Mastery of One Language or Learning Another Language?

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by seasurfer, Nov 16, 2015.

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Will You Master One Language or Learn Another Language?

  1. Mastery One Language

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  2. Above Average on One and Learn Another

    2 vote(s)
    25.0%
  3. Be Average on Multiple Languages, but Master of None

    6 vote(s)
    75.0%
  1. seasurfer macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2007
    #1
    Do you believe a person a should master his native language or one language or try to learn another language or languages?

    In today's world, having the knowledge of different languages certainly is an asset. Yet, at the same time, not mastering at least one hinder one's ability to use it efficiently. What do you think?
     
  2. mobilehaathi macrumors G3

    mobilehaathi

    Joined:
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    Location:
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    #2
    I think you've set up some vague and mythical standard. But I will say this: studying several other languages (and delving into some linguistics) has only improved my command of my native tongue.
     
  3. velocityg4 macrumors 68040

    velocityg4

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2004
    Location:
    Georgia
    #3
    I found that as well. Learning Spanish and German greatly improved my understanding of English and the roots of words. Along with my understanding of how language works. I've learned some Japanese mainly because I've always found feudal Japan to be so fascinating.

    However, I think gaining fluency in another language is beyond me. I'm too dogged, analytical and precise in my approach. While I pick up mathematical and scientific concepts with ease. I've always struggled with language. Just writing this reply takes me a long time. As I work to say precisely what I mean and second guess my phrasing. Although my approach helps me learn grammatical rules and pronunciation quite well. Learning the words takes a long time. It's as though I'm trying to memorize a huge unending list and must match each word to the English equivalent when translating.
     
  4. Berlepsch macrumors 6502

    Berlepsch

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2007
    #4
    As the others have said, learning foreign languages may be one of the best ways of improving your skills in your mother's language. It can help you to be more analytical about how you write and speak, and of course by learning a foreign vocabulary, you are also extending your native one.

    When you learn a foreign language, you are also getting introduced to foreign culture, habits, and history, which allows you to be more critical to your own prejudices and attitudes.
     
  5. arkitect macrumors 601

    arkitect

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Bath, United Kingdom
    #5
    Clichéd, I know, but true nonetheless:

    “To have another language is to possess a second soul.”
     
  6. Scepticalscribe Contributor

    Scepticalscribe

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2008
    Location:
    The Far Horizon
    #6
    Couldn't agree more.

    Not only that, studying other languages gives you a window - and perhaps, some slight understanding - not just into other languages but into other ways of seeing the world.

    Agreed. And it allows you to become more open to the influence of positive elements of other cultures, and to distinguish between what is worth celebrating and what can be discarded.

    Very elegantly expressed.

    To @velocityg4 I would remark that it is not always possible to translate exactly from (or into) your native language when using another, and, recognising that this is so is one of the great intellectual leaps that you can make while struggling to learn another language.

    Sometimes, you will manage an exact translation, because each of the languages will allow that as the necessary words and thoughts exist in both. Other times, it will be an approximation, the gist of the idea. Yet others, the perspective will be so different that it will be an eye-opener to realise that what may seem - to you - to be a basic concept, is one that is incredibly difficult to render in another language because that concept is not understood in that language in the first place, and hence, it lacks the words, or phrases, to describe it.

    To the OP, @seasurfer, I think your original question is something of a false dichotomy: Trying to learn another language does not mean that one cannot acquire complete mastery in your own. The one does not exclude the other. Why not try both? Mastery in your own language, and attempted acquaintance - or preferably, a decent competence, and/or, if you are lucky - tentative fluency - in others.
     
  7. AlliFlowers Contributor

    AlliFlowers

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2011
    Location:
    L.A. (Lower Alabama)
    #7
    I tell my students that they will learn more English (vocabulary and grammar) in my French classes than in all their English classes combined. My students wind up scoring well on standardized tests like the ACT and SAT due to the mastery of English they gained while studying a second language.
     
  8. Scepticalscribe, Nov 17, 2015
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2015

    Scepticalscribe Contributor

    Scepticalscribe

    Joined:
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    Location:
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    #8

    Agreed.

    Not only that, but they may well develop an appreciation of nuance and subtly, and richness of vocabularies, as well.

    French is an excellent example, because while there is a large common vocabulary, there are also subtle differences in how words that have made an appearance in both languages can be used in everyday speech almost a millennium after the Norman Conquest.

    An example I love to cite is the English word, 'demand' - both the noun and the verb that the noun is derived from - and contrasting how it is used with its French ancestor, where it is still used in everyday speech in France.

    When I was studying French, I was taken aback at the fact that 'demander' was the standard verb which meant 'to ask', because it is such a powerful, almost aggressive, word to use in English. Using it in normal French speech - where it simply means 'to ask' - meant I was almost flinching the first few times I used it.

    Of course the answer lies in history, the history of the Norman Conquest to be precise, when the newly victorious lords, masters and rulers spoke the language known as Norman French in newly conquered England (and hugely influencing the evolving English language in the process).

    This was because English absorbed a great many of these foreign Norman-French words, grafting them onto the existing vocabulary, (rather than replacing the language that was already used with the language of the overlords, which sometimes happens when one culture is conquered by another).

    In turn, this has allowed for a precision of expression, a richness of nuance, not found in many other languages. Thus, in English, when you want something, you still ask for it. But there are many ways to ask for something, and now, there are precise verbs which can describe these differences.

    Thus, when the verb 'to ask' is transmuted into the verb 'to demand' something, this means that you are really asking with menace, that you ask with coercion, and that you ask almost in a tone of command, which is doubtless how the subject Anglo-Saxon population of England experienced the Norman lords when they 'asked' for, or 'demanded' something.

    The verb 'demander' was used by the Norman lords when they asked for something, something that they felt they had a right to, as a matter of course. When they asked, they couldn't be disobeyed, or thwarted, or refused, not without unpleasant consequences.

    Thus, the verb 'demand' found its way into English, where it is used a very different way to how it is used in French, where it is a normal, unthreatening, mild mannered verb.
     
  9. mobilehaathi macrumors G3

    mobilehaathi

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    Location:
    The Anthropocene
    #9
    Heh, I had the exact same reaction.
     
  10. Mousse macrumors 68000

    Mousse

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2008
    Location:
    Flea Bottom, King's Landing
    #10
    I choose option 4: Master one language and learn another.

    Mastery of one language is important if you do not want any confusion or miscommunications. But that doesn't mean you can't learn another language as well.

    I have mastered one language (bad English)o_O and fluent in another (English):D. I'm also passable in Vietnamese and rudimentary in Japanese. I know few words in Spanish, German and French, but those aren't used in polite company.:oops:

    Alas I'm but a firefly buzzing around my brother's brilliance. He has mastered English and Vietnamese; fluent in Mandarin, Cantonese and Russian; conversational in Spanish and French. Here's the kicker, he can hurl insults in 50 different languages.:eek: Color me green with envy.:oops:
     
  11. mobilehaathi macrumors G3

    mobilehaathi

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2008
    Location:
    The Anthropocene
    #11
    One of the biggest challenges of learning a new language is overcoming the frustration of being unable to express yourself with the nuance and complexity to which you're accustomed. You can achieve that, but it will take quite a long time.

    One of the things that captivates me about language is that there is no bijection between the elements of any two languages, and even if there was, there is far more to communication and expression than rote piecemeal translation. By studying languages, I learned to approach complex problems from entirely different points of view. I think it is a great exercise for the analytical mind...
     
  12. JamesMike macrumors demi-god

    JamesMike

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2014
    Location:
    Oregon
    #12
    I'm fluent in four languages, but working in many countries, I learn day to day phrases to help me get through the day, and let the people I'm working with know I have genuine interest in them.
     
  13. Savor Suspended

    Savor

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2010
    #13
    I would choose my own option - Be a master in as many languages if you can!

    Why settle for mediocrity? Aim for mastery. Aim to be great.

    I only speak English, understand 80% Tagalog, but only speak like 30% of it. A guy once joked to me. If you know three languages, you are trilingual. If you know two languages, you are bilingual. If you know only one language, you are AMERICAN. It is a joke on Amboys like me.

    But yes, I prefer to learn and master all languages. There is a term in Pinoyism called nosebleed. If they can't understand you, they say nosebleed. Filipinos have bastardized the English like Ebonics already with slang terms. When we say, do you understand or do you get it, we say "u getz?" "Hu u" instead of who are you? Hard enough in the Philippines with so many other dialects. I'm visiting Ilocos Norte right now and it feels like a foreign territory whenever they speak the Ilocano dialect. Completely different words and phrases. I'd have an easier time understanding if I was in Malaysia and Indonesia which uses some Tagalog words I know.

    Go for gold. Be a master at as many languages as you can. In high school, I lived in SoCal but I didn't do well in my high school Spanish class. I moved to Colorado, and I do much better with French which is a beautiful language to hear and say. If you can do well in many languages especially in Mandarin with billions who speak it, more power to you. You open another door towards another country for yourself.
     
  14. Zenithal macrumors 68040

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2009
    #14
    I'm as fluent as a native speaker in a few languages other than English, and semi-fluent in other ones. I'd say you won't ever master one language unless you make it your life goal. There are people, for example, whose native language is in fact English, and they live, breath and eat the English language, so to speak. And for what it's worth, English happens to by my third language.
     
  15. Mousse macrumors 68000

    Mousse

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2008
    Location:
    Flea Bottom, King's Landing
    #15
    Eh? William Shakespeare's mastery of the English language cannot be questioned. No only did he master English, he also knows French and Latin. He uses Latin phrases in some of his plays; and had a healthy amount of French in Henry V.

    If you define mastery as complete knowledge of the language, then you can NEVER master a language as it is always evolving. New words are added (bling :rolleyes:), old ones fades from disuse (prithee :() and rules of grammar changes. I will is now acceptable, but when I was younger we used I shall. Students using bad grammar would be branded a pariah by my English teacher. Many were the times I had to sit in a corner with a dunce hat for abusing the semantic sensibilities of polite society.;):p
     
  16. mobilehaathi macrumors G3

    mobilehaathi

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    #16
    Now, it seems, they're not even corrected. :mad:
     
  17. Micky Do macrumors 68000

    Micky Do

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    An island in the Andaman Sea.
    #17
    Being fluent in two languages, and being familiar with others, has not only improved my command and understanding of my mother tongue. It has also expanded my point of view, understanding, and tolerance of others in the world we share.
     
  18. Scepticalscribe Contributor

    Scepticalscribe

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2008
    Location:
    The Far Horizon
    #18
    Oh, if they fell into my tender clutches in the latter days of my time in the groves of academe, believe me, they were...

    Agree completely.
     
  19. A.Goldberg, Nov 18, 2015
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2015

    A.Goldberg macrumors 68000

    A.Goldberg

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2015
    Location:
    Boston
    #19
    I speak English and Hebrew natively. I learned both since birth. I never really thought too much about the complexities and mechanisms of language until I started taking Spanish in grade school. Both were just pretty natural I guess like any language you're raised with.

    I will say knowing how to read and write Hebrew is interesting in the sense that the semetic languages operate in a completely different fashion in written form (starting with non-Latin letters). Hebrew doesn't really use vowels except in elementary writing. Word roots categorize many related items (desk, office, writing, letter, etc). Many words have to be interpreted based on context- actually if you're reading aloud you have to add in the appropriate vowels. I honestly have no idea how people learn this language aside from being raised with it. Anyways, I feel like I see things in different way just as a result of being exposed to such a fundamentally different language.
     
  20. citizenzen macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2010
    #20
    Just one, but it's English ... so there's no need to learn another, right? ;)

    Honestly, living in California, I should learn Spanish. But I've succumbed to laziness.
     
  21. mobilehaathi macrumors G3

    mobilehaathi

    Joined:
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    The Anthropocene
    #21
    I studied a bit of Arabic, and it was a blast. So very different from the Indo-European languages I've studied...

    If I hadn't gone into genetics it would have been linguistics.
     

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