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Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by TheGoodTexan, Jun 20, 2019.
Fei Chang hao!
German, Dutch, Danish, and English are all closely related. But that doesn't mean we can understand each other much at all. Same goes
for Asia. Even when languages have common roots they have diverged sufficiently that they cannot understand one another. It's cool that
sometimes they can communicate with their symbolic kanji, though.
Other parts of Asia are even more different from Chinese/Japanese/Korean-- the languages that use similar symbolic alphabets of a gazillion characters.
India, Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, New Guinea, etc. There's
a whole cluster of languages that are all related to Melanesian language roots.
Then there are the Austro aboriginal languages. But again, even if linguists can show
common roots that doesn't mean people can understand each other well enough to communicate.
Philippines is interesting because their official national language, Pilipino, is a mix of a few dominant local languages (Tagalog, Visayan), which has
lots of Spanish and Chinese words derived from past overlords. But in many cases they can communicate better using English, which is the same as
I've spent some time in India, and almost everyone I've run into over there speaks English well enough that I rarely have a problem. They even have most of the store-front signs in English and Hindi, and sometimes a local tribal language. I'm often surprised at how westernized their English is... not in accent of course, but in usage. We share many of the same colloquialisms.
So if I'm understanding the responses to my original question...
Some of the Asian languages may share common or "similar enough" written symbols... but they pronounce them differently, causing the spoken language barrier, but not as much of a written language barrier.
I know that's probably over-simplified, but is that part of it?
Yes but US is a single COUNTRY.
Much to the surprise of many Americans there's no country named "Europe'' exists, but 44 countries with 90 different languages ....
And no we can't understand each other in Europe so we use English
Same thing for "Asia" there's no country named "Asia" but 48 countries with hundreds of languages and no people from different countries or parts of the same country if the country is huge, can't understand each other so they use English...
You can summon me by intoning "Kung Hei Fat Choi".
I don't know much about language groups, or how Asian languages are related. I do know that being in a language group doesn't imply mutual understanding. Both english and russian as Indo-European languages, but how understandable is russian to an english-language speaker?
I also know that China has several native languages that are not simply different dialects to each other -- folks who speak them won't understand each other.
Also, while Japan has adapted some chinese words and symbols (kanji -- some kanji symbols have also been altered and symplified to add to the confusion), they pronounce them differently enough that it doesn't lead to understanding Chinese. Japanese has also taken in lots of english words, but the pronunciation is different enough to throw you off. For example, Starbucks is "Sutaabakkusu" and McDonalds is "Makudonarudo".
My Greek professor spent quite a bit of time in Japan. He tells a story of hanging out with some Japanese friends once, and they asked him where he wanted to go eat. He suggested McDonald's, but they replied that there was no such restaurant in their area. He tried to correct them, and even made hand motions of the "golden arches" M... but they were unconvinced. So he volunteered to lead them to the restaurant.
When they arrived he said, "See? McDonald's!"
They laughed and all said... "OOOOOHhhh you meant Meekadonalrudos!" (or how ever they pronounced it).
When you know in intension, it's understandable, but probably not without that...
The Vietnamese language is particularly distinct from Mandarin, Korean, Japanese, etc. because it has an alphabet rather than symbol based language.
Back in the 60s and early 70s, the Defense Language Institute could produce fluent Viet speakers in 6 months in the immersion training program (obviously the student had to be educated and pretty good at English and language in the first place and have the inclination for foreign languages). It takes considerably longer to produce a fluent speaker of Mandarin, etc. The school indicates a 64 week course for those languages.
1 in 5 families don't speak English. It is super common here. At my work, we support 64 different languages and it is very common to work with folks who do not speak english at all.
When I lived in Ky and Va and Co, most people spoke some... closer to the coasts... not so much... and there are lots more people on the coasts. 40% of US population live in a county that borders the ocean.
66% of americans live within 100 miles of the ocean.
Sort of related. I remember our ad agency had to prepare
a spanish version of a print ad for the US market. They had
to use 5 diff spots for the same ad. (Spanish,Mex,PR,others)..
All the same but diff.
Interesting article, but it's more about being multilingual than not being able to speak english:
However, the census data show that more than 60 percent of citizen and noncitizen U.S. residents who speak other languages at home also speak English “very well.” They're bilingual, in other words, and speaking other languages out of choice, not necessity.
What's more, English proficiency among all residents who don't speak English at home has been steadily increasing since 2005, when 55 percent said in a census that they spoke English “very well.” The Pew Research Center has found that this trend is particularly pronounced among American Latinos.
Looking at adult U.S. citizens only, the English proficiency rate among those who speak another language at home is even higher, at 69 percent.
There's a stereotype that people who don't speak English are undocumented immigrants who do so because they lack English language proficiency. But as the census data show, that's not at all the case.
No, not really. Many Chinese characters represent ideas, rather than sounds. The closest we have in Europe is our number system. The written character, say "seven" and spelt 7, represents an idea of iiiiiii "things". Each country pronounces the character differently but writes it the same way, as it's the idea itself that matters.
We say house, and the letters H O U S E represent the sounds we make when speaking. In Chinese, it's a small picture of a house, one with a pig under the roof. Thus it becomes an ideogram, something that represents an idea rather than spoken words. This is why "Chinese" speakers are able to communicate via the written word, even if they don't necessarily understand each others' dialects. It makes poetry recitals a real problem. You can thank the First Emperor, as he unified the Warring States by creating a written language that could be understood by people speaking different languages.
As far as I know, other Asian written languages are not the same. I trained as a junior doctor in China, but only really learned enough spoken Mandarin to ask "where does it hurt?"
The other Germanic languages (not English) are much more mutually understandable, especially in written form.
Just look at the Wiki for Asian language groups: it's quite a few. The Sino languages that use Chinese characters is a small subset of the wide variety across Asia--
And the "small families of southern Asia" group refers to a lot of indigenous languages, some of which have disappeared, with very poorly understood origins. One that jumps out at me is the Hmong, since there are a lot of Hmong immigrants to the USA from Asia. It gives us a bit more context when we look at waves of immigration to realize that in many cases the people coming to our country are oppressed speakers of indigenous languages who do not speak their home country's dominant or colonial language fluently, and have much less access to economic resources or justice. For example, some of the people coming to the USA from Central America right now are Indians who speak indigenous tongues and speak very little Spanish.
Small families of Southern Asia
Although dominated by major languages and families, there are number of minor families and isolates in South Asia & Southeast Asia. From west to east, these include:
extinct languages of the Fertile Crescent such as Sumerian, Elamite, and Proto-Euphratean
extinct languages of South Asia: the unclassified Harappan language
small language families and isolates of the Indian subcontinent: Burushaski, Kusunda, and Nihali. The Vedda language of Sri Lanka is likely an isolate that has mixed with Sinhalese.
the two Andamanese language families: Great Andamanese and Ongan; Sentinelese remains undocumented to date, and hence unclassified.
isolates and languages with isolate substrata of Southeast Asia: Kenaboi, Enggano, and the Philippine Negrito languages Manide and Umiray Dumagat
Language isolates and independent language families in Arunachal: Digaro, Hrusish (including the Miji languages), Midzu, Puroik, Siangic, and Kho-Bwa
Hmong–Mien (Miao–Yao) scattered across southern China and Southeast Asia
several "Papuan" families of the central and eastern Malay Archipelago: languages of Halmahera, East Timor, and the extinct Tambora of Sumbawa. Numerous additional families are spoken in Indonesian New Guinea, but this lies outside the scope of an article on Asian languages.
Creoles and pidgins
radiocaster, you're right. It's funny, if I have a few beers and watch a movie in German or Danish I'm surprised at how much of it I sort of understand....but only sort of.
I believe that just a little bit of alcohol causes the analytical side of my brain to chill out and observe, while the deeper, language part of my brain takes over and
does a better job of understanding what is being said. I also think that my relative facility for languages comes from being exposed to lots of languages as a kid and also starting
with music at an early age. I think the same parts of the brain are working when it comes to music and language....
I learned Portuguese and French and I can get by pretty well in Spanish and Italian as a result. Sometimes as a foreign speaker it is almost easier to hear the cognates
across languages than it is for native speakers.
I think it's the same thing that happens among Romance languages. People who speak Portuguese and people who speak Spanish can have a pretty fluent rapport if they want to, each speaking their own language. But the same doesn't happen when we branch out to Italian or French. Once Spanish and Portuguese were considered a same language, with Portuguese being a dialect. Then it became a separate language, especially after the consolidation of Portugal as a separate kingdom from Spain. Languages have a semi-loose relation with politics and national sentiments.
Portuguese and Spanish are less intelligible when the speakers involved are not formally educated and speak in very regional obscure dialects.
I think your article supports my point:
"What's more, the census data show that the link between U.S. citizenship and English language use has been growing steadily weaker over the past few decades. But that's not because newcomers to the country are less likely to be proficient English speakers than their peers in earlier decades. If anything, English proficiency among nonnative speakers is increasing."
But I could have been clearer. What I should have said was "But you'll find very, very few families that grow up not knowing any English."
I wasn't trying to imply that languages other than English are not predominate in some segments of US culture. Clearly they are. I was just saying that by and large, even in those segments, most people born here still end up learning and using English.
I like to take time and have a pleasant conversation with cashiers at various stores. I know that most of them would rather be doing something else in life, and recognizing them as a fellow human being with value is a good practice. So I talk with them. Recently in Louisville, KY, I ran into a cashier at a grocery store with a think Spanish accent. And I don't just mean the SoCal "Cheech Marin" slang. I mean an authentic accent similar to what I've heard in Guatemala. So I asked her where she was from. The answer? Florida. So I prodded further, "No, I mean where are you originally from? What country?" She looked at me and chuckled... "America. I'm American. I grew up in south Florida."
At this point, I felt like the big dumb white America that I am.
As she was doing her job, and I was trying to save face, she told me that he parents were immigrants, and that she went to a grade school full of other first generation Americans who spoke only Spanish in the home, and that her thick, thick accent just stuck.
Lesson learned for me. Even growing up in Tejas, I did not encounter much of that at all.