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Northern European Learning Methods?

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crackpot
Triglot
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Canada
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Speaks: English*, French, Spanish
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 Message 1 of 32
27 March 2008 at 7:36pm | IP Logged 
I've noticed that everytime I meet a person from Scandinavia, Germany or the Low Countries they almost always speak near perfect English. They must be doing something right in their respective school systems. So how about it, I'd like to hear from anyone who was educated in any of these countries who could shed some light on the methods you are using to master English so perfectly.
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chelovek
Diglot
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 Message 2 of 32
27 March 2008 at 7:45pm | IP Logged 
Well, I know that in Flanders (Dutch-speaking Belgium) and Holland most of their film and TV is in English, with Dutch subtitles. Since they're constantly hearing English and getting a translation, over time it has a positive impact on their English abilities.

I don't think the actual school courses are really much different from what you'd find anywhere else, rather it's a result of all the English media they get. Not to mention, a lot of people in these countries realize that they won't be able to communicate with many people in the world using Finnish, Dutch, Swedish, etc. so they put a lot of energy into learning other languages.

EDIT: And the last reason probably has something to do with the relative ease they have in learning English. Most Germanic and Scandinavian languages are some of the most grammar-rich languages in the world, while English is almost the polar opposite. And as for pronunciation...well, with Dutch, the pronunciation differences are about on par with the differences between English and Spanish.

Edited by chelovek on 27 March 2008 at 7:50pm

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Faraday
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 Message 3 of 32
27 March 2008 at 8:12pm | IP Logged 
I think it mostly comes down to sharing languages in the same family.
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Earle
Diglot
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 Message 4 of 32
27 March 2008 at 10:04pm | IP Logged 
Quote:
Most Germanic and Scandinavian languages are some of the most grammar-rich languages in the world, while English is almost the polar opposite.


I find that remark most puzzling. Care to elaborate?
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Alkeides
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Bhutan
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 Message 5 of 32
27 March 2008 at 11:01pm | IP Logged 
I thought the Nordic Scandinavian languages, save Icelandic, have been simplified considerably from Old Norse? AFAIK, no grammatical case marking in Swedish for example? This trait in fact makes them more similar to English, I would think?
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chelovek
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 Message 6 of 32
27 March 2008 at 11:20pm | IP Logged 
Earle wrote:
Quote:
Most Germanic and Scandinavian languages are some of the most grammar-rich languages in the world, while English is almost the polar opposite.


I find that remark most puzzling. Care to elaborate?


Well, I can only speak personally in regard to German and Dutch...their grammar is definitely more complicated than English, mainly due to the case declensions. It was also my understanding that the Scandinavian languages generally had even more difficult grammar. Is that incorrect?

Though regardless of just how complicated Scandinavian/Germanic grammar usually is, English is without a doubt extremely easy from a grammar perspective. No gender, no cases, hardly any verb conjugations...the hardest aspects of English are the written language and the amount of vocabulary. But understand, I just threw that out there as an additional reason why they might be so good at English. I think the biggest reason are the ones I mentioned about their entertainment and the lack of popularity of their languages.

Edited by chelovek on 27 March 2008 at 11:22pm

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Earle
Diglot
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 Message 7 of 32
27 March 2008 at 11:32pm | IP Logged 
In the Germanic family, I think that German is the most inflected, the Scandinavian branch is considerably less inflected, and verb conjugation is simplified in comparison with German, as well.  English is more simplified than the Scandinavian tongues, although I think there is less difference between those and English than between English and the Scandinavian languages, together, and German on the other hand. This is true despite the fact that German and English belong to the western Teutonic group and the Scandinavian tongues to the northern. I can read Dutch, but I don't know it well enough to compare it with the others. I think the poster above, in referring to grammar-rich, was meaning inflection and conjugation. I wouldn't have chosen "rich" to characterize the differences...

Edited by Earle on 27 March 2008 at 11:43pm

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Earle
Diglot
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 Message 8 of 32
27 March 2008 at 11:59pm | IP Logged 
Well, we cross-posted. I don't have much to add except to agree with you about TV. That same effect carries over to Scandinavia, as well. In watching TV in Norway last August and September, only the local news was carried only in Norwegian. All other programming was in English, with Norwegian subtitles. In addition, all menus and road signs (with a couple of exceptions) are in English and Norwegian. I didn't really need my Norwegian except for a couple of occasions, although I used it to chat, etc. However, it was extremely handy on those occasions when I did really need it. It's nice to be able to read newspapers and things like the your instructions for hooking onto your hotel's wifi. I had not been to Norway in a good many years, and the penetration of English was quite startling.

I did have the opportunity to help out a few German tourists who read neither Norwegian nor English. (I had done the same many years before.) In the major cities, large hotels and the like, the personnel spoke Norwegian, English, German, French, and you name it. However, outside that scene, Norwegian and English seemed to be it. Most of the German tourists seem to stick to the cities. Those I encountered in other areas were fluent in English...


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