Go Back   English Forum Switzerland > Living in Switzerland > Swiss politics/news
Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #101  
Old 05.11.2015, 17:03
dodgyken's Avatar
Forum Legend
 
Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: Democratic Republic Kenistan
Posts: 9,783
Groaned at 340 Times in 276 Posts
Thanked 17,380 Times in 6,645 Posts
dodgyken has a reputation beyond reputedodgyken has a reputation beyond reputedodgyken has a reputation beyond reputedodgyken has a reputation beyond reputedodgyken has a reputation beyond reputedodgyken has a reputation beyond repute
Re: Switzerland falls behind in English skills...

Quote:
View Post
Yes, we got it signor Tom, you are the king of the unpopular opinions.

Anyway, I believe that adults have certain advantages over kids for learning a language. Sure, for very close to native proficiency, especially orally, it is much better to start quite young. But as adults, we have supposedly mastered another language (our mother tongue), understand better grammars and other rules, and have better learning skills. So we might speak less fluently and with an accent, but it is easier for adults to read books and understand complex sentence structures for example.
Oral skills are always better learned young
Reply With Quote
  #102  
Old 05.11.2015, 18:22
Forum Veteran
 
Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: Zürich
Posts: 736
Groaned at 8 Times in 7 Posts
Thanked 1,178 Times in 425 Posts
Trollemor has a reputation beyond reputeTrollemor has a reputation beyond reputeTrollemor has a reputation beyond reputeTrollemor has a reputation beyond reputeTrollemor has a reputation beyond repute
Re: Switzerland falls behind in English skills...

Quote:
View Post
My long experience in northern Europe, Scandinavia and Netherlands included, makes me much more careful with trying to find explanations for the level of English of a whole population. There are many factors, some of them contradictory, and it is difficult to really proof one's point. Lots of it is belief. Here are mine:

- The linguistic proximity plays a huge role; Scandinavian languages are very close to English to the point that even if a Dane speaks with English words and Danish grammar, it still sounds like good English. It's less the case with Dutch and even less with German, it is not at all with romance languages.

- The status of English in a given society is central; people learn English if they can get a direct benefit in the communities they interact in, so the more status one gets by speaking English, the more incentive there is to learn it good. There is little to no status to speak English in France, it's a far higher status in norther Europe where it is an expectation and a main criterium to define educated.

- The exposition to the language is in my eyes not as central but does help to put the two precedent points into practice. The Portuguese don't dub films either and their English is not bad but nowhere near northern European level. I'd say the film in English and media in general are a helping factor.

- How monolingual a country is culturally, economically and politically will also play a large role; multilingualism opens up the minds and people are more receptive to spend the huge amount of time needed to learn a language properly. The pressure to be excellent in German in Germany and in French in France is huge because people are judged socially and professionally based on language, and the expectations are far higher than in Scandinavian countries where excellent literary language is almost frown upon. It does set different priorities to people.
I completely agree with you. The grammar and syntax are very similar, which helps a lot when learning a new language. In addition, at least from what I've observed in Norway, Scandinavians travel a lot abroad and will have lots of occasions to speak English.

However, I would say that although many Norwegians (can only speak for them) speak a pretty fluent day-to-day English, they often lack the ability to express themselves formally, both orally and in written form. I recall my former CEO who had lived several years in Texas, his English was great...but I cringed on more than a few occasions when he spoke in public or when I proof-read the CEO's statement in the annual report. As the time I found it odd that while he spoke so much more fluently than my former (French) boss in Paris, the latter's formal languages skills were more robust. As you very precisely put it, formal language is not a priority in Norwegian schools (including in Norwegian, if I can be so bold as to say so). The fact that kids don't spend their early years learning grammar rules in their own language makes it very difficult for them to acquire those rules in other languages.

Now I haven't spoken English that much with Swiss people, but I would expect them to be a bit like my former French banking colleagues and have a pretty good written English and a solid grasp of grammar but a middle to mediocre command of the spoken language and slang. Basically the opposite of Norwegians. Am I very far from the reality of things?
Reply With Quote
  #103  
Old 05.11.2015, 18:31
Forum Legend
 
Join Date: Sep 2010
Location: Neuchatel
Posts: 19,355
Groaned at 368 Times in 275 Posts
Thanked 22,366 Times in 10,062 Posts
Odile has a reputation beyond reputeOdile has a reputation beyond reputeOdile has a reputation beyond reputeOdile has a reputation beyond reputeOdile has a reputation beyond reputeOdile has a reputation beyond repute
Re: Switzerland falls behind in English skills...

Quote:
View Post
I blame Americans who insist that plural nouns always take the singular verb. A recent one for you:

"Here comes the young"

Which thanks to the Americans is grammatically correct but sounds absolutely rubbish.
The English do also say 'the good newS is'
Reply With Quote
  #104  
Old 05.11.2015, 18:44
Forum Veteran
 
Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: Zürich
Posts: 736
Groaned at 8 Times in 7 Posts
Thanked 1,178 Times in 425 Posts
Trollemor has a reputation beyond reputeTrollemor has a reputation beyond reputeTrollemor has a reputation beyond reputeTrollemor has a reputation beyond reputeTrollemor has a reputation beyond repute
Re: Switzerland falls behind in English skills...

Quote:
View Post
Yes, we got it signor Tom, you are the king of the unpopular opinions.

Anyway, I believe that adults have certain advantages over kids for learning a language. Sure, for very close to native proficiency, especially orally, it is much better to start quite young. But as adults, we have supposedly mastered another language (our mother tongue), understand better grammars and other rules, and have better learning skills. So we might speak less fluently and with an accent, but it is easier for adults to read books and understand complex sentence structures for example.
I agree with you 100%. I think that in many cases the issues with adults learning languages is that 1) we worry too much about sounding silly; 2) we have too few "natural" situations to practice the language (by practice I mean speaking and hearing); 3) we focus too much about the wrong things. My Norwegian is good enough that people from outside Bergen think I'm from there. People from Bergen generally think I'm from the countryside around Bergen (which is where I learned Norwegian, incidentally). I learned the language when I was 18 years old, far older than the magic limit to achieve fluency lots of people believe. How I learned it? 1) Lots of beer drinking helped not caring about sounding silly. 2) Getting a Norwegian boyfriend and spending most of my waking hours with him helped getting lots of practicing done. 3) Focus on production (getting things said!) instead of stressing about grammar and perfect pronunciation...got me to excellent grammar and native dialect. Having French as my first language and English as my second helped me when learning how to write.

Kids usually have no problems because they have no barriers. They just produce and produce and produce and eventually they get it right. That's actually how they learn to speak in the frist place.

I know exactly where I struggle to learn German. I'm not afraid of sounding silly, I try to watch television and read every day and I focus on production, but I have very few occasions to speak German. My 6-year old doesn't have that problem obviously, since he goes to school. On the other hand, his grammar isn't as correct as mine since he has as of yet no conscious grasp of the concept of grammar. Hence, is pronunciation is great, his syntax...not so great. Yet.
Reply With Quote
Reply




Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)
 
Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Communicate better in English - Business English & communication skills training shanenorton Commercial 1 08.04.2013 11:13
Russian Language Skills In Switzerland sunnysan Employment 12 14.09.2007 16:18


All times are GMT +2. The time now is 11:35.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.4
Copyright ©2000 - 2016, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
LinkBacks Enabled by vBSEO 3.1.0