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How to actually use your language?

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Cavesa
Triglot
Senior Member
Czech Republic
Joined 3179 days ago

3277 posts - 6778 votes 
Speaks: Czech*, FrenchC2, EnglishC1
Studies: Spanish, German, Italian

 
 Message 9 of 25
18 November 2015 at 3:36am | IP Logged 
shk00design wrote:

You need to find someone who is not fluent in English so that the 2 of you have to communicate in the local language.


I'd say: "You need to find someone who REALIZES they are not fluent in English. Or perhaps someone who realizes they might not necessarily be better at English than you are at the local language. The latter is particularily hard with the French natives though.
3 persons have voted this message useful



Speakeasy
Senior Member
Canada
Joined 2222 days ago

456 posts - 1067 votes 
Studies: German

 
 Message 10 of 25
18 November 2015 at 5:23am | IP Logged 
Cavesa,

I always enjoy reading your comments and I often find myself in agreement; however, at times, and this is one of those times, we differ. I take exception to your questioning my assertion "Virtually any native French-speaker can detect the regional accent of any other native French-speaker and can distinguish it from the accent of a true foreigner who has learned French, as a second language, even if the latter has a C2 spoken competence in French." In fact, I believe that this generalisation can be extended and applied to include MOST native speakers of ANY language.

First, I would point out that "virtually" does NOT mean "all". Rather, it means "close to, nearly, roughly, approximately, more-or-less, all but, effectively, to all intents and purposes, etcetera." Thus, by definition, there will be, and in fact there MUST be, exceptions to the general rule. Second, as to the application of the general rule, here are three easy examples...

ONE: For most of my life, I have lived within no more than 50 miles of the U.S.-Canada border and have travelled widely and frequently throughout Canada and the United States. Despite my life-long proximity to the American people, as soon as I speak a few syllables whilst amongst them, I am immediately identified as being "definitely not American and most probably Canadian". The further south I travel, the more I am thought to be British (they don't get out very much down South). The reverse is true; that is, even though I continue to live a few minutes' drive from the Québec-Vermont border, I can pick out Americans by their accent. All this, despite the fact that I am deaf in one ear and have diminished hearing in the other!

TWO: Henry Kissinger is undoubtedly one of the most articulate English-speaking persons I have ever had the pleasure to hear speak publicly. Yet, despite having left his native Germany at the age of fifteen, he has NEVER lost his accent (but his brother did!). I DEFY you to find one American who, upon hearing Henry speak, and not aware of whom he was, would not say "no, he's not one of us ... must be some kind of foreigner!"

THREE: Your own native language! There MUST exist small regional, socio-cultural, and other variations in pronunciation of your language that your fellow native-speakers can recognise and say to themselves "hmm, she doesn't sound like mom, but she's still one of us". Also, there MUST exist foreigners who have learned your native language to a level of C2+, who might even be very highly regarded for their mastery of the language, but for whom the comment would be "hey, I wish I were so articulate; still, you'd think that after all these years, she'd lose her accent." Come on, Cavesa, be honest, now!

Native speakers of ANY language learn to recognize the sounds of their language through years of contact with it. Despite the wide variations of pronunciation between regions, MOST native speakers will quickly distinguish a true native-speaker, by their regional accent, from a non-native-speaker, within a few spoken syllables.

I am very pleased that you have such a good command of a foreign language. Nonetheless, has it ever occurred to you that your native-speaking interlocutors were MERELY BEING POLITE? Is it all possible that they immediately identified you as a non-native-speaker, were pleased by your efforts to learn their language, wished to encourage you in this endeavour, and were saying "you sound just like one of us" but were thinking to themselves "for a foreigner." Why don't they offer similar compliments amongst themselves (hey Fritz, you're really sounding like one of us today)? Where does this need to "single you out" for compliments come from?   My guess is that you SOUND like a foreigner, despite the well-meaning compliments, and they are just being polite. Would you expect them to say "hey, when are you going to lose your accent?"

Edited by Speakeasy on 18 November 2015 at 5:37am

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Serpent
Octoglot
Senior Member
Russian Federation
serpent-849.livejour
Joined 4767 days ago

9753 posts - 15776 votes 
4 sounds
Speaks: Russian*, English, FinnishC1, Latin, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese
Studies: Danish, Romanian, Polish, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Croatian, Slovenian, Catalan, Czech, Galician, Dutch, Swedish

 
 Message 11 of 25
18 November 2015 at 5:37am | IP Logged 
It may be true for English but why are you generalizing it for other languages? English speakers get a lot of exposure to bad English, which makes them very forgiving AND provides material for comparison, so that a hint of an accent can be traced back to the stronger accents you've heard before. Some people have *never* heard their native language spoken by a foreigner. One member posted about Hungarians assuming he/she was a cognitively or mentally disabled native speaker.

It doesn't sound like Cavesa was told this as a compliment, just as a sincere question.

Edited by Serpent on 18 November 2015 at 5:38am

2 persons have voted this message useful



Speakeasy
Senior Member
Canada
Joined 2222 days ago

456 posts - 1067 votes 
Studies: German

 
 Message 12 of 25
18 November 2015 at 5:54am | IP Logged 
Serpent, with all the languages that you purport to speak and with all the others that you claim to be studying, I simply cannot fathom what would cause you to make such statements! Are you truly suggesting that there are no "legitimate" pronunciation variants in the languages that you have appended to your profile? You might want to think about that! Alternatively, you might want to visit the countries where these languages are spoken.

As to the (hopefully unintended) slur against English-speakers, I suggest that you take a trip through the British Isles. Tell me, which regional accent is supposed to be "bad" English and which is supposed to be "good"? Would you like to include socio-economic (class) differences?

While you're thinking about the criteria you would like to use for distinguishing "bad" from "good", are you really telling me that ALL native Russian speakers share exactly the SAME pronunciation and that absolutely NO ONE can be identified, by his pronunciation, as deriving from a particular region or socio-economic group? Would you care back that up with some authoritative references?

Edited by Speakeasy on 18 November 2015 at 5:54am

1 person has voted this message useful



Serpent
Octoglot
Senior Member
Russian Federation
serpent-849.livejour
Joined 4767 days ago

9753 posts - 15776 votes 
4 sounds
Speaks: Russian*, English, FinnishC1, Latin, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese
Studies: Danish, Romanian, Polish, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Croatian, Slovenian, Catalan, Czech, Galician, Dutch, Swedish

 
 Message 13 of 25
18 November 2015 at 7:11am | IP Logged 
I never suggested there's no legitimate variation, just that it's often not that straightforward. People move between cities, countries and continents, they have friends from various places and get exposure via TV/Internet too.

I've not been to Spain or Portugal but I learned these languages mostly by listening, with exposure to accents from both sides of the Atlantic. I'm saying that it's more blurry than what you claim exactly because many people don't get exposure to all variants of their native language. For example I guess Brazilians may well think my European Portuguese pronunciation is better than it really is, although I doubt I'd be taken for a native.

Russian is actually quite uniform, though there are a couple of accents that are a dead giveaway. I've heard only one in real life. In Russian the grammar and stress are far more likely to betray a non-native speaker, though. If there are no actual mistakes (ie they are within the range of strange things I might sometimes say or hear, despite not considering them grammatical), almost any accent will sound very much credible. (Although I do regularly take Russians in Finland for non-natives, especially if I get to speak both languages with them even a little)

By bad English I obviously meant non-native, spoken with a heavy or barely comprehensible accent.

edit: and if someone has actually fooled you, you wouldn't know unless it came up later or they told you.

Edited by Serpent on 18 November 2015 at 8:18am

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Cavesa
Triglot
Senior Member
Czech Republic
Joined 3179 days ago

3277 posts - 6778 votes 
Speaks: Czech*, FrenchC2, EnglishC1
Studies: Spanish, German, Italian

 
 Message 14 of 25
18 November 2015 at 6:00pm | IP Logged 
No offence intended, Speakeasy, I think there is a slight misunderstanding about my post (which may totally have been caused by my wording though). I think the more important part of my message was: don't give them a reason to think much about the accent, don't take it as an excuse for your "failure to impress". Accent may or may not be an important factor of switching in each situation. I wasn't claiming to be native like all the time and for extended periods of time. I was just saying absolutely perfect accent and pronunciation was not a prerequisite to be taken as equal in the language, just good one was enough. I should probably reread the post to find out what lead to such feelings.

Yes, your example number one makes a lot of sense. French is one of the languages with lots of regional variants and I have judged my "native from another part of the French speaking world" label to be mostly caused by this AND the fact the people weren't forced to think too much about it. After all, I don't find it weird that "probably Swiss/whichever different region" comes to mind easier than "oh, probably a central european learner, most likely czech". How many such czech French learners has a normal French native ever heard, considering the fact most have never even met any Czech? I wasn't saying that people couldn't find out the truth, just that it wasn't the first thing they'd worry about by far.

The second example makes sense as well, even though I'd say individual accents are subject to individual circumstances. I've got to know people who lost their native accent having moved away as teenagers or later and others who kept an accent despite moving abroad earlier. I wasn't claiming I could give speeches without any trace of foreign accent.

Three: Unfortunately I cannot take my native language as any kind of example. It is too small and the accents therefore mix a lot once you move to another region. And I sometimes have trouble distinguishing even native Czech speakers from people from mixed families or those who immigrated quite late, it is therefore not that simple. And I haven't met many C2+ learners. Perhaps one in my entire life? I don't doubt there are some but I just haven't had the pleasure so far (but I'd love to!). So I definitely cannot draw from that. If the only larger speaking problem of the long term foreign residents here was the accent, they would be considered a miracle.

About that merely being polite: of course I know about this really bad habit of many native speakers (nope, I don't find it polite to say so to a non-beginner, it is simply being a hypocrite instead of just not mentioning the issue). However, that is not what I based my post on. "Compliments" like "you speak really good French" usually offend me, even though I pretend to take it as a compliment, I prefer being just treated normally. I am convinced my tutor used the compliment in that "comforting" way and I wasn't pleased, since I was paying him for nitpicking. I can remember a few situations where people were trying to be polite, of course, and I disregard those, I do not take pride in them.

What I based my claim on were a few situations where people obviously weren't speaking as if they were around a foreigner (especially not switching, dumbing the speech down etc), the question of my origin wasn't important, and it even came to "you can have a guess where I am from" moments. One or two guessed Maghreb (???), which would mean something between a native and second language speaker. I got some Suiss guesses too. Part of the reason might as well be the age of the natives. The younger people have fewer decades of experience to compare foreigners to.

As I tried to explain in my previous post, the accent was not an issue due to a combination of factors, not my perfection, it was an illustration as to why you don't need to pretend being from somewhere else in order to get people to speak to you,:

-it wasn't important at all, as I was functionally native like (I think this term was invented by Khatzumoto. I suppose he is not-native from the first sight as well yet the natives don't mind). Do you think about the accents and origins of every foreigner you meet? I don't. I might be weird but I don't care and I don't waste my time on that.

-the accent is quite light, especially once I have a bit of time to get immersed. It is not a screaming "hey, English/German/whatever native here". Not native but enough to not give people a reason to start wasting time on thinking where I am from

-my accent is a less known one. Tarvos, who identified a mistake my tutor hadn't corected even once (yep, I love all those threads suggesting a tutor correcting mistakes is the panacea, sorry, a bit off topic), is used to people from my region speaking foreign languages. Most French natives are not. There aren't that many immigrants from central Europe there, there are significantly fewer French learners around here than in the UK or Germany, very few learn French to a high level. Therefore I can imagine the brain, having crossed out the usual foreigner options, may find it easier and faster to put me in the "from somewhere else" box than drag the dusted geography knowledge from the memory. The geography knowledge of the individual matters, my horrible Spanish + non blonde looks have been enough for a few Spaniards to guess I was from Italy, just to illustrate the fact my country of origin falls into a sort of a blind spot.

Mind you, I never said I could stay in the "mistakable for a native" area for an extended period of time or that it was my standard. I am not a stupid naive delusional beginner and I find it slightly offensive to be taken for one.
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aokoye
Diglot
Senior Member
United StatesRegistered users can see my Skype Name
Joined 3711 days ago

235 posts - 453 votes 
Speaks: English*, German
Studies: Dutch, Norwegian, Japanese

 
 Message 15 of 25
18 November 2015 at 6:22pm | IP Logged 
Speakeasy wrote:
As to the (hopefully unintended) slur against English-speakers, I suggest that
you take a trip through the British Isles.


Maybe this it got edited out somewhere, but I didn't see any slur, intended or not, against English
speakers her Serpent's post that I think you're replying to. In general though, I think you're reading way
more into people's posts than what they're saying but that's just me.

edit: Wait are you referring to the "bad English" bit? I read that as non-native speakers who have heavy
accents and are speaking in a grammatically incorrect way (and not just a, "language is fluid down with
prescriptivism" but, "this just isn't correct").

Edited by aokoye on 18 November 2015 at 6:25pm

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Speakeasy
Senior Member
Canada
Joined 2222 days ago

456 posts - 1067 votes 
Studies: German

 
 Message 16 of 25
18 November 2015 at 8:17pm | IP Logged 
aokoye wrote:
In general though, I think you're reading way more into people's posts than what they're saying but that's just me.

If you were to actually read the 383 posts that I have contributed to date, you would notice that the vast majority of them address specific language-learning materials and, for the most part, are very supportive of other people's comments. To say that "in general, I think you're reading way more into people's posts" is an overstatement of monstrous proportions. But hey, that's just me! Of course, there is always the possibility that I misquoted you.




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