Register  Login  Active Topics  Maps  

When you meet target-language speakers...

 Language Learning Forum : Cultural Experiences in Foreign Languages Post Reply
22 messages over 3 pages: 1 2
Senior Member
Joined 4085 days ago

747 posts - 1123 votes 
Speaks: Cantonese*, English, Mandarin
Studies: French

 Message 17 of 22
01 December 2014 at 8:49am | IP Logged 
In the Chinese community people tend to be forgiving for someone's lack of language abilities. In the past, every
Chinese province has a main dialect and half-dozen related sub-dialects. People from 1 region of the country have
trouble understanding another. Now most people tend to be able to speak either Cantonese or Mandarin because of
education and improved communications. People who are Mandarin-speakers normally assume Cantonese-speakers
are not fluent in their Chinese dialect.

I've come across dinner parties where Cantonese-speakers would sit quietly while Mandarin-speakers had their
discussions. The Chinese normally find it cumbersome to translate back and forth so that everyone at the party
would be included in a discussion. The ones who are fluent in English would switch to accommodate other Chinese
who do not speak their dialect. It is common for Chinese people to introduce themselves in the beginning of a
conversion where they or the ancestors came from.

There was 1 dinner party 2 people were carrying on a conversation in Mandarin. 1 came from Sichuan China and
speaks her native dialect and Mandarin. The other with parents from Shanghai speaks Shanghainese and Cantonese.
He studied Mandarin for a few years and did a convincing job at it. Shanghainese isn't Mandarin but the
pronunciation of certain words & phrases are very close. Depending on the situation and how comfortable you feel
about getting into a conversation.

The last time I was at a dinner party, a lady from China was talking to a White lady native to Canada about Chinese
movies. The White lady with no knowledge of Chinese mentioned the name "Raise the Red Lantern" from the 1980s
directed by Zhang Yimou. The Chinese lady turned to me looking a bit confused and I provided her with the Chinese
name: 大红灯笼高高挂. A lot depends on the individual whether he/she feels her (lack of) language skills would slow
a conversation by constant interruptions where 1 person has rely on translations.
2 persons have voted this message useful

Senior Member
ScotlandRegistered users can see my Skype Name
Joined 4848 days ago

1468 posts - 2413 votes 
Speaks: English*, Italian, French
Studies: Spanish

 Message 18 of 22
01 December 2014 at 10:29am | IP Logged 
1e4e6 wrote:
beano wrote:
garyb wrote:
Similarly, if you're at a party and overhear a
speaking your TL, would you just go and join them and start speaking in it?

Absolutely. People all over the world do that to groups of native English speakers so
as far as I'm concerned, it has to work both ways.

This is the theory, and I agree heartily herewith, but in practise it almost never
happens, as it usually works in one way; people approach or switch to English and if
an Anglophone does the inverse, they often give the Anglophone either no chance or
"conditional chance" if they are advanced enough. However, Anglophones are approached
and the non-native Anglophone expects and usually gets his or her wish to continue in
English even if their skill level is A0.1-A1 and take about 15 seconds to complete a
simple sentence. Also the added "open secret" or "fact" that permeates non-native
Anglophones that they think that Anglophones simply can speak no foreign languages, so
a struggling A1 English speaker can get practise with all of the Anglophones, and the
Anglohpones have no choice but to accept this. This at least has been my general
experience of over a decade of language learning: "Oh you are an English speaker/from
Britain/USA/Western Canada/Australia/New Zealand? Let me speak some English with you,
not like you know anything else anyway..."

Yep, this is generally my experience too. I like beano's idea, but in practice, speakers of
other languages learning English and English speakers learning other languages are very
different situations with different standards. I'm sure it's partly due to the importance and
dominance of English: people mainly learn English out of necessity, and other languages out of
desire (even when living in-country - we all know the stories of expat bubbles). French and
Italian speakers will often ask you with a confused look why you're bothering to learn their
language, and are quite confused by the idea of people doing it just for pleasure, while
English learners' motivations are so obvious that there's no need to ask. Even when they have
praise, there can be a condescending note to it; I know several Italians who will say "oh,
Gary speaks great Italian" yet they refuse to actually speak it with me and they see it as
some sort of party trick.

And indeed the perception that English speakers don't seriously learn other languages doesn't
help. People will often just assume that you only know some set phrases ("oh, you speak
Italian, what do you know how to say?") and it can take some effort to convince them that
you've made a serious effort and have some sort of autonomy in the language, even if you have
the level to prove it. And I'm sure it's nothing personal, it's just because it's so uncommon.
Maybe if more of us started learning foreign languages the perception would change and people
would take us more seriously? :) Of course, I've also had good experiences, and some people
have been all the more impressed at the effort I've made and curious to speak their language
with me just because it's rare.
3 persons have voted this message useful

Senior Member
United Kingdom
Joined 4550 days ago

2151 posts - 3960 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: Hindi, Ancient Greek, French, Sanskrit, German

 Message 19 of 22
01 December 2014 at 11:59am | IP Logged 
I think in general, the kind of people who don't care that I'm learning their language are the kind of people I wouldn't have much to say to anyway. If they only see a utility in foreign languages, we probably don't have much in common.
3 persons have voted this message useful

Senior Member
Joined 4292 days ago

518 posts - 636 votes 
Speaks: Polish*, EnglishB2, Spanish
Studies: German, Sign Language, Tok Pisin, Arabic (Yemeni), Old English

 Message 20 of 22
01 December 2014 at 5:25pm | IP Logged 
1. Oh, you speak _____!
2. It is very good!
3. Where did you live in ______?
4. How di you learn then?
5. Where are you from?

LOL, I get those all the time. Even for my Arabic, which is A1-A2 and in speaking only amounts to basic pleasantries.
1 person has voted this message useful

Joined 3395 days ago

84 posts - 122 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: Spanish, Esperanto, French

 Message 21 of 22
09 December 2014 at 5:15am | IP Logged 
I just came back from New Zealand, and I stayed at a lodge where everyone spoke foreign languages (or they spoke English in a very foreign accent). I shared a room with a young man who happened to be from New Caledonia. He was here learning English. I only just started studying French a couple of weeks ago, so I couldn't converse with him in French, but I sure wish that I could!

While in Queenstown I ate at a Mexican restaurant, and I said 'gracias' to the waiter who served me. He then smiled and replied 'de nada'. I got to exchange a few words with him in Spanish, and we got talking (now in English) about what we were both doing here and why I am learning Spanish. I later realised that this was the first time that I had talked with someone in their native language. It was a wake up call for me. When I go back to learning Spanish I will definitely focus on the 'speaking' part.

So yeah, use your target languages when you can I reckon! Then again, due to my very young age people will more likely find it cute that I'm learning another language... with a 60 year old man, maybe not so...
1 person has voted this message useful

Senior Member
United KingdomRegistered users can see my Skype Name
Joined 4263 days ago

1049 posts - 2152 votes 
Speaks: English*, German
Studies: Russian, Serbian, Hungarian

 Message 22 of 22
17 December 2014 at 4:15pm | IP Logged 
There are many stereotypes regarding native speakers' attitudes towards being approached in their language. The Swedish and Dutch will switch to English at the merest hint of a foreign accent. The Germans are more tolerant in this respect but will insist upon English after the first major grammatical mistake. Finns will be rendered speechless by the fact that their incredibly useless language is being learned by someone from another country. The French will engage but will barely conceal their outright contempt for your less than perfect command of their tongue. The American will talk back in English to everyone because all 7 billion people on the planet know English. Hungarians will just flat-out refuse to believe that anyone can string a sentence together in the world's hardest language. Brits will make no effort to simplify their speech and will solve any communication issues by increasing the volume. Italians and Spaniards will be so enthused at your attempts that everyone present will start speaking at the same time. Indians only value maths and computer programming skills so don't count on them sharing their knowledge of Hindi or Punjabi with you. The Japanese are more accommodating but there will be an awkward pause as they struggle to process the fact that a non-native has actually just spoken Japanese.

I largely ignore all these pre-conceived ideas. A warm and friendly approach, with a bit of self-deprecating humour thrown in will easily enable you to strike up a conversation. That's my experience anyway.

6 persons have voted this message useful

This discussion contains 22 messages over 3 pages: << Prev 1 2

If you wish to post a reply to this topic you must first login. If you are not already registered you must first register

Post ReplyPost New Topic Printable version Printable version

You cannot post new topics in this forum - You cannot reply to topics in this forum - You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum - You cannot create polls in this forum - You cannot vote in polls in this forum

This page was generated in 0.3281 seconds.

DHTML Menu By Milonic JavaScript
Copyright 2023 FX Micheloud - All rights reserved
No part of this website may be copied by any means without my written authorization.