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-   -   When can you say you speak a language? (https://www.englishforum.ch/language-corner/98695-when-can-you-say-you-speak-language.html)

RetiredInNH 07.11.2010 05:48

When can you say you speak a language?
 
I rarely read the Johnson blog (about language, after the learned doctor) in The Economist, but today was a slow day ...

I read a post asking When can you say you speak a language? which started an interesting discussion, with very many definitions, some fascinating.

I only read the first page of comments, really liked this one:
Quote:

And for bonus points, if you can speak to a person in their native language and they actually respond in their language, and don't immediately switch to English. This one can be very frustrating to a language learner, depending on the situation.
OK, let me add a comment that made me think of a member of our community (he actually, as I recall, made that point in a thread long ago):
Quote:

In most countries these days, mastery occurs when you realize that whatever it was that you said, you can simply repeat it in English, only a little more loudly in order to assist comprehension by linguistically ignorant natives. World War I Australian diggers would ask "Ooay the bwardable ong?" when asking directions to assist assignations with Les dames du Bois de Boulogne. "Bwardable ong" is rather wonderful said loudly, and the damned froggies generally catch on.
For even more bonus points: How did we manage to waste our time pre WWW :confused:

kslausanne 07.11.2010 08:27

Re: When can you say you speak a language?
 
I won't claim to be proficient in French until I can retain my fluency in states of high emotion, use puns, construct a convincing argument and make an interesting presentation. But I'm still working on those skills in English...

Chemmie 07.11.2010 08:49

Re: When can you say you speak a language?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by kslausanne (Post 1004517)
......in states of high emotion, use puns, construct a convincing argument and make an interesting presentation....


does this mean it is impossible by definition to be able to speak swiss-german :D

J.L-P 07.11.2010 08:52

Re: When can you say you speak a language?
 
When you are under the effects of anesthesia and can respond in the language you are addressed in is a good sign of fluency. (at least to me)

kslausanne 07.11.2010 09:06

Re: When can you say you speak a language?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Chemmie (Post 1004530)
does this mean it is impossible by definition to be able to speak swiss-german :D

I was wondering that as I was writing, but I imagine it would be difficult unless you really studied with some funny Swiss German friends. I learn French language humour by watching and reading comedy and by making jokes and seeing what works. I need to laugh, so it's a priority for me :D

MrVertigo 07.11.2010 09:21

Re: When can you say you speak a language?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by kslausanne (Post 1004517)
I won't claim to be proficient in French until I can retain my fluency in states of high emotion, use puns, construct a convincing argument and make an interesting presentation. But I'm still working on those skills in English...

totally agree on that.
In french a good test is if you understand the puns of the late Raymond Devos then you are definitely proficient.

Guest 07.11.2010 09:23

Re: When can you say you speak a language?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by J.L-P (Post 1004532)
When you are under the effects of anesthesia and can respond in the language you are addressed in is a good sign of fluency. (at least to me)

Similarly when you've taken a dive down a flight of stairs at the main railway station and someone picks you up and dusts you down in German. You respond in the same language despite the bump on your head and throbbing ankle and bruised ego AND correct your own grammar slip-up without pausing for breath.

Chemmie 07.11.2010 09:24

Re: When can you say you speak a language?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by kslausanne (Post 1004539)
......studied with some funny Swiss German friends. :D


:D
Have tried this, but I still find humour lacking----a swiss telling me a joke is like telling a joke to a dog. I'm excited and want to laugh---but punch line never has any effect. Then it gets explained to me, yes I understood it, but perhaps I would have found that slightly funny if I was 4 and you were my crazy uncle.

Although---a swiss faking an eastern European/Asian german accent, or even faking German accent does get me laughing...but perhaps I just enjoy lower-brow humour :)

Faltrad 07.11.2010 16:26

Re: When can you say you speak a language?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by J.L-P (Post 1004532)
When you are under the effects of anesthesia and can respond in the language you are addressed in is a good sign of fluency. (at least to me)

Are you suggesting one should be high when taking language tests in order to have real result?
Just asking... :D

MusicChick 07.11.2010 17:11

Re: When can you say you speak a language?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by kslausanne (Post 1004517)
I won't claim to be proficient in French until I can retain my fluency in states of high emotion, use puns, construct a convincing argument and make an interesting presentation. But I'm still working on those skills in English...

Yeah, I agree. But what if one actually primarily learned brit Eng and then Yank and in different state of emotions keeps switching from one another, without her willpower being in any way employed? Does that count as fluent? What is fluency, anyways...within varieties, accents, etc.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Chemmie (Post 1004549)
:D
Have tried this, but I still find humour lacking----a swiss telling me a joke is like telling a joke to a dog. I'm excited and want to laugh---but punch line never has any effect. Then it gets explained to me, yes I understood it, but perhaps I would have found that slightly funny if I was 4 and you were my crazy uncle.

What kills it is the fact the jokes are announced...We just talked about pranks today, etc. Now, can you imagine announcing a prank? I appreciate humor, but not when it is announced or incredibly...overexplained. Which is often the case here. I do like low brow, though, or outright dumb, the best. I am glad there aren't many dumb blond jokes here, not that many blonds around to tease, I guess. But people constantly rippin on how stupid girls/foreigners/not fluent people are...gets old.


Quote:

Although---a swiss faking an eastern European..
Grrrrr....

SteK 07.11.2010 18:42

Re: When can you say you speak a language?
 
When you think in it.....

Camupa 07.11.2010 18:53

Re: When can you say you speak a language?
 
When you dream in it...

kslausanne 07.11.2010 19:32

Re: When can you say you speak a language?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Camupa (Post 1005057)
When you dream in it...

I dream in French all the time, and even better I understand most of it now! :D

I realised I knew French pretty well when I started having to change seats on the train because of the inane conversation that I couldn't help following. (No, I do not feel the need to walk around to my own personal soundtrack to the B-movie that is my life blaring in my ears, so I actually hear people around me.)

Ahhh, I miss those days when everyone's babbling was incomprehensible and I could imagine that being in 'Europe, where culture has been flourishing for so many centuries,' people were having very interesting, insightful conversations and maybe, just maybe I would be able to understand one day and benefit from the ancient wisdom being shared all around me...

FrankZappa 07.11.2010 19:38

Re: When can you say you speak a language?
 
One good sign is when you use the language correctly in ways that you've never conciously learned.

I couldn't explain how to use the subjunctive properly in french, but I'm pretty sure that I use it right most of the time. That's probably because I can only learn languages by listening and speaking. Lessons and books are too much of a pain for me. Alll honour to those who can!

kslausanne 07.11.2010 19:39

Re: When can you say you speak a language?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by MusicChick (Post 1004958)
Yeah, I agree. But what if one actually primarily learned brit Eng and then Yank and in different state of emotions keeps switching from one another, without her willpower being in any way employed?

Dear MC, I'm very puzzled... does that mean you mix up NAE and BrE swearwords or something? Actually I could see how an American might be confused if you use BrE vocabulary, I keep forgetting they're not totally confused like us Canadians who don't know what we speak or how to spell...

Yeah, they even had to get their own version of Antiques Roadshow for heaven's sake! :eek:

Or does your accent change? :D

Sky 07.11.2010 19:46

Re: When can you say you speak a language?
 
When you dream as said above, and when you automatically count in that language.
People only count in their native tongue or when they are really bilingual

kslausanne 07.11.2010 19:55

Re: When can you say you speak a language?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Sky (Post 1005106)
When you dream as said above, and when you automatically count in that language.
People only count in their native tongue or when they are really bilingual

Maybe I don't know French that well after all, because while counting is okay and in fact I have to think about what my phone number is in English, left and right still cause me problems (although it's the same in English). I was getting an eye test yesterday and the doctor was saying gauche, droite and that was already a challenge, but when he said 'tout droit' I looked right again, but really hard :D, a split second later I remembered that means straight ahead!!! :o

MusicChick 07.11.2010 20:01

Re: When can you say you speak a language?
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by kslausanne (Post 1005100)
Dear MC, I'm very puzzled... does that mean you mix up NAE and BrE swearwords or something? Actually I could see how an American might be confused if you use BrE vocabulary, I keep forgetting they're not totally confused like us Canadians who don't know what we speak or how to spell...

Yeah, they even had to get their own version of Antiques Roadshow for heaven's sake! :eek:

Or does your accent change? :D

Actually, it's more accent, intonation, ocassional words...Lancashire and Cockney are hard to shake, haha. If I have no control, it's pretty much BrE, otherwise NAE. The actual swear words of each are inserted for my own enjoyment, with the ocassional abuuuuuuut and eh, to make myself laugh.

Now when there is a real need to swear, it's kurvadrat or jezisimarja.

Mud 07.11.2010 20:08

Re: When can you say you speak a language?
 
I considered myself fluent once I could tell and/or understand subtle jokes, and dish out and receive (and understand) insults. This is in French- insults seem to be a bit of an art form, at least in the crowd I regularly encounter.

Also, when I could deal with stressful situations without hesitating or searching for words, and could switch readily between the bizarre French approach to numbers and the logical Swiss approach.

Perhaps the real moment was, as someone who works alone, I found myself discussing problems in my head (or out loud) in French automatically- and when I noticed, couldn't easily translate that into English. It is normal to talk to oneself, right? Right?! Oui Mud, oui!

princessduck 07.11.2010 20:12

Re: When can you say you speak a language?
 
When I will be able to speak with German speaking people without asking them ''sorry??'' or ''Ich verstehe nicht''...just for simple,easy conversations...:D


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