Siren Watcher

Siren Watcher Researcher Writer - Languages


During my schooling I learnt

  • 3 years of French
  • 1 year of Italian
  • 1 year of German
  • 1 year of Japanese

Most of this language knowledge has gone, as it was all learnt prior to adulthood. Though I retain the ability to count to 20 in all those languages. I also retained some basic random words like, ‘blanc’ or ‘watashi wa siren des. onamae wa’. Though nearly the entirity of these languages are gone. Out of the entire Japanese hiragana and katakana alphabets I can only remember the stroke patterns for a limited amount of characters and what they mean.

A good clip on English speakers learning foreign languages can be found here:

The skills I retained from Japanese

Pronunciation of characters and speaking style:

Japanese has no word stress, all syllables have no up or down word stress and nearly all vocabulary is monotone. There is some but its rarer. A word like Katakana, ka-ta-ka-na, there is no alteration in up or down tone to stress any letter over another. Knowing this, I am able to “sound Japanese” when I speak someone’s name. I understand -e, -i, -a have their own letters separated, whereas consenants are never pronounced alone. So for a name like Raine, it would not be rain, it would be ra- i- ne- as that is how the letters are structured. It helps with pronunciation of associates names or any new words I come across in the language that I do not prior know.

It helps to know some countries, like Japan, also choose their names based on their direct meaning that is known to everyone. People name their child a singular or mixture of kanji letters to symbolise the person. In English we do this, but the meanings are hidden as English is a conglomeration of languages in origin. In languages like Japanese the meaning is known to all. Say a common name like Takashi means “High / Noble”, and people would know this definition separate to the personal name.

Unique pronuncations of word clumping:

In English we have sounds like ch, sh, bl, er, ed, ing, etc. In Japanese they have similar tsu, shi, chi, etc. Characters with more distinct pronunciation that it may appear to someone unlearnt in the language. Tsunami, is not su-na-mi, it is tsu-na-mi, if you understand how to pronounce the tsu character, which lots of western speakers have not learnt as it is not a part of the English language. Similar as zh in Chinese which we do not have in English, though we share, ch and sh I believe.

Knowledge of the three alphabets and that if someone presents you a Kanji word that you don’t know, you can request they give it to you in Hiragana or Katakana in a lot of cases:

On a smaller scale, this will make your ability to understand the written or spoken words in a more manageable way for a learner or non-japanese speaker. As Hiragana and Katakana are similar to learning the latin alphabet (abcd+), and are far easier to draw into a translator. As Kanji is like a dictionary, not everyone knows all the words and their is more common words and harder words, similar to English, nobody is expected to know all vocabulary. When living in china and drawing mandarin characters into a translator I found it challenging. Kanji and Madarin both having the same traditional chinese roots, there is some overlap in modern time but there is also false friends (words that look the same but mean different things).

Understanding of that even the “hardest to learn language for English speakers” is something I believe I could easily grasp with enough focus:

I quite enjoyed learning Japanese at school and got high grades (so at least I impressed the teacher). The politeness system and some parts of the language of course would take their own lengths of time but I feel I could grasp it with enthusiasm again if I decided to.

Upon moving to Germany

I sought to teach myself German to begin with. This was actually harder than I prepared for. Not hard to learn German, but in a non-structured course it was very hard. Duolingo taught me a huge list of vocabulary. Though applying the correct sentence structure was heavily broken. Ich komme aus Australien, etc. These stock phrases are fine, but in original sentence building I struggle. Though I am able to discern basic items like baum for tree, tasche for bag, etc.

The similarity to English in a lot of cases makes it easier, such as wasser for water, rot for red, banane for banana, etc. I can also conduct common daily phrases like using tschuss and entschuldigung. Though I can’t sit and have a regular conversation, but can navigate the landscape okay. Eingang (entry) and Ausgang (exit) level of knowledge to not look like an idiot, if that makes sense.

I am not saying that a structured course is needed. What I learnt through watching quite a few polyglot videos, learning about some concepts and techniques, and listening to my students experiences learning English from all over the world, is that for each language learner it is uniquely different. You must cater your learning to you

A good video to watch on the subject is:

I am actually nervous about becoming a polyglot

This is due to my inbuilt desire to learn languages but my understanding of how easy they are to fundamentally lose without practice, dissuades me. I like learning languages for leisure and they were the classes in which I achieved top grades for during schooling, in comparison to other subjects which I was less passionate about and just was happy to achieve acceptable scores. Though, the idea of dumping 600-2200 hours into learning something that I may lose over a minor time of non-use is hard for me to justify in terms of evaluated usefulness. If it was required for a professional role, or for living arrangements, I would see that as justification.

In later life, I will likely decide to be a polyglot and learn about 5-10 languages to fluency. Though for now, learning the basics across a few is enough to satisfy my appetite.

These are the languages I would focus on learning

If I had to add archaic languages, I’d add Sanskrit and Sumerian. Though they would likely be harder to find a teacher for later repetitive practicing with.

The pro to this is being able to read peer-reviewed journals in multiple languages, and have a wider social circle. The con is that when people speak in other languages around me I won’t be given that temporary ease of mind that I don’t have to listen. This happened to me often in Australia, when people on the train would be talking loudly in another language and I could just pretend they weren’t talking because I didn’t understand their language. I appreciated it.

These are places that are native in English

Places that have over 20% of their population as fluent secondary English speakers

Meaning officials such as police and hospitals are likely to have someone on staff who speaks English, their may be signs available in English, etc.

… leave Education: Languages

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