selenak: (Goethe/Schiller - Shezan)
[personal profile] selenak
So John Le Carré has a life long interest/(barbed)affection for all things German, which I knew, but I still found myself touched and surprised by this love declaration to the German language. Also to education in general, and the way learning languages changes our minds, which is direly needed here and now. Writes he: The decision to learn a foreign language is to me an act of friendship. It is indeed a holding out of the hand. It’s not just a route to negotiation. It’s also to get to know you better, to draw closer to you and your culture, your social manners and your way of thinking. And the decision to teach a foreign language is an act of commitment, generosity and mediation.

(I've never tried to verbalize how I feel about English, come to think of that.)

Meanwhile, two Doctor Who fanfiction recs, hidden under a spoiler cut because .

Thou owest god a death: great voices for Missy and Simm!Master both, capturing what the two regenerations share and what divides them at the end.


without hope, without witness, without reward: This one was written earlier, post "Lie of the land", but so far is one of the best takes on what those 70 years of Missy in the vault might have been like; the pov is the Doctor's.

Date: 7 Jul 2017 16:37 (UTC)
peasant: sweet pea (Default)
From: [personal profile] peasant
I've never tried to verbalize how I feel about English, come to think of that.

Speaking as someone who has absolutely no talent for languages, I am extremely glad that people like you are so willing to learn English. However, of all the languages I can't speak, German (of which I can retain a scant minimum) is the one I find most evocative and beautiful.

English is a magpie language - if we need a new word we steal it. German is a generative language - it builds anew from itself, and creates poetry in the rebirth.

Date: 7 Jul 2017 18:05 (UTC)
ratcreature: RatCreature blathers. (talk)
From: [personal profile] ratcreature
German takes words from everywhere same as everybody else. Many monolingual English speakers seem to think that English has a ton of words originating from languages English has contact with as special, when it really isn't. I mean yeah, English had a phase where a ton of French came in at once, but even that is pretty common with the political vagaries languages are subject to.

The percentage of words German adopted from other languages is huge, like Wikipedia tells me about a quarter of the 180 000 words in the Duden dictionary of German have foreign roots. Though the majority probably aren't even recognized as coming from elsewhere any more than English think about their French imports. Like nobody considers anymore that, say, "Ziegel" (brick) came from Latin into German.

Occasionally you get language purists trying to replace loanwords with varying success, so you end up with "Fußweg" or "Bürgersteig" becoming more common rather than "Trottoir" because some were pissed off at too many French words in German as not nationalist enough (that's pretty common too, like in the early 20th century Turkey did that with Arab loanwords in Turkish). But for a ton of words that just meant that German now has two words for the same thing, one loanword and one nativist alternative, like "Adresse" and "Anschrift" both are now common.

Date: 7 Jul 2017 19:43 (UTC)
peasant: sweet pea (Default)
From: [personal profile] peasant
We believe English has more words from more other languages than most because we are told so all the time. If it's not true, blame whoever started the rumour ;)

Does German have many loan words from beyond Europe? I've always assumed the British empire made a difference to English in that way, but maybe international trade did the same for other European languages to a similar extent.

Date: 7 Jul 2017 20:29 (UTC)
ratcreature: RatCreature as a (science) geek. (geek)
From: [personal profile] ratcreature
Yeah, I've seen such statistics too, and it may well be that English has imported more words than most other languages (though I would suspect that technically creole languages where the grammar of one merges with the vocabulary of another might be the champion in just taking foreign words, I suppose with the Normans and the Anglo-Saxons it was something of a similar situation). But especially in more recent times I don't see English behaving any differently from German.

The loan words from beyond Europe are mostly the usual ones for stuff that came with trade and colonialism, plus the usual Arabic origin words, like sofa, alcohol, magazine and such that are also in English. Percentage-wise in German five to six percent comes from Latin and Greek and about three to four from French and English as the top sources, less from elsewhere.

Date: 8 Jul 2017 05:30 (UTC)
peasant: sweet pea (Default)
From: [personal profile] peasant
creole languages where the grammar of one merges with the vocabulary of another
English is definitely a creole language by that definition.

Another interesting question is why native English speakers are comparatively so bad at learning other languages. The standard answer is that we are taught badly and with English being the international language there is less incentive to learn. However, teaching techniques have changed massively over the centuries, nor do I believe it would be beyond our powers to copy techniques from other countries, and the ascendency of English as the international language is very recent - yet our inability to learn other languages dates back centuries. Is this something genetic? Or is it something about the way English as a first language wires the brain that makes other languages harder to grasp afterwards? I suspect it is the later. The Dutch for example are not genetically so very distant from us, and yet they are master linguists. The Germans - a little more genetically distinct from us than the Dutch, but not much - seem to be about mid way in linguistic skill. But this is just my personal theory, I've never read any actual studies on the matter.

Date: 8 Jul 2017 10:22 (UTC)
ratcreature: RatCreature is thinking: hmm...? (hmm...?)
From: [personal profile] ratcreature
I think the problem is mostly that school alone is just not enough incentive to become fluent in another language, even if a language is taught for several years and required for graduation. I only really became fluent in English because of the internet and because I wanted to read English books and consume other media. I did not manage that for French despite having it for years in school and with good grades too.

And English has long been the dominant language on the British Isles so its native speakers had less reason to learn their neighbor languages than the Welsh, Irish and Scottish Gaelic speakers had to learn English in reverse. Then that situation only expanded outwards with colonialism.

I suspect the main reason the Dutch are better at English than the Germans is because they don't dub their imported TV, and generally are a smaller country. That's why far more Dutch speak German than Germans Dutch. Similarly, more Poles learn German than Germans Polish. How many languages you need is mostly a question of power and geography, I think, and your native language only has an impact in so far as that closely related languages are easier to learn. So Japanese is much harder than German for English speakers and such.

What probably also discourages native English speakers is that they get a complexity hurdle fairly early on even when learning close languages because English lost so many of its inflections compared to its close relatives. So even picking a "close" language you need to get used to conjugation and noun cases while in reverse English seems simpler at first. Of course it makes up for that by adding complexity in plenty of other ways (not to mention the nightmarishly illogical spelling) so it's a wash in the end and as an English learner you just have to memorize a ton of other quirks to make up for what you escaped in noun and verb forms initially. But that might be a deterrent on the usual language levels you get to in school, making foreign languages appear "hard" and in the absence of stronger economic incentives students less likely to stick with them.

Date: 8 Jul 2017 14:11 (UTC)
peasant: sweet pea (Default)
From: [personal profile] peasant
Yes, that all makes sense.

Date: 8 Jul 2017 10:25 (UTC)
peasant: sweet pea (Default)
From: [personal profile] peasant
the type of German spoken in a Theodor Fontane (contemporary of Dickens) novel is to present day German

So what has changed? Vocabulary or grammar or formality of usage, or what?
Edited Date: 8 Jul 2017 14:11 (UTC)

Date: 8 Jul 2017 10:32 (UTC)
ratcreature: RatCreature blathers. (talk)
From: [personal profile] ratcreature
I suspect the bigger factor for that difference might be that spoken Standard German is such a recent thing, and that it only really coalesced with national media? I mean, written dialogue in German remains really distinct from spoken even now. Like how none of the contractions make it into writing and all that.

Date: 7 Jul 2017 21:19 (UTC)
muccamukk: Padme in formal make up, happy and smiling. (SW: Padme Smiles)
From: [personal profile] muccamukk
I really liked that essay about German, it was both contemplative and kind, which are things I've always liked about Le Carré's writing. He's stopped doing novels now, hasn't he?

Date: 7 Jul 2017 21:35 (UTC)
dhampyresa: (Default)
From: [personal profile] dhampyresa
Thanks for the recs!

Date: 7 Jul 2017 22:35 (UTC)
labingi: (Default)
From: [personal profile] labingi
Thanks for the Who rec's. I've read one so far: excellent!

As for Le Carré, someday, I will go through a great reading frenzy of his work. He's very good, and not in a genre I'm usually interested in, but good enough that someday, I'll have the time, and I'll do it.

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