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 Do you understand a language you cannot speak?

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Gaz
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 4:21 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

I done that in Tenerife on holiday a few years back...Some fellow asked me something in Spanish, and without even thinking about it, I replied "Yeah mate, the water is really warm"

(PS- I was at the beach, just in case any of you try to take a foul twist on what I said Wink )

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it wasn't me
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2007 12:23 am Reply with quoteBack to top

Years ago, I lived in South of France for a year and had a good friend who couldn't speak any English. I learnt how to understand basic French in weeks. Never could speak the language though.
Last month at Sydney airport, a lady was trying to order eggs on toast and a cup of coffee. The lady behind the counter didn't understand, so I just told her what she wanted. She was speaking French and I had understood her completely. My husband was impressed and later asked me to repeat what the lady had said in French. I couldn't. Go figure:?

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Ginch
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2007 2:05 am Reply with quoteBack to top

Eliza_Doolittle wrote:
It was just brought to my attention that I need to learn Italian.

I've always loved Italian & Spanish. Such percussive, melodic languages, begging to be articulated as much with the hands as the tongue. Plus, it sounds like they're really hauling ass. I wonder if it's true that spoken English just plods along by comparison.

@TS: ...Such hammer music talky-talk want say with hands like mouth. Rolling Eyes

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Don
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2007 8:23 am Reply with quoteBack to top

^^^ What do you call an Italian with his hands tied behind his back?

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Alcathiax
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2007 10:13 am Reply with quoteBack to top

^^^ I don't know the answer to that question, but I do know that a naija boi with his hands tied behing his back is a good mugu! Laughing

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Slightlyoutofit
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2007 10:54 am Reply with quoteBack to top

I'm with you on this one Eliza. When I looked at this thread, my immediate thought was Italian. I was reading something only yesterday in Italian and realised that I understood it even though I've never studied the language.

The only logical reason for this comprehension that I can think of is because of my education in other European languages - I'm pretty passable in French and my German is OK. But the one language that does seem to have helped me the most when looking at others is one that is scoffed at for being "dead" - Latin. I studied it for 8 years and although hundreds of people have told me it would be of no use to me and have no practical application, you would be suprised at how often certain aspects of it come into play and prove to be of use in translating languages that I have no knowledge of.

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Gnasher
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2007 11:35 am Reply with quoteBack to top

I too studied Latin at school for a few years. It was compulsory in those days but understandable given that Tiberius was emperor at the time. It has been of little practical daily use BUT when it comes to languages, especially the 'romantic' languages like French, Spanish, Italian etc and a lot of English then it's been hugely useful.

Interestingly, I too find I can understand the gist of Dutch conversation even though I don't speak a word of it. My French and Spanish are pretty good anyway, but I'm afraid that German remains a total mystery despite several attempts to learn the basics. I guess I get spooked by words with more than 4 syllables Laughing

I have theory that we 'absorb' a lot more language than we realise. This is why we often find we understand a language even though we haven't studied it. I'm sure this is how many people learn English - from the internet, TV, music, etc. Or it could be that our brain process aural information better than visual or formal teaching. I know that when I first visited France having studied French for a few years I was certain I wouldn't understand a word but found that I could keep up with most things being said around me. You just need to take that extra step to be confident enough to speak it too and you're there.

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Last edited by Gnasher on Wed Jul 04, 2007 12:01 pm; edited 1 time in total
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windypops
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2007 11:57 am Reply with quoteBack to top

Don wrote:
^^^ What do you call an Italian with his hands tied behind his back?


A mute.

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calv1n_klein
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 05, 2007 10:00 am Reply with quoteBack to top

I'm the same with Spanish Smile I have a lot of Spanish friends and can only speak very basic Spanish but I can understand what is being said to me perfectly well. Weird, huh? Shocked
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Gnasher
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 05, 2007 10:57 am Reply with quoteBack to top

I've always wondered what English actually sounds like to a non-speaker. Is is a bit clunky and 'harsh' like German or some of the Slavic languages, or does it flow elegantly like French or Italian? I think Russian is a beautiful sounding language (and I believe it has one of the largest vocabularies of them all?) but I can't speak a word of it.

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