I am a woman born 1949 and my quest is to find a mindmate
to grow old together as a mutually devoted couple
in a relationship based upon the
egalitarian rational commitment paradigm
bonded by intrinsic commitment
as each other's safe haven and secure basis.

The purpose of this blog is to enable the right man
to recognize us as reciprocal mindmates and
to encourage him to contact me:

The entries directly concerning,
who could be my mindmate,
are mainly at the beginning.
If this is your predominant interest,
I suggest to read this blog in the same order
as it was written, following the numbers.

I am German, therefore my English is sometimes faulty.

Maybe you have stumbled upon this blog not as a potential match.
Please wait a short moment before zapping.

Do you know anybody, who could be my mindmate?
Your neighbour, brother, uncle, cousin, colleague, friend?
If so, please tell him to look at this blog.
While you have no reason to do this for me,
a stranger, maybe you can make someone happy, for whom you care.

Do you have your own webpage or blog,
which someone like my mindmate to be found probably reads?
If so, please mention my quest and add a link to this blog.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

32. A Polyglot Mind

A Polyglot Mind

English is the lingua franca world wide, therefore many native speakers never had any reason to learn a second language.   Without this experience, it is sometimes difficult to be aware of the traps in communicating with a person, for whom English is only a second language.  

Therefore, I am going to share some of my experiences from becoming polyglot.   I spoke only German, until I started to learn languages at school, and I learned a lot later while travelling.  

1.  My knowledge of the meaning of words is sometimes fuzzy, inexact, missing subtlety.  (What I say about words, mostly is also valid for expressions.) I have learned many words by guessing their meaning out of the context, which started with a rough idea and got better with every time seeing it in a different context.   But this is still not the exact meaning, that it has for a native speaker.   
Also, using a dictionary is misleading.   Looking up a word and finding a corresponding word in English misleads me think, that it would be an exact translation, while it really is not, but has different connotations in the two languages.
This leads to misunderstandings, when I use words, that do not exactly mean, what I think that they would mean.

2.  Words in the native language have a felt magnitudes and sometimes inhibitions as a result.    The corresponding word in English is just a chain of letters or sounds.   
I have grown into strong inhibitions to use vulgar language in German.   I would recoil from using the German word for a**hole, while not using the English word is a conscious decision by knowing it being inappropriate, but not by feeling inhibitions. 
Whenever I want to put emphasis on something in English, I am using the strongest word, that I can think of, because no word ever feels strong enough, therefore I am probably sometimes appearing to exaggerate without knowing it.  

3.  Each language is a separate, independent module in my brain.   Once the switch is set on one language, I start to think in that language, and I automatically speak it and react to it.   Speaking automatically comes easy, as long as there is the reciprocity of a dialogue in the same language. 
Translating is difficult, interpreting directly between two languages is even more difficult for me.  Switching between languages is easy, when I switch between talking with one person in one language and another person in another language.    But it is difficult to reply in a different language to the one in which I am spoken to.  When someone wants to learn German and expects me to talk German to him, while either not being able to reply or replying in some gibberish, is a very difficult task for me.   I react much more automatically to a native or very proficient speaker than to someone, who only speaks it in a broken way. 

4.  Every word that I know in any language has two forms.   The word as it sounds and is written in the particular language and a pre-verbal or non-verbal representation of its meaning, something like a thought-module.    The sounds and spelling are stored in the module of the specific language, but all the thought-modules of all the languages are stored in one big list.   When I say something, it is first assembled from that list, and then transferred into words in the language, that is switched on at that moment.    
Sometimes this is frustrating, as I want to convert a thought module, but the used language does not provide a word for it.  

5.  Here is a list of tips for anybody, who wants to learn a language.    As my own experience is limited to European languages, I cannot judge, how different it is to learn more exotic languages.

- Familiarise yourself first with the rules connecting written and spoken language, including learning the letters, if it is not Latin.    You need to be capable to pronounce a word from the dictionary well enough to be understood and to find words in the dictionary.  

- Focus on learning to understand first, before you attempt to express your own more complex thoughts.  

- If you are in the country, then start with learning the most basic vocabulary and polite phrases.   One introductionary course is also beneficial, but learning along your own interest helps more than doing dull exercises.   The methods of teaching languages at school are not always very motivating to kids.   

- Avoid to take English sentences and translate them word by word into the foreign language, this creates gibberish, that is unpleasant for the listeners.  If you create the gibberish often enough that it starts to sound correct to yourself, you will learn mistakes that you may be stuck with.    If you translate one word from English into the foreign language, then make a pause to think, before you utter the next word, you tire people.  
Wait, until you can say simple sentences without pauses, before you attempt to talk.   If what you utter is above a minimum level of sounding correct, then people are more motivated to help you improve.    

- Never ever use a translator program from English into the foreign language.   It is gibberish, that you better never even read once.    When you use a translator from the foreign language into English, you will see my point.

- A language does not sound right, when you only know the correct words and use the correct grammatical rules.    There are expressions to complete it.   You need to develop an intuitive feeling for what sounds right by sentences and expressions, not word by word.  

- Expose yourself to written and spoken language, even though you do not understand all of it.   Listen to songs and watch movies in the language with subtitles.   Repeat correct phrases, read out loud correct text, do everything to get a feeling for the language.  

Get bilingual books or books that were written in the foreign language and an English translation.   Read the book first in English, so you know the story, and then read the original.    Listen to human read ebooks instead or in addition to the printed book.

- Do not even try to learn lists of vocabulary by rote, if you do not have a kind of memory to do this easily.    Not remembering, what you wanted to remember, causes frustration.    When you see a word the first time and look it up, you might forget the meaning, but the next time, you recognize the word, and after looking it up a few more times, or guessing it from the context, at some point you will remember its meaning.    And when you have read and heard the word often enough, it will occur to you some day to use it yourself.