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Posts posted by H_Bachman

  1. Ilove the word anomie.  It means to lose all sense of community, identity and importance.  Hence the phrase anomic suicide.

    I love the word anomie too!  I can see some uneducated parent (who didn't know about Durkheim's work on anomie or what it means) deciding to name their baby girl that.  Anomie-- doesn't that sound like a girl's name? :)

  2. Here's a good method for learning the most important/useful vocabulary first:

    Write something every day-- maybe a paragraph or so.  Every time you don't know a word and have to look it up in a dictionary, make a note of the word and translation.  Put it on a list of words to study.  Study those words.  Make flash cards, memorize them.  In time, you'll see that less and less often do you need to look up the words in the dictionary.

    You can see how useful this is if you've ever looked up a word you didn't know, put it in your composition and continued writing, only to find that the next day, you needed the word AGAIN for a different document but didn't remember it!

  3. Mary = a woman's name; the mother of Jesus

    marry = to wed someone, become husband and wife

    merry = happy, joyous (mood)

    Interestingly, though, these are only homophones to some speakers of English (as they are for me-- I'm from the southwestern United States, not sure to what extent it's dialectal).  Any speakers of other English dialects beg to differ about them being homophones?

  4. I think the main reason expensive courses work is because, when you've already sunk a lot of money into buying a program, you feel COMMITTED to seeing it through and actually studying.  When you have a free course or a self-collected set of materials, it's easy to lose motivation because you didn't invest a lot into it.

    I advocate free language-learning sites above all else.  While I don't have an opinion on which of the paid materials you mentioned is the most effective, I have heard a friend say that Rosetta Stone was VERY effective for her brother when he learned Spanish.

  5. On my first try, I only got to 150!  That's a bit embarrassing.  I should wait to play until I haven't been drinking wine ;) haha.

    I had a lot of trouble telling the difference between Samoan and Scottish Gaelic-- who would have thought?  I think I was thrown off because the speaker said something about Galicia, I think, which made me think surely the speaker was European.

  6. The word "literally" when misused.  Literally is the opposite of figuratively.  What "literally" ACTUALLY means is "to do something according to the concrete, literal, non-abstract definition of the word".

    For example, if someone says, "Getting pulled over by the cops literally made me sick," what they mean is that they ACTUALLY were sick (threw up), not that it "made them sick" according to the figurative meaning (it made them angry, it made them nervous).

    But people misuse it by using it to intensify the statement-- i.e. "I was so nervous I was LITERALLY climbing the walls!" when the person was actually NOT climbing the walls, was just extremely anxious.

    THAT drives me nuts; it demonstrates the person doesn't KNOW what literally ACTUALLY means.

  7. I don't think it would.

    As is right now, all the heads of state are able to talk to each other, whether through knowledge of a lingua franca (English, generally) or translators.  Yet, there is no peace.  We still have fighting.  We still have prejudice.

    If EVERYONE-- even the members of the public who don't participate in policy, even members of tribes in Africa who live mostly off the grid-- could speak English, that doesn't mean they'd have a say.  That doesn't mean they'd be more likely to communicate with people from other countries.

    I don't think it would be a bad thing, but I don't think it would be tremendously helpful in making the world "a better place".

  8. I definitely know what you're talking about!

    I live in the southwestern United States, where Spanish speakers are abundant.  There are lots of people I could practice with, but I always hesitate.

    When I speak to friends, I *would* be comfortable using Spanish, but the fact is, they speak English way better than I speak Spanish.  Trying to use only Spanish just gets in the way of communication.  We end up speaking in English.

    When I speak to members of the public who legitimately don't speak English very well, I'm always a little worried I might offend them.  Race/ethnicity relations can be a little touchy here.  They likely worked very hard to learn the little English they do know; if I speak to them in (poor) Spanish, what if they interpret it to mean I'm making the (offensive) assumption they don't speak English?  Of course, I know most people are friendly and give others the benefit of the doubt (and might even be tickled at my meager Spanish), but it still makes me hesitate.

  9. I started to learn Spanish and Esperanto when I was in ninth grade (Spanish was part of school curriculum; Esperanto was my own endeavor).  I wish I had started learning them earlier.

    Schools that teach foreign languages in elementary school really have the right idea.  Think about it.  How many of your peers who took two years of foreign language in high school (followed by two years of the same language in college) hardly speak a lick of it?  It doesn't stay with them.  Investing in language learning in early childhood would be so much more effective.

  10. The earlier the better.

    People used to think that children who were raised with several languages would get "confused" and would have delayed linguistic development, but this is not the case.  They will not be slower to speak nor will they get confused.  They may mix the two languages in sentences, but this is often a way to make up for the problem of not yet having learned a word.  For example, a baby growing up learning Vietnamese and English might say a sentence only in English save for a few words, but only because they couldn't access that word in English but could access it in Vietnamese.

  11. I think the "secret" is just having the drive and desire to learn them.

    As someone who speaks English, Spanish, and Esperanto, and has dabbled in American Sign Language and Turkish, desire alone is the key.  If you don't *want* to learn them, really bad, you won't get around to it.

    In some ways, learning a third language that has things in common with your other two is very helpful; the vocabulary will be similar and you'll remember it better.  However, if the languages are too similar and you learn them at the same time, in my experience, you WILL get the vocabulary mixed up.  I was studying Spanish and Esperanto at the same time, and I did mix up vocabulary.

  12. I think it depends on what you're planning to use your new language for.

    Do you want to learn it so you can travel and really communicate with the locals and make friends?  Then grammar isn't so important.  Being able to converse (which can be done well without being perfect at grammar) is the most important.

    But do you want to learn it so you can break into that field on a professional level?  For example, are you from Latin America attending college in the United States and want to publish papers in academic journals?  Then learning the grammar is going to be important.

  13. It is very, very possible to become proficient in a language if you don't start till middle age!

    Once we are no longer children, time is no longer of the essence.

    A child's ability to learn a language greatly decreases with each year.  A baby learns a language easier than a five-year old, but a five-year old still has the ability to "pick up" a language and eventually speak it with near-native proficiency.  Even a ten-year-old can easily learn a language and speak relatively accent-free as an adult.

    However, after puberty, it becomes much harder to learn a language.  Generally, the ability to learn a language isn't too different between a 25-year-old and a 45-year-old.

  14. French is the most romantic-sounding language I can think of.  I'm not sure if this has something to do with what it sounds like, or if it's because (in America, and probably in other countries too) we have a very strong cultural linkage of France and the French language with all things romantic, sophisticated, posh, and "sexy".

    I'm sitting here trying to think of another language that sounds "romantic," perhaps one that hasn't come up yet, but I can't.

  15. Fantastic site!  Thank you so much for sharing this.

    Sites like this are really great, in my opinion, because they show us what is possible.  Even for the average person.  I mean, who says Benny is abnormally talented?  Maybe he has just an average brain like all the rest of us, and the difference is that he's figured out the right technique AND has the drive to see it through.  I mean, just think what the average brain would be capable of if they spent an hour a day (an "intensive", but not an outrageous amount of time) studying a language.

    I also second what he says about Esperanto.  There was a study that said that students who took one semester of Esperanto and then 3 semesters of French actually advanced FURTHER in French than students who instead took FOUR semesters of French!

  16. One of the ways I think Americans are particularly arrogant when it comes to language-learning is that they very will VERY freely say "he doesn't speak English well" about nonnative speakers, even those that actually do speak English VERY well.  It's like, they make the assumption that just because someone has a strong accent, or even misuses grammar occasionally, that means he doesn't speak English well.  In reality, that non-native English speaker has the ability to communicate complex information, and quite easily-- which in my opinion, counts as speaking a language.

  17. This is a very interesting idea for a post.  I started talking abnormally early-- sometime around 9 months.  My first words were "mama" and "tissue" (as in toilet tissue or toilet paper), believe it or not!  At that age, I had an obsession with eating toilet paper.  I would always try to get a hold of toilet paper, and when I did, I would chew up as much of it as I could before my parents caught me.  I would try to crawl into the bathroom and say "tissue" over and over.  Guess that's a slightly atypical experience... not sure why it was so important to me.  Haha.

  18. Hardest:  Listening comprehension.  Native speakers speak the language "fast" compared to what you're used to hearing in class or language-learning materials, and it can be very hard to pick out sounds when you're not a native speaker.

    Second-hardest:  Speaking.  You have to "think on your feet," and if you don't know the right word and can't think how to circumvent your need for the right word and still be understood, you're out of luck.

    Easiest, by far: Writing.  You can compose at a slower rate than you must while speaking.  You're not communicating in "real-time" as is the case when you're speaking and listening, so if you don't know a word, you can look it up.  You have time to use a dictionary, so you can communicate *effectively*-- for example, if you don't know the word "latitude", you can look it up instead of saying "the, uh, you know, I don't know the word for it, but, in geography, the lines that go around the earth and say that one area is farther north or south than the other..."  Your meaning gets lost less, and it's generally less stressful.

  19. While not a Spanish learning app per se, I highly recommend the Wordreference app.  It's basically just a Spanish dictionary and Spanish-English/English-Spanish dictionary.  But it's among my favorite because it's very detailed and full of examples.  It doesn't just give one-word translations as many dictionaries do; this is very important because all too often you need more information than that to translate properly.  (For example, if your dictionary said that you would translate "to know" as "conocer" or "saber", how would that help you?  Not much, you need context.  Wordreference has a very full page about the contexts in which you would use each of those, along with what prepositions you need to construct different phrasal verbs.)

  20. I've heard of an American bottled water company that wanted to expand business to Russia.  They came up with a new brand name in Russian that translates to "deep blue".  Unfortunately, that Russian word is one letter away from a word that means "puke".  Sales were poor.

    I'm not sure if this was a real marketing predicament, but I've heard the joke, "Why doesn't the Chevy Nova sell well in Mexico?" "Porque no va!" ("No va" in Spanish means "it doesn't go".  To Spanish speakers, a car named "it doesn't go" would sound a little iffy to be buying!)

  21. It's a way to generally understand what is being said in a foreign language, and I suppose that is the ultimate goal of translation.  It will not, however, cut it if you need a professional-sounding translation or any translation in which it is not painfully evident that you used a translation program.  The incorrect grammar, sentence structure, and mistranslated words will be noticed above and beyond the content of the piece.

  22. Actually, Catalan is not a type of Spanish, but a different Romance language also spoken in Spain.  It's actually more closely related to French.  (In the same way, Galician is more closely related to Portuguese than it is to Spanish.)  Catalan and Galician are not really mutually intelligible with Spanish.

    Most people who speak Catalan or Galician will also speak Spanish (Castellano).  Spanish is, by far, the most useful language to learn; it will enable you to speak with people all across Spain, as well as in Latin America.  Whereas if you learned Catalan, you could only speak to people in the northeast corner of Spain, most of whom are bilingual in Spanish anyway.

    Of course, Galician and Catalan are interesting languages.  But if you're looking for the language with the most utility to a tourist, learning Spanish is the way to go.

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