What surprised you the most when learning a foreign language?

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FlatAssembler

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What surprised you the most when learning a foreign language?
« on: October 17, 2020, 10:41:26 AM »
So, I am interested, what are some things about languages that surprised you the most when learning another language? My native language is Croatian and I got very surprised to learn about the sequences of tenses. Before that, I used to think the rules for tenses in complex sentences in Croatian follow from the laws of logic. And, as it turns out, they are actually arbitrary complicated rules that vary between languages that have tenses, even among related languages.
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Crouton

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Re: What surprised you the most when learning a foreign language?
« Reply #1 on: October 17, 2020, 11:11:45 AM »
I don't really know any other languages than English all that well but sometimes I study them.

The romance languages have gendered nouns for things which clearly don't have a gender.  The hell is that all about?
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FlatAssembler

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Re: What surprised you the most when learning a foreign language?
« Reply #2 on: October 17, 2020, 02:21:39 PM »
I don't really know any other languages than English all that well but sometimes I study them.

The romance languages have gendered nouns for things which clearly don't have a gender.  The hell is that all about?
I think the explanation most linguists will give you for the existence of genders is that they reduce ambiguity. If all things are referred to as "it", then it is supposedly easier to accidentally make an ambiguous sentence when referring to two things. I am not aware of any studies confirming that, however. Obviously, sometimes genders even create ambiguity, as Plautus wrote about in his comedy Aulularia (in one scene, one person is talking about a woman, and the other person is talking about a pot with gold, but since both a woman, "femina", and a pot, "aulularia", are an "ea", "she", in Latin, they don't realize they talk about different things).
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Lorddave

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Re: What surprised you the most when learning a foreign language?
« Reply #3 on: October 17, 2020, 02:44:32 PM »
How many words sound english .
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FlatAssembler

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Re: What surprised you the most when learning a foreign language?
« Reply #4 on: October 17, 2020, 02:50:19 PM »
How many words sound english .
In which language?
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sokarul

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Re: What surprised you the most when learning a foreign language?
« Reply #5 on: October 17, 2020, 03:10:56 PM »
To my knowledge other languages have more gender based words than English. That’s something.
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Stash

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Re: What surprised you the most when learning a foreign language?
« Reply #6 on: October 17, 2020, 05:51:27 PM »
Chapeau, hat
Oeuf, egg
Those French have a different word for everything.

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Bullwinkle

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Re: What surprised you the most when learning a foreign language?
« Reply #7 on: October 17, 2020, 11:24:39 PM »
I have a Mexican friend who asked me why I haven't learned Spanish.

I told him I have no desire to mow lawns or wash dishes.

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Crouton

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Re: What surprised you the most when learning a foreign language?
« Reply #8 on: October 17, 2020, 11:52:16 PM »
I have a Mexican friend who asked me why I haven't learned Spanish.

I told him I have no desire to mow lawns or wash dishes.

You joke but I've got to say, if I had to pick another language to learn then it would be Spanish.  It makes it much easier to hire people for jobs when you speak the same language.
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Shifter

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Re: What surprised you the most when learning a foreign language?
« Reply #9 on: October 18, 2020, 02:18:20 AM »
I tried my hand at Korean. Their 'alphabet' or Hangul (script) took 2 hours to memorise. It's also easy to read because each syllable is grouped (where as in English it's not so clear how to pronounce a word as one of our previous PMs discovered when she pronounced 'hyperbole' as 'hyper·bowl' and not 'hai·puh·buh·lee' lol

Also the way they structure a sentence is different. That is probably the hardest part of learning a language that has different rules, grammar and syntax


But even among English speaking countries people talk/sound differently

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Re: What surprised you the most when learning a foreign language?
« Reply #10 on: October 18, 2020, 03:13:11 AM »
English surprised me when I learnt that you can read a word but be unable to read it out loud.

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Lorddave

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FlatAssembler

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Re: What surprised you the most when learning a foreign language?
« Reply #12 on: October 18, 2020, 04:56:04 AM »
Chapeau, hat
Oeuf, egg
Those French have a different word for everything.
Why would you expect French (or any other language, for that matter) to have the same word for "hat" and "egg"?
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FlatAssembler

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Re: What surprised you the most when learning a foreign language?
« Reply #13 on: October 18, 2020, 04:56:57 AM »
How many words sound english .
In which language?
Norwegian.
Well, English and Norwegian are relatively closely related.
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FlatAssembler

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Re: What surprised you the most when learning a foreign language?
« Reply #14 on: October 18, 2020, 05:03:21 AM »
To my knowledge other languages have more gender based words than English. That’s something.
As far as I know, it's exactly the opposite. Languages which have different words for "he" and "she" are relatively rare. Finnish and Hungarian don't have different words for "he" and "she", and neither does Armenian or Persian (which are related to English).
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sokarul

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Re: What surprised you the most when learning a foreign language?
« Reply #15 on: October 18, 2020, 06:53:40 AM »
To my knowledge other languages have more gender based words than English. That’s something.
As far as I know, it's exactly the opposite. Languages which have different words for "he" and "she" are relatively rare. Finnish and Hungarian don't have different words for "he" and "she", and neither does Armenian or Persian (which are related to English).

French and Norwegian bokmål both have words for he and she. French has masculine and feminine words. From a quick search la France vs le Canada. It’s been a long time since I was in French class.
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Re: What surprised you the most when learning a foreign language?
« Reply #16 on: October 18, 2020, 08:29:04 AM »
The indispensable World Atlas of Language Structures, as a feature just on this

https://wals.info/feature/44A#2/18.0/149.1 
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JJA

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Re: What surprised you the most when learning a foreign language?
« Reply #17 on: October 18, 2020, 11:30:24 AM »
That facts it's so hard to learn one that I have yet to really be able to converse in anything but English.

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FlatAssembler

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Re: What surprised you the most when learning a foreign language?
« Reply #18 on: October 19, 2020, 03:40:38 AM »
To my knowledge other languages have more gender based words than English. That’s something.
As far as I know, it's exactly the opposite. Languages which have different words for "he" and "she" are relatively rare. Finnish and Hungarian don't have different words for "he" and "she", and neither does Armenian or Persian (which are related to English).

French and Norwegian bokmål both have words for he and she. French has masculine and feminine words. From a quick search la France vs le Canada. It’s been a long time since I was in French class.
French and Norwegian are both related and a part of the same sprachbund. Most of the languages around the world don't even have a different word for "he" and "she", and languages having genders for inanimate nouns are very rare.
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FlatAssembler

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Re: What surprised you the most when learning a foreign language?
« Reply #19 on: October 19, 2020, 03:45:52 AM »
That facts it's so hard to learn one that I have yet to really be able to converse in anything but English.
Well, as a Croatian, I needed to put a lot of effort to learn English. So, what do you think, is it a good thing that there are so many languages around the world? I think it isn't. Obviously, a lot of time and resources are spent in language learning and translations, and that damages the economies. And I fail to see how having different languages can make things better.
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JJA

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Re: What surprised you the most when learning a foreign language?
« Reply #20 on: October 19, 2020, 04:35:01 AM »
That facts it's so hard to learn one that I have yet to really be able to converse in anything but English.
Well, as a Croatian, I needed to put a lot of effort to learn English. So, what do you think, is it a good thing that there are so many languages around the world? I think it isn't. Obviously, a lot of time and resources are spent in language learning and translations, and that damages the economies. And I fail to see how having different languages can make things better.

On a purely technical and efficiency level, having one language is clearly the best way to go.  No advantage to having half the planet unable to talk to the other half.  Plenty of disadvantages, plenty of misunderstandings.

However, it's just not going to happen because people will continue to be people.

We would be far better off if we stopped having wars, but that's not going to happen either.

Humans just are not rational, especially in big groups.

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FlatAssembler

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Re: What surprised you the most when learning a foreign language?
« Reply #21 on: October 19, 2020, 05:13:55 AM »
That facts it's so hard to learn one that I have yet to really be able to converse in anything but English.
Well, as a Croatian, I needed to put a lot of effort to learn English. So, what do you think, is it a good thing that there are so many languages around the world? I think it isn't. Obviously, a lot of time and resources are spent in language learning and translations, and that damages the economies. And I fail to see how having different languages can make things better.

On a purely technical and efficiency level, having one language is clearly the best way to go.  No advantage to having half the planet unable to talk to the other half.  Plenty of disadvantages, plenty of misunderstandings.

However, it's just not going to happen because people will continue to be people.

We would be far better off if we stopped having wars, but that's not going to happen either.

Humans just are not rational, especially in big groups.
Linguists predict more than 50% of languages that are alive today will die in the next 100 years. Most linguists consider it a bad thing, but I think it's a good thing. And a sign that people are rational.
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Shifter

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Re: What surprised you the most when learning a foreign language?
« Reply #22 on: October 19, 2020, 05:43:21 AM »
That facts it's so hard to learn one that I have yet to really be able to converse in anything but English.
Well, as a Croatian, I needed to put a lot of effort to learn English. So, what do you think, is it a good thing that there are so many languages around the world? I think it isn't. Obviously, a lot of time and resources are spent in language learning and translations, and that damages the economies. And I fail to see how having different languages can make things better.

On a purely technical and efficiency level, having one language is clearly the best way to go.  No advantage to having half the planet unable to talk to the other half.  Plenty of disadvantages, plenty of misunderstandings.

However, it's just not going to happen because people will continue to be people.

We would be far better off if we stopped having wars, but that's not going to happen either.

Humans just are not rational, especially in big groups.
Linguists predict more than 50% of languages that are alive today will die in the next 100 years. Most linguists consider it a bad thing, but I think it's a good thing. And a sign that people are rational.

It's bad in terms of culture and identity that can be lost along with it

Different languages can show different ways of thinking and looking at the world

Some cultures dont even have words for time (eg seconds, minutes or even yesterday and tomorrow). Or certain colours. Some languages have extra colours (eg in Russia they have a different names for 'light blue' and 'dark blue' and as a result, people are much better at distinguishing the colours).

Who is to say that English is the best and that we should adopt it as the universal language and that other countries should just dump their in favour for it? I quite like the flair and way of describing things/sayings of other cultures.

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FlatAssembler

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Re: What surprised you the most when learning a foreign language?
« Reply #23 on: October 19, 2020, 06:48:20 AM »
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It's bad in terms of culture and identity that can be lost along with it
And why are cultures worth preserving?
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Some cultures dont even have words for time (eg seconds, minutes or even yesterday and tomorrow).
As far as I understand it, those "timeless" languages simply have different grammatical constructions to convey the same meaning.
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Who is to say that English is the best and that we should adopt it as the universal language and that other countries should just dump their in favour for it?
English isn't perfect, but it's better to have some language as a universal language than to have no universal language. Esperanto or Lojban would, of course, be better, but it's even harder, politically, to make them a universal language.
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Colonel Gaydafi

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Re: What surprised you the most when learning a foreign language?
« Reply #24 on: October 26, 2020, 01:35:07 PM »
I tried my hand at Korean. Their 'alphabet' or Hangul (script) took 2 hours to memorise. It's also easy to read because each syllable is grouped (where as in English it's not so clear how to pronounce a word as one of our previous PMs discovered when she pronounced 'hyperbole' as 'hyper·bowl' and not 'hai·puh·buh·lee' lol



Wait, what? Hyperbole isn't pronounced hyper-bowl? Maybe I need to learn English
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Crouton

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Re: What surprised you the most when learning a foreign language?
« Reply #25 on: October 26, 2020, 01:54:17 PM »
No but it should be.

And don't get me started on how the word "chaos" is pronounced.
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Shifter

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Re: What surprised you the most when learning a foreign language?
« Reply #26 on: October 26, 2020, 01:55:44 PM »
No but it should be.

And don't get me started on how the word "chaos" is pronounced.

How about the word 'one' lol
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Colonel Gaydafi

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Re: What surprised you the most when learning a foreign language?
« Reply #27 on: October 26, 2020, 02:55:11 PM »
Stupid English.

Not that other languages are much better. Doing Finnish on duolingo at the moment to improve and I'm still not entirely sure when to use the partitive case or how a cat can be a viking and why I should care.
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FlatAssembler

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Re: What surprised you the most when learning a foreign language?
« Reply #28 on: October 27, 2020, 06:19:50 AM »
A thing I recently learned and that shocked me a bit is that Latin dative was never used to mean the direction of movement, that "Romani ite domui." not only sounded weird (as I thought before), but was incorrect. The direction of movement was always the accusative, as in "Romani ite domum.". I have always thought what's an adverbial phrase and what's an object was some kind of a linguistic universal. In Croatian, you would say "Neka Rimljani idu kući." ("kući" being the dative), and "kući" is considered to be an adverbial phrase, rather than an object. It turns out, what's an adverbial phrase in Croatian not only can be, but also must be, an object in Latin.
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