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View Diary: Rice BUSTED. Dr. Fraud can't speak Russian after all. (280 comments)

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  •  No. (4.00)

     Am just saying that (I think, don't hold me to this) for a native English speaker, picking up at least conversational Spanish or Italian or French, say, is a darn site easier than Russian, Japanese or Arabic, for example.

     Perhaps someone who is a native English speaker who's studied Japanese and Spanish, or Russian and Italian, or Arabic and French would like to opine.


    . . . religion is not a syllogism, but a poem. H.L. Mencken

    by BenGoshi on Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 10:16:09 AM PDT

    [ Parent ]

    •  I dated a girl in college (4.00)
      who was studying Russian, and I was studying French. What surprised me was the number of cognates between the two languages, mostly because of Russian borrowing.

      My experience of learning Romance languages (Spanish, French, and Portuguese) is that Spanish was the easiest and French the hardest, but that grammar in all of them was a bear. English, after all, is a Germanic language.

      It's always the old who lead us to the war, always the young to fall -- Phil Ochs

      by litho on Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 10:25:56 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  German grammar (none)
        is a bitch. Heinous and frustrating. I found French much easier to grasp.

        Ask Copernicus about pushing limits.

        by Xray the Enforcer on Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 10:28:46 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  What I hear about German (none)
          is that declension is a bitch, and word order is maddening.

          The slavic languages share declension with German, and that's what Condi complained about in the interview.

          It's always the old who lead us to the war, always the young to fall -- Phil Ochs

          by litho on Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 10:33:19 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  spoken vs. written French (none)
          Written French is pretty easy, but understanding spoken French is a bitch with all the homonyms and words slurred together. German grammar is complex, but as long as you remember all the rules it's pretty consistent. German newspaper articles are written in the most obtuse language imaginable. I think they're a big reason for German grammar getting a bad rep.
          •  ha, no shit (none)
            I had an easier time reading German chemistry PhD dissertations than I did reading the damned newspaper.

            I always screwed up the articles, and used dativ when I sure have been using akkusativ.

            Ask Copernicus about pushing limits.

            by Xray the Enforcer on Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 01:07:19 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Now Try Canadian French-- (none)
            It's pronounced the way Hebrew looks: nothing but consonants and apostrophes. ;)

            We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy....--ML King, "Beyond Vietnam"

            by Gooserock on Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 03:10:56 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  You should try Quebec French... (none)
            In Quebec we say that the french spoken in France is like that spoken through the rear end of a chicken - over enunciated. Quebecois joual is rapid fire and spoken from the throat... even harder to understand.


            Strange and beautiful are the stars tonight, that dance around your head.

            by deepfish on Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 05:48:33 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  German is actually pretty easy (none)
          especially if you're used to the English grammar in the King James Bible. Very similar verb forms, tenses, pronouns. There's idiosyncratic stuff to memorize, but nothing compared to modern American English.
      •  Native English speaker (none)
        Have studied: French (once in view of "fluency", now so rusty that it's embarrassing to even try...), Spanish, German, Indonesian, Gaelic and Japanese.

        Gone.  Gone.  It's all just so gone.

        I remember a smattering of words in Bahasa Indonesia, and can't even recall anything about the grammar.  

        Japanese?  The same.  

        Gaelic?  The same.

        German... a teensy bit more has remained.

        Spanish?  I live in an area where Spanish is in common use, and have tried to learn some, again, recently.  My command is pitiful.

        Was there a question?  Oh, yeah.  Languages that are closer cognates are easier to learn and remember.  French shares so much vocabulary that it's not terribly hard.   But the grammar... oh, the grammar....

        "Too many policemen, no liberty; Too many soldiers, no peace; Too many lawyers, no justice." Lin Yutang (1895-1976)

        by ogre on Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 12:36:48 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I used to think that. (none)
        I used to think that French grammar was really strange and foreign and difficult -- until I needed to learn Turkish.  (Girlfriend at the time, now beloved wife.)  Now, that's really a different grammar.  Nowadays I think of French and English as practically two different dialects rather than two different languages.

        It's all relative!

        We're just getting started.

        by jem6x on Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 01:21:16 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  it depends... (4.00)
      I studied French and German - and I have to say that my French (which I studied intensely for 13 years) is now worse conversationally (still pretty good in reading/writing) than my German (learned it on the fly when I moved there - still have trouble writing anything coherent in German).

      I would tend to agree that languages you are not familiar with on a daily basis (Mandarin, Japanese, Russian), and which are far different than English, are much harder to master. I never took Spanish class, but I grew up in California, and I can somewhat understand Univision...

      Ask Copernicus about pushing limits.

      by Xray the Enforcer on Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 10:27:18 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Right. (none)

         I've never taken a day of Spanish in my life, but with a little "crib sheet" made by a friend whose English/Spanish bi-lingual, and a little common sense, I and my wife were able to speak "gettin' around" Spanish in Mexico several years ago.  Not "conversational Spanish," mind you, but the language, speaking it, didn't "feel" alien to me.  Now if I had not studied, and studied and studied, Japanese, no little crib sheet could "get me by."  Yes, I might be able to parrot some words (everybody knows "arigatoo", and "sushi" these days), but I wouldn't be able to "feel" Japanese on near the comfort level that I do Spanish.

         Oh, and Rice is a liar and a hack, btw.


        . . . religion is not a syllogism, but a poem. H.L. Mencken

        by BenGoshi on Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 10:34:13 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  gooooooooooooooooooooooooooool! (none)
        that's what most people mean by understanding Univisión (and yes, it does need an accent).

        Blogging the revolution @ culturekitchen

        by liza on Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 03:04:11 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Not fluent, nor even passible, in either (none)
      but I did study Russian and French.  Russian is harder to learn, but easier to understand when spoken.  In my experience (not exhausive), it is spoken more slowly and words are enunciated more clearly.
      •  And it's more freakin' phonetic (none)
        ..and by a lot. <G>

        I am the same as you, not passable in either but did French in HS and Russian in college.

        The declensions in Russian are a bitch. But I knew them cold at one point, and I only took a year and a half of the language. (You do lose it by lack of use, that's very true.)

        Outside of the declensions, the hardest things about Russian are the alphabet and the accent (and I'm good with accents). I like the economy of it. Russian has no articles, and no present tense of the verb 'to be', so "I am an American" in Russian is just "I American". Nice and neat.

        Of course, some of the words are way out of hand. The first day I ever took Russian, we walked into the class and the Professor had one word on the board, in Cyrillic and transliterated. That word was "Zdravstvuytye". When we all got in our seats, she introduced herself and then said, "Take note of the word on the board. If you can learn to say that word without twisting your tongue into a pretzel, you can learn to speak Russian. That word, by the way, means 'hello'." <G>

        "Don't call yourself religious, not with that blood on your hands"--Little Steven Van Zandt

        by ChurchofBruce on Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 12:15:55 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  be in good health (none)
          I would say that zdrawsvuytye means "be in good health" and is used as "hello".
          •  True (none)
            ..and it's the more formal form at that. But it was just a funny introduction to Russian.

            One of my friends in that class came up with what he called the essence of Russian: "Russian never uses seven words in a sentence when three will do. However, Russian also never uses three consonants in a word when seven will do." <G>

            "Don't call yourself religious, not with that blood on your hands"--Little Steven Van Zandt

            by ChurchofBruce on Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 04:33:34 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  Apparently (4.00)
        you were talking to polite academics...

        You should try listening to us after a few drinks. Or in an animated discussion.
        "eating words" is one of the things I watch for very carefully at home now-- since we are our daughter's primary source of language, we have to make sure to say the whole word. Every time.

    •  That was my experience (none)
      Something about the case system in Russian is so counterintuitive to me as a native English speaker, I could never get my head around it - not to mention the weirdness of the verbs and how they configure space. I don't know how to explain, but where I want more tenses, Russian makes you use different verbs.  It's maddening.  The only thing that even started to be helpful was to physically walk around the room and try to make the verbs work in that context, but I soon gave up on it entirely.  

      I didn't have this problem with Romance languages.  I know French pretty well and it has a logic and precision that I still have a hard time grasping, but it's a whole world of familiarity compared to Russian.  Like I said, one has this incredibly confusing experience of the space around you being organized in a completely different way, and it takes a lot of hard work and patience to navigate it.

      Fight this generation, fight this generation...

      by daria g on Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 10:31:48 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Declensions come easier the second time around (none)
        On a lark one semester I took the Sanskrit class in the Classics department.  All we did was translate old parables full of double-entendres and memorize the declensions which worse than Russian.  When I got around to taking Russian, the declensions came pretty easy.

        But look on the bright side, Finnish has 16 cases.

    •  Me (4.00)
      I have studied Spanish, French, Italian, and Mandarin.  

      Mandarin was, by far, the hardest to pick up and the easiest to forget.  Comparatively, the Romance languages are easy to pick up and last longer.  

      (On the other hand, once you start trying to speak more than one, they do tend to get mixed up into Franish and Spitalian).  

      Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?

      by johnny rotten on Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 10:38:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Korean and French (none)
      I am a French teacher, first language English and I agree - Romance languages are much easier to learn. I am learning Korean now, and after a few years of on and off study I know just enough to embarass myself in front of my father-in-law.

      But, sincerely, lets give Condi the benefit of the doubt. Maybe she was "garding on the curve" as it were in claiming fluency. In an admin where foreign languages are at best seen as quaint, her few words may well have been seen as an extraordinary qualification. I mean - look at her boss.


      Strange and beautiful are the stars tonight, that dance around your head.

      by deepfish on Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 10:54:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Shirley, you jest (4.00)
        lets give Condi the benefit of the doubt

        I gave the Bush crew the BOTD for a few short weeks after 9/11.  After being consistently and brazenly lied to by all of them in the time since then, I am no longer willing to give such a benefit.

        Condi's a lying shitbag, just like her boss.

    •  As a native English speaker... (none)
      who's studied Japanese and French, I'd have to say that Japanese is more difficult given that you must learn the various ways to write (kanji, hiragana and katakana) as well as all the pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary.

      I've also been able to learn a smattering of Spanish through listening and reading on my own, something not easy to do with Japanese.

      •  Yoroshiku. (none)

         hey, check out my story below in the thread entitled:  my story (OT but it's my diary).

         You should get a kick out of it.  

         Ja, mata, neh -


        . . . religion is not a syllogism, but a poem. H.L. Mencken

        by BenGoshi on Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 11:43:50 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  hahahahaha (none)
          My Japanese is terribly rusty, you are quite right to return to Japan every so often. Unfortunately, my folks don't speak it and my GParents who do live out of my area so I don't get the practice I'd like.

          I won't even attempt to reply in Japanese, my syntax would be all wrong, not to mention my vocabulary *sigh. Guess I'll have to go back to my books to see if I can pick it up again.

          So, I'll say, "laters" as I would in my home state of Hawaii :).

    •  Ya lyublue rusky yazik (none)
      But there is a huge difference between conversational and written language, even in the case of Russian Language being phonetic.

      I am not claiming to be an expert, but I take it as my own personal experience studying Spanish, Russian, and Japanese....

      I can read Spanish pretty well, but my spoken fluency is pretty freaking weak.

      Only took a single semester of Japanese, I can remember some phrases but not very much...(kore wa nihongo de nanto imas ka?)

      I am currently studying Russian, and I feel as confident speaking as I do reading (but I realize it is something I have to do kash de den)

      Why do these things get started in the first place?  The truth is that if you were once fluent, it doesn't logically follow that you will continue to be fluent in the future.

      It may seem to add prestige (and it did impress me about Condi even though I detest her politics) but    it will eventually be found out, and blow back at very least will be very embarassing for her, and the US as she serves as head diplomat.

      •  Nihongo (none)
        hane se ma sen

        (that's phonetic at best)

        And all I can do in Japanese.

        "Never vote for Republicans again -- we lie." --a senior Republican Senator

        by mecki on Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 12:04:30 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Chigaimasu, yo! (none)

           Dekiru soo desu!


          trans:  "Gettouta here!"  "Looks like you can speak it!"

          . . . religion is not a syllogism, but a poem. H.L. Mencken

          by BenGoshi on Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 12:10:49 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I once... (none)
            ...spent a drunken weekend in Prague with a Japanese guy. He taught me that phrase, and it's stuck ever since (this was 15 years ago. Wish I could remember where I put my car keys 15 minutes ago, though)

            Anyway, since then, I pull it out every time I meet a Japanese person. Apparently, my pronunciation is good enough for them to think that I actually can speak it.

            Unfortunately, that phrase is, truly, all I can do in Japanese, and I indeed speak the truth.

            "Never vote for Republicans again -- we lie." --a senior Republican Senator

            by mecki on Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 12:33:21 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  according to my rusty Japanese (none)
            For the benefits of the non-enlightened, Mecki-san said "I can't speak it." Then BenGoshi-san said "Wrong!" in the title, then "It seems you can!"

            nihongo-wa zembu wasurete shimaimashita...

            •  You word-for-word translation's (none)

                right on the money. Nan nen-kan Nihongo o benkyo suru koto ga arimasu ka?  But, from a "if you wanted to say the same thing with the same 'feel' in English" standpoint, you'd go with mine.  


              . . . religion is not a syllogism, but a poem. H.L. Mencken

              by BenGoshi on Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 12:42:12 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  hm.. is the "yo" necessary? (none)
            Or were you doing a little janglish (J-bonics?).. something like "Get outta here, yo!" maybe?

            I only ask because I have to respect a language where you can scream yo at the end of your sentence and it doesn't get you funny looks from old people :)

            Does George Bush remember he put his hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution, and not the other way around? -- Bill Maher

            by ragnark on Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 12:40:24 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  "Yo" is not really used in written ... (none)

               ... Japanese (someone correct me if I'm wrong, here), so in that sense I was writing like one would speak, but, no, in fact, "yo" (sometimes written as "you" but pron. "yo...") is Japanese for, sort of, "you know".


              . . . religion is not a syllogism, but a poem. H.L. Mencken

              by BenGoshi on Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 12:45:39 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Nihongo wa musukashi desu ne! (none)
                The truly irritating thing about having made a half-assed attempt to learn such a difficult language some seven years ago is that the very few things that do stick with me are next to useless.

                Like, for example, something that used to irritate me even at the time:  Anglophones with advanced Japanese skills who insisted on using "ano...." for "umm..." just to be hyper-native.  I used to think it was irritatingly cocky at the time; now, because it's one of the few details I remember, it's doubly irritating!

                Another thing that drives me crazy is my own brain.  Let me explain:  if you learn a language at a certain young age (so the story goes; neurobiologists can chime in if I'm wrong), it's processed by the same part of the brain where your primary language is located.  If you learn it past a certain age, it's a different part of the brain -- and every language that you learn past that point is processed by that secondary part of the brain.  So if you're like me, and you have bad beginner's Japanese and bad beginner's German rattling around up there, you'r libel to mix elements of those languages.  So when I ran into a German couple in Tokyo, asking for directions, I mixed up "soshite" and "und" for "and."

                Of course, I could just be stupid.  That might be a more logical explanation.  ;-)

                Nothing requires a greater effort of thought than arguments to justify the rule of nonthought. -- Milan Kundera

                by Dale on Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 01:17:19 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Not only that... (none)
                  ...but when you learn languages at an early age, they're not well mapped to each other, so your translating sucks

                  I learned both English and German as a child (thank God, because I've failed at pretty much every other language since then: French, Latin, Russian, Turkish, you name it) and I find that my translation between the two is pathetic. It gets better the longer the phrase or sentence is I'm to translate, but still nothing to write home about.

                  Furthermore, any languages I've learned since then I seem to have learned from English, so to get from German to French, I have to go through English.

                  Getting us back to problem number one.

                  mecki jr is learning some language (probably Spanish) right off the bat.

                  "Never vote for Republicans again -- we lie." --a senior Republican Senator

                  by mecki on Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 01:46:15 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                •  Ano . . . (none)
                   I wish I had it handy, but I've got a book somewhere in my office by Robert Collins who's (was?) and expat in Tokyo and used to do columns for the Daily Yomiuri, or Japan Times, under the name, ahem, "Max Danger."  The guy's a very good writer, actually, Evelyn Waugh meets Dave Barry (ouch!).  Anyway, there are several compendiums of his columns out there.  A hoot for those of use "who can relate."

                   Anyway, he used to do this faux "Dear Abby" thing and one of them was something like (here I paraphrase):

                   Dear Mr. Etiquitte:

                   My husband only knows three words in Japanese -- "doomo," "doozo" and "sumimasen" and he uses them all day, all the time and those are the only words he ever uses.  It's driving me crazy.  What can I do?!

                    Signed:  Up the Wall

                   Dear Up the Wall:

                   Doesn't he know "ano"?

                   Signed:  Mr. Etiquette


                  . . . religion is not a syllogism, but a poem. H.L. Mencken

                  by BenGoshi on Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 01:53:33 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

        •  "ha*nah*se*mah*sen" there you go. nt (none)

          . . . religion is not a syllogism, but a poem. H.L. Mencken

          by BenGoshi on Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 01:29:09 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Kazhdii den' (none)

        Try looking for textbooks by Lipson. The man was a genius. Found a way to drill hard things like declentions into students' heads in very funny ways. Like this (sing to the tune of Jeopardy):

        Mezhdu stulom i stolom
        Rezhet Zhenya nos nozhom
        Pered bratom i otcom
        Eto ochen' strannii dom.

    •  define "study" (none)
      as a child I was bilingual in English and Oriya (a Sanskritic language) - I'm still proficient as an Oriya listener, but not much of a speaker anymore.  In school I studied French, Latin and Spanish and noticed two effects: studying any of those three made it easier to learn the other two; but having been bilingual in two entirely different languages made it easier to absorb languages generally, e.g. where you are trying to pick up an expression or concept that is not easily translated out of its native language.

      Democracy demands discussion, disagreement and dissent. - Wes Clark

      by djinniya on Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 11:52:12 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  French and Hebrew (none)
      The Hebrew is tough to keep up with & my husband who lived in Israel for 4 years is a native english speaker.He is fluent in Hebrew but conversational Hebrew is tough now that he doesn't keep up with fluent speakers. And he always makes fun of me for speaking Hebrew with a French accent! P.S. I'm not fluent in Hebrew just OK

      The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all- John F Kennedy

      by vcmvo2 on Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 12:15:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  My what an international crowd... (none)

         ... we got here!  Except for "Jerome a Paris."  I have it on very good information that his real name's "Buddy" and he lives in and posts from Hattiesburg, Mississippi (not that there's anything wrong with it).  Oh, and "Welshman" is a 12 year old girl named "Tanner" who lives in some suburb of Ft. Worth, TX.  Shhh.


        . . . religion is not a syllogism, but a poem. H.L. Mencken

        by BenGoshi on Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 12:20:33 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  My 8 yr old granddaughter speaks French - (none)
          she is in a French Immersion school and she takes Chinese after school. She was able to say "I love you" in Chinese on my last visit.

          My French has rusted out since leaving Quebec. If someone ever described me over and over as 'speaks fluent French' I would correct them right away.

          To thine own self be true - W.S.

          by Agathena on Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 01:22:24 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  if only (none)
          Jerome did live in the 'burg.... my time there might have been better spent...

          oh.  wait.  I already spent most of my time at the two "coffeehouses", (Javawerks wasn't there until the first year of my MA) the Thirsty Hippo, and the 'hog.  

          Ah well, at least my French might have been better!

          I'm a native English speaker.  My parents started me in Suzuki violin at four and when they heard about Dr. Suzuki's success with starting children in languages (aurally, like the music method) they started me in French.  So, my French is pretty good (made that time in Hattiesburg lots better).  

          I have some "getting-around" German under my belt as well, greatly improved since marrying my hubby who went through 3 summers at Middlebury.

          We've recently hired a Czech sociology teacher at the college where I work, and she's going to give me private lessons in that language.  I did pretty well with it when I was in Prague three years ago, so I'm looking forward to learning some more.

          "History drips in the dark..." Robert Penn Warren

          by khowell on Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 03:11:18 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  What the hell? (none)
          Hattiesburg, Mississippi?

          I would know a Frenchman in my own hometown!

          Besides, I know ALL the liberals around here.  I think.

          A world where the everyday is inspirational, and the inspirational is everyday.

          by mkrell on Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 03:18:55 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Golden Eagles rule . . . (none)

             . . .  except when playing "The Tide" (well, sometimes then, too.)  I've got a friend in Kyoto (yes, Japanese) who, of all places in the USofA, chose -- or found himself in -- So. Miss in the 80s in college.  I didn't know him then, just the past few years.  Weird.


            . . . religion is not a syllogism, but a poem. H.L. Mencken

            by BenGoshi on Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 03:23:37 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  I think all the Japanese speakers (none)
          are really impressive. Hebrew has alot of familiar words already. It's reading it that's a killer

          The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all- John F Kennedy

          by vcmvo2 on Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 03:54:53 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Compared to *Hebrew*? (none)

             I wouldn't know where to begin with Hebrew.  No, that's impressive.  Oh, and so's Russian -- for those who actually speak it.


            . . . religion is not a syllogism, but a poem. H.L. Mencken

            by BenGoshi on Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 06:42:19 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Well (none)
              I like languages especially if you can tell a story. Hebrew is good for that. But like I said I can read it but... when I haven't done it in awhile I have to start out very slowly.

              Where to start- with the alphabet or alefbet (a,b) get it? That part is actually easy, then numbers, just like any other language I guess.

              I must confess though that the first time I worked out Adonai for God it was pretty thrilling. You realize then just how ancient Hebrew is...

              The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all- John F Kennedy

              by vcmvo2 on Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 07:28:59 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  I was going to say (none)
          linguistics and language-loving people are the nerdiest!

          in the best sense of the word, of course.

          "....a relative newbie (user ID in the 18,000 range).. "

          by Miss Devore on Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 05:24:50 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  tongue tie? (4.00)
      The State Department categorizes the difficulty of learning various languages on a 5-point scale.  This is of course based on the difficulty for English speakers.  The Romance languages generally get a 1 if I recall correctly.  Japanese and Chinese score a 5.  Arabic is a 3 or 4 -- can't quite remember.  I think the Slavic languages get a 4.

      I've studied French, Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, and Spanish, in that order.  I was fluent enough in Mandarin that people on the phone didn't suspect I was a foreign devil.  After 15 years of only scattered use of it, I can still get by in rudimentary conversation but forget even some very common words.  Spanish now conquers all my attempts at French, even though I was once more fluent in French than I am now in Spanish.  

      Cantonese is easy -- if you already know Mandarin!  Japanese seems the hardest major language in the world.  Not only do you have the Kanji characters, unlike Chinese its grammar is full of difficult conjugations and declensions. On the other hand, there is an Australian Aborigene language that is so difficult and nuanced that it's impossible to learn fluently, except as a child.  Make sense in a way.  Their culture elaborated their language, rather than their material culture as we have.  Different priorities and hence different developed intelligences.

      It's definitely a matter of use it or lose it.  Still, if Condi ever was fluent in Russian, she ought to still be able to speak it, but in a pretty fractured way.  More troubling is that she is not so fluent in wisdom, truth, or compassion.

      Civil society is our collective creation. It's an honorable source of growth, mutual satisfaction and fulfillment. It's yours and mine to nurture, or nix.

      by Civil Sibyl on Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 12:23:22 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yes (none)
      You are right.  I studied French (often described as a romance or latin based language) and Russian (often referred to as a Slavic language).  The French is easier to aquire and maintain.  

      My degree is in Russian language.  I have often wondered how the esteemed Dr. could maintain such a high degree of fluency given her (obvious)situation...she is presumably "immersed" in American/English. I am not suprised that she has been unable to maintain Russian to that degree.  Another rumor that used to travel around is that "she's so fluent that she once corrected a translator during a high level ***iation".  I'll have to do some research to see where that came from.  I do recall from Madeline Albright's memoir that the former Secretary  has a high regard for the current Secretary's intellectual capability.  Her father was a dear friend and professor to Dr. Rice.

    •  actually (none)
       i'm studying both french and arabic and picking up the french is incredibly easier. however, i did study spanish for 4 years in high school. BUT the arabic is the most difficult thing i've ever studied. it takes months just to be able to read it, let alone understand it and figure out the grammar.
    •  me (none)
      I took one quarter of Russian, 1 year of Arabic, and  6 years of Spanish.  

      It's hard to compare but I will go ahead and do so.

      Spanish was the easiest.  It is mostly phonetic, has logical rules.  I started learning it when I was 12 and it is pretty easy to get access to music and TV in Spanish to keep up with it somewhat.  It's a little but I think I'd be ok in a week or so if suddently abandoned in a rural part of the Dominican Republic or something.

      Russian.  Don't remember much of it.  But that may be due to not studying it until I was 18 and only for a brief time.  

      Arabic.  By far the hardest. I studied this at 17 .  Arabic is worsened by the fact that spoken and written Arabic are very different.  Imagine having to learn to speak English and at the same time learning Chaucer English to write with.  But worse.  And every verb tense having 8 forms depending on if it singular, plural, masculine, feminine and every other variation you can imagine. And taking a whole quarter just to learn to write it.

      I remember those phrases that we used all the time in class.  Shukran.  Ismi Sedge.  Ana tawliba fi jama?a wilaya Ohio.  Or something like that.  Not sure how to transcribe those into English type exactly.  

      I think it would be impossible to be fluent in a language with out some serious immersion.  However, I do think that at some point if you become fluent that you stay fluent even if you don't use the language much.  People who learn English still tend to know their first language even if they don't use it much.

      It's not Blue versus Red. It's Blue versus Gray.

      by Sedge on Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 01:04:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  one other thing (none)
        in Arabic they leave out half the vowels in the writing system.  Because you should just know.

        On the other hand I don't think it is so hard to learn if you don't mind just being able to speak it and be illiterate.

        It's not Blue versus Red. It's Blue versus Gray.

        by Sedge on Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 01:08:05 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  My wife is Russian (none)
      but I haven't learned yet (gasp!). I can tell you it has to be way easier to speak Russian than Japanese or Arabic. But it uses the greek alphabet so that makes writing and reading Rus a bitch.
      •  Would that it were so easy.... (none)'s not quite the Greek alphabet. Old St. Cyrill kinda screwed the pooch on bringing an alphabet to Russia. (H's and N's got mixed up, if I remember properly)

        And then, there are the changes made to take into account the oddities of the Russian language.

        "Never vote for Republicans again -- we lie." --a senior Republican Senator

        by mecki on Wed Apr 20, 2005 at 01:49:15 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  as a native english speaker (none)
      i found that Russian was much easier to learn then french. Both Russian and French were far, far easier than trying to learn armenian - a language unrelated to any other.
    •  having a blast with a little Chinese over here... (none)
      Native English speaker, conversant in Spanish, attempts survival Chinese in advance of a trip next month.  Zounds!  Discovery!  It's not hard!  There are no cognates, (except that "gei wo" reliably reminds me of "give me") so that's something to get used to.  And there are those darned tones, but they're not insurmountable -- you can get close enough to be understood.  But there are no tenses, no gender, few articles, no subject-number agreement, etc., etc.  A very workmanlike language, and I cannot tell you the blast I'm having learning it.
    •  not sure if i'm a good example (none)
      but i studied spanish in jr. high before going on to mandarin, classical chinese and japanese in undergrad and grad school, and i actually had a far harder time with the conjugations in spanish. that being said, it was probably due more to being a teenage fuckup who never studied than any statement on the relative difficulties of the language.

      of mandarin and japanese, tho, i'm gonna have to say that speaking japanese is far, far more difficult (altho mandarin pronounciation can be tricky at first), but written mandarin takes the cake. 3,000 kanji v. 30,000 hanzi, plus a kazillion times more classical idioms and other linguistic detrius referring back to one old historical event or folktale or work of obscure literature or another. then again, japanese is a snap in terms of pronounciation, and is a great phrasebook language, as long as you're reading directly from the page. making any original sentences, however, reduce me to gibberish. thank god i mostly need the language for reading academic journals, and not conversation.

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