* a Foreign Service Officer (read: elite, meritocratically-selected diplomat, usually with a background in humanities, who is probably in command of another foreign language already).
* 5 hours/day of continuous study, with classroom instruction at the FSI's internal language school (which is considered the gold standard in language education). Don't expect the same results from self-study with a textbook and some subtitled movies.
* Reaching a B2-C1 level of proficiency. That's certainly conversational, but far from fluent. Consider that for Russian, the passive vocabulary of someone with a C2 proficiency is about twice that of someone with a C1.
I would never want to discourage someone from learning a foreign language, but the notion that one could reach professional proficiency in French within ~6 months is unrealistic for 99% of learners. Even if you lived there and devoted your entire days to study, it would be difficult to ramp up that quickly.
E.g. I've never learnt Dutch, but I can read it passably because of my combination of Norwegian, German and English. While getting to proficiency written and oral would take some work I'd certainly be far easier than starting from the base of a single language.
Same with e.g. Spanish or Italian because of the bits I remember of French from school..
15 years later I moved to Spain for a while and was amazed at how naturally everything came together. Within a very short time, I was able to make sense of written Spanish.
Conversationally, not so much but I'm sure the Latin helped.
Virus is advertising itself as public service on the NY subway?!
When going to university, I had to learn English because all my books were in English, and I started to like speaking foreign languages because of my holidays abroad, including French and German. I even learnt basic Spanish.
Right now I can say my English is good, and I can live and work in English if I had to. Most of what I write and read is inEnglish, probably more than Dutch. I could learn to speak and understand French and German, but reading is much more difficult, and writing would be a big problem I think.
* all the languages
* I’m good at grammar
* a scared kid
* could have enjoyed it
* more than in Dutch
So, a big difference comes from alphabet. I would guess you'd learn reading and writing Bahasa Indonesia faster than Thai, because the former is written using Latin alphabet, and for Thai you'd need to learn a new script.
Russian is related to English while Finnish or Hungarian is not; most English-speaking people still find it easier to survive in Finland or Hungary, because the writing uses familiar letters (even if the alphabet is expanded with new letters made with adding dots and other marks to existing glyphs).
The only rational explanation I can find for this is cold war propaganda. ;-)
Seriously: About a third of the letters are almost identical to their Latin counterparts. If you study some kind of science you already know the Greek alphabet, to which another third of the Cyrillic alphabet is almost identical. After this the last third is not hard anymore. :-)
Seriously: In Germany they say learning the Cyrillic alphabet is something any slightly intelligent person can do in one afternoon (and I hope I could indeed show this to be true). Unluckily the rest of the Russian language is much harder to learn.
But of course you are right that the alphabet is not so difficult in the end. Different people have different learning capabilities, but that "one afternoon" for the alphabet is not unreasonable. Correct pronunciation of the many variants of s (с, ж, з, ц, ч, ш, щ) will take much longer. I have never actually studied Russian, but can quite often understand newspaper headlines just by knowing the alphabet, and several Indo-European languages and Finnish, which has some common vocabulary.
Knowing Russian, when I was in Bulgaria, I could read signs and even technical books with decent understanding, despite never studying the language. Conversation was completely out of the question.
Though Dutch and English are really quite similar, they're not all that much closer related than e.g. French and Spanish.
During my French-lessons, my French teacher often used Spanish (which none of us knew) as a means of explaining French vocabulary for us by means of demonstrating the transitions in sounds from the latin origins of both, and the same works between French and Portuguese, Italian, Romanian, as well as with many languages further removed from latin that still has plenty of loan words. The same also does work between English and French because of the number of French and latin words in English, but much less so between the other Germanic languages and French.
E.g. try to go to www.repubblica.it (a random Italian paper) and cut and paste a paragraph or two into Google translate with French as the target, and look at how many words are similar. Then try to change the target to e.g. Dutch or German, and you'll see far fewer similarities. Switch to English and you'll tend to find something a bit in the middle.
It does vary a lot - more formal texts tend to be more similar. I can pretty much straight up read very formal Italian by picking up context, based on French + knowing a handful of other Italian words, but I'd certainly find it much harder to read casual comments.
But I think you get a lot of English during your life if you live in Europe which makes it easier for you to pick it up. There are still more Latin derived words in English than French derived, Spanifying English words is not a bad strategy if you're learning to speak Spanish and you have a feel for Latin sounding words in English.
Dutch? Perhaps if you're Belgian? Not so much overlap with French even though there are influences.
It's just because of their funny pronunciation :-)
I was born and raised Italian, and got French nationality as an adult. I was able to read French well before I could understand it.
C1 is good enough for a first-year undergraduate student to be admitted into some of the most competitive universities in the world. (Graduate students, notoriously, can get admitted with less.) Even my French DELF B2 exam certificate would be enough for most French universities, though my first year would have been miserable.
To give you a more concrete example, my DELF B2 oral exam required me to draw a presentation topic from a bowl. My topic was "Should Paris institute congestion charges to improve traffic in the city?" I was given ~20 minutes to prepare, with no dictionary and no other resources.
I then had to give a 10-minute presentation, with no outline allowed, presenting my opinion and defending it. Afterwards, the examiners spent another 10 minutes asking me questions like, "Yes, your plan would be good for the environment. But wouldn't it hurt the poor?"
Obviously, neither my presentation nor my responses were brilliant at B2, but I could do it. (And yes, the DELF B2 may be harder than some other B2 exams.)
I think that worrying about "near-native fluency" is a waste of time for most language learners. Nearly everybody would be better served by trying to reach a level where they can socialize agreeably and work professionally. The very highest levels of proficiency normally require years of immersion at school or work. But if all you want to do is hang out with friends, or sign up for a gym, or get a job, or read books for fun, C1 is great. It's just a matter of putting in the hours.
Learning a language can be about much more than mere pragmatic considerations like "Will I be able to get my point across to my peers.". Language also is about culture and aesthetics.
So, while native proficiency might be a waste of time if you simply want to use a language as a communication tool it becomes a worthwhile endeavour if you see a foreign language as something that in a broader sense helps you to grow as a person.
Most non-native speakers probably will never reach that level of proficiency but to quote a French philosopher: "La lutte elle-même vers les sommets suffit à remplir un coeur d'homme." ("The struggle itself is enough to fill a man's heart.")
If a language is your only tool for communicating with other human beings, then it's worth almost any investment. Especially if you're ambitious and educated and eager to fit in.
And of course, part of the reason that educated native speakers are so impressive is exactly that: they might have 17 years of schooling, 100 million words of reading, 25,000 hours of socializing, and so on.
In comparison, a C1 student might have 1,500 hours total. It's more than enough to function quite adequately, but it's not even in the same league as an educated native.
If you learn a language to help you "grow as a person", then there will often come a point where the price is just too high to go further. I've spoken French for 6 years at home and read millions of words for fun. And it's hard for me to justify the price of further improvement. (So I'm having fun with Spanish instead, where 300 hours should be enough to carry on basic conversations.)
1) Make a better one. 50 years in isn't too late and the data is there.
2) Introduce a modicum of specificity into your critique.
I understood it to show a small subset of languages primarily in Europe, clearly marked by contrasting colours. You clearly disagree that this is valid, and you may be right, but saying ~"this map isn't another map" and ~"this map sucks" doesn't add anything to the conversation.
2) The original comment wasn't even posted by me. I never said the map sucks but did specifically point out a few things.
See John Siracusa's OSX reviews for Ars - https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2011/07/mac-os-x-10-7/
1a) My problem is not pointing out flaws — if they were truly obvious, they wouldn't need to be pointed out —, but in the potential value derived from the critique. The exercise in explaining how something could be done better increases the robusticity of the answer. For example, you could say "the colour scheme is unintuitive" or "the colour scheme might be difficult to process for red-green colour-blind people. It might be better to do x". Especially if you consider a subject that is obvious to you but not someone else, more detail would help.
2) I'm not trying to personally attack you, would likely agree with your sentiment, and didn't suggest that you literally said the map sucks. Simply that saying something has a subjective trait, when communicated as objective, doesn't produce much value in my opinion.
> 2) Even if you lived there and devoted your entire days to study, it would be difficult to ramp up that quickly.
These are 2 wildly different scenarios. If you stay with a family, immerse yourself and go to class every day you would have an advantage over an FSO officer.
As to not being professionally fluent in that time, that is definitely true. But you should reach a level where you can be independent enough to get around, speak and understand.
It's a pain for yourself and the people you speak to. You'll have to apologise often. But the locals don't really mind, they approve of your goal.
The real difficulty of learning a language is thus in my view nothing to do with the language itself, but rather, how good at English the speakers of that language tend to be. If you're in a part of the world where they speak an obscure language and thus all learn English from childhood, the chances of you ever getting fluent are close to zero. Nobody really cares enough to struggle through with you.
Hah, in Denmark this does not apply. If you start in a few words of Danish and then it becomes clear you can't really converse in Danish, (some) people will directly complain that you wasted their time and ask why you didn't just speak English, since everyone can speak it and you obviously can't actually speak Danish. While in other countries it's different, e.g. in France many people prefer if you attempt to start in French even if you can't really speak it, instead of directly launching into English.
(There are a lot of expats among the parents at my children's school and it's easy to tell who persisted and who didn't.)
With a completely foreign language you have to pause and think. With language close to one you already know it's easy to fill in the gaps by switching the language.
If that happens you can always flip a coin and just either dutchify the English or the German translation of what you want to say, but it's not the most elegant solution.
I found Russian very approachable for a 3rd language. And it's really cool to be able to eg read Pushkin; I can't read Shakespeare without more footnotes than poetry.
That said, I'd say some of Coleridge's work is in that general vein, in my opinion. And some of Byron's, actually. So maybe try those?
There are some very useful language materials produced by the FSI on the net, hosted on this site: https://fsi-languages.yojik.eu/ The French course in particular is very thorough, and the Chinese looks very good too, although I haven't used it yet.
I am making a special audio player for such materials, some info here: http://smallworld.press/
This is true, I suppose, but it's worth noting that this list does not differ that drastically from the DLI's, which is the uniformed equivalent to the civilian FSI and trains military translators, and they have no such requirements as far as background, education, status, etc. You can end up a translator just by scoring well on their standardized test in high school.
There's a fantastic documenation: The Adventure of English, it covers how the language grew and got infusions from those conquering the British Isle.
I.e. here's Stephen D. Mull speaking Polish: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_nRVUZpi660
He is REALLY good at it for a foreigner. It's 100% understandable (both content as a whole and every single word on its own) but it still sounds clearly off (a bit too soft and very American, Polish accents vary a lot in places but no native Polish speaker has one like his) and he makes some mistakes with conjugations and weird phrasing that no Pole would use.
 - American ambassador to Poland at the time who also says he has no Polish ancestry so I assume he learned via this American program at the minimum (plus his own practice in Poland).
In fairness, this is similar to many young people when forced to drive in less familiar areas without GPS.
I felt badly, and I'd probably with 20 more years under my belt be able to help a bit more now, but it's still the same quandry: you can't expect to use any computer/mobile device without experimenting to figure out the way to do something, and there are a lot of adults (I assume some children too) who aren't willing to do the wrong thing.
However, if one has informal but native English, but also formal training in a romance language... I could see such a person picking up new romance languages faster than German. The romance languages are more consistent with each other than English is with German.
This could be pure correlation without any cause-effect, but I still wonder how easy would be for any country to go to war with another one when most citizens of both countries spend years communicating each other. The usual propaganda which depicts others as demons in order to fuel hatred and "sell" the war to the public would be a lot more difficult.
In modern times we are currently just as allied to Turkey, Korea and Japan as we are to our western allies, and to a lesser degree with Saudi Arabia, who are all far more similar linguistically to our enemies than to the vast majority of Americans.
“Meanwhile, the poor Babel fish, by effectively removing all barriers to communication between different races and cultures, has caused more and bloodier wars than anything else in the history of creation.”
Still, getting to know “the other” and understanding they feel fear and love and have hopes and dreams just like me is incredibly humanizing, whether it’s the doped up homeless guy in your area, the Bernie lover in the office, your neighbor with an NRA bumper sticker, or a successful business owner. Learn to speak their language and come from curiosity and contribution and you’ll have friends and influence across the spectrum.
In fact no country in the world except the USA, France, UK and a few others have the capability to project power beyond their neighborhood.
The concept that you wage war with countries on the other side of the world for vague reasons is a purely American phenomenon.
EDIT: a few words
Sometimes, there's also a misconception that the top languages are at the top because they're objectively "easier" than the bottom languages. It's not true, it really depends on the language(s) you already speak.
And, why would they want to really? Learning a language is a daunting task. Yeah, you can do it, but its more than just learning words. Its about discovering a whole new culture, and that takes a lot of energy.
Its a complex issue. We all have our daily lives. Good things and bad things happens to our culture, associates, friends, family everyday. Its hard for a person to want to take on any more challenges.
On my end, I am learning Korean. Partly because they are a big focus point of (potential) conflict to our culture. Partly because I want to watch Korean Dramas without reading sub-titles. I'm about 7 weeks in, and I feel drained trying to learn the language. Still gonna power through for the greater good.
The world could be a better place, especially from learning another culture. I'm learning Korean currently. Its hard, but I want to really know more about them.
Most other don't have the time because ... well, umm.. "have you seen the latest Bitcoin price!!!??"
There is a lot of snake oil sold out there. Similar to self-help, they all sell the wishful idea that you can learn language without strain or effort. That is not the case... if you are over the age of about nine. Before the age of nine, almost every human has the ability to pick up multiple languages without effort. As you transition into adulthood, that ability diminishes, until it is an effort. Yes, there are people who can pick up a language without effort like my friend in Canada who can speak many languages after just having spent about a month or two in a place where they speak it. However, for the vast majority, it is not going to be easy.
"Ultimately, it's not about the number of months or years [that you study], but the number of minutes every day that you devote to this challenge. These minutes are what truly count."
-Benny Lewis, "Fluent in 3 Months"
Remember language is to communicate. If you can communicate, express emotions, tell people about your day, ask people about their life that might be enough. Yes, you might not know the 10 ways to express the nuances of an emotion like excitement. But you might know the one generic word.
Reading Harry Potter or the original novels that are so popular that they were translated into English in your new language might take more time. Ask yourself if you really want to be able to do that.
Going to see a comedy show in your 2nd language is not going to be fun. You'll be knocked off your presumed language level ability perch. You likely won't understand anything, likely. That is because humor is quite possible the highest form of any language.
> The higher up the scale you go, the less recognizable the languages might look to an English-speaking monoglot.
Author seems to imply a "distance" between 2 languages that would go both ways.
For practical purposes though, I'd think other factors like the popularity of English/Western media and artifacts of British colonialization would make learning English for non-native English speakers slightly easier, than the other way around, as a result of greater chance of previous English exposure.
The typological distance (linguistically) between languages plays a major role in acquisition, both positively and negatively. A positive L1 transfer is something the learner can infer about the target language from their own, while a negative L1 transfer is something they assume about the target language based on their own, but it's wrong. Overall, positive L1 transfer in closely related languages will overwhelmingly outweigh negative transfer, but be a lot more tricky when the languages aren't closely related typologically.
Note that typological similarity often coincides with distance in the historic sense, but isn't the same thing. For example, both Thai and Chinese are tonal isolating languages (same typological features) but aren't related at all. Also, Russian and Bulgarian, for example, are very closely related, but have a vastly different grammar, making Russian harder for a Bulgarian speaker than, say, for a Polish speaker.
Not only do they have a huge number of mis-leading false friends and corrupted loan words (for example the word for plug socket is "consent") but a lot of the core grammar concepts of English do no exist in Japanese. Plural/singular, subject verb agreement, perfect tenses.
And on top of that the Japanese language has many fewer sounds than English. Most Japanese people will never be able to discriminate between L and R, or have a good command of all the Japanese vowels.
To see why, look at the common English-Spanish cognates. Most English speaker will recognize the cognates that one learns in Spanish 101 - dormir (to sleep, from dormitory), comenzar (to begin, from commence), mascota (pet, from mascot).
But reverse isn't true - words like "sleep", "begin", "pet" will sounds completely foreign to a Spanish speaker. Sure, the cognates will help them learn "dormitory", "commence", and "mascot", but those are advanced words that a learner of English may not encounter in a long time, if ever.
But I wouldn't be surprised if, as a broad generalization, people who speak Cat I languages find it much easier to learn English than people who speak Cat V languages do.
It wasn't very hard for me to learn to read and to type with a Pinyin input method by simply writing office email. It's much easier to recognize characters (e.g. by picking them from a Pinyin conversion, or by reading them), when the context is known.
You don't need to know how to use a pen to learn how to speak Mandarin.
Should I be triggered?
IT WOULD BE SIM A LER TO LEARN ING ENG LISH WRIT TEN LIKE THIS.
Your overall point is correct, but this isn't true. Compare 长 zhǎng "grow" with 长 cháng "long", or 行 xíng "walk; be permissible" with 行 háng "line".
And also again, it is not true that Chinese characters with multiple readings are rare exceptions, unless you want to measure rarity by dividing the count of "characters with multiple readings" by "all characters ever attested". Characters with multiple readings are extremely common; one of them, 的, is the most common character in written Chinese by a wide margin.
Really interesting to hear the approaches to learning, currently going through Duolingo which is helping with vocab, but don't think it's going to help at all with proper conversation.
I get that English borrows a lot of words from French but overall English and German should have more similar origins than say Portuguese or Catalan.
Is this because of our "annoying" grammar (would make sense since Icelandic, another Germanic language with much more complexity in this regard even makes it into Category IV) or because German leaves little room of ambiguity (and thus fun)?
2 genders instead of 3 and some complication on the verb conjugations but overall not too many difficulties.
"No gramatical cases" (as in German, but of course the cases exist), no mix and match of ambiguous endings, no separable verbs, no crazy word order, etc
"Category I: 23-24 weeks (575-600 hours)
Languages closely related to English:
Category II: 30 weeks (750 hours)
Languages similar to English:
This I understood as a ranking in similarity.
Then you are either a genius in language learning/grammar or you are not aware of your mistakes (choose for yourself). I say as a native German speaker that even less educated Germans do some really ugly grammar mistakes that you should better avoid, just to give two examples:
1. Using the dative as "Deppengenitiv" (douche's genitive): Some prepositions (such as "wegen") require a genitive; also some (a little bit obscure and old-fashioned) verbs (such as "gedenken") require a genitive object. Uneducated people use them with dative. You are hopefully not uneducated.
So the following sentences are WRONG:
- Wegen einem Unfall kam ich zu spät zur Arbeit.
- Ich gedenke den Verstorbenen.
Correct is of course (you guessed it after I gave the rule):
- Wegen eines Unfalls kam ich zu spät zur Arbeit.
- Ich gedenke der Verstorbenen.
2. Which are the correct principal forms of "hängen"
a) hängen - hing - gehangen,
b) hängen - hängte - gehängt?
Answer: Both are correct, but have different meanings. a) are the correct principal forms of the intransitive verb (i.e. without object) "hängen" and b) are the correct principal forms of the transitive verb (requiring an accusative object) "hängen"
- Er hing ein Bild auf.
- Die Jacke hängte am Ständer.
- Er hängte ein Bild auf.
- Die Jacke hing am Ständer.
Before anyone laments the erosion of our language: The German language has never been so expressive as it is now. Every change gives new ways to precisely choose the way you word something.
This is a difference in mentality that I observe all the time between English and German language. In English if lots of speakers make some mistake it becomes "an accepted alternative" and at some time even "correct". For German language the mentality is different: If lots of people make a mistake it (with few exceptions) will still be considered as wrong. Accept it.
Goddamn plus-que-parfait, it's a trap.
And its usage directly parallels the pluperfect in English:
I had finished my meal when he arrived.
J'avais fini mon repas quand il est arrivé.
I'm guessing it's the vocabulary. English has imported a lot of Latin roots over hundreds of years. There's also the outcome of the battle of Hastings that may have tilted the results here.
This should make a skeptical person wince.
From modern perspective there is AT LEAST the following concerns:
1) How was proficiency measured? The research has shown that one can reach hugely different conclusions depending on the measure. Measuring explicit knowledge about the language using paper test has been, and still is, a very popular way of assessment, but the research has shown that it's hardly and adequate one in measuring proficiency, communicative competence or grammatical competence.
2) Are the results generalizable? It might be that the obtained results were just an artifact of the teaching method used. It doesn't mean that Finnish would be necessarily harder using some OTHER method than the teaching method used at FSI.
Note that this doesn't mean to say that the data is false. It means that we have no ways to assess if it's true or false with any confidence.
It's easier for a native Hebrew speaker to read the Bible or rabbinic literature than for a native English speaker to read Shakespeare. Moreover, a good grounding in Biblical and rabbinic Hebrew grammar and vocabulary makes modern Hebrew far easier to understand.
To say that modern Hebrew is "made up" exaggerates the degree to which Hebrew exists on a continuum. It was revived as a spoken, day-to-day language used for non-religious, non-legal affairs. But there are more than 2,000 years of Hebrew documents out there, and they contribute massively to everything from idioms to grammar to vocabulary -- along with many modern terms from English, Russian, French, Arabic, and other languages.
Plus I agree that the definition of 'speaking' a language is wildly open. It took me 3 years of living in Belgium and 18 months of 3 hours a week lessons to get to a point where it made more sense to have conversations in Dutch than English.
The French language is full of irregularities and weird, complicated sentence constructions (try to negate something in a conditional past tense), and worst of all, so many flowers of speech, that francophones love to show off.
I also find spoken Spanish sentences much easier to parse.
For the record, I've put way, way more effort into French than I ever have into Spanish, including enough immersive higher-ed coursework that at one point I was dreaming in it pretty often.
[EDIT] I should add that my greatest annoyance with it is how hard it makes it to practice noun vocab in isolation, which is also kind of vital if you ever want to get past the problem. You can't just consistently practice the more general indefinite form because it's too often abbreviated ("l'au") so then when you go to make some damn adjective agree with it you're lost because you never actually learned the gender. Using the definite article fixes that problem but feels wrong, and never made the gender stick for me anyway. So you basically end up having to practice modifying them with adjectives to get good at nailing the gender every time. That's a fun friggin' Anki deck to put together. eyeroll
However, there's another rule that words beginning with an a use el because of the double vowel sound.
“Centurión” (roman military rank) and “esturión” (fish) are masculine
English* is definitely* a different* language* even if some words are about the same. I marked* those words with an asterisk* . German is much more different* and difficult*.
Computer language metaphor. If you know Ruby you can immediately understand Python but you discover you can't write Python as if it is Ruby. People would laugh at your scripts (and where are all those blocks? Easier the other way around.)
You also think you can understand Elixir but this is not really the case. It is difficult to understand Erlang
But since German and English are both derived from the same parent language, we can find some similarity.
I am from India and ironically, I find learning Japanese easier than learning German/Spanish.
What German does though, is a declination of verbs through all cases and times, often irregular, accompanied by gendering pronouns which seems to be the hardest part of German for learner's with native tongue that hasn't these features.
The thing is, some think they got it after a few years, but we just let it slip, because it is not required, just feels wrong. We can tell, you've not grown up here.
Likewise I can tell that English is not your mother tongue.
I understood everything you wrote (you're obviously fluent), but tiny little things give away that English isn't your native language:
> learner's with native tongue that hasn't these features
I would have written: learners whose native tongue doesn't have these features
> but we just let it slip
but we just let it slide
> you've not grown up here
you didn't grow up here
I sincerely hope you don't take my comment the wrong way. It was too interesting to pass up an example of the very thing you mentioned: that you can tell even when the person is fluent (even if you don't hear an accent).
Related observation: You know how Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, was caught? He used the expression "You can't eat your cake and have it, too." But nearly everyone knows the expression as "You can't have your cake and eat it, too." Ted Kaczynski's brother recognized Ted's highly unusual usage from the anonymous manifesto published by the Unabomber, and this is what convinced him that he was the Unabomber.
I sincerely believe that becoming perfect in a language requires a lot of daily hard work and actually living in a respective country. In fact, seeing my parents misusing the Portuguese language still with some very obvious bad habits, even after they lived and worked there for more than 12 years, almost only talking Portuguese, I think after a certain age it becomes incredibly difficult to acquire a foreign language to such a degree that you become indiscernible from a native speaker, at least for Average Joe.
My above post though... Very bad usage for which I can only blame myself and the early morning. And learning proper English on the Internet is close to impossible. How most Americans use English has become a gobbled mess to be honest (e.g. "irregardles", or "that was uncult for").
I've seen this with Spanish-speaking people. My wife was born and college educated in Mexico, has a Masters degree from here in the US as well. I've gleamed some insight from her. Many immigrants to this country, from all nations, don't know their native language. They can survive wherever they're from, but they don't really know Spanish or Cantonese etc, they'll use terms commonly used by the uneducated like "patas" for their feet (patas = paws in Spanish).
I can attest that there's no shortage of monolingual English-speakers who are no different, and don't really know their own language. They can survive here, but are barely educated enough to survive in the US. Some can't, and rely entirely on social programs to make it through life, a large part of the reason is general lack of education. Many Americans are entirely unemployable, and many are already "over-employed" and lucky to have jobs at all. You could easily be meeting up with those people online.
First of all, Spanish has a whole other problem, because there is no "official" Spanish AFAIK (even though people from Madrid claim that), compared to e.g. German and "Hochdeutsch". If you travel around Spain, just half a day from Madrid, even well educated, employable people will use words and constellations nobody would use in Madrid. And I think that is totally fine, people adapt to it. Considering the whole Latin American region and their variants, Spanish is a mess in this regard (they officially write words differently, using 'x' instead of 'j' in several occasions), but you can tell where somebody is from.
Regarding the deterioration of English: perfectly employable, smart, educated people in high paying jobs use "irregardless" (that missing 's' was my mistake), and it somehow made it into dictionaries, and it seems you think it is a word too. But think about it, does it make sense?
Why would you negate regardless and what does that construction mean?
Reminds me of when an Indian friend in high school played a prank on another friend by impersonating me through instant messages (we were sharing a hotel). My friend was able to figure out that it wasn't me because my Indian friend used the phrase "today morning" instead of "this morning."
Back then, we didn't have whatsapp, so we were texting. She never responded to texts during lecture before that day, so I was shocked.
Then, one message later, I realized that it was someone else using her phone and fifteen minutes later, I said, "If you are done, please give her phone back to XYZ"
He'd say "I order the fries" to the waiter.
What I meant was das Ma:dchen die fru:shtuck
It is not just remember the noun (apologies) but also the gender associated with the noun. To exacerbate the matter, there are millions of rules and then there are thousands of exceptions to those rules.
But then again, the language is intuitive :)
I just happened to love Japanese because I want to go to Japan soon and that's why I gave up German, but I will learn it in the next five years
Btw. it is "das Frühstück" as well.
But you get laughed at when saying "das Cola" in Germany, but yelled at being a stupid German when saying "die Cola" in Vienna. Which makes the whole thing great, because it obviously annoys us a lot, both is correct though, and it totally doesn't make a difference what the gender of the thing is :)
We have lot's of words where the "Duden", the official dictionary has an "Austrian also: ..." alternative gender. And then there are colloquial habits that are utterly out of spec which make me furious to be honest. Who the hell thinks "das Teller" sounds right?!
My second pet peeve is the various different (and unrelated) meaning of the word 'ihr', which can mean in turn you (plural pronoun), her (pronoun), her (possessive determiner, as in "her book") and their (determiner). Why in the world would you reuse the same word for so many different meanings?
My favorite thing about German is that things are pronounced as they are spelled and vice-versa.
"Incredibly stupid" sounds a little derogatory. They are not particularly necessary for understanding the language, the correct gender/article for certain nouns are even subject to heated debate between regional dialects, and I agree, if you are coming from a language without these rules it might be hard to grasp/integrate. Nevertheless, I would not go as far as to say they are incredibly stupid.
Consider, English also has he/she, him/her, his/hers. You just got rid off the "the"s, AFAIK (or German is the only Germanic language that adopted it from Latin, but I am no linguist).
But gender is the easier part, the cases make it difficult: Similar to the English "he/him", we have declination of articles: "einen/einem/eines". This seems terrible for English natives. Together with constructs of "den einen/dem einen/von einem/vom einen/zu einem/auf einen/auf einem", so you need to memorize ways of saying things and at the same time apply the case accordingly. It can make a huge difference in what you are trying to convey.
"Von einem ..." is "... of one" (indefinite article), where
"Vom einen ..." (Von dem einen) is "... of the one" (dem is the article, einen is actually a counting pronoun, not sure this is the right name).
Yeah, sorry about that, I just get a bit frustrated when I encounter languages with them, because they, for me, feel so unnecessary.
I don't feel that comparison is fair, and I consider the English a lot more intuitive, since it's an indication of the gender of a person, which has a gender, and not of an object, which doesn't. They are more similar to "er"/"es" or "seiner"/"ihrer" in my view.
My main gripe is that the gender is a needless extra burden when learning the language, and it doesn't even make sense some times (my go to example is "das Mädchen"). Luckily German is not as bad as french in that part, which even changes words themselves based on what gender you are talking to!
Careful throwing those stones!
Besides that, there's a huge difference, since plurals have clear cut rules, while object genders are only by memory with qualified guessing. That said I would welcome "2 dog", although Japanese has other problems with counters (e.g. "yonko", "yottsu", "yonki" etc), so not a very compelling argument to make...
After all these years, I've forgotten the genders of most nouns, and I'm very shaky on my declensions.
Same as in English: "All verbs are at the end? That doesn't have to be".
My trouble with German are that the same endings are overloaded and reused in different cases (I have no trouble with cases: English has cases too, and retains the nominative and genitive).
German is mostly consistent, but the endings to me are like operator overloading gone wild. The endungen like -e, -en, etc. overlap in so many cases. For instance -en is plural definite in all cases, but also also in dative/genitive definite cases, and indefinite masculine accusative, indefinite plural dative, and indefinite masc/neut genitive.
If you aren't fluent in German, it takes a bit of effort to disambiguate the endings, and to me it seems needlessly difficult. If only different endings were created to disambiguate.... (e.g. -et, -ew, -ep, etc.)
Die Möglichkeiten der deutschen Grammatik können einen, wenn man sich drauf, was man ruhig, wenn man möchte, sollte, einlässt, überraschen.
Which probably isn't exactly what it says, but it's good enough.
As I am an embarrassed English speaking monoglot, I can't wait for real-time speech-to-text-to-speech translation devices to become ubiquitous.
In the long run, though, these little differences are insignificant compared to the truly time-consuming part of learning a language: the vocabulary. French and Spanish are about equal in the difficulty of learning vocab.
English, is very difficult, I think, though obviously not as difficult as, say, Finnish.
Most languages have complexity somewhere. Chinese languages have Chinese ideographs. Japanese has Kanji (Chinese characters), two syllabic alphabets, romaji (Latin character set transliteration), and things like "counters" (alternate endings for counting words depending on what sort of thing you're counting -- there are over 1,000 different counters!).
The complexity in English mostly lies in all the borrowed words and the rather loose rules around the language (like French, the rules have lots of exceptions, though in French the exceptions to the rules are almost infuriating in number), the rather not-very-phonetic prononciation, the lack of stress marks, the large variation in accents.
Are you sure you're not mixing that up? Or are you talking about more irregular forms of the french subjunctive compared to the spanish counterpart?
French only uses present subjunctive (past subjunctive is very archaic) while Spanish uses both present and past. Also subjunctive is used in many more constructs in Spanish than in French.
French also doesn't use the simple past/preterite outside of literature, instead preferring the passé composé (constructed like the present perfect in English, but the meaning is that of the preterite). That's fortunate because the passé composé is a lot easier to conjugate. Spanish and Portuguese however do use the preterite even in the spoken language.
I wouldn't say that English is very difficult either, if only because of the extremely simple grammar. Pronunciation is messy however, I agree.
As for English, I think that there are fewer patterns for growing minds to hang onto than in Romance languages. But that's just a feeling born of my experience; I'm not entirely sure.
And romaji is not used much in Japan expect in print media just to look cool or something. Actual articles and posts never use romaji but instead a mix of kanji and kana mostly.
Romaji is also used on signs and other material aimed at foreigners -- Japanese people generally can read romaji because, after all, they are taught English in school. Romaji is not much of a cognitive burden, I agree, since it's very simple, goes along with English, and there's only one romanization.
Edit: I mean, French resembles English more than other languages.
It's true that the 100 or so most important words in English are still Germanic, and also that all European languages imported tens of thousands of rare, fancy, words from Greek, Latin and French. But I am talking about the middle-space, those few thousands of common-but-not-ubiquitous words that fill a student's vocab list.
In most Germanic languages that stuff is still largely Germanic, but in English it is much more mixed.
Seems to be vaguely upheld by Wiki although I can't find my original source
So while articles don't change much under declension, words like "a" and "the" are familiar to Germans but not to ancient Romans (I don't know about the French). Also the relative order of adjectives and nouns is Germanic. Conjugations, while simplified, still retain much of the old structure, and the set of tenses understood in English is quite Germanic.
Phonetically, French is quite different from English (equally stressed syllables, no diphthongs, nasalized vowels, unaspirated stops, uvular r).
The only problem with pronouncing German might be its ch (ç or x) and r (which varies with accent). It's also easier to work out how to pronounce a German word from its spelling.
Even in the written form it's absolutely impossible for me to decipher, it might as well be a completely different language:
>HWÆT, WE GAR-DEna in geardagum,
>þeodcyninga þrym gefrunon,
>hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon!
The language evolved so drastically over the past thousand years that his germanic roots are buried pretty deep. Nowadays you're likely to find more cognates in a french text than in a german one.
Meanwhile I can find french texts even older than Beowulf and still understand the general gist of it. See for instance https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sequence_of_Saint_Eulalia#Text . Even if you don't speak french comparing the original and modernized french version should be enough to convince you of the similarities:
>Buona pulcella fut eulalia. (Bonne pucelle fut Eulalie.)
>Bel auret corps bellezour anima (Beau avait le corps, belle l’âme.)
>Voldrent la veintre li deo Inimi. (Voulurent la vaincre les ennemis de Dieu)
I had a very rudimentary grasp of Dutch after 18 months mostly through just speaking to my mother-in-law and watching Dutch TV.
Then I spent another 18 months doing 3 hours a week evening classes. After that I was proficient enough to have hour long conversations.
I don't find it very similar to English, if anything the similarities makes it worse because they often mean something else. It is very close to German and I can understand some German now. You do spot lots of interesting similarities but everything is backwards for starters, it's "four and twenty" not "twenty four" and "what want you eating?" instead of "what do you want to eat?". So it's kind of similar but you sound really stupid unless you get it in the right order.
I think there's a big difference between making yourself understood and speaking without making errors. I've made a big effort to try to get the accent correct which very few do.
It was composed around the same time that William of Orange reigned as king of the UK, so maybe that's a Dutch influence on our language!
I only know this because Four'n Twenty is the unofficial national dish of Melbourne. :)
That's actually the problem of translating Shakespeare into Dutch, it just sounds normal and less romantic.
"Romeo, where are you?"
If they'd translate it into old Dutch  it would give a better feel of the language but still wouldn't be correct as Old Dutch died out in the 12th century.
It’s extremely common for modern speakers to be unaware what wherefore means.
But it's really hard when you have to translate fluently
A better example is four and seventy, I always hear forty seven then have to realise I'm wrong and switch.
People say their phone numbers in pairs so you have to do this switching very fast as people are used to repeating their number.
If you say "wat wil je eten," there is no "eating." It's "to eat," in this case, like in English. "Eten" is the infinitive.
A literal word-for-word translation would be "what want you to eat?"
Thanks for spotting it.
Although thinking about it, my 5yo daughter does make the same mistake when she speaks English (she translates literally from Dutch), for example she'll say "what going we eating?".
But you have lots of these, "wil je naar huis?" / "want you to home?"
"ik geloof er niks van" / "I believe there nothing from"
In my head I usually hear the English words and it always just sounds really stupid.
I think that's just because as a new learner of a language, you are still thinking in your native language, not in the language you are trying to speak.
I've learned that it is easier to learn a language if you try to skip that intermediate translation process. Dutch is actually simpler than English in many ways (just as Old English is simpler than Modern English). Part of your and your daughter's confusion is perhaps because the same verb tense can be said in multiple ways in English, but in Dutch is usually only said in one way.
In English you might have "we are eating" and "we eat" that both represent now, but in Dutch it is usually just the latter. Similarly in English you might have "we will eat tomorrow", "we are going to eat tomorrow," etc, but even the Dutch use the present tense for this, "we eat tomorrow."
In fact, Dutch even skips verb conjugations entirely half the time, and just uses the infinite.
"Wij zijn aan het eten"
As far as making the mistake, I should just know better. I got to a level that was good enough and have stagnated there. So I make lots of small mistakes, but often I'm not aware of them.
We are going to eat tomorrow
We will eat tomorrow
We will be eating tomorrow
We are going to be eating tomorrow
Modern English has a lot of extra subtlety.
We eat tomorrow.
I find Dutch a lot like learning an elegant, dynamically-typed programming language.
The -ing stuff is just filler a lot of the time, so the Dutch wisely just don't do that most of the time.
We will elect Trump! It's great!
We are going to elect Trump! I'm excited!
I don't think it's a hard and fast rule, but if people use the future tense, it's more of a personal or indefinite statement, and the present tense is more universal and definite one.
"We elect Trump tomorrow." is something that misses this. You remove the individual ability to affirm or weaken the statement. I don't know much about Dutch and English, but I'd wonder if many Dutch people fluent in English have problems with getting taken too definitely or being seen as pushy.
The closest language to English is Frisian, which isn't a variant of Dutch (English and Frisian broke off from West Germanic as Anglo-Frisian, and an Englishman could well pass for Frisian in Medieval times). Dutch broke off at the same time as Anglo-Frisian, and it evolved somewhat towards English and Frisian (particularly in some of the phonology).
As someone whose only competent foreign language is French, I'll point out that Frisian and Dutch are in no way intelligible (although I'm mostly going by written varieties here, and it should be noted that Frisian and Dutch butcher their orthography on the same order that English does). Occasionally, you do come across a sentence in Dutch or Frisian that is completely well-understood, but most of the rest of the text remains fairly impenetrable.
From what I've heard anecdotally, the interesting thing about Dutch is that it seems to unintelligible to English or German monoglots, but English/German bilinguals tend to find it quite easy to understand.
Dutch teenagers get to learn all of these languages (although to be fair only the most difficult education called gymnasium will follow Latin or Greek and they're allowed to pick one of these, ditch the other).
A lot of these loanwords from Greek and Latin you'll find in other Anglo-Saxon, Romanic, and Germanic languages.
The Romanic and Germanic languages also contain some loan words which you'll find within each other.
More recently, the USA and English have become rather dominant and important in the last centuries, and we're much less distant from each other thanks to technologies like aviation, radio, television, and Internet.
Its like figuring out you got some of the same DNA as someone else while you got the same ancestors like for example the gene for being tolerant to lactose which Europeans generally have whilst Asians don't.
The other side of the blade is that we're also in a bubble; our own bubble tells us English is important for it is in the tech-industry which is the general population of HN. These people are generally proficient in English.
Yet if you go to small villages in France or Germany or The Netherlands (and probably about any country in the world) you'll find people who speak say a dialect of their native language and that's it. Because they don't live like globalists.
That's OK, we should accept that (tho in the EU its rather expensive to translate to and from all the languages!). There are people (as well as AI) who can serve as a bridge between these languages.
I've also learned some basic Spanish and Portuguese, I found them easier to pick up. I've heard it's possible to have some fluency in Spanish in 3 - 6 months. I think it would be very difficult to achieve this in Germany.
In the end it depends on the learner as well. My experience learning languages is that it's hard no matter what!
Basically if you pick up any modern pair, you get a ton for free. Pick up a third, or even just learn a decent amount about one, and you start picking up a lot of patterns that lets you infer meanings. If any of the modern pairs includes Icelandic, you'll benefit strongly from knowing the older versions of the other one in the pair...
Learn the patterns of how newer forms of your own language derive from the older, and you'll find you'll start being able to "shift down, sideways and back up" very often.
E.g. Dutch or German sch => sk in the Scandinavian languages. "u" in middle of a word => "o". Hence "Schule" => "skole" (school). There's dozens of simple transliteration rules like that.
In terms of older forms, an example from Norwegian that illustrates the closer relationships, that I'm particularly fond of because it's an oddity, is "vel bekomme".
It is a pleasantry that basically means "you're welcome" specifically used after a meal. It's a fun one because while "vel" ("well") is still used in modern Norwegian in many contexts, including in e.g. "velkommen" (welcome), "bekomme" now doesn't even figure in most dictionaries on it's own, and some younger Norwegians would struggle to explain what the word means on its own (I'm 42, and my generation too rarely used it separate from the phrase "vel bekomme", but were quite likely to hear it in somewhat wider use in our childhood)
But it's the same word as German "bekommen" one of the meanings of which is for food to "agree" with you, and with etymology that converges with the etymology of English "become".
Which sounds weird until you deconstruct both into roughly a mix of "to take on" (characteristics of), "to receive" (well).
The fun thing is that when directly transliterating the words into the closest German/Dutch cognates, it's not perfect, but it's close enough that if you know the history of the words, it's becomes obvious in context.
At which point the other (archaic; you may still find old people use it, but even that is becoming rare) Norwegian use makes sense: "Det bekommer Dem" => literally "it becomes you" (in the meaning "it suits you")
For some younger Norwegian speakers, that latter Norwegian phrase is now so unusual that it's sometimes first when they learn German or learn the English phrase that the meaning fully "clicks".
I bet if you gave a native English speaker exposure to Dutch in the same way, they'd be much closer to actually speaking it than with the same exposure to Spanish.
If you hear a Dutch person say "the water is warm," or "the cat sat on the mat", or "if I can," or many other simple sentences and phrases, the unassuming listener might think they are speaking English as the sentences are nearly identical.