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Why do most people find it easier to write than speak a language?


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Yes, I can see how writing would be easier because pronunciation often sounds different than it looks on paper. But for me, I learned to speak one of my target languages before I was able to write it. That being said, now when I go to a conference in my new language, I am able to take notes almost completely in that language. This has helped me with my speaking because I am able to hear what the word sounds like and try to write it out. Now that I am getting used to how the words are written I am starting to accurately write out the words without much need of correction. At first my notes looked terrible though. I think note taking really can help us learn language though. Afterwards I would approach a native speaker sitting near me and ask what certain words meant. If you don't have context it is hard to ask if you haven't written the word just right. But if you have the sentences before and after then even if you have written it wrong, a native speaker can often figure out what the word was you heard and then tell you what it means. 

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On 22 December 2015 at 2:07:22 PM, Saholy said:

Yes, I can see how writing would be easier because pronunciation often sounds different than it looks on paper. But for me, I learned to speak one of my target languages before I was able to write it. That being said, now when I go to a conference in my new language, I am able to take notes almost completely in that language. This has helped me with my speaking because I am able to hear what the word sounds like and try to write it out. Now that I am getting used to how the words are written I am starting to accurately write out the words without much need of correction. At first my notes looked terrible though. I think note taking really can help us learn language though. Afterwards I would approach a native speaker sitting near me and ask what certain words meant. If you don't have context it is hard to ask if you haven't written the word just right. But if you have the sentences before and after then even if you have written it wrong, a native speaker can often figure out what the word was you heard and then tell you what it means. 

I envy you, @Saholy! In my head, learning to speak my chosen foreign language before ever setting foot in a formal setting to learn all the grammar is very much my ideal situation. I don't know, I just feel as if if I did that, I'd find it a lot easier to then put the meat on the bones, so to speak. For some weird reason, my sense of confidence is very closely linked to how well I can speak, not so much how I can write. Well done on your achievement!

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  • 3 weeks later...

I feel the complete opposite. I am more confident speaking the language than I am writing. I am learning Chinese and when it comes to writing characters I always cringe. If you asked me to write half the stuff I know how to say I would just be standing there. Seriously I have no idea how I’m supposed to remember all these characters. Not to mention there is a stroke order (the proper order for writing the character) that I always forget. There’s a rule about what direction to start in but there are so many discretions that I can’t really trust the rule. Then there’s traditional characters (screams) which I will never be able to write. I’m sorry but if I’m learning how to write a character and there’s more than 14 strokes in it I’m either going to quit, or re-evaluate my life. I love Chinese but it takes way more effort to write cat than it does to say it.

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Wow, that's understandable @Nekomimi_mode......I always thought Chinese or any other langue that employs the use of characters in place of letters would be hard to learn. I would imagine in this case, speaking would always prove easier, as you've experienced.  It would be interesting to know how you would fare learning a new language that used letters of the alphabet, not characters; whether you'd still hold the same view?

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@lushlala
Japanese is an example of using both alphabets AND characters.
I can say reading new letters and/or characters will be slow at first, but things speed up automatically as you read more in Japanese.

It's nothing specific, I experienced the exact same thing with Russian recently.
Russian currently takes me forever to read, but I feel like it's getting faster now.

And the same thing with our Latin alphabet back when I was young: it was slow at first, but now I can read things instantly.

So reading Chinese is no different from reading English, it just takes much longer to learn all the characters you need to know in order to read Chinese.
While the Latin alphabet, Japanese alphabets, Russian/slavic alphabet, etc. can all be learnt in a weekend, Chinese characters require much more time.

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  • 2 weeks later...

OMG @Blaveloper, that sounds almost impossible LOL I like the way you say 'Chinese is no different from reading English! Maybe because it's no big deal to you, as you know all these languages! Chinese must be extra hard, if you feel that even Latin, Japanese and Russian 'alphabets' are easier by comparison. Well, I can only take my hat off to you for having some knowledge of all these languages.

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@lushlala

As I already said, the reason why I said "reading Chinese is no different from reading English" is because both involves the same kind of reading, it just takes a longer time until you master enough Chinese characters.
And 'it takes longer time' is not the same as 'it's impossible'.

But as for Chinese as a language, if you find the English grammar easy, you'll find the Chinese grammar much easier.
Chinese has a similar grammar to English, just a lot simpler.
The real obstacle with Chinese however are the tones.
While there are 4 or 5 tones (depends on how you want to count them), pronouncing a tone differently may turn the entire sentence into something completely else.

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Eh @Blaveloper, I'm not sure why you saw the need to rehash what you just said as if i didn't get it. Because regardless of how you view it, that was my assessment of the whole thing; for me,  based on what you said because I know my own strengths. At no point did I suggest that you said it was impossible, that was in reference to me. -and in actual fact, I said it sounds almost impossible. Or must I be so anal as to hash out and rehash everything I put on here LOL?! Don't be twisting it, mate. Plus try not to over analyse everything, you start to lose the true meanings of statements if you fall into that habit ;)  Sheesh, sometimes interacting on here feels like pulling teeth, honestly. Anyway, I hope it's clearer now?

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Writing in a language would seem to have more rules that are easier to follow.  The rules are written down and are not really subject to cultural changes and trends, which are the riles that are not really written down.  I know from experience that it is a whole lot easier to write the languages that I have learned or attempted to learn, but then again it might just depend on what language you are dealing with.  I am sure that the Arabic and Asian languages are very hard to write too.

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  • 2 months later...

It is easier to write because we have more time to edit the words and check our grammar. With speaking, you have to be fast in composing the sentences. Once you say it, it can never be erased or edited.

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Actually for me the slight opposite is true, I can speak the language a little better than I can write it... Mostly due to the fact that I've always been kind of a talkative person along with being and avid reader, so I would try to figure out how to say/read it before I could figure out how to write it... But knowing my luck that's probably just me...

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It really depends on the person because some people would rather learn via social interaction rather than being on a computer or reading books that's how some people would find it easier to talk and some would it easier to write, some people I know are more efficient on writing than speaking but their vocabulary and how they put themselves on the paper/chat is amazing, I always tell them how they did that and they tell me just practice day by day and that is true and for the speaking guy they have great pronounciation but they sometimes lack vocabulary it really varies.

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On 07/01/2016 at 10:46 PM, Nekomimi_mode said:

I feel the complete opposite. I am more confident speaking the language than I am writing. I am learning Chinese and when it comes to writing characters I always cringe. If you asked me to write half the stuff I know how to say I would just be standing there. Seriously I have no idea how I’m supposed to remember all these characters. Not to mention there is a stroke order (the proper order for writing the character) that I always forget. There’s a rule about what direction to start in but there are so many discretions that I can’t really trust the rule. Then there’s traditional characters (screams) which I will never be able to write. I’m sorry but if I’m learning how to write a character and there’s more than 14 strokes in it I’m either going to quit, or re-evaluate my life. I love Chinese but it takes way more effort to write cat than it does to say it.

i think that it depends on the language, because you are learning Chinese I don't doubt that speaking the language is much easier then learning all those characters.

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Whеn yоu writе sоmеthing, yоu саn stоp, еdit, соrrесt (likе I just did, twiсе, whеn bеginning this sеntеnсе) withоut hаving tо dеаl with thе оthеr pеrsоn's rеасtiоns. 

Yоu dоn't hаvе tо dеаl with intеrruptiоns, оr еvеn just thаt lооk thаt sаys "I аlrеаdy knоw whаt yоu'rе gоing tо sаy аnd yоu'rе wrоng!" 

Thеrе's nо guаrаntее thаt thе оthеr pеrsоn will undеrstаnd еxасtly whаt yоu mеаn, but yоu'll аt lеаst bе surе thаt yоu sаid it tо thе bеst оf yоur аbility. 

Thаt dоеsn't hаppеn whеn wе'rе spеаking.

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  • 1 month later...

Sorry I'm late to this conversation, and if this has already been brought up, sorry, I must have missed it going through the five pages.

I've worked with military linguists for a long time. One thing I noticed with them was the way they studied. I would see them with 100s of flash cards, dutifully flipping those cards over, L2 to English, over and over again. Every once in a while I'd go up to them and flip their stack and ask them to do the cards English to L2. Whoa! You'd think I was asking them to write an opera in Klingon.

See, they were stuyding and teaching their brain to translate L2 to English, over and over and over. They all had very good vocabularies, most in the C2 range in one or more languages...but only in the reading and listening modalities. They'd trained themselves for that. They didn't (or rarely did) train themselves to go from English to L2.

And what do most of us do when we're trying to speak our L2? Our brain thinks up something to say (or a response to our interlocutor) and we spout out what our brain came up with in the L2. But if you rarely (or never) study English-to-L2, how do you think your brain is going to come up with something to say when you've got a speaker of the L2 standing right in front of you?

It is harder for most of us, sure. You may have to pull out those cards from when you were at A2 level, but it will be worth it, trust me.

Secondly, and just as important: I've found many language learners overthink while they're speaking. Trust me when I tell you I went through this with Russian for many years, worrying about if I had the right case ending on the nouns and adjectives and if I used the proper motion verb. Finally, after years of stumbling through conversations I should have been more "fluent" at, I simply schluffed all that off and just talked. If I said something the Russian-speaker didn't understand, s/he would have asked me to clarify. 

Thirdly, and finally: Never use your native tongue when you're speaking in your L2. Talk around the word, or ask you interlocutor what the word is that you're looking for by describing it. You get really good at speaking when you have to describe what a fender is ("You know, that part at the front of your car that protects you if you hit something? Usually metallic and shiny? Horizontal? What do you call that?").  

Cheers from Bishkek,

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I think it's easier to write because there are no accents or pronunciations you'd have to deal with in writing. You could simply just write and besides the fact that everyone words sentences a little differently it's indistinguishable with how other people would write it because you all use the same characters and words. Not to mention you also have a bit more time to think when writing whereas if you're speaking your mind is pretty much trying to catch up with your mouth constantly. 

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1 hour ago, Baburra said:

I think it's easier to write because there are no accents or pronunciations you'd have to deal with in writing.

This part is incorrect.
Think of languages like Spanish or German, the Spanish use accents like "é" and "ú" a lot, same goes to the German "ä" and "ö".

Of course you can be lazy and decide not to write them down, but that's not always going to happen without consequences.
For example in Polish:
Zrób mi łaskę.
Zrob mi laske.

The first one means "do me a favour", while the second one means "do me a blowjob".

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I'm an usual case, I found  easier to just write than speak. But is generally better to improve first your speaking skills than your writing with romance and germanic languages, given the vast phonetic richness. For me is harder because sometimes is difficult to grasp every word spoken. I struggle with British English in that regards, some pronounciations are so subtle that is tough to understand without several months of acclimatization. The opposite happens to japanese, pronounciation is easy for spanish natives like me, but the kanji and confusing grammar rules are the real barriers there. 

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On May 19, 2016 at 2:56 PM, Blaveloper said:

This part is incorrect.
Think of languages like Spanish or German, the Spanish use accents like "é" and "ú" a lot, same goes to the German "ä" and "ö".

Of course you can be lazy and decide not to write them down, but that's not always going to happen without consequences.
For example in Polish:
Zrób mi łaskę.
Zrob mi laske.

The first one means "do me a favour", while the second one means "do me a blowjob".

I don't understand what was incorrect about it. I don't think pronunciation is part of writing, and as for accents, obviously I meant the pronounced kind and not the one you have to write down. Those little accent things you put on letters do change the meaning though as I know it is the same for Chinese which I know because even just one stroke missing or extra and you'll have a totally different meaning. 

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This is also false.
It's true that tones in Chinese change the meaning, but a lot of other languages that use accents may give it a slight different function.

Just like you could see in my Polish example.
Or if you're known with German, "ä" is pronounced differently than "a".

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  • 1 month later...

I think it depends on whether or not you're an auditory learner or a visual learner. Personally, I'm a visual learner, so it's easier for me to remember what something looks like when it's written, but calling into my mind what it should sound like and getting it out of my mouth without stuttering is another story. It might also just be how certain peoples' minds function. Although English is my first language, I'm still pretty bad at speaking it, and most of my sentences are made up of small words, and peppered with a fine dose of "uhs" and "ums." Also, it seems easier to tell a word apart from another when you see it spelled out, instead of hearing it, but that just might be me.

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Well I cannot say that I am exactly sure of the answer, but I would guess that it has something to do about the lack of personalization that it requires.  That is, you are not talking to a person and having to adapt the language in different ways, plus there is just more thought that goes into each word as you have more time to write than to speak, generally speaking.  It is a good place to start, writing is, and then slowly move on to speaking it more and more, and use your writings to read aloud.

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  • 1 month later...

I'm the exact same way when I try to speak Korean. I can write just fine, but when it comes to speaking I stumble over all my words and I'm just a mess. It's because when you are writing, you are given more time to think about what you want to say first. When your actually using it, especially in front of a native, there's the fear of mispronunciation, etc. Certain words are harder for me to say as well because of the lack of particular sounds in the English language. And when you are still a noob like me, being able to listen and respond in an appropriate manner is another can of worms...

So definitely with writing, you're able to go at your own pace whereas with speaking that's not quite the case.

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On 2/5/2015 at 5:45 AM, lushlala said:

I always find that when I'm learning a foreign language, I pretty much get the basics quickly. However, I tend to lack in confidence in terms of actually speaking it. Yet I know exactly what I want to say, and can write it without any problem whatsoever. I know practice makes perfect, but I'm still a bit shy and wary of making mistakes! Does any of you feel the same?

 

I think this is a problem because people choose to not actually use their mouths to pronounce the words int he language correctly. I hated when I seen so many people trying to pronounce something in another language, but they won't say the word right. It's so easy, but it's the way that you have to move your mouth is what makes a lot of people uncomfortable, or just plain feel embarrassed. 

 

Writing is easy, I can write notes in Spanish easily, but speaking it in the beginning was hard for me because I could not pronounce the words right. I would pronounce them as if I was reading them in plain English without using the accent like pronunciation, which was the proper way to speak the language. I actually feel equal now with writing and speaking other languages because I don't hold back on how I speak another language when I'm trying to learn. I can get the accent down and everything.

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@hades_leae....I'm sure with a lot of people, pronunciation is just plain hard, but not for lack of trying. I mean, this is obviously just supposition; I could be wrong because I know some people here don't bother to pronounce the English language properly, which I find odd. But as far as I'm concerned, you have to at least try, so that if you do fail to say the words right you can be safe in the knowledge that you did try. However, if a foreign language is very far removed from your native language, it can be extremely difficult to re-train your toungue. I'm glad to hear that that's not a problem that applies to you, you're very lucky :) 

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