Clarification Edit: for people who speak English natively and are learning a second language

  • radix@lemmy.world
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    1 month ago

    When you start a new language, you learn “The Rules” first, and wonder why your first language doesn’t have such immutable “Rules.”

    Then when you get fluent, you realize there are just as many exceptions as your first language.

    • Fonzie!@ttrpg.network
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      1 month ago

      Or do Japanese: There are two main types; the one where you and everyone else neatly follows the immutable rules which you speak to superiors and to strangers by default, and the one where everyone blurts out whatever words in whatever order they come up in their brain, aka what’s spoken between friends and to acquainted inferiors

      • x4740N@lemm.eeOP
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        25 days ago

        I’m doing Japanese and I beleive you are referring to polite and impolite (or formal and informal) Japanese

        • Fonzie!@ttrpg.network
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          25 days ago

          That’s correct, 敬語 perfectly follows the rules, but while there are rules for 普通体 (ある instead of あります), people mostly just talk in whatever way they want that does not follow any rules.

          It’s quite shocking to me as a Dutch person, we hardly have such a big difference between formal and informal Dutch

  • Darkassassin07@lemmy.ca
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    1 month ago

    English is the language that beats up other languages in dark alleys then rifles through their pockets for loose phrases and spare grammar.

      • Corr@lemm.ee
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        1 month ago

        Perhaps other people have said it but this is the quote I’m familiar with:
        “The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.”

        James Nicoll

      • SirSamuel@lemmy.world
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        1 month ago

        Cheery! Stop playing with your lipstick and go down to Cable Street. Igor’s potatoes have escaped again and Washpot can’t find Fred and Nobby.

    • BudgetBandit@sh.itjust.works
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      1 month ago

      Don’t forget that there once was a time when smart people just added letters to words that don’t do anything - like the b in debt, which was called det before. Or when America got rid of Britains U after O because newspapers charged per letter.

      • SwingingTheLamp@midwest.social
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        1 month ago

        British newspapers were only able to subsidize the use of the letter ‘u’ through taxes levied on the colonies, which led to the revolution. So who’s so smart after all?

        Nah, seriously, the Normans added the ‘u’ to French-derived words after they invaded. English orthography wasn’t standardized, though. Johnson kept the ‘u’ out of a sense of tradition when compiling his British dictionary, and Webster elided it in his American dictionary because we don’t pronounce it. Neither spelling, -or or -our, derives from the other.

      • x4740N@lemm.eeOP
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        25 days ago

        I don’t know about “debt”, I always pronounce a very subtle b when I say it and saying det just sounds like the “det” in “detrimental”

    • leftzero@lemmynsfw.com
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      24 days ago

      Seriously, other languages at least adapt loanwords to their own grammar, orthography, and whatnot… English just grabs them as they are and runs away without looking back.

      That’s why you end up with the plural of radius being radii, or stuff like fiancé or façade (seriously, how are people who only speak English and have never seen a ç before in their lives supposed to know how to pronounce that‽)…

      Of course it all comes from English being really three or four languages — (Anglo-)Saxon, Normand(/old French), and Norse — badly put together, so sprinkling bits of other languages on top didn’t make much of a difference, when there were already about five different ways to pronounce, for instance, oo, and the whole vowel shift debacle didn’t exactly help with this mess… but while other languages which may have had similar (if maybe less spectacular) growing pains eventually developed normative bodies, mostly from the eighteenth century onwards, that define and maintain a standard form of the language, English seems to have ignored all that and left grammar and orthography as a stylistic choice on the writers’ part, and pronunciation as an exercise for the readers…

      • x4740N@lemm.eeOP
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        25 days ago

        Yep I’m learning Japanese and hate how they spell “maccha” as “matcha” in English because the English one doesn’t sound correct to me and annoys the fuck out of me

        The one with the t has a subtle t sound to it while maccha sounds correct

  • partial_accumen@lemmy.world
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    1 month ago

    Its taught me all languages are broken in some way. Romance languages have words that have arbitrary gender needing conjugation. Some have two genders, some three! Then the Romanian language comes in with its own tricks.

    Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese) lack an alphabet so words are conjunctions of smaller words, or sometimes worse the phonetics of smaller words without the meaning of the word.

    Starbucks (the coffee company) in Mandarin is 星巴克. 星 is the literal translation of Star. So far so good. However 巴 can mean “to hope”. 克 can mean “to restrain”. The reason they use 巴克 for the second half of Starbucks is that when you pronounce them they vaguely sound like “bahcoo” (buck). So the first half is the traditional use of direct translation ignoring what it sounds like phonetically, but the second half ignores direct translation and instead uses the phonetics of the second two characters to sound like “buck”.

    • Glowstick@lemmy.world
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      1 month ago

      I mean that makes sense because that’s kind of how it is in english too. “Star” makes you think of a star, but “bucks” at the end of the word doesn’t make you think of anything specific, it’s just a sound

      • Skua@kbin.earth
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        1 month ago

        Oddly enough, “starbuck” has nothing to do with stars. It comes from some Old Norse meaning “sedge river”. This became the place name Starbeck, a town in northern England. People then took that as a surname, and the spelling changed to Starbuck at some point. Herman Melville then gives a character in Moby Dick the surname Starbuck, and eventually the founders of the coffee chain picked it for no particular reason other than that they liked the sound of it

        So the “buck” part is, I guess, “river”. Or “brook”, to pick the more closely-related English term. This doesn’t change anything you said, of course, as nobody actually thinks of it like that, I just found the winding path it took kinda interesting

      • partial_accumen@lemmy.world
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        1 month ago

        “buck” is a common slang for a US Dollar. Its also a male deer. These are both very common words in American English. The “buck” in Starbucks doesn’t use either of these meanings, and thats fine, in this case you’re right that that part of Starbucks doesn’t carry any meaning from English…HOWEVER neither does “star” in Starbucks. The modern Starbucks logo has no star shapes in it, and nothing referencing astronomical stars. Its equal to “bucks” in that it is just a set of sounds. Yet in Mandarin, the “star” is literally translated as “star” like the astronomical body and spoken it sounds close to “sheen”, while the “bucks” sounds close to “bahcoo” for a total pronounced word of “sheenbahcoo”. So literal for the first part, phonetic for the second part. Essentially using two completely different sets of rules inside one word.

    • skeezix@lemmy.world
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      1 month ago

      Somebody who was aware of all this once invented a language that was supposed to fix all the problems. He called it Esperanto.

      • GreyEyedGhost@lemmy.ca
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        1 month ago

        Esperanto isn’t the only constructed language, and I think it is more Western-oriented, for good or ill. It does do a lot of things right within that framework, though, with certain rules that make everything explicit while removing other rules for structure that are no longer needed due to the explicit nature of the language.

  • OhmsLawn@lemmy.world
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    1 month ago

    It isn’t broken. It’s quirky, and they all are.

    What I appreciate about Spanish over English is the ease of spelling and pronouncing new words. What I appreciate about English over Spanish is the ease of creating new words.

    I have some limited ability/understanding in other languages, but not enough to judge. Except for French.

  • PhlubbaDubba@lemm.ee
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    1 month ago

    It isn’t broken, it’s just preserved

    Languages with phonetic writing in the modern day likely achieved that through a language standardization process that included spelling reforms.

    English’s changes in spelling and grammar are mostly legitimized through influential works of the language, hence why you all gotta learn Shakespeare in highschool, you’re being taught the history of how the language we speak today evolved.

    There is no centralized academy of English grammar, and official dictionaries in English for the most part add words descriptively to reflect how the lexicon is changing in real time.

    Put together this all means that the English language isn’t remotely broken, it’s just old, older than most modernly written languages by a couple of centuries actually.

    Funniest part is if you study immigrant settlements in the Americas from all those countries that underwent standardizations, they’re all about as “broken” as English looks too, because they’re forms of those languages preserved from before standardization came to their homelands.

    Japanese and Italian are especially funny since the standardization came into enforcement recently enough that native speakers from Japan and Italy will be bewildered by speakers from the Americas because the speakers from the Americas speak in a way that sounds like their grandparents or great grandparents if they recognize the dialect at all to begin with.

    • mtchristo@lemm.ee
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      1 month ago

      Languages with phonetic writing in the modern day likely achieved that through a language standardization process that included spelling reforms.

      Not Arabic. It is pronounced as it is written. Except a handful of words that have a different transcription to make them easily distinguishable.

      • PhlubbaDubba@lemm.ee
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        1 month ago

        As someone who is learning Arabic right now this is the vaaaaastest oversimplification I have ever seen on that subject in particular.

        For starters, dialects

        • mtchristo@lemm.ee
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          1 month ago

          We only refer to MSA when talking about Arabic. Most Arab speakers consider dialects side languages to Classical Arabic. They have never had a transcription throughoutout history. People started writing in their dialects only recently with the arrival of SMS and the internet.

          I get that as a new comer to Arabic you probably have come across learning materials for dialects like Egyptian and levantine. But in reality you won’t find uni courses for those dialects because academics don’t consider them to be proper languages with clear grammar and an established vocabulary.

          • PhlubbaDubba@lemm.ee
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            1 month ago

            Actually I chose to learn dialect first because literally everyone who knows anything about the language cautions that native speakers will swear up and down that you should learn MSA and then be completely incomprehensible to you because of how little anyone actually uses it in the Arab world.

            I’ve been working with my teacher for a year and a half now and she agrees that MSA is basically pointless unless you intend to start consuming arabic language news or listening to arabic language political speeches.

            BTW this is from a professional cultural expert who’s literal job is to prep government workers and businessfolks to be able to engage successfully with the Arabic world, something she’s been doing for 20 years now, so I’m pretty sure she knows what she’s talking about.

            • mtchristo@lemm.ee
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              1 month ago

              You do you. And you have to take into consideration what your goal is by learning Arabic.

              Dialects are definitely easier to learn and more rewarding as it allows you to converse with people and test your advancements. But you won’t be able to easily transition to another dialect. Because MSA is the glue that make the intelligible.

              Learning MSA will take you triple the time. And I imagine your teacher is both proud of his dialect. But also doesn’t want you to drop learning if you were to have chosen MSA

    • Fonzie!@ttrpg.network
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      1 month ago

      With Japanese, it’s more-so that the standardised version is widely used in politics, to strangers, to acquainted superiors, and just in general by default

      It’s only between friends, within most families (and to acquaintances who regard you as their superior) that you speak… Whatever, really.

  • Socsa@sh.itjust.works
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    1 month ago

    On the contrary - it has made me appreciate how many different traditions the English language draws from and how flexible it actually is.

    • IMALlama@lemmy.world
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      1 month ago

      It certainly does show how many traditions, with their own sets of rules, English pulls from. That said, watching my poor kid learning how to spell and read has been painful. All the rules only exist to be broken. An example today was him trying to pronounce AMC. A fun word for spelling that came up recent was skool.

  • fireweed@lemmy.world
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    1 month ago

    When I started learning Japanese I was impressed by how reliably phonetic their alphabets are, with only a few exceptions (and even the exceptions are phonetic, just by a different set of rules). I was like damn, would be real nice if English’s letters were like this. Then I found out that Japanese wasn’t always this way; prior to the 19th century reading it was a huge pain, with a lot of “i before e except after c…” rules to memorize, no diacritics to distinguish pronunciations, etc. At some point they had a major overhaul of the written language (especially the alphabets) and turned them into the phonetic versions they use today. Again I was like damn, would be real nice if English could get a phonetic overhaul of its written word. But it’s a lot easier to reform a language only used in a single country on an isolated island cluster with an authoritarian government and questionable literacy rates… Can you imagine the mayhem if, say, Australia decided to overhaul the English language in isolation? It would be like trying to get all of Europe to abandon their native tongues in favor of Esperanto.

    • isyasad@lemmy.world
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      1 month ago

      I love archaic inconsistent Japanese. 今日 (obviously きょう) used to be pronounced the same way but spelled… けふ. There’s a Wikipedia page on historical kana orthography and the example the use on the page’s main image is やめましょう spelled as ヤメマセウ. The old kana usage sticks around in pronunciation of particle は and へ. There also used to be verbs ending in ず that turned into じる verbs like 感じる. Here’s a post on Japanese stack exchange where somebody explains verbs that end with ず, づ, ふ, and ぷ.
      Honestly I’m glad I don’t have to learn historical inconsistent spellings, but part of me thinks that it’s really cool and wishes it was still around.

  • rufus
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    1 month ago

    Hehe. I don’t think English is that broken. I mean it’s definitely broken. But still one of the easier languages to learn. It’s my second language, so my perspective might be a bit different. But I also had French in school. And oh my, that’s a proper hassle to memorize all the articles, specifics and numerous exceptions to every rule there is… English was way easier (for me.)

  • Iunnrais@lemm.ee
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    1 month ago

    Learning a second language AND professionally teaching English to speakers of said language. English is not broken. English is actually much better than many alternatives. We don’t need to worry about noun gender. We don’t have to worry about tones. We have precise ways to indicate number and time. Formality levels are not baked into word construction. The pronunciation of words can generally be inferred from the spelling, despite learning this skill being a little complicated— but that complicated nature even has its usefulness.

    We rag on English, but it is by far not the worse out there, not even close. It’s just contempt for the familiar.

    • Treczoks@lemmy.world
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      1 month ago

      The pronunciation of words can generally be inferred from the spelling

      Definitely NOT. English is among the worst languages in that regard.

    • Mkengine@feddit.de
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      1 month ago

      As a native German speaker, I really dislike the formality levels and hope someday everyone uses the informal level. In a big company it’s really annoying to start with the formal level and then awkwardly switching to informal level when contacting someone for the first time.

    • extrangerius@lemmy.world
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      1 month ago

      It seems to me that you’re making a strange argument throwing bugs and features into the same pot. The fact that other languages have different complexities does not make one language more or less broken.

  • FeelThePower@lemmy.dbzer0.com
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    1 month ago

    Well, I suppose it made me realise how useless articles are in a statement.

    «где здесь кинотеатр?» (where here movie theatre?)

    “where is the movie theatre around here?”

    Without articles the point comes across in a much simpler form. that being said, a lot of other languages also have a terrifyingly complex case system or pointlessly gendered language or both. I don’t think any language is “broken” but they all definitely have quirks.

    • fireweed@lemmy.world
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      Learning Japanese (especially colloquial Japanese) also gives me a strong “why waste time say lot word, when few word do trick” vibes. Articles? Don’t exist. Prepositions? Only if you want to sound like a dweeb. Subjects/Objects? Used unnecessarily you’ll change the meaning of the sentence.

      “Went” is a complete sentence in Japanese.

      • PhlubbaDubba@lemm.ee
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        1 month ago

        My friend told me that a whole lot of Japanese sentences are literally just exclamations of an adjective or adverb and apparently that’s enough for most Japanese folks to intuit an entire sentence of meaning.

        • fireweed@lemmy.world
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          1 month ago

          That’s a funny way to put it but pretty accurate. Like, you see a cat walk up to you and you exclaim かわいい! (= cute). You wouldn’t say “that cat is cute!” or “what a cute cat!” like you would in English. Because if you did say the word-for-word Japanese equivalent あの猫がかわいい it implies something like “that cat is cute, unlike all the other cats,” because why would you go through the trouble of saying all those words that were obvious from context unless you were trying to call out this cat specifically?

      • Kiosade@lemmy.ca
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        1 month ago

        I think about how some languages like Japanese are like this, and then I think about how stereotypical “caveman” grammar in English is kind of structured like those languages, and I get a little uncomfortable at the implications…

        • fireweed@lemmy.world
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          1 month ago

          Sure, but “fridge” is a sentence fragment, not a complete sentence. 行った (“went”) is a complete sentence. You don’t need a subject or an object in Japanese, whereas you need at least a subject in English (e.g. “He went”)

  • Ada@lemmy.blahaj.zone
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    1 month ago

    It’s made me aware of how much I appreciate reliable consistent pronunciation in Spanish (at least compared to English). And it’s given me a huge amount of sympathy for people who are learning English and trying to speak to native English speakers :)

    But I wouldn’t say it’s shown me how broken English is. I mean, I think it’s more broken than Spanish, but that could just be a comment on how much I still have to learn about Spanish :P

  • uienia@lemmy.world
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    1 month ago

    ITT: Loads of monolingual native English speakers who has no knowledge of linguistics or even how their own language is not unique in all the ways that they think it is.

    • GBU_28@lemm.ee
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      1 month ago

      Actual itt: “internet experts” clash with casual passing commenters

  • orcrist@lemm.ee
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    1 month ago

    This post kind of ignores basics of grammar instruction that we’ve known for centuries. Some people try to teach grammar from a prescriptive fashion. They tell us what the rules are, they have us memorize them, and then we can speak perfectly.

    The problem is, that’s not how language works in reality. Even if you had a perfect language to begin with, something with no exceptions of any kind, after 20 years people would have added their own changes. So then the original instruction that you gave, that wouldn’t prepare future language learners for reality.

    This is why we have to teach grammar and spelling descriptively. We’re talking about what actually happens in the world when people actually speak and write in English. Of course it’s nice to point out common customs and conventions, but we don’t get to ignore all of the irregular things just because they’re irritating to memorize.

    And this is true for all languages that are used by even a medium-sized population over time. You cannot avoid it, you’ll find it in every language, sorry.

  • Justas🇱🇹@sh.itjust.works
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    1 month ago

    All languages that are used are kinda broken, except the synthetic ones, like Esperanto.

    The amount of exceptions and weird rules in non-English languages I speak (Lithuanian and Swedish) and kinda know (Russian) proves it.

    • Liz@midwest.social
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      1 month ago

      Yeah, if humans use it long enough, any language becomes bastardized. Every generation comes up with new slang with only minor regard for the rules. Some of that slang becomes permanent.