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

Views: 63

Replies to This Discussion

English, French, a bit of German, a smidgen of Russian. Does Latin count?
Yes, Latin counts.
English (mother tongue) and a tiny smattering of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. I can partially comprehend some of these written Latin/romance languages, but would still find it difficult to communicate correctly in writing, or to understand when spoken aloud (too rapid).

My love affair with written language is emotive. What does some else's written language cause me to feel and/or "know"... and vice-versa? I also love humor - both written and spoken - especially plays on words.
I hope I'm not coming to the party after all the guests have departed. A survey of this survey tells me that people here, like many people out in the world, mean a lot of different things by "fluent." I've noticed some pretty sophisticated distinctions being drawn regarding what tasks people can use various languages to accomplish. I'm a native speaker of English, and that is the only language in which I would claim to be able to accomplish any advanced tasks. As a linguist, I've been exposed to a number of different languages to some degree or other, including Spanish, Latin, Russian, Portuguese (Brazilian variety), Khmer, and Tok Pisin (aka Melanesian Pidgin English). I've tried to teach myself some Italian and Greek for travel purposes, and I am currently attempting to learn Finnish in order to understand my wife and daughters. I've recently been exposed to quite a bit of Kurdish, both the Sorani and the Kurmanji variety, and have learned to deal with the Cyrillic and Arabic scripts. I would like to attain a useful functional ability in another language, say to where I could read newspaper articles, listen to tv or radio news broadcasts, and engage in basic social conversations. Finnish seems the most likely candidate.

I was a mathematics/logic person in college, but then I realized that my most satisfying classes were in linguistics and languages, so I ended up going to grad school in linguistics. I now work in the field of language testing and have come to appreciate language as a system with two natures: it is simultaneously a rich formal system and a rather messy social behavior--both aspects interesting and worthy of study.
That's quite an impressive list, Bill.

I don't know any Tok Pisin, but have browsed a phrase book a few times in bookstores. Pidgins are quite interesting, and I wouldn't mind learning one or two, but would have little use for pidgin as a means of communication where I live.

And what, may I ask, is language testing? Is it some kind of technical field of study (my first thought) or is it really as simple as it seems (embaressing omg realisation of it simply being testing people's language skills)?

Not if you pronounce it em-bares-sing.

Which I don't. Just sayin'. :oþ
My minor field was pidgins and creoles, and it is a fascinating field of study. Some scholars think that the structure of pidgins and creoles tells us something about our innate language ability.

Language testing *is* a technical field of study for some (a branch of applied linguistics, which studies, among other things, language teaching and acquisition crossed with the theory of assessment design), but I learned it "on the street." So I've picked up some knowledge about the aforementioned fields, but I've really been a practitioner mostly, writing materials to test other people's language skills.

An analogy I've found useful to explain test development is the building of a house. At least three kinds of people are needed: the architect to design the house (this is analogous to the applied linguist, who knows how to design the test); the engineer to assess whether the design can be put into practice (this is analogous to the assessment specialist--usually found in the field of psychometrics or educational psychology); and finally the contractor/builder to actually (choosing to split the infinitive here--that's another topic for this board somewhere) instantiate the design---that's me (I don't even want to get started with the grammatically correct but very stilted "that's I"). I've written test materials to test people's critical thinking skills as well as to test the proficiency of English Language Learners (ELLs). I'm currently working on testing native-English-speakers' proficiency in second or foreign languages. Kind of interesting....

I was trying to write a paper about Tok Pisin once; I had an informant from New Guinea who was fluent. I was trying to construct a sentence to prove something about tense in subordinate clauses, so I constructed the following sentence "Miting olsem mi kisim pukpuk," which I was hoping would mean "I think I got (killed) a crocodile." When I asked my informant what that sentence meant, he said, "Nothing." When I pressed him, asking him if there were any circumstances under which that sentence could be uttered, he replied, "Well, I guess if a waiter brought you crocodile meat by mistake in a restaurant." So now you know how to say that in Tok Pisin if this ever happens to you in New Guinea.

Cambodian language? Khmer-Rouge is only association I have with that word.

...language as a system with two natures: it is simultaneously a rich formal system and a rather messy social behavior--both aspects interesting and worthy of study.

What a great way of putting it. Unlike mathematics, language does not have to be exact to be understood, which is an interesting aspect of communication. However, when it is exacting and perfect, it is quite beautiful, wonderful, or perhaps gratifying, as well.
Khmer also refers to an ethnic group and a specific culture. While Cambodia is more a geographical and political entity.
Yes, and the subsystems of languages--the sound system, the word-construction system, and the sentence-construction system--work very mathematically (or at least can be described that way). But in real use, as you noted, it is communicative competence that counts, and damn the rules! But we still recognize and admire unusual facility with language.

As I'm sure you know, "rouge" is French for red, so the Khmer Rouge was the name of the communist movement in Cambodia, which, in Khmer, is known as Kampuchea. In English, we almost always use "Cambodia" for the name of the country and "Cambodian" for the name of the language. Also note what Jaume has to say below.
I speak English natively. I started taking Spanish my freshman year of high school (5 or 6 years ago); my pronunciation is good, my reading is almost fluent, writing is kind of clumsy, and my speech goes anywhere from pretty fluid to "duuuuuuuhhhh..." depending on the topic. I'm also studying French as of recently, mostly so that I can read French literature in the original. I've taught myself little bits of a lot of other languages, and some stuck. Eventually, I'd like to learn a few more living languages, at least to a level where I can read their literature, along with Latin and Old English.

I have loved languages since I was little. I learned to read before I was two, so it seems obvious to me (and to many people who have known me) that language is my intellectual strength. When I was a kid, I would invent my own languages, and I would spend my free time reading about ancient cultures and foreign languages. I have always been drawn to etymology, onomastics (the study of names), and phonology - I guess that's just what my brain grasps best.

My fascination with language is so deeply rooted in my history and identity that I find it hard to pinpoint exactly why it attracts me. I think one reason is that language itself - the sounds, the scripts, the idioms, the way it flows seamlessly together - is something that strikes me as deeply beautiful, in part because it arose through the contributions of every person who has ever spoken, and because it is thousands upon thousands of years old and still changes every minute, and because no matter how much it changes, words preserved from the past can remind us how similar we all are.


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