Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Learning languages as a shy introvert misanthrope

Learning Chinese as an introverted student

I don't chat with people, even in languages I know. I hate chatting. I hate talking in the phone. I won't Skype. I hate Skyping even with my family.
I don't do Meetups.
Sure, all these are really great suggestions for people who wish to learn to communicate in a foreign language, because there is bound to be at least a couple of people near you who speak the language you are learning, at least if it's a language with more than a million speakers.

I live in Södertälje, which is a small town in Sweden. In Sweden there's a law that says all the children has to be able to study their native language, if it's
a) an official language in Sweden (Swedish, Finnish, Meänkieli (Torne valley Finnish), Sami, Romani and Yiddish)
b) Nordic language (Swedish, Finnish, Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic)
c) there is more than five children in the school district speaking the language as their mothertongue. The most common immigrant/refugee languages in Sweden are Finnish, Arabic, Serbo-Croatian (Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegran and Serbian), Kurdish, Polish, Spanish, Farsi, German, Danish and Norwegian. Now, they are currently seeking for Mothertongue teachers in Indonesian, Pashto, Mongolian, Somalian, Turkish and Neo-Aramaic.
If I wanted to, there's quite a lot of languages around me.

Language skills consist of four areas; listening, reading, writing and speaking.
Most shy introvert misanthropes aren't interested in learning languages to be able to communicate with other people, but to be able to collect information in that language - possible also to "collect languages", to learn a language just because they can, because it's there and "fuck you, that's why". Now, if this is your motivation to learn a language, speaking it is not interesting at all.
You won't EVER be traveling in a country where people speak this language, you won't EVER be interacting with real people, being polite and social, and using the spoken language to be understood.

Fascinating, isn't it?
99% of language learning advice tells you to start speaking as soon as possible.
But think if you were to learn Latin or Biblical Hebrew. These are "dead languages". There have been no people alive speaking either of these languages as their native language, mother tongue, for some 2000 years. We don't know how to speak either of these languages.
For all practical reasons ANY pronunciation is as good a guess as any other.
Now, some of these pronunciations are PROBABLY better guesses than others, and there are people who use both of these languages regularly, so there is a generally accepted pronunciation. Nevertheless, no-one requires you can speak either language to be able to say you know either language. You just need to be able to read and write.
Now, I wouldn't say you know Finnish, if you can't speak it, but... if you may count Latin just by reading and writing, you should be able to count ANY language is you just read and write it.
(Or if the language doesn't have a writing system, THEN you should be able to speak it. It's a bit irrelevant for this topic, though. Most shy introvert misanthropes won't be learning some languages without written form.)

But - can you learn to SPEAK a language without EVER speaking with another person?
I say, yes. 
1) IPA - the phonetic alphabet actually IS good enough to give anyone good enough pronunciation of words written in phonetic alphabet.
2) You get the intonation right by listening and repeating after native speakers. There is a LOT of languages with at least some sentences spoken in the language. Omniglot has the "Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights" in quite a many language, both written and spoken. Record yourself and compare to the native speaker, and correct yourself until you can read the text together with the native speaker and you pronounce the words the same.
3) You can converse with yourself. Pretend to be a lot of people and speak for all of them. You can even replay scenes from movies or books.
No-one ever needs to hear you speak. No-one ever needs to correct your speech.

1 comment:

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