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

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  •  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

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