h a l f b a k e r y
The embarrassing drunkard uncle of invention.
add, search, annotate, link, view, overview, recent, by name, random
news, help, about, links, report a problem
or get an account
Those among us who speak English natively should
consider ourselves lucky. Having as our birth tongue what
is almost certainly the
final dominant language of our species not only provides
us with an advantage in terms of global communication,
but spares us the
torture of actually having
to learn it. But there's a
downside to this as wellwhile most native speakers (of
any language) are
capable of speaking their language fluently solely on the
basis of intuition, they are more often than not ignorant of
grammatical rules, much less their significance in the
context of language structure as a whole.
Also, as a result of the global dominance of their native
tongue, many native English speakers never seriously study
language. This is a shame for many reasons, not the least
of which is that studying a foreign language academically
is perhaps the
best way to provide insight into the grammatical functions
of one's own language. For example, it wasn't until I
studied the use of
the subjunctive mood in Spanish that I truly understood
how it was used in English; while I'm quite sure it had been
explained to me
in grade school, and I'd had a vague awareness of its
existence since then, once I learned how it was used in
Spanishand how that
differed from its use in Englishit was a concept that
suddenly became quite clear to me.
The big problem, of course, is that learning a foreign
language is hard, and requires time, patience, and
practice. But why is it so
hard? A language can be broken down into two mostly
distinct parts: grammar and vocabulary. Of these two,
the more difficult to
learn, and arguably the less interesting, is the vocabulary.
Learning the grammar is a matter of understanding and
complex set of rules, whereas studying vocabulary involves
little more than rote memorization. For those who aren't
good at this, or
simply find it tedious, vocabulary is probably the biggest
impediment to studying a foreign language.
So, let's eliminate the vocabulary aspect, inasmuch as
that's possible. We thus modify English grammar so that
it matches the
grammar of a foreign language while retaining English
vocabulary, thus highlighting the difference between the
Studying this new set of linguistic rules will not only
provide the student a greater insight into his own native
tongue, but will
hopefully prepare him for future study of the foreign
vocabulary once he is more comfortable with the
Yo voy a la tienda grande. I go to the store
Yo espero que ella venga. I hope that she come.
(Demonstrating the use of the above-mentioned
Puedes quedarte aqui, pero no me molestes. You
can to remain thyself here, but do not me bother.
Words that don't have a clear analogue in terms of
conjugation in English may need to have forms imported
for more advanced
students. E.g., to bother might need to become
botherar, to allow distinction between its various tenses
and persons (thus
making it botheres in the example given).
But while this may seem like an overly complicated way to
get a simple point across, there are many features of
English that we
take so fundamentally for granted that we never learn
about or even consider them. Indeed, it's not until
studying how certain
grammatical constructions are formed in other languages
that it even occurs to us that there's another way to do
them. Take, for
example, the phrase I want to go to the store. In
Romanian, this becomes Vreau sa merg la magazinul.
Breaking this down
word by word, we find a couple of striking differences
Vreau: I want
Sa: (indicates that the following word is in the
Merg: I go
Magazinul: The store
So, literally, it's something like I want I go to store(the).
Notice how where the infinitive would be used in English
and many other
languages, Romanian uses a conjugated verb. But we're
really saying the same thing, just dropping the pronoun: I
want to go
means I want me to go as opposed to I want
you/him/her/it to go. Somebody who had never studied
might not ever have considered that fact.
Also, notice how in Romanian, the definite article exists
only as a modified form of the
noun (the noun in this case being magazin). If you'd
never been taught this, would it have ever occurred to you
that articles don't
necessarily have to consist of an independent word or
prefix, but could simply modify an existing word? Or, in
the case of Russian
grammar, that they're totally unnecessary? For that
matter, in Russian (and Hebrew) the verb to be doesn't really
all (at least, not in any form an
English speaker would consider equivalent). So you see,
there are a
lot of things
about our language we take for granted, but somebody
intimidated by the time and effort required to learn to
read and understand Cyrillic or Hebrew writing and
vocabulary would remain
ignorant of this fact.
Certainly, some words will need to be borrowed, and some
existing words modified to suit foreign conjugation.
wouldn't really be taught for actual use, but would be
mainly intended as a means of gaining insight into the
mechanics of English by
contrasting it with different grammatical structuresbut
without all of those pesky vocab flash cards. The focus
wouldn't be on
teaching how this or that foreign language is different
from English, but instead on simply teaching how those
languages work and
allowing the student to independently acquire the kind of
knowledge that only comes through understanding (I think
there's a word
for that in German).
||Small potential quibble: I'd heard Romanian was the only Latin language in a nonCatholic country. If it's like Spanish, "la" would be "the", but no idea really.
||Well, Google translate confirms you're right. Although it could baffle a Spaniard having Romanian sprinkled into his grammar or vice versa.
||As a Romanian speaker (conversational, anyway) and
student, I assure
you that it's not. La means to, and the definite
article is applied to nouns by means of declension.
Interestingly, this is not the case for the indefinite
||A child: Un copil
Some children: Niste copii
The child: Copilul
The children: Copiii (yes, that's three consecutive
||Romanian is indeed a Romance language, but it's
different from most other Romance languages in that
developed in relative isolation. Split off
from French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese (which
developed together, of course), it retained much of
original Latin grammar while also absorbing a
||I'd be curious how "copiii" is properly pronounced.
||It would be interesting to know if studying the different declensions and word orders in different languages makes one generally more alive and more aware of nuance in each and every word of any language you know, supporting your contention of the necessity of learning multiple languages.
||ko-PEE-ee, with the stress on the second syllable. A
final letter i is usually silent in Romanian, so you
need three of them to get the repeated "ee-ee" sound.
||Pretty good invention, I think this is, but to me a lot like Yoda Speak it sounds.
||//the final dominant language of our species
||I have to say, that translated well from the origin Mandarin....
||I think the title and subtitle explained the idea well and
that I didn't have to read the rest. Am I mistaken?
||I only read the first word of your annotation..
||// As a Romanian speaker (conversational, anyway) and student //
||... the long Winter evenings must simply fly by.
||// I think there's a word for that in German //
||Well, there's definitely an explicit hand gesture for it in English.
||Entirely too much thought has gone into this.
||This is almost baked by Latin. ~75% of the words in English have a Latin root so learning the vocabulary is pretty easy. Personally I wish English had some Latin grammar too. The direct object is never in question the way it is in English.
||//I have to say, that translated well from the origin
||Ah ha, I was wondering if that statement would go
unchallenged. Even though Chinese may have more
speakers than English, they are almost all located in China,
and almost all Chinese who do business internationally
learn English. Chinese is simply too difficult to become an
international language (although I'd be very interested in
learning its grammar, hence the idea).
||Even if China becomes the sole dominant world power
eventually (which it won't), it takes more than simple
economic power to make a language become a lingua
Franca. It has only happened a few times in history, but is
highly unlikely to happen again. Even if English fades from
dominance, it is unlikely to be replaced by any other
language thanks to the increased accuracy and availability
of computer-based language translation. There may simply
not be a need for a universal language in the future.
||//English with Foreign Grammar//
||Add foreign spelling too, and you've got Dutch.
||Why would you want that ? Just asking ...
||You know, for an aspiring member of a collective
consciousness that indiscriminately assimilates every
intelligent being it comes across for the express
purpose of achieving perfection by absorbing the
unique knowledge and values of every foreign culture
in existence, you're surprisingly xenophobic, [8th].
||But the Dutch are a "mongrel breed" ... not as bad as the Belgians, but close ...
||Besides, having to gargle with cold, dirty gravel before attempting even the simplest of phrases is not exactly encouraging.