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January 09, 2019


Currently learning Swedish using the duolingo app on my iPhone. Have considered taking a free online course in Icelandic (closest thing to Old Norse still going), but I don't want to mess with my Swedish acquisition.

check out Drops, either for Swedish or Icelandic

Freemium, so you get 5 minutes a day with one of those languages. Vocabulary, but a nicer interface that Duolingo.

Nothing illustrates my essential dilettantish nature more than my history of dabbling with languages. The nuns started teaching us grammar in third grade, and I love it, the (apparent) orderliness of it, the almost math-like nature of diagramming sentences.

But even though it was fun, it didn't all start clicking into place for me until I started Latin during freshman year in high school. That was even more fun! Declensions and conjugations! Charts! Orderliness! Pattern recognition!

They only taught two years of Latin by then, so we all switched to French, the only other option, for junior and senior years. Then I took a semester of French in college, and a semester of German. (Don't remember why I switched).

Then, in grad school, my smattering of French and German served me well in passing the language exams -- which amounted to a page of translation, with a dictionary allowed. Piece of cake. We had to show proficiency in three languages for the Ph.D., but a year's course in Beowulf, read in Old English, counted for one of the years. Old English wasn't that hard either, having a lot of core elements that are much like modern English, and other elements that are a lot like German, which I had just recently studied in college.

So far I had four "foreign" languages on my list, with fluency in none of them.

That was just the beginning. I may get around to some pointless rambles about the nature of language, writing and learning, but first there's more pointless autobiographical rambling to flesh out, as time allows. Which at the moment it does not.

in grad school, my smattering of French and German served me well in passing the language exams -- which amounted to a page of translation, with a dictionary allowed. Piece of cake.

So true. The Anthropology grad school exam for German had enough time to look up every single word which was not a cognate, do a literal translation, and then do a free translation. As you say, a piece of cake.

Indeed, it was so easy that I wondered why they bothered. "Tradition!" was the best explanation I could come up with.

When I was entering high school, the advice I was given was "If you are going into the sciences (or engineering), the languages which are useful are either German or Russian." And since the languages on offer were Spanish, French and German, German it was.

The first thing I discovered was that I couldn't learn a foreign language by "studying" the way I did other subjects. Actually, I didn't know how to study in any meaningful sense. It had always been sufficient (and continued to be throughout high school in everything else) to just listen in class, and read the text book. Once. So I had to figure out how to study. I managed to bring my grades up, from a D the first semester (and wasn't that a shock to my system!) to A's in third and 4th year German. But it was definitely a struggle

By the time I got to grad school, and needed a second language, I knew how to learn a language. Even one as different as Japanese. I felt that the need to learn kanji** was balanced by the absence of gender and case endings on words.

** kana, i.e. the letters as opposed to characters, were pretty easy. I still tended to think in romanji (Latin letters), but the 1:1 (actually 2:1 mostly) correspondence made them straightforward.

Took several years of German. Never got better than "mediocre".

Picked up a fair amount of Italian by just hanging out in Italy.

Took a course in (spoken) Japanese.

Feels like being on the wrong side of WWII.

I was born in Germany and came to the US at age three, so had whatever fluency a three-year-old acquires. I learned English of course, and my German got mixed up with Yiddish, which we spoke a lot at home, so I can't really speak German well at all.

When I try the Yiddish creeps, or rather marches, in, to the extent Yiddish can march, affecting both my accent and my vocabulary. Meanwhile, in grade school, I had a few hours a day of reading Torah and so learned Biblical Hebrew.

Meanwhile my parents used Polish for conversations not meant to be understood by the children, so I grew up in a sort of linguistic stew.

In college I cheated, more or less, by signing up for German to meet the language requirement. How I got away with that I don't know. I do know that, long after college, I mentioned it to friend who was outraged. It turned out that he too had taken German, honestly as he was a native English speaker.

"But," he complained, "all the other students in the class were like impossible time keeping up."

"all the other students in the class were immigrants like you who already spoke German. I had an impossible time keeping up."

I swear I used preview.

To whom it may concern:

(I suppose this belongs in this thread, since as has been obvious for years, I do not speak computer)

I have had a laptop disaster, so may possibly be absent for weeks. I thought it was just the keyboard (I spilled a bit of cider on it months ago), but after it got knocked off its table today there is nothing on the monitor either, although I can switch it on and hear that something is working. This is is very serious: I have many unbacked up files to do with ongoing legal stuff on it, so I am shaking in my boots. When I take it in for repair, they may wipe everything.

I am posting this from my old laptop, which is at least (currently) giving me access to ObWi and email, but I had to replace it 2 years ago because it was pretty old and kept crashing. So, here's hoping, fingers crossed etc etc, hope to see y'all soon.

GftNC, I realize that it is too late for this time. But I have found it an enormous help to keep pretty much everything on a thumb drive. It's literally the size of your thumbnail (and most of that is the USB connector), and lives plugged into the laptop of the moment, but is readily available if something bad happens. (Also if, God forbid, we get hit with a fire or something, it can be grabbed and carried readily.)

These days, you can get a ridiculous amount of storage for a pittance. Try it, you'll like it.

GftNC, assuming the internal hard drive is still intact, it should definitely be possible to copy its contents to a new drive. and you should insist (demand) that anyone you take it to for repairs do this before doing anything like wiping it.

Thanks cleek and wj, very helpful stuff. wj, when I'm back up I'll ask your advice for how to ensure everything ends up on this excellent-sounding thumb drive, since presumably it needs to be set up to happen automatically.

GftNC, Be glad to help. But FYI I've got a 32 GB flash drive, and only use maybe 1/4 of that for literally everything. These days, you can get 128GB (3 times as much!) for under $25. For example,

The rate at which storage has gotten cheap totally blows the mind!

GftNC -- if you insert the thumb drive into the computer, Windows will see it and treat it like just another folder. So if you know how to copy a file from one folder to another, you already know how to do it.

That said, sometimes these things (including Windows), in the infinite wisdom of their creators, make it look like they're harder to use than they really are. So it would be good to have someone show you the first time.

I go into Best Buy (electronics store over here) every now and then and buy whatever thumb drive they have on sale that day. I got one for $15 the other day, 128 gigabytes or something like that, that had originally been priced at $80 or so. I back up my essential stuff to four of them every month or so -- redundancy is nice. Paranoid, I know, but I am so freaking old I won't put anything in the cloud..........so multiple backups are a comfort.

I keep a thumb drive in my pocket for the purpose wj mentions: what if the house catches on fire....?


I think wj means: use a thumb drive as your normal place to save files to and open files from. Once in a while, you can copy the thumb drive over to your hard drive for "backup", in case you lose the thumb drive.

Condolences and commiserations, BTW. Keep in touch with us however you have to do it.


Huh, old computer still working, and there is the phone, so I guess you guys are stuck with me :)

But seriously, the last series of posts have shown you all beyond any doubt quite what an idiot I am where computers are concerned! Thank you all for the advice, I actually know how to use what I used to call a memory stick, but what my more tech-savvy ex-ward informed me were called flashdrives, which sound as if they are the same as these thumb drives of which you speak. I can of course insert them and save or copy onto them, the problem is remembering to do so every time. I was hoping there was an automatic way, but never mind, the scare this has given me will no doubt make me back up onto one (or as Tony P suggests on to the hard drive) much more regularly, if not every day.

GftNC, please contact a dedicated Data Recovery service if the stuff is critical. They have resources available that local repair shops do not, and the costs are generally not prohibitive.

I was hoping there was an automatic way...

There is. If you're using Windows 8 or later, there's a "File History" backup system. Access it through Windows Settings.

(If your laptop does die, that usually doesn't mean that its disc drive has died. It should be quite possible to connect the drive to another computer and transfer the files.)

Well, some people call them travel drives..... ;-)

I can of course insert them and save or copy onto them, the problem is remembering to do so every time.

I believe it is also possible (I've forgotten how; perhaps your ex-ward or someone of similar age can show you) to set up Word, Excel, and other applications so that the flash drive is the default. Thus avoiding having to remember. A boon for the chronologically memory-challenged among us.

I have. For several years, stored all my files and settings to my Onedrive account.

If I had a Mac I would still use Onedrive. When my computer dies, inevitably, I get a new computer, I currently have my third Surface, login to onedrive and it updates settings and my files are avaiable.

The great thing is, Onedrive automatically syncs the folders I pick to my harddrive, not the other way around. That way I have them in both places but the default is secure offsite storage.


Unless I'm mistaken, Word, Excel, etc. default to saving every file you open to the same place you opened it from. So if GftNC saves a file to her thumb drive when she first creates it, there's nothing to remember afterwards. Next time she works on the file, "Save" puts the updated file right back on the thumb drive.

She can't open the file later without plugging in the thumb drive, of course, but I think that's a feature, not a bug.


Solid state drives, SSDs, have gotten to be pretty reasonable in price. They're cheaper than hard drives were just a few years ago.

NewEgg seems to have good prices and a lot of sales.

Back to languages...my kids went to a summer rec class in Russian one year when they were maybe 7 or 8 years old. They kept coming home with Russian vocabulary and some words from the Passamaquoddy language as well, and Native American stories.

This seemed odd, and intriguing, so one day I went in to meet the teacher. She turned out to be a local woman who was a Passamaquoddy who had been adopted and raised by a Franco-American family, but who had eventually gone back to the tribe and found some of her relatives, and learned the language. But she also learned Russian somewhere along the way. So she was teaching the kids Russian, and some Native American stuff too. She was a cool lady, gone onward now.

At some point, she also gave a class for parents and kids, which we took. So I got a bit of a dabble in Russian.

Later I dabbled in Irish, and went into about the third level of Pimsleur's Italian. Finally, at the point when I planned my trip to China (5 weeks with my son when he was teaching there), I tried listening to Pimsleur Chinese.

Wow. With French, German, and Italian, there are all kinds of things to grab onto. With Chinese -- there's nothin'. I absolutely got nowhere with it. I learned to say thank you (not to my son's satisfaction!), and that was about it. (Of course, I was almost 60, and so in a different phase of life, learning-wise......)

Some interesting things, though, going back to lj's original set topic.

I never got fluent in any of these languages. But when I went to Brussels for a month for work some years ago, I listened to Pimsleur French tapes beforehand and found that I could move along quickly because they revived quite a bit of what I had learned in high school. I didn't find English speakers littering the streets in Brussels (unlike Amsterdam), so conversation-wise it was kind of lonely. (At work, all the local people spoke three or four languages fluently, so there was lots of conversation -- and lots of envy on my part.) But I did find that I could get along quite well in stores etc. with my shreds of French. Plus, with signs being in both French and Dutch, and with Dutch having a lot of echoes of German, and lots of people being fluent in both, I did okay.

Two summers ago I went to Quebec for a short vacation, and again refreshed myself in French via Pimsleur. I didn't need it much, though, because in the area where I went, everyone serving the public in stores and restaurants was happily bilingual. (Unlike in other parts of Quebec I've visited very briefly, where if they're bilingual they sure ain't letting on.)

I find it interesting that some useful bits of French, the language I studied longest ago, but therefore also earliest (not counting Latin, which we never tried to converse in), comes back to me pretty easily if I make some effort.

Other random interesting stuff (I'm sure lj has volumes of this but he's not telling; it's surely an embarrassment of riches): when I took linguistics classes at U of Southern Maine ten years ago, the last class I took was Field Methods. Our informants were from the Passamaquoddy tribe, partly because our teacher was fluent in Passamaquoddy and had worked with them a lot. There was an effort going on at that time where the Passamaquoddy where helping the Penobscots try to revive Penobscot, which was related to Passamaquoddy, and which had at the time (and I assume doesn't!) no living speakers

Passamaquoddy had survived as a spoken language but a household one only, since people of the older generations had been punished for speaking it in school, or in public. For that reason, there were differences between the "dialects" from one watershed to another. Penobscot didn't survive; I don't think we were ever told the differing history that led to the different result.

As to learning: I loved studying Latin, and languages in general, because of the patterns and the orderliness of, mostly, syntax. But that's obviously a rather different thing from fluency. One of my life regrets is that I didn't go somewhere where they speak some other language than English, and live there long enough to get fluent. Maybe the Gaeltacht...sort of like this fellow. (It's a sweet little video, however fantastically improbable.)

Yes, many many apologies for previous threadjacking, the situation is now roughly under control, and I am very grateful for all your suggestions.

I too wish I spoke at least one other language fluently. I had pretty good schoolgirl French, but alas have forgotten vast swathes of vocabulary (although still have a pretty good accent, which leads to lots of disappointment after my initial query etc). But I studied Latin for 6 years, and that combined with French meant that when I tried to study Italian for a few months some years ago it had, as Janie says, tons to grab onto. But I didn't stick with it (life intervened, and I have a serious self-discipline problem), so Italian remains in a kind of limbo where I can sort-of translate a bit of what I read into English, but not enough to really enjoy doing so.

As for Latin, I have written before of being tricked into studying Ancient Greek by a young, groovy (terminology of the time) Latin teacher, who left before I realised that there is almost nothing regular in Greek, so learning all those declensions and conjugations etc seems almost pointless. So, a wasted 2 years studying Ancient Greek, only to pass a public exam which has never done me any good or enabled me to enjoy the literature in the original, and which has moreover left me with a (probably unjustified) bitter hatred of Thucydides.

And I'm guessing it's too late now, given my memory's parlous state. My father spoke 10 languages (albeit many related) pretty well, and even learnt Cantonese when we went to Hong Kong so he didn't have to rely on interpreters in court (I think his extreme musicality helped, with the tones etc), but that seems to be another of his great gifts which bypassed the second (and last of the line) generation. Ah well, sic transit gloria mundi.

I covet people with a gift for language. My brother is fluent in English, Russian and Spanish. I studied Spanish, Latin and German and am hopeless and now only wish I could halfway comprehend listening to a language other than English.

I worked for a firm owned byJapanese immigrants and many coworkers were of Japanese decent but I never heard the language spoken in the office. I asked one coworker whose parents came from Japan if he spoke Japanese and he told me that is parents made it a point that he only learned and spoke English. I wonder how common that was but I didn't ask around.

I wonder how common that was but I didn't ask around.

One of my wife's grandmother's parents was from Germany. I think her father, but I'm not sure. At any rate, she was never taught to speak any German and was told never to try. [It was verboten! ;^) ]

Her grandmother would have been a child when WWI was in very recent memory, so I would guess it went beyond just trying to be as American as possible. And this was in Philadelphia, a city with some historical, if more distant, German influence.

Come to think of it, my best childhood friend's grandparent's were Serbian. My friend's mother was fluent, but wouldn't teach here sons to speak it. I think her reasoning was that it would confuse them somehow and make them less proficient in English. This is pretty much the opposite of what is now known about language acquisition, but she was kind of a strange woman in general with a lot of weird ideas.

My dad's parents were immigrants from Italy. They both came over as children, one at six and one at nine. They were native speakers of Italian and never lost their fluency, but they also spoke and were fluent in English. My grandma was the neighborhood person who helped people who couldn't read/write English.

My grandfather said, about my dad and his siblings, "They're American, they can talk American." The older ones, at least, understood a little Italian, but none of them spoke it.

It would be nice to think that the kind of pressure and stigma behind his dictum would change over the decades, but it's easy enough to see why it wouldn't.

Then again, when my kids were little I knew two immigrant moms (one Russian, one Chinese) married to native-English-speaking American dads, all of whom were determined that their kids would be bilingual. It was all going along fine until the kids went to school, at which point they started refusing to speak anything but English.

You might say this is just one of an endless series of anecdata (it is), but there was an article on nbcnews.com just the other day about a kid who was being stigmatized in school for something language-related, I can't recall what. I'm sure it's endemic.

I asked one coworker whose parents came from Japan if he spoke Japanese and he told me that is parents made it a point that he only learned and spoke English. I wonder how common that was but I didn't ask around.

My wife's grandparents were all from Japan. Their children all spoke Japanese as well as English. Indeed, routinely spoke with the grandparents in Japanese. But in my wife's generation, nobody speaks Japanese. It's the bog standard immigrant pattern.

The only oddity in the mix is . . . me. While I forgot most of my grad school Japanese, I still remembered enough to say hajimemashite when I was presented to Grandma. From which instant, as far as she was concerned, I was IN. I don't think intermarriage would have been an issue anyway. But having Grandma in favor can't have hurt.

My goal in life is to watch French films without subtitles, but my French never went beyond lower-medium level (when you go to Paris to study French for a few weeks, you end up hanging out with a bunch of foreigners and speak English all the time - good times, though...) and they speak awfully fast.

My daughter is growing up trilingually (is that a word?... )and it's very entertaining to observe, though it's also a lot of work.

Have considered taking a free online course in Icelandic (closest thing to Old Norse still going), but I don't want to mess with my Swedish acquisition.

I found that quite true with the combo Norwegian/Icelandic. The pronounciation gets mixed up constantly. I guess the vocabulary mix-ups are less of a practical problem there because many of the Icelandic words probably sound just like rather old-fashioned Norwegian ones (and Nynorsk looks like half-way to Icelandic anyway at least on paper). But I am not proficient in either language, lack self-discipline to progress and am thus unlikely to improve soon.

My father's parents came to England with their parents early in the 20th century, fleeing pogroms in the Pale of Settlement. They spoke mainly Yiddish to each other. Mild insults aside, my father never spoke Yiddish to his children.

I speak only the foreign languages I was taught at school (French, German, Russian), and those not at all well (French less poorly than the others).

However, I'll have a try at learning to read text in any language written in an alphabet which is not too inaccessible. This is much easier with Romance languages, where one can guess the meanings of much of the vocabulary.

Reading is indeed much simpler, at least if one has at least some knowledge about the sounds attached to it. Sometimes I do not recognize a word at first due to orthographical reasons (while I recognize it while spoken) and sometimes it is the other way around. Being from the Northern half of Germany I have an easier connection to Dutch and the Scandinavian languages and 9 years of Latin at school provide the connection to the Romance languages. But it's usually only a passive connection and does not help me with actually talking.

However, I'll have a try at learning to read text in any language written in an alphabet which is not too inaccessible.

That raises an interesting (to me) question: even if you stick to a Latin-based script, there are over a dozen diactitic marks used (sometimes two on a single letter!) used by one or another of the 150+ languages which use it. How difficult are those?

Especially fun stuff like distinguishing a dot above from a grave or acute. Or, worse, a diaresis (umlaut) from a double acute. Picture seeing a diactitic that isn't used in the languages you know cropping up in a domain name. Or a fake domain with a name designed to look like a common one.

"Mild insults aside, my father never spoke Yiddish to his children."

If there must be mild insults, then for pointed hilarity alone, Yiddish should be the worldwide vernacular.

For example, you ask your child in English to do his or her homework or straighten their room.

Inevitably, and incredulously, they ask "Now?"

You answer, Neil Simonominously in Yiddish: "No, next year, when I'm dead!"

For your edgier insults/retorts, I prefer English delivered with a deadpan Irish brogue but directed just out of earshot of the intended target's mother.

Generally speaking, however, I fall back on a Cleesian Basil Fawlty routine of pinched Tory, fascist, under-the-breath viciousness followed up by an "Oh, nothing, dear," or a "Never mind him, he's from Barcelona," if further inquiries are made by those in the room who keep their hearing aids at low volume.

I studied German in high school and college under some vague, fatuous notion that it would enhance one of my college majors .... philosophy, the German language seemingly created, like pipe-smoking, for offhand philosophical musings in the dark corners of drinking establishments, not to mention funny-walking but well-armored cross-border incursions, and, dare I mention it, dialogue in porn movies, of which I know nothing.

But, I kid.

I dipped the tip of one toe into Mandarin that last misbegotten semester of college and then hired a Chinese ex-pat private tutor in Manila while in the Peace Corps to continue along those lines. Spent a month in Taiwan staying with friends of hers for some trying but enjoyable immersion ... the reading, pinyin or characters, is easier than the speaking and the listening and the blank-faced nodding of the head .... and then studied further for a year or so back in the States with a Chinese ex-pat.

I could get thru everydayness in the Philippines with passable Tagalog, but Filipinos speak flawless English ... certainly in the professions .. but even at the barrio level unless you are in tribal territory .. though I once had an Ifugao tribesman in northern Luzon sidle up to me and ask if I knew Joe in Chicago while trying to bum a cigarette from me.

A dapperly dressed Filipino gentleman, closed umbrella dangling from his wrist like a Mary Poppins character ... the only thing missing was spats ... in Cebu City once crossed several lanes of weaving, diesel-spewing traffic to seek me out and ask, with fastidious academic locution .. he taught English and American literature at UP Cebu City ... if I knew of T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land", which I do, but not the footnotes to any proficient degree.

The Mandarin, again, with some barely half-imagined notion of future State Department foreign service firing in my half-focused synapses, but as in damp kindling, but I'm thinking by now I would be at the end of that career and purged by the current f*cks, if not pulling my collar up around my ears and requesting asylum in a foreign land merely to avoid having to utter sentences that begin with the words "Secretary Pompeo demands ... " while sitting across a table from my low-level diplomatic counterparts and tossing contemptuous candy at them as a closing gambit in lieu of their kissing my hem, not to mention nuclear war.

Now, I think of taking a course in Latin and the thought of speaking Italian and /or French fluently is a fetching thing for me, along the lines of playing center field for the New York Yankees.

I content myself with pathetic, and possibly politically incorrect foreign-language inflected/accented impressions, but in English, usually while alone and remonstrating with an imaginary opponent. I do a passable toffee-nosed, monocle-popping upper-classed Brit when I'm particularly exercised, and the other night I was joking with my female friend over some vive la difference between men and women, in ridiculous Italian-American, that "You women, you de-rive me CRAZY!" accompanied by silly hand waving and popping the flat of my hand against my pursed lips for sound effect like that TV character actor from the 1960s, whose name I can't remember, he played Italian waiters and concierges.

But, somehow my questionable character with its undisciplined habits short circuits those goals. Immersion is just not my thing. I prefer, accept even, I think, to cruise, wings bestilled, just above the surface, perhaps dipping from time to time beneath the waves to inspect the flickering glint of small fish for a snack.

The exception is reading, along with anything Beatles and baseball. This, a habit I decided on about ten years ago, after paying lip service to it during the first 500 years my vampire life, I read every word written, every interview utterance, every review, every criticism of, an autobiography or biography if available, by any number of writers when I glomb on to them. Then I re-read their best and the overlooked gems.

It's hopeless, given the nature of time.

My epitaph will read "He finished the reading, but, alas, it was all in English and translation."

My son, now 29, when I protested recently that something or other was driving me half blind and half crazy, shot back that I am already COMPLETELY crazy and half-blind, so I'm nearly there anyway.

I'm proud of him.

I can still beat him in a game of hot hands and can almost beat him in a footrace if I poke him in the eye just as the starting gun goes off.

Ron Darling, pretty good former Mets pitcher, is one of my favorites, but only because he majored in Classics and has read Homer's Iliad and Odyssey a dozen times over in the original Greek.

Reading is indeed much simpler, at least if one has at least some knowledge about the sounds attached to it.

I'd say that learning to read is impossible unless one can mentally sound out the letters. Though I suppose it wouldn't actually matter for this purpose if one used entirely the wrong sounds.

(Can one learn to read a language written in ideograms while knowing nothing of how it's spoken?)

...there are over a dozen diacritic marks used ... How difficult are those?

Not difficult at all. It's not even difficult to learn a new alphabet, so long as the letters and the differences between them are the sort of thing one's used to processing. Cyrillic and Greek are straightforward, Hebrew is a bit harder because some of the letters look alike to the Roman-trained eye.

My uncle, who is deaf, claimed that it was easier for him to read Russian because he didn't have to puzzle out the sounds, but could just treat it like a code. I never had a chance to test out his Russian ability, but he worked for the Bureau of Standards long before the laws concerning handicapped access came into place, so I think he was pretty sharp.

I had meant to post a lot of stuff here, but got wrapped up in other things. I always thought that I was good at languages, but I now realize that I am good at roman alphabet based languages, and when I move into another script, I'm just bumble along.

I'm learning Korean now for a 1 year stint there from March. A number of things are raising barriers. While the script is probably the most logical one could ask for, my reading speed is so slow, it's not really helpful. The grammar is very similar to Japanese, with lots of shared cognates, but they are sprinkled throughout the language, so don't offer an 'island' for me. Also, the spoken speed and pronunciation is tough for me, every other language I've studied, I could parse the individual words, with Korean, the speed is so fast, I am just learning sentences and unable to divide them up to let my Japanese help.

Another problem is that all the Koreans I meet here, they are quite fluent in English, so speaking to them in Japanese is like immediately acting like a 5 year old and having a similar range of expressions. I can see this combination of difficult to speak easily and most Koreans having relatively decent English is going to make it really difficult to move on to more interesting discussions.

More, perhaps, later

Here are some discussions of various Germanic languages with a number of YouTube samples.

Are Germanic languages ugly?

Thanks for the tip about Drops, liberal japonicus; I'm trying it out with Tagalog, which is fun (though I wish it would stop trying to teach me English borrowings. Do I want to learn that the Tagalog word for butternut squash is "butternut squash"? No, thanks, Drops, I think I've got that one).

I like using jMemorize to make vocabulary flashcards; it's easy to customize.

Reading through this thread reminded me of this:

I have already mentioned that I had only one year's instruction in a Latin School, and that when very young, after which I neglected that language entirely. But, when I had attained an acquaintance with the French, Italian, and Spanish, I was surprised to find, on looking over a Latin Testament, that I understood so much more of that language than I had imagined, which encouraged me to apply myself again to the study of it, and I met with more success, as those preceding languages had greatly smoothed my way.

From these circumstances, I have thought that there is some inconsistency in our common mode of teaching languages. We are told that it is proper to begin first with the Latin, and, having acquired that, it will be more easy to attain those modern languages which are derived from it; and yet we do not begin with the Greek, in order more easy to acquire the Latin. It is true that, if you can clamber and get to the top of a staircase without using the steps, you will more easily gain them in descending; but certainly, if you begin with the lowest you will with more ease ascend to the top; and I would therefore offer it to the consideration of those who superintend the education of our youth, whether, since many of those who begin with Latin quite the same after spending some years without having made any great proficiency, and what they have learnt becomes almost useless, so that their time has been lost, it would not have been better to have begun with the French, proceeding to the Italian, etc. ; for, tho', after spending the same time, they should quite the study of languages, and never arrive at the Latin, they would, however, have acquired another tongue or two, that, being in modern use, might be serviceable to them in common life.

A very prestigious award to the first to guess who wrote that. No googling!!!

First to guess correctly, I presume. But what the hell, Edgar Allen Poe.

Wrong! But Poe and the writer of the quote did live in the same city, though not at the same time.



Marty FTW!!! You are the proud recipient of a very prestigious award!

Wow, I want to thank my 8th grade history teacher.....

I never knew Franklin lived in baltimore.

I never knew Franklin lived in baltimore.

Neither did I, though there's probably no reason why I would know something so obscure that neither Wikipedia nor the next couple dozen sites google offers know it either, at least as far as -f is concerned. (Searched for "Baltimore" and "Maryland.")

I think hsh is pulling our leg. I wanna see a cite, and a picture of the prestigious award.

There is a Benjamin Franklin High School in Baltimore, but then there's also one in LA, New Orleans, Queen Creek (Arizona), Rochester......

"-f" was supposed to be [control]-f.

I should never have raised my nose from the grindstone. Back to work.....

Concerning Latin I think that there are advantages to it when learning Romance languages but that should not be the reason to learn it first. In particular not for speakers of English. If one has a mothertongue like German (or Icelandic for that matter) with a inflection system still at least partially intact, Latin poses less of a hurdle but is very useful to acquire a thorough grasp of grammar, i.e. the approach is primarily analytical. This in combination with vocabulary helps with other languages.
For English speakers who have to learn the very idea of general inflexion beyond the second case -s the hurdle is much higher and it is imo more useful to learn a living Romance language first and to add Latin later. So to speak the English start at the bottom of the stairs, others further up or on different staircases with a different height of steps.
Btw, Franklin had it easier since at his time the upper classes used a higher percentage of words derived form Latin than today (if we subtract modern tech vocabulary). The other way around it is easier today to read upper class authors of the 18th and 19th century (writing in English), if one knows Latin while there is little advantage today with understanding everyday conversation.
So, my opinion is: either Latin first and very thoroughly, then the first living Romance language or a few of those first, then a basic course in Latin (leaving it to the pupil to acquire the rest by him/herself).
One should also not forget that there is a huge span of difficulty in Latin authors even in the same genre. I had Latin for 9 years at school and the difficulty progressed from beginning to end keeping up with the progress of the kids. Our final author was Tacitus and that was a hard nut to crack. But since then I have been confronted with authors that make that guy look like a writer of elementary school textbooks.

Poe lived in Philadelphia (and New York and Baltimore and I think some other places).


Oh, they both lived in Boston, too - the city in which both were born.

hsh...you're a clever fellow. But we knew that. ;-)

Yet another life lesson in the danger of easy assumptions. (Mine.)

At least I'm a fellow who's driven past the Poe house in Philly about a thousand times. Otherwise, I probably would never have known that Poe lived in Philly.

(Come to think of it, I drive past Walt Whitman's house in Camden almost every day. I swear I'm not trying to do this. It's not a planned tour.)

All you people living where there's so much history of culture! All I've got is Eugene O'Neill's house on the ridge across town. Then it's a couple hours drive to Salinas and Steinbeck.

In preparation for Fulbright stay in the Czech Republic, I hired a tutor in Czech, got all of the language learning apps, and found another tutor once I was there. Learning Czech was not essential as I would teach in English and all my colleagues spoke English. But once outside the academic environment it was all Czech (I was not in Prague).

In high school and college I took one year of Latin, six year of German and two years of Spanish. My mother was Slovak my father Hungarian, both fluent, but they insisted on our speaking English at home.

At the end of my Czech stay, I can honestly say I only have retained three or four words of phrases. The most onerous aspect of the language was the sounds and pronunciations , which I never was able to get comfortable with.

(if we subtract modern tech vocabulary)

tech vocabulary draws on Latin?

In essence yes (and Greek of course) via first pronounce-raping them words the English way. ;-)

via first pronounce-raping them words the English way. ;-)

As opposed to all those Romance languages (French, Italian, Spanish, etc.). Which are merely degraded forms of provincial Latin dialects. ;-)

tech vocabulary draws on Latin?

is witchcraft a techology? because it's almost entirely Latin (sometimes backwards)

is witchcraft a tech[n]ology?

Actually, yes. That is, rather than just appealing to some other powerful being to make things happen, it attempts to use consistent actions by humans to cause them to happen.

The science/theory behind it is wrong (which is also true of alchemy). And the methodology doesn't work either. But just because it is a totally flawed technology doesn't mean it doesn't meet the criteria for being one.

And for the (snobbish) ancient thinkers (Looking at you Plato) TECHNE was a peiorative implying unnatural trickery at worst and lowly handiwork at best, both unworthy of the truly elevated spirit.

The attitude persists today. Just try telling a physicist that you are an engineer! Not to mention what a mathematician (or a philosopher) will say about both.

or notice how the word "algorithm" is used in the popular press.

reporters seem to think it's some kind of domesticated demon that does human's bidding but at a huge cost to our moral purity.

That's almost as good as cleek's law!

Just try telling a physicist that you are an engineer! Not to mention what a mathematician (or a philosopher) will say about both.

Can't we all at least agree to look down our noses at economists?

Economists? Perhaps not. Sociologists, on the other hand....

A ‪‎physicist, an ‪‎engineer and an ‪‎economist are stranded in the desert. They are hungry. Suddenly, they find a can of corn. They want to open it, but how?

The physicist says: “Let’s start a fire and place the can inside the flames. It will explode and then we will all be able to eat”.

“Are you crazy?” says the engineer. “All the corn will burn and scatter, and we’ll have nothing. We should use a metal wire, attach it to a base, push it and crack the can open.”

“Both of you are wrong!” states the economist. “Where the hell do we find a metal wire in the desert?! The solution is simple: ASSUME we have a can opener”…

The economist's assumed can opener and the physicist's spherical cow are both amusing send-ups of pointy-headed intellectualism. Which reminds me of programmers:

Interviewer: You walk into the house. You see a hat on the floor under the hat rack. What do you do?

Programmer: I pick the hat up and hang it on the rack.

Interviewer: You walk into the house wearing a hat. What do you do?

Programmer: Throw the hat on the floor and call the previous subroutine.


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