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Old 07.11.2010, 05:48
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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:
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):
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
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