Replies: @Triumph104

    In order to gauge his true proficiency, it’d be necessary to hear a longer stretch of more extemporaneous speaking, but he is clearly gifted at a neurological level. That means his advice on learning tones is irrelevant because he can simply pick them up through mimickry.

     

    Actually, Vladimir Skultety learned the Chinese tones from the very beginning just like everyone else. He says in retrospect that he should have waited.

    He isn't as gifted as he appears. One, he learned several languages as a child, two, his native Slovak made it easy to pick up additional Slavic languages within weeks and three, he is/was driven to study languages for up to 10 hours a day like some people are driven to play video games. While it is impressive that he learned Italian by reading a novel with a dictionary, one has to take into account that he grandmother spoke another Latin language, French, to him as a child.

    Recently, Skultety has been attempting to learn Latin, but his heart isn't into language learning anymore. He often goes weeks without studying Latin.

    This article gives a brief overview of how he learned each language.

    https://blog.glossika.com/aged-30-he-speaks-19-languages-learn-his-one-secret-to-learn-any-language/
  84. @Triumph104
    "Another option is direct intervention in genome to boost some capabilities …"

    An extreme language learner has a more-than-random chance of being a gay, left-handed male on the autism spectrum, with an autoimmune disorder, such as asthma or allergies.


    https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/09/03/the-mystery-of-people-who-speak-dozens-of-languages
     

    An extreme language learner has a more-than-random chance of being a gay, left-handed male

    The gay aspect may be related to the fact that learning and maintaining a lot of languages is very time-consuming. Most wives would not put up with it.

    • Replies: @Triumph104
    Some hyperpolyglots are married to Asian women, so I thought maybe Asian women have a higher tolerance for their husband studying languages than Western women do, but that appears to not be true. Steve Kaufmann says that his wife, who is from Macau, won't let him listen to foreign languages when they are riding together in the car. Moses McCormick's Taiwanese wife left him (or kicked him out) and took their three young daughters with her. Prior to the separation, Moses only did three things all day, study languages, play video games, and go fishing. It is a wonder that they stayed together as long as they did.
  85. @keuril

    Polyglots Vladimir Skultety and Mike Campbell (Glossika) are fluent in Mandarin and both say wait until you are an upper intermediate before learning Chinese characters and Skultety says don’t worry about learning tones at first.
     
    I looked up a video of Skultety speaking 15 languages. His Chinese sounds very good, with a Taiwanese accent reflecting his five years spent in Taiwan (this sounds a bit funny for people used to Mainland Chinese accents simply because he’s a foreigner, but he does very good job). In order to gauge his true proficiency, it’d be necessary to hear a longer stretch of more extemporaneous speaking, but he is clearly gifted at a neurological level. That means his advice on learning tones is irrelevant because he can simply pick them up through mimickry. I would disagree with the advice not to start learning the tones right away, if you plan to learn the language to any extent. The problem is, some learners will get the idea that you don’t need the tones, and after several years it’s hard to correct bad habits.

    As to whether one should hold off on learning the characters until the upper intermediate level: if you know that you simply want to stop at the stage of what a phrase book will teach you, fine; but as a practical matter, all the quality texts I know of present the characters starting much earlier, and many don’t even present romanizations after the beginner level. Of course, Chinese children learn to speak before they can read, but as a foreigner, it really helps to understand something of the characters even from a basic level. The one heresy (from the perspective of conventional Chinese pedagogy) that I agree with for most foreigners is to not waste time learning to *handwrite* the characters, because it takes a lot of time and you will rarely need to handwrite outside of a language class (smart devices let you type in Roman letters and convert to the characters).

    In the video I watched, he spoke some Japanese with a strong foreign accent, but he said he didn’t study it that long and is rusty to boot. I would assume he could acquire a good accent if he had as much exposure to Japanese as to Chinese. This points to the practical limits of mastering a lot of languages, especially non-IndoEuropean ones (for a Westerner)—no matter how talented you may be, you only have one body and the same 24 hours in a day as everybody else, some of which must be spent sleeping and doing other things.

    In order to gauge his true proficiency, it’d be necessary to hear a longer stretch of more extemporaneous speaking, but he is clearly gifted at a neurological level. That means his advice on learning tones is irrelevant because he can simply pick them up through mimickry.

    Actually, Vladimir Skultety learned the Chinese tones from the very beginning just like everyone else. He says in retrospect that he should have waited.

    He isn’t as gifted as he appears. One, he learned several languages as a child, two, his native Slovak made it easy to pick up additional Slavic languages within weeks and three, he is/was driven to study languages for up to 10 hours a day like some people are driven to play video games. While it is impressive that he learned Italian by reading a novel with a dictionary, one has to take into account that he grandmother spoke another Latin language, French, to him as a child.

    Recently, Skultety has been attempting to learn Latin, but his heart isn’t into language learning anymore. He often goes weeks without studying Latin.

    This article gives a brief overview of how he learned each language.

    https://blog.glossika.com/aged-30-he-speaks-19-languages-learn-his-one-secret-to-learn-any-language/

    • Replies: @keuril

    He isn’t as gifted as he appears. One, he learned several languages as a child, two, his native Slovak made it easy to pick up additional Slavic languages within weeks and three, he is/was driven to study languages for up to 10 hours a day like some people are driven to play video games.
     
    Yes, it seems a lot of people who speak (or claim to speak) a lot of languages increase their “count” quite a bit by checking off every language in a particular cluster—German, English, Dutch, Norwegian, Danish (Germanic languages)... French, Spanish, Italian, Catalan, Portuguese, Romanian (Romance languages)... or Slavic languages as you note. I’m more interested in how people do when they go outside of their own native cluster, especially outside of Indoeuropean languages. This is where you can do a deep dive lasting many years and still feel like you’re just scratching the surface.

    I would say that Skultety’s Taiwanese Mandarin sounds very good for a foreigner, and a number of commenters in Chinese (presumably Chinese native speakers) at YouTube agreed (though mainly they were saying that his Chinese sounded “cute” because of the Taiwanese accent). Certainly very few foreigners sound that good, no matter how long they practice. This points to the neurological “talent” aspect of language learning. The ten hours a day is more about learning vocabulary, improving proficiency in reading, listening, etc. It takes a lot of ten-hour days to reach a substantial fraction of the database residing in an educated native speaker’s brain.

    Regarding the timing of tone learning, I reviewed that article you linked and it appears that his problem was that at first he was just using tapes to learn the tones. This is problematic because tape quality is not that good (compared to being one-on-one with a native speaker) and you don’t get any feedback. Best is to have a native speaker pronounce the tones, and then you repeat. The native speaker can give you feedback. This feedback is absolutely essential. Eventually you internalize the tones, at which point things like tapes would have their place.

    The best way to practice a language is one-on-one with a native speaker. But language classes are not set up that way. They are set up like history classes, or math classes, where one teacher speaks to many students. This pretty much kills the one-on-one dynamic that is so helpful in learning languages (especially difficult ones). Schools persist with the ineffective one-t0-many language teaching style because it costs less and (often) they don’t expect their students to learn the language anyway.
  86. @keuril

    An extreme language learner has a more-than-random chance of being a gay, left-handed male
     
    The gay aspect may be related to the fact that learning and maintaining a lot of languages is very time-consuming. Most wives would not put up with it.

    Some hyperpolyglots are married to Asian women, so I thought maybe Asian women have a higher tolerance for their husband studying languages than Western women do, but that appears to not be true. Steve Kaufmann says that his wife, who is from Macau, won’t let him listen to foreign languages when they are riding together in the car. Moses McCormick’s Taiwanese wife left him (or kicked him out) and took their three young daughters with her. Prior to the separation, Moses only did three things all day, study languages, play video games, and go fishing. It is a wonder that they stayed together as long as they did.

  87. @songbird
    Which is?

    I'm really only familiar with two foreign tongues, but it is hard for me to conceive of an easier language than Spanish. Maybe some type of pidgin or Esperanto.

    It's spelled completely phonetically. Most of the sounds are easy. Easy plurals, easy genders (with a mere handful of easy to remember exceptions). No declensions. Lots of irregular verbs but they are easy to learn or reference. There's a lot of verb tenses, but they are mostly pretty easy for an English speaker, except for what might be considered idiomatic shades for the tenses of certain verbs. In a pinch, you can even use the present tense as the future tense if you include a future time reference.

    A lot of nouns derive from other nouns. Some of their idioms are close to a direct translation in English, like "capa y espada", "cloak and dagger." I used to correctly guess nouns I had never even heard. For instance, you can guess "Scottish" if you know "Nova Scotia." Not to mention, there are a lot of Spanish words in American culture.

    I think it is a beautifully logical language, although some others are more pleasing to my ear.

    It’s spelled completely phonetically.

    I know, right? It’s times like this when I’m envious of anyone who’s fluent in languages such as Russian.
    As a native English speaker myself, I find it hard to believe that a language as inconsistent as English could become the dominant one in international trade. If the various homophones that plague it aren’t bad enough, to say nothing about the lack of gendered nouns, wait until you see these:
    * the ough in “cough” (koff), “through” (throo), “though” (dhou) and “tough” (tuff)
    * “anger” (ang-ger) vs “danger” (dayn-jer)
    * “slaughter” (slotter) vs “laughter” (laff-ter)
    * the L in “solder” is silent in American English (“sodder”)
    * the ea in “beat” (beet), “heart” (hart), “break” (brake), and “head” (hed).
    * the ch fluctuates between a k and a tʃ with little to no indication
    * the S in “aisle”, “isle” and “island” are silent
    * depending on the variant, “lieutenant” is sometimes pronounced “LEF-tenant”
    * “colonel” and “kernel” are homophones despite the former having an L instead of an R
    It amazes me that non-English speakers are willing to sit through this. If anyone is reading this whose first language wasn’t English, I’d be willing to hear your strategy.

  88. @utu
    So you spell “threw” the same regardless if it was a she or a he who threw whatever it was that was thrown.

    It is about who does the throwing and not what is the gender of the thrown object.

    In Slavic languages in the past tense there is a difference. You can tell a gender of an anonymous memoir author while you can't do in English.

    Gender depended language like Slavic languages might be an extra barrier against the tarns-gender BS. When reporting in the past tense "I gave a blow job." you must decide if you speak as woman or man at that very moment. So flipping between genders on a whim might be harder in Slavic languages.

    Gender depended language like Slavic languages might be an extra barrier against the tarns-gender BS. When reporting in the past tense “I gave a blow job.” you must decide if you speak as woman or man at that very moment. So flipping between genders on a whim might be harder in Slavic languages.

    That’s great, but I have just one issue: if someone were writing a second-person narrative in a Slavic language (addressing the player/reader) that uses the past tense, what form is used? Is it the masculine, neuter, or plural form?

  89. @Triumph104

    In order to gauge his true proficiency, it’d be necessary to hear a longer stretch of more extemporaneous speaking, but he is clearly gifted at a neurological level. That means his advice on learning tones is irrelevant because he can simply pick them up through mimickry.

     

    Actually, Vladimir Skultety learned the Chinese tones from the very beginning just like everyone else. He says in retrospect that he should have waited.

    He isn't as gifted as he appears. One, he learned several languages as a child, two, his native Slovak made it easy to pick up additional Slavic languages within weeks and three, he is/was driven to study languages for up to 10 hours a day like some people are driven to play video games. While it is impressive that he learned Italian by reading a novel with a dictionary, one has to take into account that he grandmother spoke another Latin language, French, to him as a child.

    Recently, Skultety has been attempting to learn Latin, but his heart isn't into language learning anymore. He often goes weeks without studying Latin.

    This article gives a brief overview of how he learned each language.

    https://blog.glossika.com/aged-30-he-speaks-19-languages-learn-his-one-secret-to-learn-any-language/

    He isn’t as gifted as he appears. One, he learned several languages as a child, two, his native Slovak made it easy to pick up additional Slavic languages within weeks and three, he is/was driven to study languages for up to 10 hours a day like some people are driven to play video games.

    Yes, it seems a lot of people who speak (or claim to speak) a lot of languages increase their “count” quite a bit by checking off every language in a particular cluster—German, English, Dutch, Norwegian, Danish (Germanic languages)… French, Spanish, Italian, Catalan, Portuguese, Romanian (Romance languages)… or Slavic languages as you note. I’m more interested in how people do when they go outside of their own native cluster, especially outside of Indoeuropean languages. This is where you can do a deep dive lasting many years and still feel like you’re just scratching the surface.

    I would say that Skultety’s Taiwanese Mandarin sounds very good for a foreigner, and a number of commenters in Chinese (presumably Chinese native speakers) at YouTube agreed (though mainly they were saying that his Chinese sounded “cute” because of the Taiwanese accent). Certainly very few foreigners sound that good, no matter how long they practice. This points to the neurological “talent” aspect of language learning. The ten hours a day is more about learning vocabulary, improving proficiency in reading, listening, etc. It takes a lot of ten-hour days to reach a substantial fraction of the database residing in an educated native speaker’s brain.

    Regarding the timing of tone learning, I reviewed that article you linked and it appears that his problem was that at first he was just using tapes to learn the tones. This is problematic because tape quality is not that good (compared to being one-on-one with a native speaker) and you don’t get any feedback. Best is to have a native speaker pronounce the tones, and then you repeat. The native speaker can give you feedback. This feedback is absolutely essential. Eventually you internalize the tones, at which point things like tapes would have their place.

    The best way to practice a language is one-on-one with a native speaker. But language classes are not set up that way. They are set up like history classes, or math classes, where one teacher speaks to many students. This pretty much kills the one-on-one dynamic that is so helpful in learning languages (especially difficult ones). Schools persist with the ineffective one-t0-many language teaching style because it costs less and (often) they don’t expect their students to learn the language anyway.

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