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Ever been asked NOT to learn a language?

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35 messages over 5 pages: 1 2 3 4 5  Next >>
Solfrid Cristin
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 Message 1 of 35
04 April 2012 at 6:21am | IP Logged 
When I was in my twenties I had learned English, German, French and Spanish and wanted to do Italian.
This last one I did not really need, I just wanted to do it because of its beauty and because I figured I could
do it without much effort. My sister asked me not to. We both shared English, German and French, and
then I knew Spanish. She had started to learn Italian and wanted it to be hers. She was afraid I'd might get
better at it than her, and did not want the competition. I must admit that I ignored her. I felt it was
unreasonable of her to expect me to stay away from a major language I wanted to do just because she was
doing it too. But of course between my Spanish and my knack for learning by immersion I did become
better than her at speaking Italian, and I know that it frustrated her.

Yesterday it happened again. My daughter said that when she had mastered Spanish she wanted to do
French, Russian and possibly Ukrainian and Mandarin. And Georgian. And she wanted me to stay away
from Georgian. The reason she wants to learn Georgian is that some time ago I printed out the alphabet
and put it up on our wall. And she wants me to stay away from it for much the same reasons as my sister,
25 years ago. I told her about that, and she said that she felt my sister had been unreasonable, since Italian
was a major European language, but that Georgian was not something I needed to do. I could have
Mongolian instead.

Having become older and wiser I agreed to her request, but asked if I could at least learn the alphabet, but
was told that no, I could not. I am so happy that she wants to learn languages that I am more than willing to
stay away from Georgian, though it will be tough to even stay away from the alphabet, which has been on
my wish list for a while.

Have the rest of you experienced anything like this, or am I the only one, and would you agree to such a
request from your siblings or children?
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numerodix
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 Message 2 of 35
04 April 2012 at 8:45am | IP Logged 
I can understand this coming from someone who's less of a language wizard than you are.
They probably feel intimidated. But perhaps if you let your daughter learn it first
she'll be cool with you learning it later, once she's already "been there".
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vonPeterhof
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 Message 3 of 35
04 April 2012 at 8:53am | IP Logged 
When I saw the title I thought that this would either be about discouragement from prejudiced family members or friends ("Why would you wanna learn the language of those people?") or about unsupportive natives ("Why would you wanna learn Dutch? It's useless! We all speak English anyway."), but then I saw who the OP was and knew that there would be a twist. After reading about your situation I am almost tempted to call it [no offence] a polyglot's "First World problem", since I don't think many of us come from polyglot families and the kinds of discouragement I described are more relateable. The only reason I can imagine for my family to ask me not to learn a language right now is if language learning gets in the way of my university studies [and, truth be told, it kind of does, but I don't tell them that;)].

As for the latter part of your question, I would gladly agree to such a request from one of my brothers or cousins if that encouraged them to take up learning languages other than English, but on a few conditions: 1) I won't quit learning any of the languages I am already learning 2) if the language they want to learn is in the top 5 of my to-learn list I will only agree to delay taking it up by a few years.

Edit: Oh, I thought of another one: 3) I will refrain from learning the language, but not from learning about the language, and in my book just learning the names and sounds of Georgian letters counts as the latter.

Edited by vonPeterhof on 09 April 2012 at 10:14pm

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Fasulye
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 Message 4 of 35
04 April 2012 at 10:11am | IP Logged 
My parents didn't want me to learn Dutch because they told me that is was a useless language which only would distract my from my law studies.

Fasulye
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Bao
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 Message 5 of 35
04 April 2012 at 10:34am | IP Logged 
I haven't been directly asked, and I don't consider myself to be an exceptional language learner, but I learn faster than most people around me and I could notice that this sometimes leads to others being demotivated. The fact that this is paired with a lot of enthusiasm for knowledge that makes it hard for me to hide it often makes me hear comments like 'but this is easy for you, isn't it?'

Such situations where one person wanted to protect an interest or skill for herself I had with close friends, especially with one friend who also was used to being a person who learnt faster than other people. In hindsight I would say that those conflicts were caused by both of us judging our own achievements not using our own effort or the change of our abilities, but by comparing them to other people's achievements.
I have to admit that I still do that, I use it to adjust the effort I put into activities: I try to maintain a level of 'safely above average'. I actually started language-hopping because I didn't want to compete with said friend over who'd become better at Japanese faster, because I wanted to avoid an escalation of this conflict. And because I can't measure my own progress against that of somebody else when the other person is doing one or two languages and I'm doing five. (Genius thinking, huh?)

What might help is to stop assuming roles in which two people are equals who are likely to compete, but instead switch between tutor and pupil roles, using each one's stengths to help with the other's weaknesses; and it might also help to stop comparing and competing altogether, as motivation based on personal achievements is more profound than motivation gained by winning in a competition.
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Solfrid Cristin
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 Message 6 of 35
04 April 2012 at 11:46am | IP Logged 
As I said, I have no problems staying away from Georgian at my daughter's request, but I am still not sure
that I would have followed my sister's request if I could do it again. She was not my little sister, she was 35
years old at the time and had a 4 years' head start in learning Italian. And I really, really enjoyed and enjoy
Italian :-)
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Bao
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 Message 7 of 35
04 April 2012 at 12:32pm | IP Logged 
I was more musing to myself because I realized what an incredible waste of energy this kind of competiton can be. And I hope I won't have to lose another friendship over it, especially as this is the kind of topic I couldn't really talk about. I'd like to talk more to my mum about and in English and Spanish - she decided to revive both languages when she visited me in Spain - but somehow it doesn't go well, I end up being envious of her ability to just use what she's learnt in speaking and writing, and I think she's sometimes rather taken aback by the details I remember or the way I explain things to myself. (And I'm so afraid that when I catch somebody's enthusiasm for a language that picking it up myself might be perceived as an infringement on their territory, that it seems like I want to prove I can do it better ...)
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garyb
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 Message 8 of 35
04 April 2012 at 1:16pm | IP Logged 
A friend told me not to learn Italian, because it's not very useful compared to, say,
Spanish. Which, being fairly pragmatic as I am, is quite a reasonable point; however by
that time I had already been to Italy and started learning it so I was past the point of
no return :). In any case, I want to learn both so it's just a question of which order,
and I like to finish what I've started.


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