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Gemuse
Senior Member
Germany
Joined 2131 days ago

818 posts - 1189 votes 
Speaks: English
Studies: German

 
 Message 1009 of 1317
17 May 2014 at 11:27pm | IP Logged 
emk wrote:

Speaking is the real problem.
...(2) convincing people to employ my company. But I lack the eloquence and
persuasiveness that would normally be required for (2). Which is weird—I never thought
of myself as being a silver-tongued salesperson, or anything crazy like that—but
operating in French has thrown things into sharp perspective. In English, words are a
tool that I can use well. In French, I can communicate, and I can defend my opinions.
But I can't really impress.


Isnt impressing with oratorical prowess C2+?
1 person has voted this message useful



James29
Diglot
Senior Member
United States
Joined 3424 days ago

1265 posts - 2112 votes 
Speaks: English*, Spanish
Studies: French

 
 Message 1010 of 1317
18 May 2014 at 1:36am | IP Logged 
I usually have a few Spanish speaking customers and I don't need to do much to "impress" them. The fact that there is someone/anyone who does what I do and also speaks Spanish "impresses" them quite a bit. They overlook my weaknesses with the language.

My sense is that it really has to do with the comparison in levels. I could be wrong, but my sense is that there are very few French speakers in the US who cannot speak English at a very high level... but there are very many Spanish speakers who cannot speak English as well as someone like me speaks Spanish.

If I hear someone with a Spanish accent struggling a bit to speak to me in English I ask if they would prefer Spanish and they think it is the best thing in the world... even though my Spanish is still not the greatest (about B2 level).


2 persons have voted this message useful



1e4e6
Octoglot
Senior Member
United Kingdom
Joined 2339 days ago

1013 posts - 1587 votes 
Speaks: English*, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Norwegian, Dutch, Swedish, Italian
Studies: German, Danish, Russian, Catalan

 
 Message 1011 of 1317
18 May 2014 at 3:00am | IP Logged 
Interesting, but in addition to French, I find that the most difficult to "impress", or
even to convince someone not to think that I am just an Anglophone who is rubbishing
their language is any Scandinavian language and Dutch. Just one slight mistake can
cause them to think, "This is just rubbish. English now." However, with Spanish, it
seems to be the opposite--they appreciate someone who speaks their language. I remember
how Iversen said that someone continued to insist on English whilst he was in the
Netherlands, which is quite scary, as his Dutch, as well as at least 15 other
languages, are beyond a level high enough to not even contemplate switching on part of
the interlocutor.

If I had to determine the level of appreciativeness of the interlocutors by language,
from experience, or in mathematical terms, the ratio of interlocutors who want to
continue speaking in their language to those who are completely unimpressed, it would
be as such:

Spanish: 100%
Portuguese: 98%
Italian: 95%
French: 75%
German: 65%
Dutch: 15%
Danish/Norwegian/Swedish: 5%

It seems like one can make serious errors in Spanish, and the interlocutors are simply
happy that an A1 level makes an attempt, whilst the other spectrum, sometimes a C1 can
be rejected for "rubbishing" the language. I remember how they appreciated when I was a
13-year-old tourist in Mexico who asked for directions slower than a robotic speech
programme, whilst the only time that I was not switched in Norway is when I had to
string together a sentence as fast as I could possible, asking an off licence when
their stock of uncarbonated bottled mineral water would receive shipment after the
weekly Sunday closure.

Edited by 1e4e6 on 18 May 2014 at 3:23am

1 person has voted this message useful



James29
Diglot
Senior Member
United States
Joined 3424 days ago

1265 posts - 2112 votes 
Speaks: English*, Spanish
Studies: French

 
 Message 1012 of 1317
18 May 2014 at 3:09am | IP Logged 
Yes, Scandanavian languages are a good example. They all (or mostly all?) speak English quite well... how "useful" would it really be for a native English speaker to learn a Scandanavian language to a B2/C1 level?

I have contemplated French because I have numerous relatives and friends who speak French natively. They all speak English perfectly too. It seems to me that this is a major factor in how "useful" a language is... the likelihood of whether or not a native speaker of your target language is likely to speak English.
1 person has voted this message useful



sctroyenne
Diglot
Senior Member
United StatesRegistered users can see my Skype Name
Joined 3440 days ago

739 posts - 1312 votes 
Speaks: English*, French
Studies: Spanish, Irish

 
 Message 1013 of 1317
18 May 2014 at 6:30am | IP Logged 
Gemuse wrote:
emk wrote:

Speaking is the real problem.
...(2) convincing people to employ my company. But I lack the eloquence and
persuasiveness that would normally be required for (2). Which is weird—I never thought
of myself as being a silver-tongued salesperson, or anything crazy like that—but
operating in French has thrown things into sharp perspective. In English, words are a
tool that I can use well. In French, I can communicate, and I can defend my opinions.
But I can't really impress.


Isnt impressing with oratorical prowess C2+?


I think there's something to this. A C1 can get a job, a C2 would maybe be more of a management level or
sales where these kind of language skils are necessary.
1 person has voted this message useful





emk
Diglot
Moderator
United States
Joined 3581 days ago

2615 posts - 8805 votes 
Speaks: English*, FrenchB2
Studies: Spanish, Ancient Egyptian
Personal Language Map

 
 Message 1014 of 1317
18 May 2014 at 5:22pm | IP Logged 
patrickwilken wrote:
Well at least you are a fast reader! :) I can't even do 50 pages/hour in English. I am quite happy to be reading about 50 pages of German/day.

At the end of the Super Challenge, I was averaging about 40 pages per hour when reading French science fiction and epic fantasy novels. In English, I start around 60 pages per hour, and it goes up from there, especially if the book is easy or I've read it before. So I don't read in French as well or as fast as I do in English, but given that I've probably read a few hundred million words of English and less than 3 million words of French, I'm pretty happy with my progress.

I think well-read anglophones may have an unfair advantage when learning to read in French—as we get better, we get a really significant boost from cognates and near-cognates. There's a very, very strong Sprachbund between English and French (in addition to the Norman invasion and the shared IE roots of the languages). And that Sprachbund means that a huge number of idioms, turns of phrase, a bits of "educated" vocabulary can be trivially mapped between the two languages.

Gemuse wrote:
Isnt impressing with oratorical prowess C2+?

Well, based on an informal survey of French and American universities (and some sloppy conversions), it seems like average universities will admit B2 students, and provide some remedial help during the first year. Elite universities will frequently demand C1 (or amazing credentials somewhere else). Law schools will often require C2. And since lawyers are supposed to be professionally persuasive, I think this a pretty good hint. :-)

James29 wrote:
I usually have a few Spanish speaking customers and I don't need to do much to "impress" them. The fact that there is someone/anyone who does what I do and also speaks Spanish "impresses" them quite a bit. They overlook my weaknesses with the language.

Yes. As long as you can arranged to be judged as "an English speaker who speaks Spanish," then anything you do will make people happy. B2 will go a very long way, and even more so if you're dealing with people who have B1 English.

The effect that I'm talking is more subtle, and it only kicks in when you really rely on words. My favorite analogy for this is actually this column by Jen Dziura, a very sharp businesswoman and former model. She's talking about how young women may inadvertently rely on their looks when negotiating:

Quote:
How can you tell if you’re propping up your career with your looks?

…Another good clue is whether you strongly prefer to do business in person to on the phone; while there are other perfectly legitimate reasons for such a preference, some attractive people dislike phones because, “Dammit, if they could just look at me, they would totally do what I want!”

I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with persuading people in person — far from it. I’m just saying that it probably won’t last forever. So, I’d like to talk about what to do with The Pretty while you’ve got it, and how to prepare for when The Pretty disperses like so much fairy dust.

It's an excellent column, as is pretty much all of her work.

Now, somewhat to my surprise, I'm actually moderately good with words, at least in English. Sometimes I'll be in the middle of a conversation in French and think, "If I could just explain this in English, all these difficulties would go away." We are all stupendously good at our L1s, and it's easy to take this for granted. When I lose this privilege of operating in my L1, I really need to make sure that I raise my game elsewhere.

Now, I don't want to imply that being clever in French is totally out of reach: When I'm heavily immersed in French and using it regularly, things get a lot easier. And I could, of course, focus on getting better at certain tasks and conversations. And there are lots of clever workarounds.

My favorite sneaky workaround: I already speak a very high-prestige language, with lots of specialized business and technical terminology. If I don't know a key word in French, I can just substitute the English word, and then explain it in simple French. "This is what we call long form sales copy in English. It's a long text, an advertisement for a product, that explains the benefits in detail, and asks the customer to act and to buy the product repeatedly. You probably get them in the mail." This is, of course, cheating, and fairly ruthless cheating at that: I'm transforming a vocabulary hole into a little lesson in "business English." But French programmers and business people do this every 30 seconds anyway.

Honestly, it's weirdly luxurious to speak two languages where the speakers of each consider the other to be hugely prestigious.

1e4e6 wrote:
It seems like one can make serious errors in Spanish, and the interlocutors are simply happy that an A1 level makes an attempt, whilst the other spectrum, sometimes a C1 can be rejected for "rubbishing" the language.

In my experience, very few French speakers are comfortable using English on a professional level. Sure, Montreal has tons of high-level bilinguals, and French programmers tend to be pretty good at English. But mostly, even when they can get by in English, a lot of them are relieved to be able to speak French—provided the conversation keeps moving along.

In general, as long as you stay away from customer service people in Paris (who have a reputation for epic rudeness throughout la Francophonie, sort of like New Yorkers do in the English-speaking world), the French will put up with a surprising amount of flailing in my experience. It also helps to know a few French social conventions: saying Bonjour when walking into small shops, not expecting servers to pretend to be your best friend the way they do in the US, and treating people as equals rather than overplaying the whole "customer is always right" attitude. And, well, it helps to be at least B1, to have activated your speaking skills, and to be friendly and laugh at your mistakes. If you can do most of that, you should have pretty pleasant interactions at least 90% of the time, especially outside Paris. (Parisians can be lovely people, of course, in the same way that folks from Manhattan can. But don't take it personally if they aren't.)

James29 wrote:
I have contemplated French because I have numerous relatives and friends who speak French natively. They all speak English perfectly too. It seems to me that this is a major factor in how "useful" a language is... the likelihood of whether or not a native speaker of your target language is likely to speak English.

You don't need to be amazing at French to see real benefits. Merely being willing to try to speak French can go a very long way, even when dealing with people who speak excellent English.

And French is a big, huge rich language with something for every taste. Many Americans think that speaking French is all about art films, fashion and Parisian cafés. And if they like that, well, then more power to them. Personally, I can appreciate that stuff only in small doses. But I'm never at a loss for cool things to do in French. Plus, anybody who speaks English and Spanish is going to get an outrageous discount on French. So if you feel yourself being tugged in that direction, don't let the reputation scare you away.
4 persons have voted this message useful



Gemuse
Senior Member
Germany
Joined 2131 days ago

818 posts - 1189 votes 
Speaks: English
Studies: German

 
 Message 1015 of 1317
19 May 2014 at 12:19am | IP Logged 
Emk, how long does it take you (excluding research) to write a post like your last one?

You mentioned "words being tools to wield" in one of your posts. I'm a bit envious.
1 person has voted this message useful



patrickwilken
Senior Member
Germany
radiant-flux.net
Joined 2582 days ago

1546 posts - 3200 votes 
Studies: German

 
 Message 1016 of 1317
19 May 2014 at 9:33am | IP Logged 
emk wrote:
patrickwilken wrote:
Well at least you are a fast reader! :) I can't even do 50 pages/hour in English. I am quite happy to be reading about 50 pages of German/day.

At the end of the Super Challenge, I was averaging about 40 pages per hour when reading French science fiction and epic fantasy novels. In English, I start around 60 pages per hour, and it goes up from there, especially if the book is easy or I've read it before. So I don't read in French as well or as fast as I do in English, but given that I've probably read a few hundred million words of English and less than 3 million words of French, I'm pretty happy with my progress.


I thought you must be exaggerating when I first saw you say about 50 pages/hour, but when I tested myself online I realized that I too read about 300 words/minute, which apparently is standard (for some reason I had always thought it was about 80 words/minute).

I don't read books this fast in either English or German. I think I either read more technical books that I think over as I read, or German books that are perhaps a little hard for my level.

There is an interesting trade-off for learners between reading too easy books (not enough challenging vocabulary/grammar) and too hard (too little comprehensible input/too little input/hour).

If you read the Extensive Reading literature, people are all for easy to read books (+98% vocab known), but I think that sometimes I get a real boost from reading more challenging texts as well. It's an interesting question what the correct balance is.

emk wrote:

I think well-read anglophones may have an unfair advantage when learning to read in French—as we get better, we get a really significant boost from cognates and near-cognates. There's a very, very strong Sprachbund between English and French (in addition to the Norman invasion and the shared IE roots of the languages). And that Sprachbund means that a huge number of idioms, turns of phrase, a bits of "educated" vocabulary can be trivially mapped between the two languages.


There are a lot of cognates in German too (obviously). It would be interesting to know the relative difficulties between the two languages. For me the cognates get ever more obvious the higher I get, to the point now that I genuinely surprised/interested when I see a word that has no obvious English connection.



Edited by patrickwilken on 19 May 2014 at 9:44am



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