Instead, they married local women and switched to English. There was no such thing as school, and no media. Learning a new language meant listening hard and trying your best. We can only imagine what kind of German most of us would speak if this was how we had to learn it, never seeing it written down, and with a great deal more on our plates butchering animals, people and so on than just working on our accents. As long as the invaders got their meaning across, that was fine. But you can do that with a highly approximate rendition of a language — the legibility of the Frisian sentence you just read proves as much.
So the Scandinavians did pretty much what we would expect: they spoke bad Old English.
Their kids heard as much of that as they did real Old English. Life went on, and pretty soon their bad Old English was real English, and here we are today: the Scandies made English easier. I should make a qualification here. Likewise, some languages plainly jangle with more bells and whistles than others. If someone were told he had a year to get as good at either Russian or Hebrew as possible, and would lose a fingernail for every mistake he made during a three-minute test of his competence, only the masochist would choose Russian — unless he already happened to speak a language related to it.
Here and in other ways, they smoothed out the hard stuff. They also followed the lead of the Celts, rendering the language in whatever way seemed most natural to them. But the words were just the beginning. They also left their mark on English grammar. Blissfully, it is becoming rare to be taught that it is wrong to say Which town do you come from? Every now and then a language turns out to allow this: one indigenous one in Mexico, another one in Liberia. We can display all these bizarre Norse influences in a single sentence.
All that strangeness is because of what Scandinavian Vikings did to good old English back in the day. After the Norse came the French. The Normans — descended from the same Vikings, as it happens — conquered England, ruled for several centuries and, before long, English had picked up 10, new words. Then, starting in the 16th century, educated Anglophones developed a sense of English as a vehicle of sophisticated writing, and so it became fashionable to cherry-pick words from Latin to lend the language a more elevated tone.
Think of how French pedants today turn up their noses at the flood of English words into their language. But language tends not to do what we want it to.
The die was cast: English had thousands of new words competing with native English words for the same things. One result was triplets allowing us to express ideas with varying degrees of formality. Help is English, aid is French, assist is Latin.
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Or, kingly is English, royal is French, regal is Latin — note how one imagines posture improving with each level: kingly sounds almost mocking, regal is straight-backed like a throne, royal is somewhere in the middle, a worthy but fallible monarch. Especially noteworthy here are the culinary transformations: we kill a cow or a pig English to yield beef or pork French.
Well, generally in Norman England, English-speaking labourers did the slaughtering for moneyed French speakers at table. Caveat lector , though: traditional accounts of English tend to oversell what these imported levels of formality in our vocabulary really mean. It is sometimes said that they alone make the vocabulary of English uniquely rich, which is what Robert McCrum, William Cran and Robert MacNeil claim in the classic The Story of English : that the first load of Latin words actually lent Old English speakers the ability to express abstract thought.
But no one has ever quantified richness or abstractness in that sense who are the people of any level of development who evidence no abstract thought, or even no ability to express it?
Languages, like human cognition, are too nuanced, even messy, to be so elementary. Even unwritten languages have formal registers.
Even in English, native roots do more than we always recognise. Mi chiamo Heather, e tu? I'm sorry your friend was so harsh with you. All of my friends get super excited when I try to say things in their native languages. Unfortunately if you don't use it, you lose it. Through the years I've realized that Duolingo cannot be the sole resource but it is a decent start. I question though the lesson order as being able to greet people seems a higher priority than knowing that "tu oso bebe cerveza" o "il tuo orso beve birra".
Ibrahim Jul 16 :. I'm coming really late to this party.
I recently signed up for Duolingo. To me, it's just another tool to add so that I can iterate the language. I don't expect Duolingo, or any program or even a class or a teacher to bring me to even semi-functional fluency. Aka - the fluency of a toddler who wants something. Maybe I'm missing the point.
Sure, Duolingo touts gamification. But is it really a game? Isn't it just a bunch of test questions But it's just a bunch of test questions. And testing is one way to practice and learn. It may not work for other people. I do find value in the forum. There, I find other people who had the same question I had. Other times, I kick myself because I should have considered gender when describing something.
For a native English speaker, it's difficult to suddenly start thinking in gendered terms. A table is a table. Why would some pervert look at that table and think We don't mock little kids who make mistakes. We are gentle with them. I wish your friend was similarly gentle with you.
You were comprehensible. And that is the function of any human language, communication. It doesn't really matter how badly you communicate. You aren't a diplomat or a negotiator. The goal of language is so that you can communicate and that the other person can understand your intent. Grammar will slowly leach into the brain with more practice. Same for vocabulary as you imbibe media and interact with others.
At some point, a person will "feel" that something sounds "righter" than another phrase. It reflects a lack of mastery of their native language if they cannot understand what you said.
If I said "je amo agua".. Hand gestures, mimicry, facial expressions all play a part in human communication. Sorry for that paragraph of me ranting. I get so tired of hearing native speakers babble about how they can't understand somebody.
I can understand the broken English of numerous immigrants. I've never had a problem with a foreign call center representative. I can understand the various dialects and the local vocabulary in other regions of my country. That's because I'm a native speaker. If a pig could learn a bit of english, I should be able to understand said pig. A native speaker is stupid if they cannot understand even the badly accented broken fragments of their language. There is a reason we generally start off with a "Hello World" lesson in the beginning.
It's the universal opening. It's the phrases and the actions that you will always be doing. It's why the first programming lesson is "Hello World".
Leave a Reply Cancel reply Your email address will not be published. Their kids heard as much of that as they did real Old English. As long as the invaders got their meaning across, that was fine. We spoke about religion, where he told me that it cost nothing to ask God for what you want. I can think a lot in Spanish. If you opened you eyes and looked more clearly, there is a lamp icon on every lesson which you should check before learning the lesson, in which you will learn the grammar that the lesson is using and they make a really good job of teaching you that grammar, btw.
After that, we start defining words, creating relationships, describing actions and so on. But the first thing we learn is.. It's called foreplay and you don't get to first base without foreplay. We don't ask for the military codes to the nuclear weapons on the first date. Possibly that doesn't occur even after 20 dates.
Thanks for your input jh. Few people read the whole article before jumping to the comments, though I'm glad for those who did.