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Journal Chacham's Journal: How many languages do you know? Why? 16

How many languages do you know? Can you read it? Understand it? Write it?

Personally, I can speak US English fluently, as well as read, write, and understand it. I can also undertand Hebrew, Yiddish, and Aramaic. I took a class in Spanish, but I don't really remember very much. The reason why I know these languages are, English, because I'm US born. Hebrew, because the Bible and most Jewish works are in Hebrew. Yiddish, because many people in my community speak it, and there are speeches and songs in it. Aramaic, because the Talmud is written in it (though with Hebrew letters).

IIRC, my barber speaks somwhere between eight and ten languages. Growing up in old Europe does that to you. I know some people from Latvia. Being Russian born, they needed to know Russian to speak in schools, and Latvian which was spoken at home. It's interesting to know why people use which language, and it's funny hearing them switch in a single conversation, without even realizing it. I have a friend that switches in between English and Ivrit (Modern Hebrew) when talking to his parents. It's rather entertaining.

This is different than computer languages. With computer languages, you know how to program, and the language is more like a tool. The idea is still mostly the same, it's just another way of doing it. With spoken languages everything changes. The language is more than a tool, it is a methodology of thought and life. Or so I think. How about you?

This discussion was created by Chacham (981) for no Foes, but now has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

How many languages do you know? Why?

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  • I like to think I'm fluent in English, it being my first language and all. I know enough Spanish to be able to read it with near perfection, but I can hardly understand Spanish spoken by a person who is fluent in it (I can sometimes pick up a sentence or two from passing spanish speaking people). Because I know Spanish, I can also read a fair amount of French and Italian, though I have no formal training in either language. The reason: it's the only language that my school taught in 7th grade and I kept with it through high scholl because I thought it would be nice to be semi-proficient in a language with actual use.

    And uses it has! For instance, the Mexican guy at the Subway gives me extra stamps if I speak Spanish to him. And you can eavesdrop on people who think that nobody can understand them. It's a pretty good deal I think.
  • I fluently speak English (duh). However, I also dabble in several other languages:

    1. German (several years in HS)
    2. Turkish (some phrases, words, etc.-definitely not fluent but I can get around). I was going to be a missionary in Turkey for a year.
    3. Japanese (just enough to know what to order when eating out). I had a roommate in college who spoke Japanese, and I lived in Guam for two years and there were many there as well.
    4. Chamorro, the secondary language of Guam (very limited words)

    Since you mention computer languages I might as well list those too.

    Ones I use frequently:
    C# (used for work/open source projects)
    VB.NET (used for work)
    SQL (used for work)

    Ones that I haven't used in a while (> 1 year):
    C/C++ (used at a job somewhat recently)
    Java (used at a job several years ago)
    Perl (used when I had a linux web server in college)
    Turbo Pascal (last used in HS...)

  • languages are fun. any one language can take years to explore, so I doubt I'll master very many. rightnow I'm mostly working on Spanish, for which this being a Spanish-speaking part of the country helps. in choir I've sung in Italian and French and German without understanding much of the words, though I can understand bits of spoken Italian (and Portugese) from the similarity to Spanish.

    I want to learn Chinese next, because I like the idea of pictorial instead of phonetic writing - supposedly being able to think in ideograms instead of words stops talking-to-yourself and makes being in meditative states easier.

    of course I speak Hebrew (especially when there are people to speak it with) and I'm somewhat familiar with other Semitic literary dialects, which helps in coming up with strange etymologies.

  • I can speak, read, write, and understand US English. If you want to get technical and say British English isn't another language that's fine, but I know most of the nuances of differences in that and US English. I can read and write Spanish fairly easily. I can speak it well and with proper accent, but slowly. I can understand a Spanish speaker if they slow down and they stay within my limited vocabulary. The courses I took were geared toward Mexican Spanish, not Castillian Spanish, but I've spoken with people from Spain, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Brazil, and I've never had much of a problem. I haven't used Spanish in forever, though, so I'd probably need a dictionary to get the full meaning now.

    I've dabbled in Russian, but I can't read or write it. I can speak it well and with proper accent, and pick words out of a conversation, but I have a VERY limited Russian vocabulary (<50 words). But I can greet you and ask you how you are doing, I can say 'I love you', I can tell you to shut up, and I can insult you in several different ways. That's about the extent of it. ;-) I'd like to learn more, but I don't have the time. I learned what I know from Russian students at college, because a few of them were in my classes for my major, and there were several that were also in the school choir, so it helped pass the time to learn Russian on long bus trips to the shows.

    • Dvoy dangi ilya dvoy zhee'zin!

      Of course, the first time I asked it, I messed up and said:

      Dvoy dangi ilya dvoy zhee'na?

      He cracked up and screamed out Zheena, Zheena! Followed by, do you know what you just said?

      Eh, :-)
  • I'm fluent in English. That's about it.

    However, I sorta know Spanish. I'm terrible at speaking, but I can understand it.

    Case in point: my next-door neighbor speaks very little English, but she understands it. I speak very little Spanish. We had a good half hour conversation yesterday though...her speaking in Spanish, me in English. Does that mean I 'know' Spanish? I know it enough that if I were dropped in a Spanish speaking country, I'd survive just fine...

  • I know no languages of thought, other than English.

    I do know these programming languages..

    Basic - I'm an OG
    C - first compiled language
    QuickBasic - You can compile basic?
    Pascal - Blame school
    ASM - Thank my school. I actually like this one
    C++ - nice flawed language if you ask me
    perl - My first chemistry set. Powerful.. very.
    PHP - nice flawed web language
    SQL - Postgresql, Mysql, pl/sql, oracle sql
    Meta-html - Don't ask. 5 people know it.
    Java - mmm.. sweet bliss
    Shell - gotta tie it all together somehow
    XSLT - not so much programs as in arbitrary process.

    SQL, Java, XSLT, QuickBasic, C, Perl and php are in the front of my memory due to amount of use or using them recently.
  • Look at your title. Sure you are fluent in english? ;-)

    I, obviously, speak english. Can understand italian, and if I worked on it for a while, could probably speak it again.
  • I was born in Bolivia (Cochabamba to be exact) and so I learned Spanish first. I left when I was 6, so I'm not sure you can say I'm fluent in it, however, when I have written Spanish and I read it, people will swear I'm a native speaker.

    I moved then to England, and that's where I learned English (imagine a white boy technically from the US moving to England and not knowing any english...).

    I later moved to the Philippines and learned Tagalog, I'm excellent at speaking it, but becuase I've never formally learned it, I can't really write it well, and my grammar is horrible.

    Now I'm in the U.S. at uni, and I'm learning Japanese, a very forgiving language. Because so much of it is implied or understood from context, missing a particle or using the wrong verb form really doesn't hurt communication, however it could step on toes culturally :)
    Along the way I've learned PHP, ColdFusion, and SQL.
    Because programming languages are only written, it makes it difficult to compare to the plethora of other languages which are primarily spoken and perhaps become written -- but that is not required. My parents are linguists, working with an organisation called SIL Int'l [sil.org] and they go to various places around the world as consultants to help people create a written system for every language on the planet, not only helping the people to be able to interact with their government (think: being able to stand up against the Brasilian gov't to save your part of the rainforest) but also giving respect and validity to that culture as a whole. Now, my Dad is somewhat of a computer guru in the field of practical linguistics, and he was telling me about how difficult it is for other linguists to learn a simple programming language. It's a whole different learning style, one in which a person can sit down with a book and become a master of that language. You cannot do that with a spoken language, as anyone who has taken Spanish in the MidWest and then tried it in Mexico will tell you. However, that midwesterner will be able to correct someone who grew up in Mexico (but without formal training) in their grammer. Touche...

  • Well, I'm fluent in English English, and I'm learning French [forced for GCSE] and German [chose for GCSE]. I prefer German of the two, though I'm by no means excellent in either :P.
    I can just about manage "Ich bin in [[INSERT RANDOM PLACE - say, "The Roman Baths" or something equally stupid]] skigefahren". What fun. *ahem* .oO(Bet I got something wrong in that sentence)
  • i've got a decent handle on english, at least the US flavor. it's my mother tongue.

    my german is pretty good. i had 2 years in high school and then majored in german through college. i make silly mistakes here and there, but i can speak and write and understand pretty well. i can get around and have meaningful conversation in germany. people laugh at me because i learned a lot of german while in the Ulm area, and i have a bit of a schwaebisch accent on top of my american accent.

    i had four years of spanish. if immersed in spanish, i get it back after 3 or 4 days, but i no longer fluent. and even then i don't get things back like subjunctive or past tense. i'm just too far out of practice. i have some hispanic neighbors (some mexican, some honduran, some from other various places) who mostly keep to themselves, but sometimes i try to talk to them. it usually doesn't last long because i can't remember much of it.

    i can ask directions, order food, and other tourist type things in french. my french is learned from tapes, so i can't write it at all. but from my knowledge of english and spanish i can usually read it well enough to get the meaning. not so much literature as things you see.

    i speak and understand a _very_ limited amount of irish gaelic.

    i mostly learn languages because they are interesting. language in general fascinates me.

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