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Does learning another language help you with English?

A discussion of the peculiarities of languages and the differences between them.

Does learning another language help you with English?

Postby Erika » Mon Dec 05, 2005 12:17 am

I am currently writing an English paper on foreign languages and need some help with examples. Could you please reply with an example of how learning another language has helped you with English. The deadline on this is Thursday December 8, 2005. Would you please be able to find it in your hearts to help me. Could you also please include any citing that you would like to be put with your example. This is greatly appreciated.
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Postby Apoclima » Mon Dec 05, 2005 12:57 am

Just off the top of my head, learning a foreign language will reveal the categories or types or functions of different words...noun.. verb...adjective..etc., collective...singular...etc., even phonological aspects can become more accessible to the conscious mind.

There would, in some cases, be an increase in vocabulary through cognates and pseudo-cognates.

I think that learninga foreign language would make one more conscious (self-conscious) of style and clarity, by showing the intimate relationship between words and meaning, both connotative and denotative.

Or maybe not!

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Postby tcward » Mon Dec 05, 2005 1:49 am

As usual, I would like to echo Apo's comments.

In addition, from my own personal experience, studying Spanish and German not only forced me, but, through forcing, allowed me (for how often is it that our school systems allow us to stop and think?), to reflect on the more subtle aspects of English grammar -- for example, why we use has as a 'helper' verb in so many instances; why we share so much of our vocabulary with both Romance and Germanic languages; even discovering why we pronounce vowels differently in English, following neither Germanic nor Romance language conventions in many cases.

The clarity and recognition we gain of our own language will spread beyond native vocabulary and idiomatic phrasing. It will bring about a discovery of the nature of human language, and the awesome power of effective communication.

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Postby badandy » Mon Dec 05, 2005 4:42 pm

I agree with the other posters- and I think a very important point to be made is about phonology. As a native English speaker, I never thought about my own language, but as you learn about others, a more sharp focus is put on your own native tongue.
i.e.- /th/ in 'this' and 'thin' are different sounds. /s/ in 'dogs' and 'cats' are different sounds.
We learn these facts from linguistics as well as learning another language, but it is very apparent when teaching English just how inconsistent things in English are.
i.e. in every other language in the world, /a/ is said 'ah' as in father. because of a crazy wicked 8) shift some 400 years ago, the whole vowel system is messed up. now we have to deal with explaining it to others
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Postby Ladyquill » Mon Dec 05, 2005 5:38 pm

For me, I wouldn't say it helped with English as much as it helped with understanding LANGUAGE in general. The more languages you learn, (or try to :wink: ), the greater your understanding of how languages work becomes. In my case, I teach English to foreigners. If anything, I think my English just keeps getting worse. More and more frequently I tend to put sentences together as they would be formed in another language. I've been called Yoda a few times and it isn't because I'm green and bald. :lol:

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Postby anders » Mon Dec 05, 2005 7:43 pm

Ladyquill wrote:The more languages you learn, (or try to :wink: ), the greater your understanding of how languages work becomes.

And if you try languages widely differing from those you already know, you'll as an extra bonus gain more insight into how other people think.
In my case, I teach English to foreigners.

I did Swedish. Didn't affect me too much, though. But I learned to speak slowly and re-thinking my thoughts into words that were appropriate to the listeners, and was careful about pronunciation. That has helped a lot in many different circumstances.

The langage thing that has had the greatest influence on my thinking is probably the participation on a number of Internet discussion boards. Very often, when I'm planning a letter to some Swedish entity, I start thinking in English! Weird.
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Postby Ladyquill » Mon Dec 05, 2005 11:53 pm

anders wrote: Very often, when I'm planning a letter to some Swedish entity, I start thinking in English! Weird.


So it's settled - I'm not the only "weird" one out there. :wink: How about this one? You're listening to music in a different language and shortly thereafter you begin a conversation in the language of that particular music in without realizing it...

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Postby Spiff » Tue Dec 06, 2005 6:15 am

I can easily read and listen to music at the same time, and concentrate on both simultaneously, but only if the music is either instrumental or has lyrics in a different language than the text I'm reading. If the language is the same, I have to block out one to concentrate.
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Postby Spiff » Tue Dec 06, 2005 6:18 am

Does learning another language help you with English?


Learning English has. 8)
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Postby Stargzer » Tue Dec 06, 2005 4:42 pm

Forty years ago they told me that Latin would help me with my English. It turned out the other way around--my English helped me with my two years of Latin. I suppose it helped a little with my three years of French, also, but not to the same extent as with the Latin.

Now that I'm much older (not necessarily more mature), I find trying to re-learn French doesn't help me with my English, but I am better able to notice the differences between English and French, expecially in how sounds are produced. I think learning idioms gives a glimpse into the foreign mind (even the British mind, which is a bit different from the American mind: see the difference in meaning when a girl says [SUNNY: PUT DOWN YOUR COFFEE] "knock me up in the morning" (one of the Lost Threads on the other board).

I haven't yet learned to think in French, and that probably won't come until (unless?) I become immersed in it, which isn't likely to happen anytime soon. I always wonder if I'd sink or swim. I believe it was Agoraphile, late of Toronto, who once said, [SUNNY: PUT DOWN YOUR COFFEE AGAIN] "The problem with language immersion in Quebec is that they don't hold them under long enough!" :shock:
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Postby adama » Tue Dec 06, 2005 10:24 pm

Due to things I learned and am learning in latin (I'm in latinII right now) I have understood what most highschoolers would call "grammer crap" much quicker and more thoroughly. :)
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Postby Stargzer » Wed Dec 07, 2005 12:25 am

adama wrote:Due to things I learned and am learning in latin (I'm in latinII right now) I have understood what most highschoolers would call "grammer crap" much quicker and more thoroughly. :)


Do they still have the saying we had:

Latin is dead, as dead as can be;
First it killed the Romans, and now it's killing me!


:)
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