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April 9th, 2005

Second Languages

Though I took French in high school and college, I’ve retained almost none of it. So, I’m currently starting to learn a second language (not French) with an end goal of becoming somewhat conversational in it.

What languages do the Pingers speak? I speak small bit of French and a small bit of Vietnamese, but not enough of either to communicate more than the most basic of thoughts.

Posted in Everyday Life

FROM: Paul
DATE: Saturday April 9, 2005 -- 7:19:50 am
I still speak some German (rudimentary), and it's all still in my memory from high school. But I'm forgetting more verbs and nouns every year... just like English!

FROM: Dave Walls [E-Mail]
DATE: Saturday April 9, 2005 -- 8:13:49 am
I can speak and write a bit of high school was a test school for adding Chinese to high school offerings in Delaware.

All in all, I can carry a basic conversation, write a bit, and usually get a bit of free food for impressing the local take out place.

FROM: dave
DATE: Saturday April 9, 2005 -- 8:18:52 am
Well, I can fake enough Spanish to get by...I just came back from Argentina and at least I didn't cause an international incident...

FROM: Robert
DATE: Saturday April 9, 2005 -- 5:56:56 pm
I have a Spanish degree, for what it's worth.

DATE: Saturday April 9, 2005 -- 7:41:34 pm
I go to Mexico pretty often (about 2-4 times per month) and I speak Spanish pretty well. Not fluently, but enough to do anything I want and keep myself out of trouble, and I learn more constantly. I've also travelled to Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, and Argentina, and of course the Spanish is very different between the various countries. Also I've been to Brazil where Spanish was very useful as more people speak Spanish than English, and I essentially spoke Spanish, substituting Portuguese words as I learned them, and was able to communicate quite well with people who didn't speak Spanish/English.

Spanish is a good language to learn because it is spoken in so many countries. Also there are so many Latinos in the US it's useful here. Having knowledge about Mexico also helps. Here in Texas there are so many Mexicans that knowledge of Mexico and Spanish opens countless doors.

FROM: Terry M.
DATE: Saturday April 9, 2005 -- 7:42:05 pm
Oops, the last comment was mine, please fix. :)

FROM: jk
DATE: Saturday April 9, 2005 -- 8:08:13 pm
I will lay claim to being the German-speaking Pinger. My dad is German-born, came here in college, but we didn't learn the language at home. I had really good teachers in middle and high school, and had 33 credits of it in college. My dad's one sister says I speak it with hardly any American accent, which I take to be a huge compliment.

Das ist alles fuer heute.

DATE: Saturday April 9, 2005 -- 9:22:51 pm
"That is all for now" i am taking in german now. I pretty much suck. I cant construct sentences right, but i would be able to understand most things. As long as you talk about what you do in your free time,types of food, or things about time, that is all i learned.

FROM: Monica
DATE: Saturday April 9, 2005 -- 9:29:22 pm
I can read and write in French pretty well, but I have so few opportunities to speak it, and I'm too timid to really do so anyway, that my spoken vocabulary is pretty small. (It's almost limited to saying "au revoir mes anges, je vous aime, soyez gentils" to my cats when I leave my apartment--they also understand "bouge," and sometimes "pas de griffes").
I'm also sorta fluent in Fortran77--enough that I've dreamt in it (dreaming in code is the WORST), if that counts.

FROM: Alex C.
DATE: Sunday April 10, 2005 -- 8:13:25 am
I'm another German speaking Pinger. I immigrated to the States when I was 10 with my German mom and American step-Dad.

I lived & travelled long enough in Europe that I have "tourist" level French floating around my head. I used to do okay with Dutch, Spanish and Italian, but the older I get the further that recedes from memory.

The Romance languages are neat, because of the similarities. I do better at deciphering the written word then understanding them spoken nowadays.

And Dutch is such a neat combination of English and German, it'd be interesting to learn more of it. (Ditto for Afrikaans, I used to work with a South African lady that immigrated to the States, and you can tell the roots stem from German.)

FROM: Alex C.
DATE: Sunday April 10, 2005 -- 8:14:38 am
P.S. I also have "Samurai movie" level Japanese floating around somewhere in my head. Heh.

FROM: Joseph
DATE: Monday April 11, 2005 -- 8:14:26 am
German: Took that in high school and college. Only got to speak it a few times to natives, who said I spoke it very well. I was able to converse with German tourists when I was a waiter.

French: Learned from CD-ROMs--they really work. Sadly, my French is better than my German. If you learn German from a teacher who has a strong eastern European accent, that's what you learn. Everyone I speak German too, if they are native speakers, inevitably ask me if I'm Russian. I'll be fixing my accent with CD-ROMs. CD-ROMs have the advantage of being able to check your pronunciation, and you can listen to a work hundreds of times until you get it right without bugging a human teacher.

Spanish: The French worked so well that I'm learning Spanish. There is a lot of Spanish spoken where I work and in the city. There are tons of Spanish neighborhoods, and the neighborhood I work in is predominantly Spanish--you'd never know you were in the US except for the license plates. Hartford, CT = Peurto Rico, who knew? Anyway, with CD-ROMs, I'm already conversing a bit in Spanish with co-workers--they're trying to teach me how to roll my r's--good luck to them.

Chinese: Nope. Got a CD and it's just way too different. Can't get the tones no matter how hard I try. Props to Dave Walls.

Russian: CD-ROMs again. Takes a lot longer because you have to learn the Cyrillic alphabet. Just so happens that I went to an eastern European rooted parochial school where I learned the Cyrillic alphabet in the sixth grade and could read and pronounce the words, though I didn't know what they meant. Now I do.

FROM: Greg
DATE: Monday April 11, 2005 -- 9:38:02 am
I was going to learn how to speak Texan so I can figure out what the hell W is talking about.

FROM: aharris
DATE: Monday April 11, 2005 -- 3:15:59 pm
Joseph, what CD-ROMs are you using? I've looked at a few and they're either way to expensive or...crappy.

I took Spanish in high school and in college (no major or minor though). I speak just well enough to haggle for maracas in Mexico and eavesdrop on conversations on the bus.

FROM: Joseph
DATE: Monday April 11, 2005 -- 4:16:40 pm
I've got a few. The easiest ones are some old Berlitz ones. They're very simple and not the thousands of dollars versions. I think this particular branch of Berlitz was acquired by The Learning Company because that company's earlier software is the same. For whatever reason, they've discontinued the German versions. I think they sell for about $40 to $50 at computer stores--but I got all mine for about $12 each at, you know the place, Marshall's.

But I do like to get a few of the cheap versions because between them all you get a little more. I've found the Language Now! cds to be a bit difficult to use. I've got those in Italian and Russian. But that may be just because the Berlitz/Learning Company ones are so easy in comparison. They're a lot like the text books: there's a vocabulary section, then some phrases, some skill building activities, and then you're on to the next lesson. The Language Now ones just seem to throw a lot of language at you in a none too organized fashion. The idea is to immediately immerse you. I find the environment confusing. I might as well just go to Italy if I want to be befuddled.

The key I find is that you really do have to study, just like you did in school. I make lists of the vocabulary words, memorize them by heart and then do the next one. It's tedious, but effective. But, in one summer, you can teach yourself the equivalent of two years of high school, and speak like a native.

None of these cds get as complicated as college courses though, but, for conversational, they're great.

They're also really good if you had a language course before. They really help to reawaken those parts of your brain.

The best part is the pronunciation gauge on The Learning Company software. The needle swings from tourist to native. I feel like the monkey in the cage tapping the lever for a peanut. I'll say a word twenty times until I bury the needle on the native side.

They work though. According to the Peurto Ricans here at work, my pronunciation is very good. They haven't had to ask me to repeat anything, I never get a quizzical expression, and they give me that answer.

I've never been abroad, so this is how I get out. Maybe I'll go to France and be mocked like everyone else who attempts to speak quickly. But I can read French great, as well as I can read German after all those years of school--maybe a bit better, even.

Too bad my computer recently crashed and the software won't run. The software didn't do it. I accidentally deleted some important files : (. I'm painfully contemplating a full system restore right now.

FROM: Joseph
DATE: Monday April 11, 2005 -- 4:17:41 pm
I meant, if I ask the Puerto Ricans something, they give me the right answer. So, the Spanish cds seem to be working.

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