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Experiences of a non Mother Tongue Blogger

American, British, French and Italian flags in New York City. Click for credits

This blog is written in a language that is not my own. They say that the older we grow the closer we get to the womb. While I was more drawn to the Germanic languages in my youth I now prefer my mother tongue or any Latin language. Writing in English is hence sometimes a pain to me although English being the first foreign language I got into in my adolescence it’s like a first love one cannot easily forget.

Toiling with Words and Sentences

At times I write directly in English without any problem. Other times I also directly write in English but I am unsure of myself. I continuously correct and rewrite sentences in blog writings and comments. I often paste a passage into a new clean white page, which refreshes my imagination. Sometimes it takes many new white pages to reach a passage that satisfies me, although I’m never satisfied. When I’m tired or when I’m writing something complicated I first write in Italian and I later translate all into English. This also happens when, afraid to let an idea slip away, I quickly jot it down in Italian.

Languages Contain Elements of a Culture

I have stopped blogging in both Italian and English although it has been an instructive experience. Working tightly with two languages was a little bit like thinking with two brains. A language contains elements of a culture. A language brings along a mentality, it brings along attitudes, values and also phrases often with no equivalent in other languages. It is also one good example where the whole is more than the sum of its parts, since for instance – and focusing only on two varieties of the same language – the lexicons of a cultivated American and a cultivated British are almost identical, but the choice of words and the way they are assembled produce something different, one feels it clearly, which is evidence of a different culture underneath. Of course with globalization such differences are getting less evident.

Latin Words in English

English contains a lot of Latin words, but its core is Germanic. The return to the Latin womb brings me to prefer English words from Latin, although I cannot always predict the effect they will have on my readers. ‘Comprehensible’ instead of ‘understandable’ sounds warmer to me, but the effect is formal instead. I mean, it’s not that easy to control the colouration (connotation) of words in a foreign language. Even the main meaning of a word (denotation) can be a problem. The same Latin words in English and Italian are sometimes false friends, namely words that are similar but have a different meaning. Actual for example means real in English but up-to-date in Italian (attuale), while preservative is an additive in English and, well, a condom in Italian (preservativo).

Prose and Rhythm

Writing is hard discipline in any language

I like prose with a rhythm. It is something beautiful which I can hope to attain in my language, not so much in a foreign language I learned through toil. At times I rewrite my English sentences until I find a rhythm that satisfies me. Reading good prose can be of great help and classics are always the best. Which brings me to the last point of this writing, the natural learning of languages.

The Input Method

When I was 14 I flunked English so I had to spend a bitter summer studying. For some weird reason instead of studying grammar I started reading American comic books (Superman) and the Longman series in easy English (now probably absorbed into the Penguin Readers graded collection). I discovered a new world!

I was absolutely delighted by colloquial American English and by these great English literary texts made so easy. My progress was sudden. I therefore applied this method to the study of ancient Greek and Latin by reading the Bible, the only easy text available in these two languages at that time. My progress here was amazing as well and my marks boosted up, much to my schoolmates’ astonishment.

A few years ago I was surprised to see that some people had sort of made a theory out of all this. It is sometimes called the input method in language learning. One learns a language by constant exposure to language input (reading and listening): texts, possibly good, and movies, TV etc. Output (writing and speaking) will come out naturally. It is after all how babies learn a language: they silently listen a lot, then they start speaking as if by miracle. Grammar can be useful at a later stage, to sort out things a bit (and in fact children later go to school). Some people even skip grammar. I once met a French-Canadian who was fluent in 9 languages: “I’m proud I didn’t touch any grammar“ he said.

ψ

I’ve talked a bit about my English blogging experience and about my relationship with this beautiful language. In 3-4 days I will provide infos and links about the tools I use everyday in order to produce decent enough English texts. Hard toil, yes, but great fun as well.

ψ

Other related posts:

Some Language and Reference Tools Utilized for this Blog
Natural Language Learning as Nonconscious Acquisition

About Man of Roma

I am a man from Rome, Italy. I’m 60 and a Roman since many generations. In my blog, manofroma.wordpress.com, I’m writing down my meditations. The idea behind it all is that something 'ancient' is still alive in the true Romans of today, of which few are left.

34 responses »

  1. Paul Costopoulos

    For 6 years while going through my Humanities I was privileged to have a wonderful English teacher. I had grown up in a bilingual environment, so had another classmate of mine. English courses, aimed at basic English learning were boring to us so we took to hiding books in our exercise books and read to while away the time.
    Father Lachance soon spotted it and called us both to his desk. He conceded that we did not need his teaching the way he had to do it…but. He allowed us to read during his courses providing we read books chosen by him. From then on, one hour a day, 4 days a week, we read Shakespeare, Byron, Sir Walter Scott, Chaucer, etc. What a wonderful experience. To this day I am grateful to Father Lachance for his input method and his understanding.

    Reply
  2. @Paul

    Very interesting experience Paul. Sometimes good teachers are where one least expects them. So you had the input experience too. As for reading and listening I believe the former can be by far the better. The written language is more complex and good literature is one of the joys of life.

    PS
    Please listen to the music I inserted in the previous post, first sentence, to commemorate Angelo and tell me if you like it.

    Reply
  3. Paul Costopoulos

    I know Bach’s prelude and it is beautiful and most suitable to commemorate your friend. Unfortunately when I tried to download it I got a message that the video was no longer available, however I have it in my CD collection…although not by Gilels.

    Reply
    • @Paul
      I also had a problem a few minutes ago, but now it seems available again. I am glad you think it suitable. Gilels’ interpretation is the one I like best. I’d hate it not to be available any longer.

      Reply
  4. My friends and I always joke we speak (and write) in three languages poorly.

    MoR: To be grown up in a multilingual environment is surely a great thing. In my country Italian is usually the only linguistic environment available.

    Reply
  5. Hi MoR,

    First let me say that you write extremely well in English, and I understand how difficult it is to write in another language quite well, and become frustrated with my attempts to write in Italian. Above all because it is too slow for someone whose thoughts often come in a flood.

    Heck, I wish I could write half as well in Italian as you do in English. I do spot mistakes from time to time or clumsy constructions – but do not worry too much about these – they will evaporate away the more you write.

    And your paragraphs are short, in the English style, making it easy to read your posts. I find lengthy blocks of Italian with no white space very off putting and even if the contents may be fascinating, reading feels as though it is a chore.

    As for your culture coming across – great! Why not? If no slang is used, aside from the spelling, Generally I cannot tell the difference between written American and British English – not that I care anyway.

    You are right about the nuances of the meanings of words in English being different from seemingly similar words in English and Italian. A good solution is to look English words in a good English dictionary, and check Italian words in a good Italian dictionary. Bi-lingual dictionaries are not too good at nuance.

    Looking forward to hearing about the tools you use.

    The input language learning method is very effective, and, as you point out, attempts to mirror the way in which babies assimilate language. And as I often point out to my students – babies cannot translate!

    Warm regards and buona domenica,

    Alex

    “English contains a lot of Latin words, but its core is Germanic.” – Actually, I thought German had its origins in Latin too.

    ======
    MoR’s reply:

    Thank you Alex. An appreciation from you is something I cherish. Well, my paragraphs are not that short sometimes (not to mention my posts.)

    I think it is a good advice to not use bilingual dictionaries, although among the tools I use there is also a bilingual dictionary by Mario Hazon, which I will mention in my next post on the language tools I use.

    The input method is something I mentioned in your blog some time ago, so I thought you could be interested.

    As far as I know, English and German both belong to the group of Germanic languages. And yes, probably the structure of German has been influenced by Latin a bit (verb at the end of sentences etc.)

    Warm regards and buona domenica to you too

    MoR

    Reply
  6. Thanks for your sharing, MoR. It’s interesting to know how you did learn English in the past. Your English is extremely well as Alex said. I know you had put much effort on it.

    Once we learn one language, we need to listen, read and speak a lot…. The most important thing on learning a new language is being Patient. Haha… since I know that if you lack of patient, you never learn that language….

    I have learnt a bit Russian and Italian in the past…but now ..almost all has gone lol. I know I am lack of patient and not doing so hard..I think now it’s time to review it again in my spare time.:-)

    While you’re learning a language, you would discover many different and interesting things, like exploring the culture of the country.

    I wanna know is that easy for you (italian) to learn “Arabian” language? I am just wondering about it..

    I am interesting about Arabic stuffs…Only their language and words are difficult for me to understand lol. Lately, i am reading a book about Sahara…

    ======
    MoR’s reply:

    Welcome back dear China!

    Yes, patience and will are important in life, and I think they are much more important than talent. Good news is that patience can be developed, while talent … it’s much harder.

    Russian? I tried to learn Russian too but had to give up. I also tried with classical Arabic when I was in Tunisia, but I gave up even sooner. I think at my age there is less motivation to learn new languages, plus one learns less easily. (but I guess I’d love to learn Romanian, Spanish or Portuguese)

    I believe Arabic is very difficult for Latin people and Italians. It belongs to the group of Semitic languages, which are non Indo-European, hence very different. Hard for me to say if to a Chinese person like you, a Cantonese mother tongue, Arabic could be easier to learn. Probably not. But since you are in your twenties, I think you should give it a good try, if you are fond of Arabic culture (which is a great culture).

    I hope all is well with you, AutumnSnow!

    Reply
  7. Paul Costopoulos

    Alex,

    According to Wikimedia Commons, German and Latin have common Indo-European roots but then evolved from two different offshoots. Balto-Slavo-Gremanic gave German, Celto-Italo-Tocharian produced Latin, the origin of Romanian, Spanish, Italian and French. The former produced two branches: Western Germanic (Flemish, Dutch, high and low German, Frisian and English), and the Northern Germanic (Danish, Swedish, Icelandic and Norwegian). The conquests and Empires led to crossover words and the languages acquired words from other roots. For instance we all have “assassins”, an Arab word.

    Reply
  8. Good to see you’re using your camera!
    Ciao

    Reply
  9. @Milanese

    Well, these two pictures are not from my camera, but today it was sunny and I took a few pictures of the Colosseum area. Ciao e buonanotte.

    Reply
  10. I don’t know, but despite blogging in a foreign language myself, this post really doesn’t strike home for me. Probably because India isn’t like Italy and doesn’t have a “unifying” language. Even our national language Hindi is pretty hard to find in the southern parts. My mother tongue is Marathi and outside Maharashtra it is scarce. Maybe Hindi in the north will work but not “everywhere in the country”.

    I wasn’t the greatest English student in class [I suffer from grammar-itis or the lack of grammar as per my teacher ;) {Also I need to look up the dictionary for words today}] but I feel more at home reading, writing and thinking in English. But that could just be me seeing as I was surrounded by english speaking Portuguese Christians in Goa. :P [Pity I never thought of learning Portuguese until after I’d left Goa!]

    I’ve been trying to learn Italian for over a year and have hardly progressed beyond the sentence “Buon Giorno! Vorrei La Colazione Completa. Grazie.” Although my efforts have been half hearted.. it isn’t exciting learning from a book/text based software where you don’t know how to pronounce the stuff. :|

    Anyway enough ramble. :D

    P.S. What is the first photo of? Embassies?

    Reply
  11. @Ashish

    India isn’t like Italy and doesn’t have a “unifying” language

    Which isn’t necessarily a disadvantage. Multilingual environments are stimulating. You probably have some knowledge of at least three languages: Marathi, English and I’m sure some Hindi also, kind of a multifaceted thing, while here we have only one language, which means provincialism, many opportunities lost for young people etc.

    It is a pity you didn’t learn Portuguese. But life is long and you can learn whatever you like. I think the only real big opportunity we miss is when we are babies or very small kids, since at that age we really absorb languages in such an amazing and easy way (afterwards hard toil is necessary) . Pity that most parents don’t realise this. I’m trying to convince a couple with two 4 year-old twins to let some Chinese etc. student live with them. No way.

    Ah hah, at least you can order a full breakfast when you come here. Italian has some charm, but it is not very useful internationally.

    The first photo? I don’t know, I took it from Flickr, it’s somewhere in NY city. The flags corresponded to the text in some way.

    Reply
  12. @Paul Costopoulos
    Thanks for that. I was not sure and had not checked my assertion out. I think German has, as you say, absorbed words of Latin origin, as Latin was the lingua franca within Europe for quite a time – hence the crossover words.

    Best,

    Alex

    Reply
  13. @Paul
    @Alex

    Paul, what you say corresponds to what I vaguely remembered. But, as I told Alex, there can be some influence regarding not only words, since standard German comes from a written language, e.g. the language Luther used in his translation of the Bible (derived from “the bureaucratic standard language used in Saxony” at that time, according to the Wikipedia). What I mean is that the influence of Latin as lingua franca, as you Alex have pointed out, might have influenced also the structure of this bureaucratic language. The German sentence in fact reminds me of Latin a bit, but I’m too lazy (and cold) now to check it out.

    Reply
  14. @MoR
    Yes, this is where things start to become complicated. German does not appear to have its roots as such, in Latin, but it may be possible to state, from what I’ve seen on Wikipedia, that Latin had an influence on the evolution of German into the language it is today.

    Therefore, it is more accurate to say that ‘modern’ German has been influenced by Latin, but Latin and the original Germanic languages have different roots – as Paul pointed out.

    There is plenty on Wikipedia about this – but you do need to click on a few links in order to obtain a complete picture.

    A good subject for a Phd thesis, even though I’m sure it’s already been done!

    Regards,

    Alex

    Reply
  15. @Alex

    I’ll reply later Alex. I have to go out and buy some FOOD, or we’ll all starve lol. Comments and replies to comments are fun in blogs. So cold, but at least sun is shining over the eternal city :-)

    Reply
  16. @MoR

    Please don’t starve! It’s chilly up here in Milan too – but lovely and sunny. Oh how do not miss overcast English winter weather! :-)

    Later,

    Alex

    Reply
  17. @Alex

    Not that I’m complaining about the Italian weather – my Canadian friends might think I’m unmindful that there are worse climates. I’m complaining about the central heating of MY house.

    A German friend from a cold area of Germany spent some time with us during winter. He said: ‘I’d never have thought that winter was much worse in Italy.’ He didn’t know that many Italian houses are very well heated. It’s just MINE that isn’t.

    Now I have food for at least 4 days! I found some Primitivo red wine from Apulia I want to try. I think we have said what could be said here about German and Latin languages. Don’t know if Paul or others want to add anything.

    What I want to stress is the idea, dear to me, that a language brings along a culture – meaning by culture those patterns, beliefs, traits, concepts etc. that belong to a community or population. For example some concepts or words have no equivalent in other languages. Ages ago (so I might be inaccurate) I read that the Eskimos’ languages have more than 100 ways of saying ‘white’. Amazing. So learning a foreign language is not just a tool for communication, it is a way of expanding our mind in deeper ways than just being able to talk to foreigners etc.

    Ciao

    Reply
  18. @Paul

    I forgot to tell you that the Father Lachance anecdote is a little gem.

    Reply
  19. Paul Costopoulos

    MoR and Alex, we live on a very small planet and ever since life happened every one influenced every one else.
    MoR, glad you appreciated the Father Lachance anecdote. You would have liked the guy, very cultivated, degrees from Oxford and Cambridge and a great humanist.
    By the way, it’s -8C here this morning.

    MoR: degrees from Oxford and Cambridge? From his name I would have thought a degree à la Sorbonne. :-)

    -8C? My goodness. Here we have +9C outside (and +13C in my house)

    Reply
  20. Paul Costopoulos

    MoR, Father Lachance was a French Canadian Sulpician priest. He went, before the war, to paris for his noviciate. When the war broke out he was sent to britain and finished his studies there. When I had him as a teacher, in 1945, he was freshly back from England…and happy to be back.
    In my house it is 22C thanks to electric heating and HydroQuébec’s low rates.

    MoR: Interesting character, Father Lachance. I love to listen to people telling their stories. I’m a chatter-box but I am a good listener. :-)

    Now the temperature here is getting higher because they turned on heating at last, but clouds are arriving. Some cold is good but too cold gets on one’s nerves.

    Reply
  21. Like Ashish is a Marathi, I am a Bengali i.e. my mother tongue is Bengali. We speak that at home so I am fluent in speaking but not at writing. I can read it but slowly. All this because I have never studied it as I have lived outside my home state. I have studied Hindi well but I am not fluent in it because it just didn’t interest me. I can speak it well enough but never liked reading any books etc written in Hindi. By reading English books and watching English movies, u can say I am conditioned to think and express in English best. Whenever I am pondering over a blog topic , I think in English not my mother tongue.
    But I can understand ur plight. If I had been that fluent in my mother tongue I would faced the same problem. Like many people who are good in Hindi but poor in English have problem expressing themselves where English is required.
    Babies may absorb languages quickly…but I think there is a trait of being able to learn new languages. Some just have it in them. Like my sister is a quick learner. I cant pick up any new language at all!

    MoR: Well, your comment proves nonetheless that you come from a multilingual environment, like many, I suppose, in India. You have knowledge of Bengali, Hindi and English, which is great for the mind in my opinion. Here we are mainly monolingual. My personal culture is mainly Italian, although I have expanded it towards French, English and a bit of German. Yes, I think some people are more gifted than others in languages.

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  22. @Man of Roma

    Never thought that this post would get so many comment…

    I guess, we all associate a word (the input method Imprints) with an image or a feeling. And while we try to express ourselves in any language other than the mother language ( Note: Not mother tongue ) it is simply a translation of our thought (image or feeling) to mother language and then to the other language

    it is like: Thought >> mother language >> other language

    Now what is the mother language? Since it is my coined term… I would like to define a language or a set of language in which a person communicates in without any compulsion or pressure. (Like for eg: talking in english in India is sometimes used to create an impression…)

    Now what do I mean by the crap I stated all this time…
    Well my mother Language … and to most of north Indian.. Hinglish a combination of hindi and english

    Hindi is my mother tongue..

    I use a combination of both Hindi and english. In most of the case the gramatical structure is of Hindi but english.

    eg: I always associate think of railways and associate with word “train” and “lohpadgamni” – the exact word of train in Hindi. Or furniture associates with “table” and Not “mej” and so on and so forth.

    Now I really find it difficult to introduce myself in Pure “Hindi” because it takes time to translate the “thought” from “mother Language” to “mother tongue”

    just as one of the comments on ur post mentioned that English to Italian dictionary are of little use …

    Similarly, our dictionary (mind) or Knowledge base is not that efficient when it comes to translation of thoughts from “mother language” to “other language”.

    And if u allow me to use some more computer terms… Over the continuous use of two or more language, the Knowledge base increases and certain terms gets translated at a faster rate and communication becomes much easier or fluency increases… It is like certain programs/ modules/ algorithms that are frequently used to be prefetched into RAM for smooth and faster working of an application theory. Moreover As an expert system .. we learn from feedback and evolve or move towards being more and more Bilinguistic / Multilinguistic.

    Now, If u want test my theory…Do one thing… I have tried it before..

    1> Find urself a fluent speaker of “other language”
    2> Find urself a topic or a domain where u have more knowledge or expertise than him… and probably he is just a Novice.
    3> Communicate to him in “other language” in the area of his expertise/regular use. notice his fluency and grammatical error.
    4> Slowly Move to the topic of ur expertise ( where he is not comfortable/ novice) and notice his level of fluency and grammatical error.

    You are bound to find a drop in his level of fluency/ grammatical error.

    Confirmatory test.

    1. make a note of his grammatical and structural errors in the step 4.
    2. Try converting the words to the grammar of the “mother language” ie sentence structure one uses in case of “mother language” .. (hindi in my case)

    3. try substituting the words of “other language” back to the words “mother language/ tongue” .Is the grammatical structure right? more often than not they fit in exactly…

    A better way to do it.. is take note of “grammatical” or “structural” error when people make it. And try confirmatory test..

    A probable explanation could be that u are forcing a system (mind) to work in a unforeseen area/ domain… and when it fails it has no fall back mechanism to support it, and hence literally translates the sentence/word to its exact meaning in “other language”

    @Ashish

    FYI India does not have a national language!!!

    http://india.targetgenx.com/2007/10/14/you-think-you-know-what-indias-national-language-is/

    PS: I know Man of Roma that u remove links from ur comments but most probably … it is as much of a news to the emperor as it is to you!

    =====

    MoR’s reply:

    Interesting reflection and test. Only, I don’t think that we only and always translate from our mother tongue into the second language. When we get well into the second language (SL) we also tend to think in that language. This is why teachers insist (and Alex pointed it out) on using a monolingual SL dictionary. It’s because a monolingual dictionary forces us to think in that new language. Words and meanings of the SL are explained via the SL, not the FL, our mother tongue or first language.

    In my blog though I have a problem. Here the protagonist is not a language, but ideas, history, philosophy etc. even though expressed in simple ways. Sometimes I need to brainstorm in my own mother tongue when topics become too complex. Hence I need to translate from FL (Italian) to SL (English).

    PS
    I read the article you link to. A very *interesting blog*, by the way. I will consider it, together with *Nita’s*, for acquiring information about your country. So it is true that Hindi at last didn’t become the Indian language for all. Interesting how the South revolted together with all those that are non Hindi mother tongue. I am not qualified to talk about this, but I think that if India did totally erase English in favour of Hindi this would have caused like an isolation of your country. Nations like Russia or China have world-wide communication problems that India doesn’t have, it is a fact. And since the world is more and more global, being fluent is English is a clear advantage.

    Reply
  23. Paul Costopoulos

    Language along with body language is the most basic mean of communication. No wonder this post generated so many comments.
    Now here it’s the end of the afternoon, but in your countries it’s bedtime or even already tomorrow, so good night and good morning.

    MoR: This post has received many comments also because I have threatened some commentators by mail :-)

    Reply
  24. @Dear commentators

    Good day, good night and good morning to all. I’ll reply tomorrow with ease, since I have to write something on the language tools as promised. Falcon be patient, you usually write too much and write things complicated, and Reema has priority, since she commented first. UPDATE: I have replied above to both.

    Ciao Paul, Canadian friend. And pls allow me again, since you might know something about the story of this *Greek man* from Corfu. Hope I’m not obsessing you – you can start reading after the Corfu picture – because I like you visiting my blog.

    Reply
  25. Paul Costopoulos

    Unfortunately, MoR, I knew nothing about your young Corfu man. I do, however, remember, even though I was not there, the terrible era of the Colonels. They were no better than Chile’s Pinochet nor than all those right wing dictators installed and supported by the Americans to prevent Communism from getting to much of a foothold around the world.
    To this day, I’m not sure what would have been the worse evil.
    Maybe Giovanni Guareschi would know if Don Camillo and Peppone revealed him their secrets.
    The regretable part is so many young idealistic boys and girls, on both sides, generously gave their lives for these ideologies to so little avail since we have still not learned.
    And thank you for your appreciation. I like your blog, it’s tone and content and I feel close to the other bloggers, young and old, wherever they are.

    Reply
  26. @Paul

    That poor father really bewildered us. I was with my future wife in that little shop. I believe the worse evil would have been communism, although the topic is big. I was a communist for only a couple of years, like the majority of students here in 68. Then I understood it was nothing but a fanatical faith, like many other fanatical faiths. I’m glad we escaped that, also thanks to the CIA, ironically. Another long story. Yes, many young people gave their life (or totally messed it up).

    Thank you very much Paul. And I also love the presence of people from many different countries. This is one main reason why I blog in English.

    PS
    This is the link to that poor young Greek man who killed himself. He was born in 1948, exactly my age:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kostas_Georgakis

    Reply
  27. Your written English is remarkable – certainly better than most of what I read by native speakers/writers!

    I admire your dedication and perseverance. I don’t have it myself. I love French literature – Balzac, Flaubert, Stendhal – but I read them only in English. Sometimes I struggle through a few pages, then give up, exhausted. Once in a while I will read a short poem by Baudelaire or Rimbaud. I can get by in France or Quebec, and I improve rapidly with practice, but I am by no means fluent. To my shame, I am nearly mono-lingual. (I don’t play an instrument either, and I call myself educated!!)

    The little French I know I learned in high school. I credit Madame Schmidt, a wrinkled little old Alsatian lady for teaching me. Somehow, I have retained it all these years. I think it’s because sometimes, for amusement, I try to converse with myself in French, or imagine I am meeting a French person – perhaps a beautiful woman! – and I rehearse and work out the problems of conversation.

    My daughter was telling me recently how hard she is working in her French class in college. “I had to read five pages of Balzac, and it took me two hours!” I told her that sounds about right – keep at it! Nowadays, it’s so much easier for students anyway. I recall pondering idiomatic phrases that I could never figure out. I knew each individual word, but the meaning escaped me. I’d have to look in a translated text if I had one, or wait to speak to the professor. Today, on the Internet, you can get the meaning of practically any phrase. I guess there IS progress sometimes.

    Ciao!

    Reply
    • First of all I thank you for your appreciation. Although I know that I make mistakes. Hope to fix them in the long run.

      Sometimes I struggle through a few pages, then give up

      Well, I don’t know if there’s any graded texts in French too. There were/are many in English and I think I would have given up too if I hadn’t any graded (and good) texts in English. I can understand, starting with Flaubert or Balzac can be off-putting. And one shouldn’t though look up too many words in a dictionary, I believe. Too boring. It’s better to read and read: wider words comprehension will arrive gradually, through words context.

      Yes, it’s so much easier for students today. I don’t think the idea of a ‘progress’ in science, society etc. is totally wrong, maybe it’s just discontinuous. I mean, if I only had television in many languages as I have now! When I was a teenager there was only one movie theatre in Rome, Il Rubino, that projected movies in English once a week. And it was so darn frustrating! I understood one word in one thousand! While people in Tunisia and Albania understand very well Italian because they have been watching Italian television since decades.

      Reply
  28. Hi:

    This is off-topic, but since you are musical, I think you will enjoy this post and the links:

    http://iamyouasheisme.wordpress.com/2009/02/21/i-am-not-crazy/

    MoR: A funny thing really, and interesting. I posted a comment at your blog, Lichanos.

    Reply
  29. I can understand, starting with Flaubert or Balzac can be off-putting…

    Yes, pretty obvious! Thanks for the good idea. I just ordered a copy of the French edition of the comic book story, Asterix and Obelisk!

    Mor: Really? I can’t believe it!

    Reply
  30. I really enjoyed reading this post! It is wonderful to read about your interest in languages and the desire to communicate (blog) with this tool.

    I want to share my thoughts about learning new languages with you.

    I don’t suffer from any language narcissism, unlike many people everywhere, and I feel happy to pick up words and phrases of different languages, as it makes me happy, and it makes the other person happy too, to hear a word in his language. More than half of my life has been spent meeting new people and strangers, and I have tried to find the deeper things that bind us all, instead of seeking out the superficial things which divide us. And it is amazing to find these common roots in languages as well.

    I know Hindi and Bangla well, but I don’t find any language superior! They are for communicating. One should not take a language too seriously, unless one is in the business of the literature of that language! 

    In North-Central India, where I have spent 25 years of my life, people have the false idea that Hindi is the purest language, and all other languages are just minor languages. They feel surprised when people don’t speak it well, or even make fun of them. Or they quote that Hindi is our national language (which is not true) and everyone should give up their languages and know it well!

    It is sad that due to aggressive promotion of French in France, many other local dialects and languages have died. India is a living proof that a language doesn’t have to be the binding force or identity of a nation. Many languages can survive side-by-side and a pluralistic nation can survive too.

    Reply
  31. Thank you dear Nomad. Yes, I have started this blog for a wider communication. In this *post*, a bit naive I’ll admit, I express the initial motivation of my blog.

    and I feel happy to pick up words and phrases of different languages, as it makes me happy, and it makes the other person happy too, to hear a word in his language.

    This seems sweet of you. To me languages have instead been at first a solitary study. But with the passing years they brought me closer to the people who spoke them.

    find the deeper things that bind us all, instead of seeking out the superficial things which divide us. And it is amazing to find these common roots in languages as well.

    Yes, this brotherhood among people is what should count more. I hope a sort of common sense will prevail over intolerance.

    The common roots in Indo-European languages, for example. My Greek and Latin teacher, Panichi, tormented us with an extremely difficult Greek grammar he had written, where each Greek word was analysed in its common root with Sanskrit. We became pale whenever he called us at his desk.

    I’ve always been against any form of linguistic purism. India is a good example of coexistence of many languages and peoples. The biggest democracy in the world. It is admirable how you have succeeded in this. After independence not many people thought you would make it.

    Reply
  32. Pingback: Natural Language Learning as Non Conscious Acquisition « Man of Roma

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