Author Topic: [rant]why do english/chinese companies don't give a damn about other languages..  (Read 17531 times)

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Offline Gromitt

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It is also why the best thing we could do is to get the rest of the world to give up on their native languages and make English a universal language.   The trend of the last few decades to teach students in the USA a foreign language has been a huge mistake, a waste of money really.   Instead we should have been raising a armies of English teachers to send around the world.
Glem det, mand - det kommer aldrig til at ske  :P
Du har så rätt om det, kommer aldrig att hända!  :-DD
 

Offline Cerebus

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It is also why the best thing we could do is to get the rest of the world to give up on their native languages and make English a universal language.   The trend of the last few decades to teach students in the USA a foreign language has been a huge mistake, a waste of money really.   Instead we should have been raising a armies of English teachers to send around the world.

Hmm, it has its merits, but the thing is we tried this when there was a British empire that spanned the globe and still those pesky foreigners still insisted on sticking with their own languages. The French, Dutch and Germans tried it too before us and also failed. Remember too that before we could get started on the rest of the world, that we'd have the massive uphill task first of teaching you Americans to speak English too.
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Offline Cerebus

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I think in Nigerian pidgin wey might translate as who.

That as well, I suspect (from examining some examples) that it's doing a lot of work in place of a lot of words.
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Online CatalinaWOW

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It is also why the best thing we could do is to get the rest of the world to give up on their native languages and make English a universal language.   The trend of the last few decades to teach students in the USA a foreign language has been a huge mistake, a waste of money really.   Instead we should have been raising a armies of English teachers to send around the world.

Hmm, it has its merits, but the thing is we tried this when there was a British empire that spanned the globe and still those pesky foreigners still insisted on sticking with their own languages. The French, Dutch and Germans tried it too before us and also failed. Remember too that before we could get started on the rest of the world, that we'd have the massive uphill task first of teaching you Americans to speak English too.

Having studied a couple of languages other than American I find a lot of merit in learning other languages.  It aids in understanding of how American English came into being and also provides insight into some different world views.  Those world views are only a bit different for European languages, but get much larger for others. 

But I do agree it would be useful if everyone spoke a common language.  And for all of Cerebus comment (which I am sure is somewhat tongue in cheek) if all spoke as close to a common language as Americans and British do it would serve the usefulness criteria.  Even if a speaker of one of the extreme American dialects and one of the extreme British dialects found it totally impossible to communicate.  People on this forum do pretty well and come from all parts of the former British empire.
 

Offline Cerebus

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If we're seriously aiming for a new  lingua Franca (literally latin for the French language, but intended to mean a common world language) then it ought to be Spanish. Of all the European languages that have taken hold in the rest of the world it is the most regular and the easiest to learn.

English is the current defacto lingua Franca and is horrible from a language student's point of view, too irregular, weird spelling and pronunciation (even in Noah Webster's bastardized form). French is little better in regard to the same things. German's too much of a minority language to get out of the starting blocks (and putting the verbs at the end of sentences is just evil). Italian would be a good alternative to Spanish (simple spelling, reasonably regular grammar), but Spanish has got a huge head start on it. On headcount alone there's an argument for Chinese, but it's so different from most other languages (tonal pronunciation, ideograms) that it doesn't get out of the starting gate.
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Online coppice

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English is the current defacto lingua Franca and is horrible from a language student's point of view, too irregular, weird spelling and pronunciation (even in Noah Webster's bastardized form).
There are 3 reasons why English is so widespread today. 1) The British Empire spread it around the world. 2) The dominance of the USA drives it forward.  3) Its a flexible language that is happy to absorb from others. Point 3 makes it messy, but it also means it avoids being exclusionary. Some European languages have tried to exclude pollution by foreign languages, and its making them fossilize and lose relevance. People are generally accepting of English.
 

Offline Cerebus

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English is the current defacto lingua Franca and is horrible from a language student's point of view, too irregular, weird spelling and pronunciation (even in Noah Webster's bastardized form).
There are 3 reasons why English is so widespread today. 1) The British Empire spread it around the world. 2) The dominance of the USA drives it forward.  3) Its a flexible language that is happy to absorb from others. Point 3 makes it messy, but it also means it avoids being exclusionary. Some European languages have tried to exclude pollution by foreign languages, and its making them fossilize and lose relevance. People are generally accepting of English.

All true - almost, I'll come to that in a moment - but if you were making a logical choice for a new lingua Franca it wouldn't be English. As to the point about English "absorbing" from other languages, I can tell you (sitting here in pyjamas on the veranda of a bungalow*) that we don't "absorb", we don't even borrow, we wholesale steal.

*I'm not really doing that, in March, amid a public lockdown, and it is obviously an illustrative literary device to introduce some English words that were stolen from the Indian subcontinent (Urdu, Hindi (borrowed from Portuguese) and Hindi respectively).
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Online CatalinaWOW

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If we're seriously aiming for a new  lingua Franca (literally latin for the French language, but intended to mean a common world language) then it ought to be Spanish. Of all the European languages that have taken hold in the rest of the world it is the most regular and the easiest to learn.

English is the current defacto lingua Franca and is horrible from a language student's point of view, too irregular, weird spelling and pronunciation (even in Noah Webster's bastardized form). French is little better in regard to the same things. German's too much of a minority language to get out of the starting blocks (and putting the verbs at the end of sentences is just evil). Italian would be a good alternative to Spanish (simple spelling, reasonably regular grammar), but Spanish has got a huge head start on it. On headcount alone there's an argument for Chinese, but it's so different from most other languages (tonal pronunciation, ideograms) that it doesn't get out of the starting gate.

Have to agree for the most part, although Spanish is in many ways as bad as English in terms of local variations. 

It would be interesting to see how things develop over the next couple of hundred years.  Will telecommunications and video slow or stop the pronunciation drifts that split Latin into the various Romance languages?  Which languages will grow and which will shrink.  Chinese, English, French and Spanish all seem to be in the running as major tongues, with Arabic a dark horse contender.
 

Offline vk6zgo

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It is also why the best thing we could do is to get the rest of the world to give up on their native languages and make English a universal language.   The trend of the last few decades to teach students in the USA a foreign language has been a huge mistake, a waste of money really.   Instead we should have been raising a armies of English teachers to send around the world.

Hmm, it has its merits, but the thing is we tried this when there was a British empire that spanned the globe and still those pesky foreigners still insisted on sticking with their own languages. The French, Dutch and Germans tried it too before us and also failed. Remember too that before we could get started on the rest of the world, that we'd have the massive uphill task first of teaching you Americans to speak English too.

Having studied a couple of languages other than American I find a lot of merit in learning other languages.  It aids in understanding of how American English came into being and also provides insight into some different world views.  Those world views are only a bit different for European languages, but get much larger for others. 

But I do agree it would be useful if everyone spoke a common language.  And for all of Cerebus comment (which I am sure is somewhat tongue in cheek) if all spoke as close to a common language as Americans and British do it would serve the usefulness criteria.  Even if a speaker of one of the extreme American dialects and one of the extreme British dialects found it totally impossible to communicate.  People on this forum do pretty well and come from all parts of the former British empire.

They would probably get an Australian to translate!

My brother used to relate incidents from when he was in the Occupation Forces in Japan in the late 1940s, where some Brits & Americans couldn't understand each other & called upon him to translate.
Even funnier, some Americans couldn't understand each other, & he needed to do the same thing for them.

Of course, that was many years ago, & differences in dialects have been very much reduced since then.

My Bro had a gift for languages, & taught himself Spanish, initially so he could understand Spanish speakers on Shortwave radio.

It came in handy when he worked at ATN7 in the early days.
The German makers of some important equipment reshuffled their stock to deliver on time, so the gear turned up with Spanish labelling & manuals!
 

Offline vk6zgo

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English is the current defacto lingua Franca and is horrible from a language student's point of view, too irregular, weird spelling and pronunciation (even in Noah Webster's bastardized form).
There are 3 reasons why English is so widespread today. 1) The British Empire spread it around the world. 2) The dominance of the USA drives it forward.  3) Its a flexible language that is happy to absorb from others. Point 3 makes it messy, but it also means it avoids being exclusionary. Some European languages have tried to exclude pollution by foreign languages, and its making them fossilize and lose relevance. People are generally accepting of English.

All true - almost, I'll come to that in a moment - but if you were making a logical choice for a new lingua Franca it wouldn't be English. As to the point about English "absorbing" from other languages, I can tell you (sitting here in pyjamas on the veranda of a bungalow*) that we don't "absorb", we don't even borrow, we wholesale steal.

*I'm not really doing that, in March, amid a public lockdown, and it is obviously an illustrative literary device to introduce some English words that were stolen from the Indian subcontinent (Urdu, Hindi (borrowed from Portuguese) and Hindi respectively).

Interestingly, in Oz, where the default house is a single storey one, the word "bungalow" doesn't normally immediately bring such dwellings to mind.
It suggests, instead, a somewhat tumble-down place, along the lines of a "beach shack!
 

Offline Cerebus

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Interestingly, in Oz, where the default house is a single storey one, the word "bungalow" doesn't normally immediately bring such dwellings to mind.
It suggests, instead, a somewhat tumble-down place, along the lines of a "beach shack!

Truth be told, I think British ones tend towards that nature from the examples that I've seen. A lot were thrown up comparatively quickly as desperately needed post-WWII housing and time has not been kind to them. Not all of them, I have seen some respectable examples.
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Offline vk6zgo

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Interestingly, in Oz, where the default house is a single storey one, the word "bungalow" doesn't normally immediately bring such dwellings to mind.
It suggests, instead, a somewhat tumble-down place, along the lines of a "beach shack!

Truth be told, I think British ones tend towards that nature from the examples that I've seen. A lot were thrown up comparatively quickly as desperately needed post-WWII housing and time has not been kind to them. Not all of them, I have seen some respectable examples.

Some of the multi-storey houses, & blocks of flats in your country were also already looking pretty dire, back in the 1970s---for the latter, even 1960s builds.
I hate to think what 50 years has done to them!
 

Offline GlennSprigg

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Offline TheHolyHorse

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Am I really the only who, really wouldn't want english websites translated? I hate it when I open a program or website and it's not english, it's disgusting.
 

Offline SiliconWizard

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Am I really the only who, really wouldn't want english websites translated? I hate it when I open a program or website and it's not english, it's disgusting.

Uh. Do you find any other language disgusting (  :-// ), or do you just find the translations themselves usually so poor that they are disgusting?
 

Offline Gromitt

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Am I really the only who, really wouldn't want english websites translated? I hate it when I open a program or website and it's not english, it's disgusting.

Yes you are. Websites should be on the local language. It would be VERY boring if everything was in english.
 

Offline tooki

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"Africa" and the huge number of African languages is why Caterpillar (of yellow earth diggers and big trucks fame) developed "Caterpillar English", a simple, restricted vocabulary version of English that could be used for documentation where the local language represented too small a chunk of the market to make it economic to make local translations. They worked on the premise that the penetration of English was sufficient that a simplified version was likely to be acceptable where a translation wasn't feasible. (Often Africans that don't share a common tongue speak a 'pigeon' variety of English to each other even though no native English speakers are involved. Substitute 'Pigeon French' for some parts of Africa.)
Safety-critical industries like aviation have long had special simplified language requirements, using restricted (and curated) vocabularies, simplified grammar, etc.

Is Caterpillar’s simplified standard English, or is it actually a pidgin?


"Africa" and the huge number of African languages is why Caterpillar (of yellow earth diggers and big trucks fame) developed "Caterpillar English", a simple, restricted vocabulary version of English that could be used for documentation where the local language represented too small a chunk of the market to make it economic to make local translations. They worked on the premise that the penetration of English was sufficient that a simplified version was likely to be acceptable where a translation wasn't feasible. (Often Africans that don't share a common tongue speak a 'pigeon' variety of English to each other even though no native English speakers are involved. Substitute 'Pigeon French' for some parts of Africa.)
Indeed. I recently stumbled on a BBC website and thought it was a joke - it's all the current BBC news in Pidgin English. It's fucking hilarious, surely some dude translating the regular BBC news into some 419 scammers lingo as a laugh.

But it's actually real and funded by BBC licence payers - check out https://www.bbc.com/pidgin  :scared:
That’s amazing.


I had a look and I found it surprisingly readable. I say that because whenever I've encountered transcribed pidgin English before (it's really just a spoken language) I've found it really difficult, at times impossible, to translate back into full blown English. As an English speaker I've found pidgin more 'foreign' than I find French and German. I had a African friend at university try and teach me the basics and it just would not stick, I got nowhere with it.
It’s the linguistic “uncanny valley”: it’s too close to your native language for it to “register” as separate, so it keeps trying to get parsed as standard English even though it’s not.



Disclaimer for the following comments: I’m not Swiss, but an American living in Switzerland, who studied linguistics, native English speaker who grew up trilingual ultimately, whose mother is a language teacher, and who worked for years as a technical writer and translator. So please no dismissive comments about how I have no right to an opinion as a non-native speaker.

It is also why the best thing we could do is to get the rest of the world to give up on their native languages and make English a universal language.   The trend of the last few decades to teach students in the USA a foreign language has been a huge mistake, a waste of money really.   Instead we should have been raising a armies of English teachers to send around the world.

Hmm, it has its merits, but the thing is we tried this when there was a British empire that spanned the globe and still those pesky foreigners still insisted on sticking with their own languages. The French, Dutch and Germans tried it too before us and also failed. Remember too that before we could get started on the rest of the world, that we'd have the massive uphill task first of teaching you Americans to speak English too.
I reeeeeaaaallllllly hope you’re being sarcastic there, because linguistically speaking, British claims of Americans not speaking English are complete and utter nonsense, both from a modern linguistic perspective and a historical perspective. (British English diverged from our common ancestral English more than American English has. And nearly every characteristic of American English that the British love to criticize is, in fact, found in various dialects of British, Scottish, and Irish English.)


Having studied a couple of languages other than American I find a lot of merit in learning other languages.  It aids in understanding of how American English came into being and also provides insight into some different world views.  Those world views are only a bit different for European languages, but get much larger for others. 
”American” isn’t a language. I think you’re thinking of “English”, particularly, the dialect known as “American English”. ;)

But I do agree it would be useful if everyone spoke a common language.  And for all of Cerebus comment (which I am sure is somewhat tongue in cheek) if all spoke as close to a common language as Americans and British do it would serve the usefulness criteria.  Even if a speaker of one of the extreme American dialects and one of the extreme British dialects found it totally impossible to communicate.  People on this forum do pretty well and come from all parts of the former British empire.
Indeed, the high degree of mutual intelligibility is what proves that American English and British English (as well as Australian, Canadian, etc.) are indeed dialects of the same language, and not distinct languages.


There are 3 reasons why English is so widespread today. 1) The British Empire spread it around the world. 2) The dominance of the USA drives it forward.  3) Its a flexible language that is happy to absorb from others. Point 3 makes it messy, but it also means it avoids being exclusionary. Some European languages have tried to exclude pollution by foreign languages, and its making them fossilize and lose relevance. People are generally accepting of English.
Point three is actually nothing but urban legend. English is perfectly happy to borrow from other languages, but so is every other language. The fact that some countries have felt the need to enact laws to stop linguistic borrowing is proof that the languages themselves (and their speakers) are just as happy to borrow. (Such laws are political and cultural instruments, not linguistic ones as such.) Throughout history, whatever language happens to be dominant in a given domain tends to become a donor to other languages. So when Ancient Greece was the powerhouse, Greek words spread. When French was the world language, French words got borrowed a lot (especially in international politics and law). When Germany was the epicenter of development in psychology and mathematics, languages around the world borrowed German words in those fields. Right now, especially in computing and tech, the US was the leader in those fields, and coined the terms, so they’ve spread into other languages.

And in the future, when some seminal development happens somewhere else, that place’s language will mint the world’s language of that field. 

What’s made English spelling messy is that a) unlike most major world languages, English has both its “native” Germanic vocabulary and its Norman French vocabulary, which came with their own spelling traditions, and more importantly b) like many languages, English has had numerous pronunciation shifts, but due to the lack of a centralized language authority, has never gone and updated the spelling of a word. So in English, the spelling of a given word reflects how the word would have been spoken at the time when it was first written down. And then depending on how long ago a word was coined, it has gone through more or fewer pronunciation shifts. (Ultimately, this means English has something like 7 or 8 major “sets” of spelling systems. It’s not random, as people often claim.)

Many other languages have an official language authority that decides and then makes official, binding decrees about how the language shall be used. (It gets extra fun when multiple countries use the same language and then fight over authority, like Portuguese, whose last major language reform adopted tons of Brazilian spellings, much to the consternation of speakers of European Portuguese!) English, in contrast, has two major, but completely unofficial, arbiters: Oxford and Webster’s. (Of those, Oxford is, by far, the more important of the two, and to the likely surprise of many a Brit, it does not take a strong dislike to American English. IMHO, Oxford’s linguists of English are actually very, very fair and take a nuanced, objective approach to English, not the nationalistic, hysterical positions taken by laymen.)


They would probably get an Australian to translate!

My brother used to relate incidents from when he was in the Occupation Forces in Japan in the late 1940s, where some Brits & Americans couldn't understand each other & called upon him to translate.
Even funnier, some Americans couldn't understand each other, & he needed to do the same thing for them.
Cute story, but almost certainly untrue. What’s much more likely is that they didn’t understand each other in terms of the content, not the language, and just needed someone to explain something a different way.


Of course, that was many years ago, & differences in dialects have been very much reduced since then.
Interestingly, this belief is very widespread, but actually completely untrue. It is often claimed that mass media (whose production has been focused in a few places, historically) and travel would lead to a leveling of English dialects, but linguists who have studied this have found that in fact, the polar opposite is happening: the dialects are getting stronger.

It’s long been known in linguistics that socioeconomic identity plays a part in the expression of dialect usage, and so the working theory is that the frequent exposure to the prominent dialects in the media (e.g. New York and Los Angeles dialects) actually causes people who don’t identify with the “prestige” culture to use their regionalisms more. There was a famous (well, in linguistics) study about the local dialect on the island of Martha’s Vineyard. Researchers looked at what percentage of residents used the island dialect vs the mainstream (mainland) dialect. When plotted by age, at age 18 there’s a big jump in island dialect. Why? Because the kids who didn’t identify with the island culturally left the island as soon as they could, when they turned 18! So the people who remained on the island were those who have a stronger island identity, and thus use the dialect.


What I feel (but haven’t looked into in any way) is that the Internet has led to a bit more exchange of vocabulary in English. But only choice of words, not pronunciation or grammar.
 

Offline Cerebus

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Well you took your time to turn up, I was expecting you days, perhaps weeks ago.

Is Caterpillar’s simplified standard English, or is it actually a pidgin?

Simplified English.



It is also why the best thing we could do is to get the rest of the world to give up on their native languages and make English a universal language.   The trend of the last few decades to teach students in the USA a foreign language has been a huge mistake, a waste of money really.   Instead we should have been raising a armies of English teachers to send around the world.

Hmm, it has its merits, but the thing is we tried this when there was a British empire that spanned the globe and still those pesky foreigners still insisted on sticking with their own languages. The French, Dutch and Germans tried it too before us and also failed. Remember too that before we could get started on the rest of the world, that we'd have the massive uphill task first of teaching you Americans to speak English too.
I reeeeeaaaallllllly hope you’re being sarcastic there, because linguistically speaking, British claims of Americans not speaking English are complete and utter nonsense, both from a modern linguistic perspective and a historical perspective. (British English diverged from our common ancestral English more than American English has. And nearly every characteristic of American English that the British love to criticize is, in fact, found in various dialects of British, Scottish, and Irish English.)

Well, what do you think? Look at what I'm commenting on.


As to the rest, well. Poor old Tooki gets his knickers in a twist every time this comes up. But he is a linguist, well that's what he calls it. Of course most of us when we hear 'linguist'  think "somebody who studies languages" which seems reasonable. Until you get into things like this whole pronunciation shifts and so on. Then you realise that what's meant is theoretical linguist because that's all they have, a theory. Play me a sound recording of someone speaking Chaucerian English or Elizabethan English and you might have some actual evidence. But it's all based on written works from a time where two equally well educated men couldn't agree on the same spelling of the same word.

Oh look, I can see steam coming out of his ears! I am, of course, ragging you, but there is some merit in pointing out that this is not hard, objective, science but very much a 'soft science' (or 'zaft science' and they would say in the Black Country dialect) and the evidential basis is not one that would make the average empirical scientist particularly happy - I think a hard scientist would be talking "hypothesis" not "fact". Just to take a single instance, where is the cut-off between a dialect and a different language? Is this well defined, or is it a matter of opinion? If the former it's a science, if the latter then best probably move the linguistics school offices over to the faculty of social science. (I'm ragging him again aren't I? Sorry, it's the absence of sociologists to bait - there are some things I really miss about being at university.)

My only genuine grievance in all this is exemplified by the following:

(British English diverged from our common ancestral English more than American English has. And nearly every characteristic of American English that the British love to criticize is, in fact, found in various dialects of British, Scottish, and Irish English.)

Only an American would qualify British English to describe the English spoken in modern Britain. (Yes, I realise that I've picked on the one place where the qualification is justified for clarity, but it's a convenient place to hang my argument.) He wouldn't qualify any language other than English in that way but leave the variant unqualified (e.g. Use "French" for the variant spoken in Algeria and "Frankish French" for the version spoken in France). Even though they hate to admit it, most Americans take a proprietorial attitude to the English language that, if any one has the right to take, it is the English themselves. This is exemplified by language choices in American written software where "English" (meaning the North American version) and "British English" are offered as choices. That is what gets us British riled and thus deriding 'merkin English in retaliation. I am English, and as such claim the same right as the Irish and Welsh are granted, to call my own language after the name of my people.

To bring this full circle, the only thing that really genuinely annoys me, as opposed to merely irking me, is the sheer arrogance of a certain type of Norteamericano towards languages other than their own Inglés norteamericano exemplified by the original message that sparked the whole sub-thread off.

Oh, and for the record, no normal person in England, Scotland, Ireland or Wales calls a kitchen tap a "faucet", curtains "drapes", the boot of a car "the trunk", nor says "gotten". Yes, much of American English does seem to be much closer to Elizabethan era English than modern English. That doesn't lend it any more or less authenticity.
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Offline HobGoblyn

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I made the effort to learn a bit of Danish before I went for a 5 day holiday to Copenhagen a few years ago.

Was a complete waste of time, even if I tried to speak to people in Danish, they replied in English  (must have looked like a tourist)

I sympathise with the OP, but a good proportion of things I buy, don't seem to translate into English properly either.
 

Offline Cerebus

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I made the effort to learn a bit of Danish before I went for a 5 day holiday to Copenhagen a few years ago.

Was a complete waste of time, even if I tried to speak to people in Danish, they replied in English  (must have looked like a tourist)

I can sympathise with that. Did the same thing for my first ever (business) trip to the Netherlands, had the same response. To be fair to the Dutch a non-native speaker is obvious from a 100 miles off and I have literally never met a native Dutch speaker who didn't also speak good English.

Had, and still have, the opposite experience in Germany, there folks are quite happy to let you have a go and will put up with your terrible German even though many people could switch to English from the get-go. I get into trouble there as I learned what little German I do know in Germany from native German speakers so my accent is 100 times better than my comprehension, vocabulary or ability to string together much more than stock phrases. People hear me and think I can actually speak German properly, launch into a "mile a minute" explanation of, say, directions and get an "Entschuldigung! Ich bin ein Ausländer. Noch einmal, bitte langsam." (Sorry! I'm a foreigner. Once again please, slowly) in response - at least I sound properly polite and that seems to go a long way in Germany.
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Online blueskull

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I can sympathise with that. Did the same thing for my first ever (business) trip to the Netherlands, had the same response. To be fair to the Dutch a non-native speaker is obvious from a 100 miles off and I have literally never met a native Dutch speaker who didn't also speak good English.

Had, and still have, the opposite experience in Germany, there folks are quite happy to let you have a go and will put up with your terrible German even though many people could switch to English from the get-go. I get into trouble there as I learned what little German I do know in Germany from native German speakers so my accent is 100 times better than my comprehension, vocabulary or ability to string together much more than stock phrases. People hear me and think I can actually speak German properly, launch into a "mile a minute" explanation of, say, directions and get an "Entschuldigung! Ich bin ein Ausländer. Noch einmal, bitte langsam." (Sorry! I'm a foreigner. Once again please, slowly) in response - at least I sound properly polite and that seems to go a long way in Germany.

Same story for me. When I visited Japan numerous times before, I always start with talking to people in Japanese, gave up, and resort to English. I can comprehend what they said, but I can't organize my words as fast.

And no, contrary to popular belief, English skill of Japanese is not all that bad. They have bad accent, they may have problems speaking English, but most of the young ones understand English perfectly fine.

Can't say the same for the Koreans. When I visited Seoul, I found most people couldn't understand my English. Some of them include white collar office workers, school kids (middle to high school), and partying college students. I found more people understanding Chinese and Japanese there than English, especially on business streets and in shopping malls where you'd expect tourists.
 

Online coppice

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I can sympathise with that. Did the same thing for my first ever (business) trip to the Netherlands, had the same response. To be fair to the Dutch a non-native speaker is obvious from a 100 miles off and I have literally never met a native Dutch speaker who didn't also speak good English.

Had, and still have, the opposite experience in Germany, there folks are quite happy to let you have a go and will put up with your terrible German even though many people could switch to English from the get-go. I get into trouble there as I learned what little German I do know in Germany from native German speakers so my accent is 100 times better than my comprehension, vocabulary or ability to string together much more than stock phrases. People hear me and think I can actually speak German properly, launch into a "mile a minute" explanation of, say, directions and get an "Entschuldigung! Ich bin ein Ausländer. Noch einmal, bitte langsam." (Sorry! I'm a foreigner. Once again please, slowly) in response - at least I sound properly polite and that seems to go a long way in Germany.

Same story for me. When I visited Japan numerous times before, I always start with talking to people in Japanese, gave up, and resort to English. I can comprehend what they said, but I can't organize my words as fast.

And no, contrary to popular belief, English skill of Japanese is not all that bad. They have bad accent, they may have problems speaking English, but most of the young ones understand English perfectly fine.

Can't say the same for the Koreans. When I visited Seoul, I found most people couldn't understand my English. Some of them include white collar office workers, school kids (middle to high school), and partying college students. I found more people understanding Chinese and Japanese there than English, especially on business streets and in shopping malls where you'd expect tourists.
These days you can get by fairly well in Japan using Mandarin. The last time I went to Japan my family used Mandarin in a few places, and English in others.
 

Offline GlennSprigg

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I made the effort to learn a bit of Danish before I went for a 5 day holiday to Copenhagen a few years ago.

Was a complete waste of time, even if I tried to speak to people in Danish, they replied in English  (must have looked like a tourist)

I sympathise with the OP, but a good proportion of things I buy, don't seem to translate into English properly either.

I too have always tried to at least learn the 'basics' of other languages when speaking to 'foreigners'. However, as you indicate, due to inflection, pronunciation and localized idiosyncrasies, it generally comes off poorly! and one stands out as an outsider!  Then again, I've generally found that a LOT of them actually appreciate you TRYING!, even if stirring you in a totally friendly way.

I had quite a few 'interesting' debates with 'tooki' in the past too, as per others observations about his 'correctness'  (In fun!  :D)
To me, the biggest problem in hearing/speaking in other languages, including others speaking 'English', is the EMPHASIS on Syllables!!  Some don't really matter... like  'ALtimeter' or 'alTIMeter, but others do!  If someone speaking English said... 'capaCITor' instead of 'capACItor' it would not make sense to us.

Talking SPEED is also an obvious problem. (Of course you get more used to it!). If an Aussie quickly said to you, (phonetically)... "whatchadointomora", it is not obvious to a foreigner as slowly meaning... "what-are-you-doing-tomorrow"   8)

All that aside though, that doesn't explain how a lot of Americans pronounce/use many words! The worst being, in the elect field, being 'SODDer' as opposed to 'SOLder'?  (Holder, colder, folder, bolder etc etc).  Who in their past decided that there is a silent 'L' there???? This is an English word. Not their own!  ;D   'Hood'/'Trunk' instead of 'Bonnet/Boot' is ok, but not many others.  Someone there also decided once that the car is called a 'NEEsaan', instead of a 'NISSan', even when the Japanese inventors call it by the correct name.  ::)
I always JOKE! about the first hillbilly seeing the sign... "Yosemite", who tried to pronounce it as 'Yo-SEM-i-tee' instead of 'YOsemite' like 'VEGemite' or 'DYNamite' (Only stirring there.... that's YOUR word!  :-+)
« Last Edit: March 29, 2020, 02:22:46 pm by GlennSprigg »
 

Offline Cerebus

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If someone speaking English said... 'capaCITor' instead of 'capACItor' it would not make sense to us.

The problem can often be that people are working from written English and, just looking at the word, can't see the syllable boundaries, just as in your example. I was trying to read and decipher one of those giant German compound words recently. I just couldn't get it because my (English) eye was trying to put the word boundaries in the wrong places and coming up with a different string of actual German words - had to find a real German to get to the bottom of it.

I always JOKE! about the first hillbilly seeing the sign... "Yosemite", who tried to pronounce it as 'Yo-SEM-i-tee' instead of 'YOsemite' like 'VEGemite' or 'DYNamite' (Only stirring there.... that's YOUR word!  :-+)

Except it isn't. Yosemite is the Miwok people's word for "killer", the name of the tribe who lived there before the colonists kicked them out. What's the betting that we're still actually pronouncing is it wrong? (General rule for US place names: if it isn't the name of a town in the colonist's home country (London, Birmingham, Amsterdam), or a simple description in the colonist's language (Baton Rouge, Springfield) then it's probably from an indigenous language.)
Anybody got a syringe I can use to squeeze the magic smoke back into this?
 
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Offline GlennSprigg

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If someone speaking English said... 'capaCITor' instead of 'capACItor' it would not make sense to us.

The problem can often be that people are working from written English and, just looking at the word, can't see the syllable boundaries, just as in your example. I was trying to read and decipher one of those giant German compound words recently. I just couldn't get it because my (English) eye was trying to put the word boundaries in the wrong places and coming up with a different string of actual German words - had to find a real German to get to the bottom of it.

I always JOKE! about the first hillbilly seeing the sign... "Yosemite", who tried to pronounce it as 'Yo-SEM-i-tee' instead of 'YOsemite' like 'VEGemite' or 'DYNamite' (Only stirring there.... that's YOUR word!  :-+)

Except it isn't. Yosemite is the Miwok people's word for "killer", the name of the tribe who lived there before the colonists kicked them out. What's the betting that we're still actually pronouncing is it wrong? (General rule for US place names: if it isn't the name of a town in the colonist's home country (London, Birmingham, Amsterdam), or a simple description in the colonist's language (Baton Rouge, Springfield) then it's probably from an indigenous language.)

Thank you for your reply 'Cerebus'. Yes you are right!  German is my '2nd' language, and I still struggle with it!  As you said, they have 'words/phrases' that are joined together, and is often hard to find the 'boundaries' within. This seems to happen as their 'old' German is very 'descriptive', in place of a specialized 'word.  For example... a "quecksilberschalter" is put together from 'quecksilber' translated from "Quick Silver", (rapid movement on a table top!!), and 'shalter' meaning switch. In other words, a Mercury Tilt Switch!. Or 'Überstromrelais' meaning "Over Current Relay". Their descriptive terms get joined together to make a 'single' word.

And yes, (I was joking about the 'yosemite' thing). Here in Australia, a hell of a lot of our 'words' have indigenous origins too!!
 


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