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Mikael Eriksson
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How would you all define the language learning abilities of the standard American (USA)? Do they find learning other languages easy or difficult?

I saw a funny episode of the Simpsons, when they were in Italy, and Marge heard an Italian word she didn't understand. The word was "vendetta", pronounced between 90% and 100% the same as the american word "vendetta". She had to look it up, and said: "Aha, vendetta!"

I'm just curious if it hinted on a real condition or not.


Posted: Dec 19, 2006 9:18am
-----------------------------------------------
I ask partly because I've seen and heard both. I thought asking here was the best way, since most here are Americans or know Americans.
Cliffg37
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I say this as a man who has traveld the world (when I was younger) and met many people, some of whom did not speak English. I think that all people, when tryibng to speak an unknown language or a little known language, do their best to hit the right pronounciation of the words. However, when confronted with a very unknown, we all fall back on what we know becasue it is the best we can do.

My mother once went to the airport ot pick up a Polich cousin who was to visit the U.S. He spoke very little English and she spoke no Polish. When they could not make each other understand something by pointing or gestures she would fall into speaking French. He understood less French than he did English, but this is what we do.

as for the Simpsons they are simply a satirical parody of reality. You should realize that everythng they do, while humorous, is based in reality.
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Margarette
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It was once told to me that in order to learn a foreign language well, start at an early age. I took high school Spanish (learning from a native speaker), and at one time, was quite fluent. Of course, over the years, I've slowly forgotten, but can still carry on a polite converstation in Spanish. During my college days, I learned American Sign Language. Say what you will about this language, but it does classify as a foreign language. Again, I became quite fluent. I actually had one instructor ask me who in my family was hearing impaired because she rarely saw that "fluidity" in signing in someone who hadn't already had practice with it. Had I continued my education along those lines(meaning one more year of college), I would have had a degree in interpreting. About eight years ago, I wanted to learn Japanese. I found it a lot more difficult to learn Japanese than the Spanish or the ASL. I am still learning, but can only carry on a "hi, how are you...I speak little japanese...do you speak english" conversation. I'm still learning the Japanese, and next I either want to try my hand at Russian or German.

Margarette
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Vandy Grift
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Try this:

1. Marge Simpson is not a real person, the Simpsons is a cartoon.
2. There is no such thing as a "Standard" American.
3. Nobody here speaks for all Americans (standard or otherwise) so it's a bit hard for anyone here to say what "they" (meaning all Americans, I guess) are, or are not, capable of with regards to learning a second language.

In other words, you are speaking in generalities. If you are just looking for reinforcement of stereotypes, fine.


Posted: Dec 19, 2006 10:18am
-----------------------------------------------
I did not write that post above. It's close, but it's not what I wrote. Please delete this post and the post above if my words were unacceptable.
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Skip Way
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I took German in high school and lived within a concentrated German population in central Ohio. The immersion in the culture and availability of native speakers made it fairly simple for me to learn the accents, slang and common usage. The same was true when I lived in Athens, Greece and Pordenone, Italy on USAF assignments. Even though I went through extensive Greek and Italian language courses in California before going to each assignment, it wasn't until I was totally immersed in each culture that I became conversationally fluent.

Total immersion among the cultures makes learning any language immensely easier. As an example, the two years I spent in Cagliari, Sardinia were the most difficult as the common dialect (Sardo) is a combination of Italian, Spanish and French that I never could seem to figure out. I believe it was because Italian and English were so common that I never had the true immersion into Sardo that I experienced elsewhere. The cute girls in the clubs simply resorted to Sardo when they wanted to figure out how to dump me...how annoying!

I don't believe that it's any more difficult for an "American" to learn a new language than our European counterparts. I do believe that the European nations, being more closely surrounded by a greater range of cultures and languages, focus more on multilingual skills than we do. Throughout Europe, dependency upon different languages is taught from early childhood. In Europe, being multilingual is often seen as a matter of economic survival and personal success. In the U.S., it is a luxury...unless you eat at a McDonald's or Golden Corral in North Carolina. Hablas Espanol?

Skip
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airship
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I think it all depends on motivation. When I was back in college I learned to ask "Will you go to bed with me?" in THIRTEEN different languages. Smile
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Steven Steele
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I saw a language development program on some educational channel a few years ago. I don't remember the particulars, but they examined the brain activities of children and noted where different vowel sounds were stored. One group of languages had about 6 or 7 sounds while another group on languages had almost 25. Some of the sounds were similar to each group, yet others were not even close. They found that people from the language group that had the most vowel sounds could learn the other languages significantly quicker than going the other way.

And the older you become the more entrenched you are in your language skills, making the transition more difficult. It was a fascinating program, wish I had taped it.
ed rhodes
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Quote:
On 2006-12-19 09:08, Mikael Eriksson wrote:
How would you all define the language learning abilities of the standard American (USA)? Do they find learning other languages easy or difficult?

I saw a funny episode of the Simpsons, when they were in Italy, and Marge heard an Italian word she didn't understand. The word was "vendetta", pronounced between 90% and 100% the same as the american word "vendetta". She had to look it up, and said: "Aha, vendetta!"

I'm just curious if it hinted on a real condition or not.


Posted: Dec 19, 2006 9:18am
-----------------------------------------------
I ask partly because I've seen and heard both. I thought asking here was the best way, since most here are Americans or know Americans.


I think that was more a Simpsons thing. I remember when Homer tried to learn about the Internet. He picked up a book, turned to the first page and said; "Oh! They have the Internet for computers now!"
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Skip Way
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Airship, one of my younger NCOs in Sardegna asked me how to say "I want to make love to you" in Italian. I told him and he explained that he was going to hit the local clubs. If the girl slapped him, he'd react with surprise and explain that his friend told him the phrase meant "You are very beautiful. Clearly it was a bad joke! I'm so sorry!" The girl would, theoretically, feel sorry for slapping him and drop her defenses...so to speak. If the girl didn't slap him...well. I never had the cojones to try it myself...but it seemed to work wonders for him!

Skip
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Josh the Superfluous
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If I was really sarcastic (or if the Café wasn't allowing me to delete my post) I would have said:

Most of the Americans I know are very stupid. I can only assume the ones I don't know are stupid as well. I believe it is due to genetics. Being genetically inferior would have an effect on learning. The mix of skin pigments in America is probably also a factor.
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Suppo
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Skip,

You had one smart NCO. Mine couldn't figure out to look for an Adam's Apple. We just had very interesting mishaps from mine.
Payne
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There is really no incentive for most Americans to bother to learn a foreign language. Our neighbors to the north speak a relatively similar form of English save for a small segment that speaks a strange form of French. To the south is a large Spanish speaking nation but we really don't want to talk to those people and are doing everything we can think of to keep than out of our country. Less than a third of our population owns passports which means than the majority of Americans have never been off the continent. The closest most of us get to a exotic locale is trying to order off the menu at a Chinese restaurant. The majority of Americans refuse to even go to a foreign film unless it's been dubbed or remade with American actors. As a whole we are a very insular nation with xenophobic tendancies thus most of us have little interest in bothering to learn a second language that we will never use.
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Vandy Grift
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That may all be true Payne.

But Mikael didn't ask about the standard Americans desire to learn a second language. Mikael is asking if the standard American has the ABILITY to learn a second language.

It's a perfectly honsest question. See, Marge Simpson had to look up the word "vendetta". And since Marge Simpson is pretty much representative of the "standard" American, Mikael thought this might hint at a real condition. The condition of stupidity.

Since my other comments (where I directly insulted Mikael, in reply to his insult) have been removed and/or modified. It may be easier to just say "yes" all Americans are stupid. We think with one mind and all have the exact same capabilities and the exact same shortcomings. Pretty much every bad sterotype you wish to believe is true. And if you see something on the Simpsons, you can certainly believe that you are seeing a true representation of each and every single American.

Does that feel better? Now, I don't believe this is a serious inquiry. And I'm surprised that some people are answering it as if it was. I think I have a few questions about Sweden and the Swedish people. Just honest, innocent questions. So stand by.
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Vandy Grift
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Oh and Mikael, if I am completely off base here, and you are being just as sincere as can be... Do us a favor and try to come correct. Don't bring this "I saw Marge Simpson doing something and it made me wonder if all Americans are this way." It's kind of a silly way to begin a conversation.

I don't think you are stupid. I think you understand that peoples capacity to learn is individual, and is probably not based on what flag they happen to live under.
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Doug Higley
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Since I have many Swedish customers and a slew of relatives who were from that land I can safely say that The Swedish Chef on the Muppets was dead on when trying unsuccessfully to turn his Swedish in to an American accent.
So there.
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Payne
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Quote:
On 2006-12-19 16:51, Vandy Grift wrote:

I don't think you are stupid. I think you understand that peoples capacity to learn is individual, and is probably not based on what flag they happen to live under.



Or perhaps since, being Swedish, English is a second language for him he possibly meant to ask his question a little differently. I took from his statement that he was asking if many American bothered to learn a second language and thus possibly had an idea of the origins of some of the words they use on a day to day basis derive from.
I don't think he was asking if we had a more difficult time learning a second language (which we do as we are not as exposed to other languages on a day to day basis as hey are in Europe), but if many of us actually spoke a second language.
"America's Foremost Satirical Magician" -- Jeff McBride.
sparks
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Just to lighten it up… from 1987 through 1995 I did a lot of computer work in Germany. It was one of the most amazing times of my life… I loved being there… had a lot of fun. One of my German customers was a Doctor of Mathematics and quite a character. He once told me a riddle of sorts… it went like this… “A person whom speaks two languages is called bilingual. A person whom speaks three languages is called trilingual. What do you call a person whom speaks only one language?” He paused and said, “An American of course”. He also told me NATO stood for “No Action, Talk Only” but I suppose that would be a subject for another thread.
Sparks

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Mikael Eriksson
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Quote:
On 2006-12-19 16:51, Vandy Grift wrote:

Oh and Mikael, if I am completely off base here...

Yes, you are pretty much completely off base Smile I'm sorry that you took my question as an insult.



Quote:
On 2006-12-19 16:40, Vandy Grift wrote:

I think I have a few questions about Sweden and the Swedish people. Just honest, innocent questions. So stand by.

Bring it on! Smile I promise to answer your questions. No problem.
Jonathan Townsend
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Josh the Superfluous
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I just watched South Park. Do all American children talk to poop?

BTW My photo studio is connected to a furniture store. In our store 7 languages are spoken by the sales people as well as ASL. Why are immigrants unable to learn a simple language like english? My 4 year old can even do it.
What do you want in a site? "Honesty, integrity and decency." -Mike Doogan
"I hate it, I hate my ironic lovechild. I didn't even have anything to do with it" Josh #2
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