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List of things you cannot do with English

 Language Learning Forum : General discussion Post Reply
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iguanamon
Pentaglot
Senior Member
Virgin Islands
Speaks: Ladino
Joined 5132 days ago

2238 posts - 6731 votes 
Speaks: English*, Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian Creole, Creole (French)

 
 Message 25 of 60
26 March 2012 at 9:52pm | IP Logged 
jdmoncada wrote:
I was expecting a very different thread given the title! I thought this would be about things we could not do linguistically/semantically that are features of other languages. I would be curious for the answers on *that* topic.


I agree. One thing that comes to mind is casting aspersions on someone or something by using the subjunctive verb tenses in Spanish and Portuguese. It can not be done as easily in English. A mere change of a verb ending and all of a sudden everything is in doubt or unreal to you!

Edited by iguanamon on 26 March 2012 at 11:17pm

2 persons have voted this message useful



Chung
Diglot
Senior Member
Joined 7026 days ago

4228 posts - 8259 votes 
20 sounds
Speaks: English*, French
Studies: Polish, Slovak, Uzbek, Turkish, Korean, Finnish

 
 Message 26 of 60
26 March 2012 at 11:57pm | IP Logged 
iguanamon wrote:
jdmoncada wrote:
I was expecting a very different thread given the title! I thought this would be about things we could not do linguistically/semantically that are features of other languages. I would be curious for the answers on *that* topic.


I agree. One thing that comes to mind is casting aspersions on someone or something by using the subjunctive verb tenses in Spanish and Portuguese. It can be done in English, but not nearly as easily. A mere change of a verb ending and all of a sudden everything is in doubt or unreal to you!


If one were to remain a monoglot of English and unexposed to any other language, then off the top of my head:

- One could not fathom that conjugation patterns can differ not only to mark tense, mood or grammatical person, but also the gender of that person (e.g. Czech), the definiteness of the direct object (when present) (e.g. Hungarian), the number of that direct object (when present) (e.g. Mansi), or any of the preceding categories and more (e.g. Inuktitut).
- One could not understand that unstressed syllables do not need to be reduced as often as they are in English (e.g. Slovak)
- One could not see how varying tone (including pitch-accent) can be lexically or morphologically relevant (e.g. Cantonese)
- One could not realize that phonological inventory may include clicks (e.g. Xhosa)
- One could not realize that non-alphabetic systems can be viable for most visual linguistic expression (e.g. Chinese characters)
- One could not understand that grammatical relations can be expressed meaningfully with little use of analytic typology. (e.g. Georgian)
- One could not see the extent to which ablaut/gradation can make grammatical distinctions (e.g. Northern Saami)
- One could not see a counting system in action other than the decimal, duodecimal or sexagesimal (N.B. there is an element of vigesimal in English with mention of "score" meaning 20) (e.g. vigesimal for Dzongkha, biquinary for Khmer)
- One could not fathom the dominance of alignment other than nominative-accusative (e.g. ergative-absolutive in Basque, active-stative in Guaraní)
- One could not fathom extensive pro-dropping (e.g. Turkish)
- One could not fathom grammatical number other than singular and plural (e.g. dual in Arabic, distributive plural in Navajo)
- One could not fathom declension of the direct object depending on telicity or affirmativeness (e.g. Finnish)

All of this aside, I could have come up with the same list above (as far as I can tell) by substituting English with Afrikaans. I get the original point of the thread because of the current dominance of English, but it quietly overlooks the fact that by remaining an unexposed monoglot of ANY language, one would forgo awareness of the features of the roughly 6000 other languages that we know of.

Edited by Chung on 27 March 2012 at 12:22am

10 persons have voted this message useful



Gallo1801
Diglot
Senior Member
Spain
Joined 4772 days ago

164 posts - 248 votes 
Speaks: English*, Spanish
Studies: Arabic (Written), Croatian, German, French

 
 Message 27 of 60
27 March 2012 at 4:16am | IP Logged 
Medulin wrote:
This is what you cannot do with English:
talk to Italian and German tourists here in Croatia.

90% of tourists come from Germany, Austria and Italy,
so local people have no real interest in English.
Old people speak Italian and German, and not English.
English is taught at school.

But for local economy, German and Italian are much more important than English.
We still need a visa to travel to the US. We can travel to Italy with just an ID card.

In Croatia, English has no practical use. Most of us learned more English by watching
Hollywood movies and sitcoms anyway. And the UK is not too keen on Croatia, so our
relationship with this country is almost inexistent.

English is more important for Mexicans than it is for us.

I haven't spoken English in 5 years. I only use it in the written form.


What about Croatian? haha I dont know Italian or German (yet). Trying to get through
TY Croatian, plus the Serbo-Croatian FSI course before I come for a long visit. (2
weeks) Will I be at a high enough level to get by with most Croatians?

Sorry for the tangent, I just love Balkan language issues and languages as they relate
to tourism.
1 person has voted this message useful



IronFist
Senior Member
United States
Joined 6307 days ago

663 posts - 941 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: Japanese, Korean

 
 Message 28 of 60
27 March 2012 at 8:05am | IP Logged 
Chung wrote:

- One could not see how varying tone (including pitch-accent) can be lexically or morphologically relevant (e.g. Cantonese)


English does a little bit of that.

CONstruct (noun) vs. conSTRUCT (verb)

There are a few more examples but I'm tired and can't think of them now.

Quote:
- One could not realize that phonological inventory may include clicks (e.g. Xhosa)


English has clicks in expressions but not in words. I don't know how to transcribe clicks. For example, there's a click sound that you make, which sometimes precedes a nasalized/whispered "uh," when you just realized you've been treated unfairly or found out something that disappoints you. For example:

"Hey, you know that TV show we've been watching that we both love?"

"Yeah"

"Well I just heard they're taking a 4 week break before they show anymore new episodes!"

"*click* uh! That sucks!"

I can upload a vocal sample if necessary.

There's also a double click in English in a "told you so" type of situation, and then there's the clicking often accompanied by shaking your head back and forth that means "ah ah, you shouldn't have done that (look what happened now!)."

Quote:
- One could not understand that grammatical relations can be expressed meaningfully with little use of analytic typology. (e.g. Georgian)


I don't even know what that means :)

You could make a list like that for any language, though:

SPEAKERS OF German:
- would never realize that noun genders aren't necessary

SPEAKERS OF JAPANESE:
- could never fathom of a language with only one set of numbers

SPEAKERS OF RUSSIAN:
- could never conceive of a world where everything doesn't need to decline (I don't know anything about Russian, this is just based on being told that in Russian, everything has to match, noun, gender, number, adjective, with ridiculous complexity that makes German look simple by comparison)

etc.

Edited by IronFist on 27 March 2012 at 8:11am

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IronFist
Senior Member
United States
Joined 6307 days ago

663 posts - 941 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: Japanese, Korean

 
 Message 29 of 60
27 March 2012 at 8:08am | IP Logged 
English needs more specificity in pronouns.

For example, if two people of the same sex have already been mentioned, you can no longer refer to either of them as "he" because it won't be clear who you're talking about, unless you mention one of them by name again.

There needs to be like a he (first person mentioned) and another he (second person mentioned).

1 person has voted this message useful



vonPeterhof
Tetraglot
Senior Member
Russian FederationRegistered users can see my Skype Name
Joined 4642 days ago

715 posts - 1527 votes 
Speaks: Russian*, EnglishC2, Japanese, German
Studies: Kazakh, Korean, Norwegian, Turkish

 
 Message 30 of 60
27 March 2012 at 9:51am | IP Logged 
IronFist wrote:
Chung wrote:

- One could not see how varying tone (including pitch-accent) can be lexically or morphologically relevant (e.g. Cantonese)


English does a little bit of that.

CONstruct (noun) vs. conSTRUCT (verb)

There are a few more examples but I'm tired and can't think of them now.

There is a tonal difference between these two words, but it is not perceived as crucial to their differentiation. The difference is mainly perceived through volume, vowel duration and reduction (or lack thereof). There are no cases in English where tone alone distinguishes one word from another. For example when one says "But it's MY car!" the word "my" would have a descending tone, differentiating the sentence from the simple stative "it's my car", but not the word itself. In a language like Vietnamese the tonal difference between the two my's would probably make them different words altogether.
IronFist wrote:
Quote:
- One could not realize that phonological inventory may include clicks (e.g. Xhosa)


English has clicks in expressions but not in words. I don't know how to transcribe clicks. For example, there's a click sound that you make, which sometimes precedes a nasalized/whispered "uh," when you just realized you've been treated unfairly or found out something that disappoints you. For example:

"Hey, you know that TV show we've been watching that we both love?"

"Yeah"

"Well I just heard they're taking a 4 week break before they show anymore new episodes!"

"*click* uh! That sucks!"

I can upload a vocal sample if necessary.

There's also a double click in English in a "told you so" type of situation, and then there's the clicking often accompanied by shaking your head back and forth that means "ah ah, you shouldn't have done that (look what happened now!)."

These clicks in English are more like interjections than fully-fledged consonants capable of forming syllables and words.

IronFist wrote:
SPEAKERS OF RUSSIAN:
- could never conceive of a world where everything doesn't need to decline (I don't know anything about Russian, this is just based on being told that in Russian, everything has to match, noun, gender, number, adjective, with ridiculous complexity that makes German look simple by comparison)

etc.
Actually, many nouns in Russian are indeclinable. Most of these are loanwords whose endings don't quite fit into the Russian system of gender assignment. This is in contrast to languages like Latvian where, as far as I know, all loanwords, even proper names, have to fit into the Latvian declination system (e.g. "John Lennon" becomes "Džons Lenons", because nominative masculine nouns have to end in -s or -š). You are correct about agreement though.
1 person has voted this message useful





Iversen
Super Polyglot
Moderator
Denmark
berejst.dk
Joined 6573 days ago

9078 posts - 16473 votes 
Speaks: Danish*, French, English, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, Esperanto, Romanian, Catalan
Studies: Afrikaans, Greek, Norwegian, Russian, Serbian, Icelandic, Latin, Irish, Lowland Scots, Indonesian, Polish, Croatian
Personal Language Map

 
 Message 31 of 60
27 March 2012 at 9:53am | IP Logged 
I spent some time yesterday writing down how sentences in Irish sounded to me. I could have done this using IPA, but because I haven't bothered to learn IOA its sign don't spell out sound to me, they are just symbols. Instead I used a homemade system with signs from several alphabets and a few from IPA (like the sign for open o).

Now look at a typical language guide to any language. There will be a list of the sounds of that language at the start, and they will be illustrated using references to the base language of the book, occasionally supplemented with a few references to other languages when a certain sound isn't extant in the base language. The further the phonetics and phonology of a language are from that of a target language the more misleading the comparisons are - and English is just about the least suitable language for the purpose because of its chaotic orthography and the preponderance of diphtongs.

I remember in particular my experiences with a guide to Bahasa Indonesia, which has maybe the most regular and trustworthy orthography in the world. For some reason the book presented an English 'pronunciation help' in a screaming green color in the center of each page, and you automatically thought that this language had a completely raving mad pronunciation which it would take years to master. Then you looked to the right and saw the correct pronunciation in the form of the official spelling of the language itself - at half the length of the English rendering. I had to stop using that book - it was like getting a punch in the face each time you looked something up.

Now Bahasa is special in this respect by having such a straightforward orthography, but with the possible exception of Irish I can't imagine a language which would be less suited for 'pronunciation help' than English.

And yet it is by far the most used for the purpose.


Edited by Iversen on 27 March 2012 at 10:46am

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Mad Max
Tetraglot
Groupie
Spain
Joined 4921 days ago

79 posts - 146 votes 
Speaks: Spanish*, French, English, Russian
Studies: Arabic (classical)

 
 Message 32 of 60
27 March 2012 at 10:09am | IP Logged 
You can not travel from Los Angeles (USA) to Santiago (Chile).

In the Americas there are 900 million people, from Alaska to Argentina. The lingua franca
of this area is Spanish, and also the most spoken.

Spanish is spoken by some 420 million people from the United States to Argentina.
Besides, it is also understood more or less, by some 190 million more (Brazil). It is the
first of second language of all countries in the Americas, but Canada, where it is third.




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