What languages can you speak, write, or read?

I only know English, though I did take a little French in junior high school, and some Spanish in high school. I can make some basic sentences in Spanish, understand some phrases, and can usually understand or guess the meaning of simple billboards or advertisements in Spanish. I consider myself moderately proficient at French pronunciation. For example, I can often pronounce wine names, types, or labels correctly.

Second question: Why do you have an interest in language?

I think I like language for the sound of it. Most of my language skills are in my ears. I know when something sounds right, even if I don’t know why. My biggest challenges with English are remembering certain rules of punctuation, and remembering the names and functions of the parts of speech. I suck at diagramming sentences. However, I know when something sounds confusing or poorly worded.

I love to listen to poems or audiobooks, too, especially if they are well read, and performed by a British person. I also memorize and recite poems all the time, and I think it must be for the pleasure of hearing them inside my own head once again.

I also appreciate language for its emotive qualities. I can read a sonnet by Shakespeare and be moved to tears, and I think how incredible it is that a man can write a short verse, and some 400 years later it can affect me—or anyone for that fact—to the point of tears. That is the magic of language.

Tags: bilingual, language, reading, speech, trilingual, words, writing

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Replies to This Discussion

I would change the sentence structure of what Eduardo wrote, so that

I can also understand and speak a little French and this is the language that I'm studying right now; I hope I can learn this language just like I learned English, I didn't went to a school, I learned by myself.


I can also understand and speak a little French and this is the language that I'm studying right now. I hope I can learn this language just like I learnt English; I didn't go to a school, I learnt by myself.

The way you've got it, Dallas, the final sentence is a fragment, which is generally to be avoided. Using a semi-colon instead of a period links the two statements together, which are closely related. Though Eduardo's use of a semi-colon can be considered correct, it would be better to place the period in that position, as each statement, though related, can be understood as distict statements, complete in their own regard.

Learned is correct for US English, but I find it doesn't sound right to my Australian English ears: learnt is the word that would be considered correct in my part of the world.
The way you've got it, Dallas, the final sentence is a fragment, which is generally to be avoided.

You are absolutely right. I did not catch that.

I think learnt is a grammatically correct option, but I'm sure that, as you suggested, most Americans would not use it. I don't think I've ever used it. I looked it up on dictionary.com, and it is proper, but to my ear, it has an uneducated sound. Perhaps that is because I live in Texas, and have heard people say things like, I reckin' I aint got much more learnin' ta do, cuz I learnt all I needed to when I was a young'un, my entire life. Not to make fun of anyone, but that is the way a lot of old-school Texans speak.
That's really interesting that you say that, because learned sounds uneducated to me. The only time I would use learned is as learnèd.

The wonders of regional Englishes.
That's really interesting that you say that, because learned sounds uneducated to me.

Teehee, that may be the case. I hope not, though. It could very well be just an issue of what we are used to hearing. A great deal of our language skills is learned/learnt with our ears. And if something is incorrect, and we hear it often enough, it takes on a sense of normalcy. It is a meme, I guess.
Actually, now that I think about it, there is an occassion where I would use learned (or learn'd). I don't know if it is correct usage, but following are the occassions where I would use each word:

President Obama has learnt the art of oration.
President Obama is learned in the art of oration.
President Obama is a learnèd orator.

(I'm not sure if I am using oration correctly; it might be oratory that I mean.)
And thinking about it again, I think the second example should be:

President Obama is learned in the art of orating.

I think you're a wise Latina--and pleasant one at that! :)
Exactly! That is what drew me towards other languages. My mother spoke Latin so I understand some words and phrases. Some French (O K High School French ) and I speak sign language. Not to mention I can speak JIVE too. I like to dabble in all kinds of languages, the linguistics and the flow. That also attracted me to Dune by Frank Herbert. So what did you have in mind specifically Gaytheist?
You covered it. Just wanted to know.
What languages can you speak, write, or read?

Oh boy... I shouldn't have answered. Here comes an essay.

English is my mother tongue, but when my great grandma went senile, she stopped speaking English and tried to teach my Yiddish. I was ten, and that was weird. I had a set of encyclopedias at home, my baby-sitter's husband had all the Tolkien books, and I loved myths, so I got interested in old languages, even though I never really had the chance to study them. Plus there were a lot of Norwegian speakers where I grew up, and towns with signs in Norwegian, so it was fun seeing words from something like The Hobbit in the world around me.

But I did study Spanish for about seven years, just long enough to read like a grade schooler and converse with preschoolers at this community center I worked at. We had Mexican and Japanese foreign exchange students live with us when I was in high school, so that meant constantly working with language differences (they spoke almost no English). There's also a large population of Hmong immigrants where I grew up; they don't have a written language, but told their histories in woven tapestries, which just fascinated me in high school.

I ended up studying English and Comp Lit in college with a focus on Irish literature, and that just kept bringing me back to Greek, Latin, Hebrew, French, German, and Irish. So eventually I took a few semesters of German and some Irish. When I moved to Ireland, I taught ESL to Italian high school kids, and found that with my Spanish I could follow much of their conversations, and even read some Italian. I never studied French, but when I visited Paris, I found I could read quite a bit, and fake an accent well enough not to get yelled at. (The French were very pleasant.)

Best French moment: An American couple approached my me and my girlfriend at Notre Dame and asked us in really bad French to take their photo. We responded in French, took the photo, and no one was the wiser.

I never learned Irish as well as I should have, but I like listening to RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta and BBC Cymru.

Later in grad school, I studied Anglo-Saxon so I could study Beowulf in the original, and then study Seamus Heaney's translation. He introduced a number of Hibernicisms (Gaelic words in English) that broke from conventional translation standards, but retained the original Anglo-Saxon rhyme and meter.

I'm also interested in languages as codes, such as how Hebrew and Greek letters are also numbers, giving certain words mathematical formulaic qualities; how runes represented both sounds and words, so a word written in runes was also a kind of paragraph; and how symbols shifted and warped into letters. (I'm currently researching how the ancient Phoenician letter for D was originally a symbol for a fish, and then became a door.)

And I can say "shrunken head" in Portuguese: cabeça encolhida.

Why do you have an interest in language?

I can't really say, except that I've always had an interest as long as I can remember. I was speaking in full sentences, the family lore goes, before I was a year old, and I was reading before I was in kindergarten; I taught myself to read mainly with comic books, and surprised my parents when I started reading the highway signs when we'd travel to see family.

I'm from a seemingly bland part of the Upper Midwest, but looking back, we had lots of Norwegian, German, and Italian speakers (lots of Sicilians), and a large Hmong population. On top of that, on my block there was an Indian family, a Yugoslavian, a Jewish family, some emigres from Georgia and Tennessee, and my buddy's mother was a second-generation Greek from Chicago. There were also lots of Chippewa and Ho Chunk people in the area (native American tribes), and most of the place-names were either native American, Norwegian, or French. There was even a surprisingly large number of Lebanese and Iranians who arrived before things went sideways in the 1970's. (Strange fact: one of the first mosques in the U.S., if not the first mosque, was built in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I had relatives there, and we'd eat with their Iranian neighbors.)

The way I understand it, we get our propensity for an accent by about age four. I was born in Omaha, and moved up to Wisconsin when I was little. I've always noticed that certain vowels didn't just shift, they turned inside-out. For instance, in Omaha they'd pronounce house as "heauwse," kind of high and long on the vowel, but in Wisconsin and Minnesota it was the opposite -- "huouwse," low and flat on the vowel. I always thought this was an Upper Midwestern thing until I heard Sherman Alexie speak; the Spokane Tribe in Washington sounded for all the world like Norwegian farmers to me and my friends.

Languages are like mathematics to me; they're codes and functions, and I just like deciphering them to see what they reveal about the world. Words and grammar structure the way we perceive the world, and at some point early on we lose the ability to distinguish an image from its referent -- you look at a dog, and think of the word "dog." In fact, I started my path toward atheism in high school when I took a second look at the Gospel of John and started questioning what "In the beginning was the word" meant. The more I looked into it, the more it seemed like a metaphor for the way the psyche creates an image of the world for the mind through language -- the word creates the world.

So that's it in a giant, rambling cracked nutshell.
Cuneiform? You read cuneiform?

How would you write "shrunken head" in cuneiform?
I think that your second question is more important than the first, at least in regards to understanding each other on a more personal level. Without language, what would we be? It is widely understood that all societal animals communicate to some degree and I was fortunate to be born among the most conversational of them. I would be very upset if I could not communicate my thoughts and emotions. Understanding languages helps you understand people, indeed it is essential if you truly want to understand a foreign or ancient society.

I currently can only read, write, and speak English. I have studied some Spanish and French in the past. I have also logged many hours watching sub-titled anime, so I have learned some Japanese as a by-product. My wife and I are taking ASL this semester in college. She has a client who is deaf and she needed another course to maintain her full-time status. I am very interested in the psychology of humans who have deficient or absent senses. For instance, when I read, I hear myself or the characters voices, but how do those who have never heard voices interpret the same novel? Similarly, how would a blind person "vision" the same material?

I would like to be fluent in at least five languages before my death. I would enjoy it if Mandarin and Japanese were among them.


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