Problems when speaking another language

I’ve confessed before that, despite growing up with multilingual parents, I speak only English.  I actually do blame my parents for my limitations.  (Usually, I think we need to take responsibility for our own failings, but this one is 66% Mom and Dad.)

When I was little, my parents insisted that we speak only English, because they wanted to keep German as their “grown-up secrets” language.  Then, when I hit junior high school and had to take a foreign language, they insisted I take German (I wanted to take French) so that they could “help” me.  Unfortunately, their help consisted of two things:  (1) “I can’t help you with that because, even though I speak it, I don’t know all these grammatical terms” and (2) “Oh, you dummy!  How can you get that wrong?”

The result was that I hated learning languages and was agonizingly self-conscious.  Add to that my innate laziness, and you’ve got someone who speaks only English.  Ironically enough, I have a good ear and can pronounce most European languages very well.

In any event, this video, which has people speaking English with the common mistakes learners make in a foreign tongue is silly and funny:

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  • lee

    I had a friend who grew up in Sweden who was the child of two Polish Jews who survived concentration camps, Then she and her siblings were kids, their parents spoke Polish, to keep the kids from understanding. But the kids caught on. Then they switched to Yiddish and German, but the kids picked up that up pretty well. Then they tried a little Hebrew they knew. And the kids picked up the Hebrew. By this point, however, the kids were pretty much grown up.  BTW, I think all the kids are now in Israel, having made aliyah about thirty to thirty five years ago. And boy, they were GREAT at languages!!! Spoke English with an accent that was hard to place, but you would’ve sworn they were native speakers of English. And in addition to English, Swedish, Polish, German, Yiddish, and Hebrew, they spoke French and Spanish.
    Me, I get totally mixed up when I try to speak a foreigh language. I have “English” and “Foreign Language” mode. I studied French, Hebrew, Yiddish and German. And a teeny-tiny bit of Farsi. But I mix them all up when I try to speak any more (Iused to speak French and Hebrew VERY WELL.) By they time I got to studying Yiddish, I gave up on trying to get a good accent, so I speak Yiddish with a midwestern accent. I learned Standard German when I was a kid, but with  Bavarian accent. I studied a LOT more Yiddish once in college, so by grad school, my German was a MESS: Bavarian-ish accent, but mostly American midwestern accent, with the lovely flat-nasal sounds, along with Yiddish pronunciation of similar words. (Ein became “ayn” like in “ain’t.”) I would send a German speaker running with their hands over their ears in pain…

  • Charles Martel

    I’m not so sheer what Book am trying to say here. Oaf she is colluding to the English skillets of the people who paste here, I am reeling insulted. I just nay take my balls home and play with her myself.

  • Gringo

    Which reminds me of a faux pas I made in Spanish while I was working in Argentina. On my days off I  met some grad student couples. They introduced me to some attractive female students- grad or under grad, I don’t recall. I was asked which one of the girls I found most attractive.  “No puedo escoger,” I replied. [I can’t choose.] Unfortunately, in Argentina, the verb “coger”  was used for sexual intercourse. I was informed I should have said, “No puedo elegir.”
    From a Bolivian college student studying in Argentina, the stepson of a coworker, I heard of some language jokes he and his friends pulled on a foreign exchange student from the US, who was  at their high school. The unknowing American foreign exchange student was taught that “I am an American boy” translated to “Soy marico.” [I am a homosexual.]  The unknowing American foreign exchange student was taught that when he was a dinner guest, and he was full, that he should say “mas.” [more]. At one meal the  poor guy got about three cycles of “mas” food, so he was ready to burst. I imagine the guy picked up Spanish rather quickly.
    It is rather common that children born and raised in the US do not learn the language of their immigrant parents.
    Mr. Hammer: at times it can take some skill to appear unskilled.

  • Ymarsakar

    I’m starting to think in Japanese now, to the extent I replaced an English word with a Japanese one, since the Japanese concept was more accurate for what I was intending to communicate.