Polyglot survey

Discussion in 'Languages' started by RPEphesian, Aug 5, 2017.

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  1. RPEphesian

    RPEphesian Puritan Board Junior

    I'd be interested to know what other languages those on PB know outside of English.

    Two questions:

    What other languages do you know besides English?

    What circumstances brought you to study those languages?

    In choosing another language to learn, what's going to be your criteria for choice?

    I'll start.

    Spanish - I chose this language because of its widespread use in the United States. I maintain it because I live in Texas, where it is the second most populous language by far, and half of those at my church are native Spanish speakers.
    Greek - I took up this language because I want to increase the accuracy of my understanding of the Word of God.
    Hebrew - I've taken this up a few months ago for the same reason.

    A few languages I am giving thought to learning:
    Latin - Opens up more Puritan and Reformed writings, and would give me a good start in learning other European languages.
    German - My family history on my dad's side is German. 1 out of every 10 books in the world is printed in German, and it would open up a world of academic materials as well.
    Chinese (Mandarin) - 1.1 billion speakers in the world is reason enough, with access to a world, history, and a worldview which seems to have long been disconnected from the American world.
  2. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    I think the survey will report falsely high. Many will count Greek and/or Hebrew when they are not actually conversant in it without aids. And can you really know it if you never speak it or hear it and only read it (slowly dissecting it sentence by sentence)?
  3. Justified

    Justified Puritan Board Sophomore

    This. The way that ancient languages are taught is a joke. Many seminarians can only read by parsing every verb and decoding it into their mother tongue, which isn't reading at all.
  4. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    English and Southern :)

    I studied French, Spanish, and German and on that basis can figure out phrases in many European languages, but in reality could only use a few courtesy exchanges if plopped into a foreign country.
  5. ZackF

    ZackF Puritan Board Graduate

    That's a strong criticism. There are probably ancient language teachers on this board. Would you elaborate a bit?
  6. ZackF

    ZackF Puritan Board Graduate

    It would be dishonest to say that I know Spanish. I can function in a one on one environment on the basics where I can control the pace. We plan on starting our six-year old daughter in conversational Spanish soon at a local language center. I'll be taking the adult track to get me to a useful level.
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2017
  7. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate

    In fairness, is it really possible to teach people to speak a language that hasn't been spoken in thousands of years? (Modern Hebrew is not the same as ancient Hebrew). Also, the goal in teaching ancient languages to seminarians is to enable the students to be merely proficient and not fluent. Such an aim would require much more study than a typical MDiv will allow.
  8. JTB.SDG

    JTB.SDG Puritan Board Sophomore

    Bengali (Bangla). Need it for our work in Bangladesh.
  9. Justified

    Justified Puritan Board Sophomore

    It actually is and people in fact do this. I speak regularly in Latin with an Italian (though now a citizen in the United States) who more or less speaks fluent Latin and can read most Latin texts as you or I read an English text. Ancient Greek for some time has been a little behind the curve but has been making progress. There are places like the Biblical Language Center, headed by Randal Buth, who support active use of the Biblical languages. You can search for countless testimonies of people, including Randal Buth, who have learned Modern Hebrew and then learned Biblical Hebrew and have much better reading comprehension.

    Most approaches to ancient languages at the seminary and university level center around grammar-translation methods. Typically, this involves memorizing large swaths of grammar rules and paradigms-- and comparatively little reading. In fact, in some cases, no reading at all, but instead translation, which isn't reading. If you're in a German course and your instructor asks you to read German, they are not asking you to translate but to read. I could go on if need be, but suffice it to say, that classical languages in many seminaries are way behind the pedagogical curve; they refuse to recognize the research that has gone into language acquisition, which all other modern languages apply. In conclusion, grammar-translation produces many great philologists, but few readers of the ancient languages.

    N.B. Imagine being taught a year of English grammar and then being thrown into, say, Milton. That's how many classics departments approach the language.
  10. kainos01

    kainos01 Puritan Board Senior

    I am grateful that, as a Classics major, my primary Greek professor did not follow this technique. Quite the opposite, in fact. After teaching us the correct pronunciation of the Greek alphabet, he challenged us considerably from that day onward (it was a summer course, 3 hours per day - and held around his dining room table rather than in a classroom). He handed each of us a Loeb Classical edition of Isocrates. He told us to begin reading - aloud - a paragraph each. We took turns grotesquely butchering the language, as he would gently correct and guide us through the text. We then moved on to Lysias, Herodotus, and Thucydides, Euripides and Sophocles, Homer, Lucian, and others (including John and the author of Hebrews). It is not a language that I "speak," per se, for there is no occasion for it; however, I do "read" it (and without "decoding").

    To my horror initially, but ultimately to my delight, this same professor also taught my first two Latin courses - in the same way (and in the same year!). As a result (after more than 30 semester hours in each language), I am quite comfortable reading either (in addition to French and German; Hebrew, not so much).
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2017
  11. Edward

    Edward Puritanboard Commissioner

    None of the above.
  12. Parmenas

    Parmenas Puritan Board Freshman

    I voted "1" mistakenly; I thought the question was, "How many languages do you know?", but I realized my error upon closer inspection.

    I know Spanish to a very limited degree; I am comparable to a baby or young child in it. I have taken two years of Spanish and will take my third this school year.

    I plan to study Latin soon, and after I come to a decent understanding of Latin I will begin to study Biblical Greek.
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2017
  13. jomawh

    jomawh Puritan Board Freshman

    I'm something of an amateur Linguistics nerd. In terms of fluency I'm only willing to count English, but I am at least conversant in Dutch, Mandarin Chinese, French, Norwegian, and Modern Hebrew (there was time when I could read a Hebrew newspaper without having to use a dictionary). I also have some working knowledge of Anglo-Saxon, Irish, Spanish, Afrikaans, Russian, and Tamil.

    My current project is German.
  14. RPEphesian

    RPEphesian Puritan Board Junior

    I find the replies all interesting in light of a book that I recently read on developing fluency quickly. Some things in it I cannot recommend, but one thing the author said you should not do is translate. When you translate (as I understand it), you start thinking of the language in terms of your language, and you lose the mindset of the original speaker. With a language comes a culture and a worldview, and you can't possibly separate them, and your job when learning a language is to not only get down the grammar rules and vocabulary, but they way they see things as well. Fluency in the language is just one part of understanding a culture.

    I can't imagine it's any less true for learning the Biblical languages.

    Mason, you and I are going to have to exchange some on learning languages! If anything in the world is my hobby, this is it! However, I'll probably learn more from you than you will at me at this point. I don't know that many languages, but my wish list is about that long.

    And I just noticed that you attend Mike Waters' church. I almost moved to Canton in 2012 because of the church there. Please give him my greetings tomorrow! I am also a fellow student at CBTS :)
  15. jomawh

    jomawh Puritan Board Freshman

    Languages are just fun, Brother. Living and working in the greater Cleveland area I run into people from Russia, Israel, Serbia, and Hungary on a daily basis- just being able to embarrass myself with a smile and a "Hey, nice weather, right?" in their language and seeing their smile is worth it.

    Unfortunately for us he's going to be in Grand Rapids this weekend giving some kind of sermon/lecture at Puritan Reformed seminary- and I understand completely, this is a special church given the general dead zone of Reformed churches that is Cleveland (especially compared to our brothers in Pennsylvania and Michigan). :)
  16. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Where did you learn these languages? What schools or professors? Are they still around?
  17. kainos01

    kainos01 Puritan Board Senior

    That Greek/Latin prof is long since retired... The school was the University of North Carolina at Asheville. The Classics program was good, but it was this prof, in particular, that made the experience great.
  18. bookslover

    bookslover Puritan Board Doctor

    In your formulation, does "ancient' refer to "language" or "teachers?" Heh.
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2017
  19. bookslover

    bookslover Puritan Board Doctor

    I recently finished reading Harvey Sachs's new biography of the conductor Arturo Toscanini (1867-1957). His native language was Italian, of course. Sachs notes that, regarding English, French, and German, Toscanini wrote in each language badly and spoke each language even worse. However, he could read each language fluently and read extensively in all three of them.
  20. ZackF

    ZackF Puritan Board Graduate

    I figured that is what you were getting at. Second language acquisition advancements are not very well disseminated. Sad. It's amazing what coin folks will dropped for a shrink wrapped course labeled the "world's best language-learning software."

    Of course I'm kind of a sucker for language courses though I've never paid any money for THAT one. LOL.
  21. RPEphesian

    RPEphesian Puritan Board Junior

    Brother could I ask you to expand on the emboldened portion?

    Brother could I ask you to send me a PM? I've tried PM'ing you, but for some reason I cannot. Thanks!
  22. Stope

    Stope Puritan Board Sophomore

    If you had the option of conversant I would have put Haitian Creole. The circumstances that I formally imported coffee from there for a few years and very much love the country and desire Gospel flourishing there for them..

    Any other Haiti lovers???
  23. ZackF

    ZackF Puritan Board Graduate

    I would be curious to know more from @Harley , @jomawh and @Justified about their methods for successful language acquisition. :) I'm always eager for suggestions.
  24. jomawh

    jomawh Puritan Board Freshman

    What has helped me has been to begin playing with sentences as I learn the most used verbs and most common nouns.

    Wo men shi ni de erzi shu, Shangdi.
    "We are your sons, Heavely Lord."
    Ta bu shi wo de mao.
    "He is not my cat."

    And so on.
  25. ZackF

    ZackF Puritan Board Graduate

    Cool. I do that sometimes. My wife makes fun of me when I mutter because it is usually in Spanish.
  26. RPEphesian

    RPEphesian Puritan Board Junior

    My method is mainly memorization. My philosophy is that you don't know what you haven't memorized, so my first step in learning a language (but not the only step) is to get it in my head and make it stick.

    For that purpose, I'm a big fan of using the memory palace/journey method to acquire vocabulary and example sentences.

    The technique is to pick out a room (say, your living room), and mentally place objects around the room that remind you of what you want to remember. I usually do it by picking out words that sound similar, thinking of an image to go with it, and placing it inside the room. For example, I might have gato, techo, orgullo, lastima. The first one is cat, sounds similar enough, so I might place that one in front of my door. Techo is ceiling, and for some reason it sounds close to Texas, so I might place a hand-painted map of Texas on the ceiling above me. Orgullo is pride, so off to the side there might be an organ played by a self-inflated musician, Lastima is shame, so off in the corner I might put a proud man with his head turned down in shame, as the first will be last.

    The journey method is the same, except you imagine a predetermined path and put all the images along that route. Then imagine yourself walking that route, and you will remember everything you placed along that route. I might walk to my car, and walking out the door almost trip over the cat, go down the stairs and see Texas painted right above me (paint dripping), get to the bottom and hear the organ being played, and walk along the path and see the proud man with his head hung down. There is also the linking method, where they are all put in a story. In that case the cat would be painting Texas on the ceiling, and the proud man playing the organ, and then perhaps plays a wrong note and is overcome with a sense of shame.

    So that's what I usually do, and it's extremely effective for obtaining large amounts of vocabulary quickly once you know how to use it. I do know one individual who got down over a hundred verbs in his target language in a single morning using this method, and someone else I've heard in an interview who is proficient with this technique said that over one weekend he learned over a thousand Chinese vocab words (it probably helped that he was single, and trying to impress a girl). The basic idea is to use what you already know to learn by associating new words and concepts with things you already know. Just be sure to make them a strange, silly or dramatic so that they become easier to remember. The key word is association.

    That's for vocab acquisition anyway, and some for getting down grammar. Refinement comes through regular reading, speaking, and hearing. Read sermons in the target language, or listen, or read a transcript along with the audio, watch movies with the target language overdubs, or shows in the target language. This is where the memorized vocabulary gets reinforced and refined.

    The big thing to remember though is if you want to get fluent, and get fluent fast, you almost have to live the language and minimize/eliminate your use of your own native language where possible. You could call it self-immersion. That's what I've heard one linguist fanatic say.

    A few things I will be trying from a book that I've recently read:
    - Don't translate. Get yourself into the mindset of the language, rather than think of the language in terms of your own native language.
    - Master pronunciation. This needs to be done early on, and will help embed the words.
    - Spaced review.

    You might try looking up some folks such as Benny the Irish Polyglot and see what they have to share. I believe Benny knows 12 languages.
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2017
  27. RPEphesian

    RPEphesian Puritan Board Junior

    Self-immersion in practice:

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