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How to learn english?

moby khan
Greenhorn

Joined: Jul 13, 2004
Posts: 5
What's the best way to learn english as a foreign language. We asians face a great difficulty in converting our ideas in english. I come out to the conclusion that the idea can be best described in one's native language.

what's your opinion?
Warren Dew
blacksmith
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 04, 2004
Posts: 1332
    
    2
If you really want to learn English well, you'll need to learn to think in English. I've seen many nonnative English speakers who are greatly handicapped by being in the habit of formulating their thoughts in their native language, then having to try to translate them to English, despite otherwise good English grammar, pronunciation, and vocabulary.

For Chinese speakers, one thing to focus on is properly using prepositions and gender, as these don't exist in Chinese. My mother, who is Chinese, often uses "she" when referring to someone male, which is very confusing and even irritating to a native English speaker ("what the heck do you mean "she", there aren't any other females in the room other than you!"). Not sure whether that applies to other Asian languages.
Dmitry Melnik
Ranch Hand

Joined: Dec 18, 2003
Posts: 328
What's the best way to learn english as a foreign language.

I am not sure if there is "the best way", which is same for everyone.

It depends on ones language background (how many languages do I know? am I good at learning languages?), social habits (do I have many friends? do I enjoy talking to people? or I'd rather sit at my computer and talk to no one?), preferred learning style (do I learn better if I study by myself? or if I am instructed? do I prefer oral explanations and lectures? or reading books, pictures and diagrams? or doing excercises works the best for me?)

We asians face a great difficulty in converting our ideas in english.

It's a matter of practice. After a certain number of failed attempts and butt-hours spent practicing one will find present difficulties going away.

And I will need a feedback about how good-bad I communicate my ideas. I need to be informed if the audience understands my idea, and how well. I ask them how they understood it periodically, especially when they look confused . I notice the words and idioms they use to describe my idea, their words may differ from the words and phrases that I use. I pick those words up, and use them in my further explanation. If they understand me wrong -- I put the idea in other words, re-phrase, etc. until we get
closer understanding.

You have done all that already, haven't you? You know what the hardest for you to do is, don't you? That's the thing which need more practicing first

I come out to the conclusion that the idea can be best described in one's native language.

...and it does not do you any good when you need to communicate the idea to the people who do not know your native language, does it? So, my main goal would be to express the idea in a way it could be understood by the audience, rather than to describe it best.
P. Sagdeo
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 13, 2003
Posts: 67
I would suggest that you actually try to think in English, at least from what you already know, and say things based on that, rather than having to translate, since that is much more inefficient. In bigger sentences, you will probably need to translate it in your head first, but in the less complex things, just try doing your whole thought process in your head in the foreign language. I'm taking French class in high school, so when I have dreams in French, I know that will be a very good sign, as it means that I can think directly in that language, and thus formulate my ideas in a logical way. Rather than thinking "My means mon, since Name is nom is masculine, then I can say "Mon nom est Parth". It would be much easier to think of it like I would in English, without having to even have a thought about another language. For example, in many North Indian languages, the verb is said at the end of the phrase. To think of the sentence in, say, Hindi, and then translate it directly leads to an inaccurate or gramatically incorrect translation. However, again, once you can think in the language directly, you know that you have mastered the foundation of the language, and you can learn the language very quickly. Try learning 75 words in your native language in 45 minutes (easy), and try doing that in a language which you are learning(hard). Huge difference in difficulty.
[ July 14, 2004: Message edited by: P. Sagdeo ]
moby khan
Greenhorn

Joined: Jul 13, 2004
Posts: 5
If I summarize the whole conversation, then the bottom line will appear is

"If you want to master any language, you need to think in that language"

This bottom line would start another topic that If a person thinks in a foreign language instead of its own native language then the ideas, personality and may be his/her faith would also change. This is the reason why so many from us start thinking in a rationale way about themselves or about their beliefs when they think in a another language like English.
Because thinking in another language provides the platform to compare.

I would suggest the western world should apply this idea and learn any eastern language(eastern world already apply this idea, and they already gain benefits, look at the Indian Software Industry ) this would bridge the divide between east and west which is at present much larger then ever before.
Tim Holloway
Saloon Keeper

Joined: Jun 25, 2001
Posts: 15950
    
  19

There is, alas, no substitute for practice. Even if there was, to reach the highest level of fluency, you have to actually be involved with a language on a daily basis. I had that really hit home when I decided I'd worn out my 20-year old Langenscheidt's dictionary and bought a new one - not just the technical and slang parts of language change over time!

It's always good to meet people halfway. A language reflect people's, er, Weltanschauungen. If there's no easy way to say something in a language, it means that people aren't used to saying it, because eventually find a way to say it fluently. Conversely, they may have certain things that are important to them, and their language reflect it (as I've just demonstrated).

George Orwell made the converse concept (which I believe has a formal name) a core part of his novel "1984", where NewSpeak was a language designed to limit people's ability to think "improper" thoughts. Which is also a driving factor of Political-CorrectSpeak. Nice idea, but it doesn't fly and only a disadvantaged mentally-challenged descendent of, well, never mind...

Language may shape thinking, but on the whole, it's thinking that shapes language. Which is how over the centuries, the word "nice" has ranged from high complement to deadly insult and back. Sometimes how you say it is much more important than what you say.

Languages - both computer and human - are fascinating to me. Each brings a unique insight. However, it's been long known that the worst in human conflict tends to occur not between peoples that don't understand each other, but those who are intimately familiar with each other and simply prefer to misunderstand.


Customer surveys are for companies who didn't pay proper attention to begin with.
Mapraputa Is
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Sheriff

Joined: Aug 26, 2000
Posts: 10065
This bottom line would start another topic that If a person thinks in a foreign language instead of its own native language then the ideas, personality and may be his/her faith would also change.

That's true. Here is a post on this topic, and the comments are also interesting.

"You’re never entirely the same person in any two languages."
Going native

"If you want to master any language, you need to think in that language"

It can be hard to achieve in you live in another country. Not impossible, but you need a lot of exposure to the language you learn. I once asked in translators forum people how people who live in Russia but work with English eight (if not more) hours a day think, do they think in English? The answer was "yes", 50% in Russian and 50% in English. This makes communication with people who don't speak English difficult, because you have to translate a half of your inner speech.


Uncontrolled vocabularies
"I try my best to make *all* my posts nice, even when I feel upset" -- Philippe Maquet
Sadanand Murthy
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 26, 2003
Posts: 382
Originally posted by moby khan:
If a person thinks in a foreign language instead of its own native language then the ideas, personality and may be his/her faith would also change.

Why would thinking in a different language change your ideas or personality or faith? The actual process of thinking does not make up your ideas, personality &/or faith. These come from within which happen to be beyond the actual process of thinking.


Ever Existing, Ever Conscious, Ever-new Bliss
Jeroen Wenting
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 12, 2000
Posts: 5093
Originally posted by Sadanand Murthy:

Why would thinking in a different language change your ideas or personality or faith? The actual process of thinking does not make up your ideas, personality &/or faith. These come from within which happen to be beyond the actual process of thinking.


Language changes people as much as people change languages.

Good examples are for example the (fictional but well researched) Klingon and (Tolkien's) Elfish languages.
The nature of these languages causes them to lend themselves better to the expression of some thoughts than to others, therefore shaping the minds of those who think in them to consider those thoughts more appropriate (they can flow more freely).
The same is true of "real" languages (but mind what you call real, there are sizable groups of people who are proficient in Klingon or Elfish and can speak them as well as any foreign language they may know, this makes them real).
There are dictionaries and grammar books published about Klingon for example, I've a Klingon language course somewhere I picked up as a curiosity.
There's websites, mailorder language courses, etc. just like for most other languages. http://www.klingon.org/resources/language.html for more information.


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