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What impresses you?

 Language Learning Forum : General discussion Post Reply
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Solfrid Cristin
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Winner TAC 2011 & 2012
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Norway
Joined 3468 days ago

4143 posts - 8862 votes 
Speaks: Norwegian*, Spanish, Swedish, French, English, German, Italian
Studies: Russian

 
 Message 1 of 73
12 November 2011 at 10:15am | IP Logged 
A few weeks ago I was sitting having lunch around a table with people from a lot of different countries. We were mostly speaking English, but since there were two Austrians there who were a bit left out, I leaned over and talked a little bit with them in German. The Korean girl who sat next to me looked at me like I was God, and went “Aaaah – you speak German”?

I blushed. Firstly because my German is what we call “school German” in Norwegian, which means that it is a language you learned at school, and never got fluent in. Secondly because everyone in my generation in Norway has some notions of German. Whether they will be willing to use it or not depends of how much they have used it since they quit school, and how afraid they are to make a fool of themselves. Since I have used it a little, and I make a fool of myself on a regular basis anyhow, it doesn’t bother me to speak it in a setting like that. Had I been at a dinner with Germans only, I would probably have kept my mouth firmly shut for once.

I then learned that the Korean girl was fluent in Mandarin, which made me in turn go “Aaaah”. Both because Mandarin is an uncommon language and because I can just imagine what it must take to learn that to fluency. It is hopefully easier for a Korean, but it must still be hard.

It then got me thinking. Here on the forum we are a crowd who are hard to please. What impresses us? Are there particular languages that impress you, depth, multitude?

Personally, I think I could say yes to all of the above, according to circumstances. If I meet a Norwegian who understands Swedish and Danish, speaks English well and can communicate in German, I am not impressed. That is sort of the standard package. Even those uninterested in languages can do that.

I am however impressed by anyone who can speak a foreign language to fluency, particularly to native fluency. Regardless of language. I would be impressed even by a Swede speaking Norwegian fluently, or a Norwegian speaking English fluently, provided I could not hear mistakes or a funny accent. I often see people considering a Spaniard speaking Italian and Portuguese and English as “not a real polyglot”, but I disagree – provided that they really speak them well. I know how much it takes to learn a language really well.

I am also impressed by those who can speak an exotic language (which from my Euro-centric perspective would be anything spoken outside of Western Europe) – Basque would be the main exception. I have been pondering over why I am more impressed at someone who speaks Mandarin badly, than German well, and I guess it is because you need to think outside the box, and it will take you so much more effort to learn it. There are less language partners, less resources, and very few learning possibilities.
I am also impressed by those who manage to learn many languages – regardless of level. Obviously I am more impressed by those who can speak many languages well, like Torbyrne, or Luca or Vlad or Iversen, than of those who only have notions of many languages, but I think they all deserve respect.

If we take the case of Cesare M for instance, I am deeply impressed that he has managed to learn a little in so many languages, and that he had the guts to start on a lot of exotic languages. I feel confident, that had he only presented himself as a learner, instead of insisting on fluency, more people would have been impressed, and would have cheered him on. If we take a look at his achievements and not on his claims, he has actually done very well. His Russian is probably better than mine. I have spent a year and a half on it, he has spent days or weeks on it. The only difference is that he says that he is fluent; I say I have only notions of it. But his achievements are still bigger than mine.

The same goes for Ziad Fazah. He is fluent in at the very least 7-8 languages, and can quickly get to a stage where he can communicate in scores more and has at some time spoken 59 languages. Now we may discuss what it is to speak a language, until we get blue in the face, but that is still an effort that impresses me.
So to sum up:
-     Speaking a language to native fluency
-     Speaking an exotic language
-     Knowing bits of a lot of different languages
All this impresses me. What impresses you?
Oh. And one last thing. I am also really impressed at the English level of all of the participants on this forum. I thought my English was good, since I have studied it at the University, and used it daily for years, but I find myself dwarfed by the majority of the other users who are not native speakers. You guys rock!


Edited by Solfrid Cristin on 12 November 2011 at 7:14pm

6 persons have voted this message useful





Fasulye
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Winner TAC 2012
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Germany
fasulyespolyglotblog
Joined 3981 days ago

5444 posts - 6003 votes 
1 sounds
Speaks: German*, DutchC1, EnglishB2, French, Italian, Spanish, Esperanto
Studies: Latin, Danish, Norwegian, Turkish
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 Message 2 of 73
12 November 2011 at 10:24am | IP Logged 
Just a little moderating advice: We shouldn't write thread titles in "all caps" in this forum, so I will edit that.

Fasulye

Edited by Fasulye on 12 November 2011 at 10:27am

1 person has voted this message useful





Fasulye
Heptaglot
Winner TAC 2012
Moderator
Germany
fasulyespolyglotblog
Joined 3981 days ago

5444 posts - 6003 votes 
1 sounds
Speaks: German*, DutchC1, EnglishB2, French, Italian, Spanish, Esperanto
Studies: Latin, Danish, Norwegian, Turkish
Personal Language Map

 
 Message 3 of 73
12 November 2011 at 10:40am | IP Logged 
WHAT IMPRESSES ME?

I am generally very impressed by everyone who has a native level AND a native pronouciation in his/her foreign language(s). Especially those people who haven't lived in the foreign country for many, many years.

So people who impress me are my polyglot Skypies who have such a native level in several languages and for example my Danish teacher who is Austrian but has never lived in Denmark.

Fasulye

Edited by Fasulye on 12 November 2011 at 10:52am

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Ari
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Senior Member
Norway
Joined 4716 days ago

2314 posts - 5695 votes 
Speaks: Swedish*, English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin, Cantonese
Studies: Czech, Latin, German

 
 Message 4 of 73
12 November 2011 at 11:29am | IP Logged 
Solfrid Cristin wrote:
I have been pondering over why I am more impressed at someone who speaks Mandarin
badly, than German well, and I guess it is because you need to think outside the box, and it will take you so
much more effort to learn it. There are less language partners, less resources, and very few learning possibilities.

If I wanted to practice my Mandarin in my home town, I know six or seven Chinese restaurants here (dunno if all
of them speak Mandarin, but most likely some of them do). Chinese people come to the company where I work
all the time, although not to my department. If I wanted to, I could probably get a job here that allowed me to
travel to China several times a year. On the other hand, I have no idea what I'd do if I wanted to use my French.
I've got a colleague who's born in Congo, and he speaks pretty good French, but other than him, I know of
nobody who speaks it and I don't know any company here that does business with France. Don't think we have
any French restaurants, either. So where I live, opportunities to use Mandarin vastly outnumber opportunities to
use French.

To answer the question, I'm not really impressed by pronunciation. My pronunciation in the languages I know is
better than most people I've met who speak them as foreign languages, and I spend no time at all on it.
Pronunciation is a matter of having the talent for it, but good grammar and vocabulary takes practice and
determination. Really, though, I'm impressed by anyone who knows a foreign language apart from the following:

* English
* The language of the place where they live (in case they're immigrants)
* The language of a place where they used to live

If someone has learned a language without living in the place where it's spoken, it'll impress me, unless it's
English. For example a Norwegian who speaks German. Knowledge of foreign languages is extremely rare where
I'm from.

EDIT: I made a their/they're typo! I finally feel like a native speaker!

Edited by Ari on 12 November 2011 at 5:37pm

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smallwhite
Pentaglot
Senior Member
Australia
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537 posts - 1045 votes 
Speaks: Cantonese*, English, Mandarin, French, Spanish

 
 Message 5 of 73
12 November 2011 at 4:17pm | IP Logged 
I'm most impressed by effort spent, regardless of results.
6 persons have voted this message useful



s_allard
Triglot
Senior Member
Canada
Joined 3564 days ago

2704 posts - 5424 votes 
Speaks: French*, English, Spanish
Studies: Polish

 
 Message 6 of 73
12 November 2011 at 6:15pm | IP Logged 
I think I'm most impressed by people who speak my own languages in an articulate and sophisticated manner. I'm not a stickler for pronunciation; I actually like a foreign accent. But what really does it for me is the ability to play with the language, convey fine nuances, make people laugh and even use some unusual words or constructions without being pretentious. I like to see the ability to speak on all registers, from street slang all the way to academic jargon. Since I can't really judge this in other languages, I'm not really impressed when I see people rattling away in languages I don't know.
11 persons have voted this message useful



leosmith
Senior Member
United States
Joined 4684 days ago

2365 posts - 3803 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: Tagalog

 
 Message 7 of 73
12 November 2011 at 6:17pm | IP Logged 
1) Polyglots who converse really well in many different languages, without requiring review before speaking them; in other words they maintain a high level
in many languages. I don't know what the record is, but I'm sure ZF doesn't hold it
2) Polyglots who converse really well in languages belonging to several different families.
3) Polyglots who converse really well in languages rated the most difficult to learn given their native tongue.
4) My Thai teacher's native English pronunciation. She was raised in Thailand, by native Chinese speaking parents. She got her "perfect" North American
accent by going to international schools and watching hollywood movies. She rocks.
5) The 美人達 who stand outside of a certain little restaurant in the Chiba Chuo Station every night.

Things that don't impress me:
1) People who claim fluency in dozens of languages, but suck in most if not all of them.
2) People who say they are fluent in 59 languages, when they mean 6.
3) People who learned lots of languages to a low or intermediate level, forgot them, and still claim fluency.
4) Elephants. Don't get me started on elephants.


10 persons have voted this message useful



fiziwig
Senior Member
United States
Joined 2999 days ago

297 posts - 618 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: Spanish

 
 Message 8 of 73
12 November 2011 at 6:22pm | IP Logged 
I'm deeply impressed every time I see a four year old child speaking their native language fluently. How does that happen in only four years, and with virtually no conscious effort on their part? I wish I knew.


6 persons have voted this message useful



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