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Thread: Mandatory english learning

  1. #1 Mandatory english learning 
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    if the entire world had mandatory english learning would it make it easier for people to interact with each other more?
    oh and it would be efficient if only 1 language spoken but that won't happend anytime soon

    what are your thoughts about this subject?


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    Good idea. We should start with Americans.


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    Then Scots.

    Maybe we should ask the Dutch that, who always seem to speak better English than native speakers.
    When I was travelling in Sweden a Swedish guy made the point to me that I could travel anywhere in the world and be understood. That's nowhere near true. Yet strangely with a distinct accent I have been understood just about everywhere on 5 continents. There are so many languages in the world and English, being the main language of pop culture and the internet got lucky. Being a relatively recent language that has borrowed heavily from other languages it also has a fairly simple sort of grammar for speech, but one which gets harder with the written word. I think there are more words now in English than in any other language and unlike some it is written in letters and not symbols.

    If I wasn't a native speaker I'm sure it's the one language I would want to learn.
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    Why english? Because it is so widely spoken? It's not a particularly easy language to learn.
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    See no compelling reason that all people's of Earth should know any particular language, including English. Most developing nations integrate it into their educational systems so they can access science, and engineering, and international business. Technology is also rapidly closing the communication gaps between languages as well.
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    Honestly you don't?

    The reason academia settles on one language is so people can get all the up to date information in their field without needing to know 50+ languages. The most recent advances aren't translated for several years after they are first published, because they have to make it through peer review before it would be worth the cost of translating them.

    Without the ability of professionals to get access to the latest information, all kinds of repetition of effort would ensue. You'd have people spending millions or maybe even billions to do research that has already been done.

    While learning 50+ languages would be a commendable accomplishment, most people who go into a particular field do so because they love THAT FIELD, not because they love every academic field under the sun. They might not like learning languages very much. They might not be gifted at learning languages. But a person who is not gifted at learning languages, might be very gifted at advancing a scientific field. Do we want them to be blocked from gaining entry?

    Choosing a common language for academic interaction ensures that, no matter where you are born, you will need to learn either zero, or exactly one, language in order to join the field. Not 50.
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    The only reason English is so popular is because it was the mother language for one of history's great empires.
    If you look at it the great empires that preceded the British Empire all had a similar policy of advancing their own language.
    The Roman Empire spread the Latin language and Latin remained the common international language for science and diplomacy until recently.
    Before the Romans it was the Greeks.
    Even some of the not-so-great empires like the french, dutch, spanish and portugese empires did it too.
    Last edited by dan hunter; August 4th, 2014 at 05:34 PM. Reason: spelling
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  9. #8  
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    Honestly you don't?

    The reason academia settles on one language...
    First off it's not settled on just one language...though in the sciences of course English tends to lead by a wide margin. And now that China leads the world in engineers and is rapidly starting to produce it's on PhD for the sciences and other areas of academia, Mandarin will probably be the language to learn for the 21th century.

    And there's a lot more to the human experience including business, government, arts, getting a house built, a car fixed, teaching pre-school, giving last rights and all the rest of culture--than what egged headed- ivory tower academia wants.
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  10. #9  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    Honestly you don't?

    The reason academia settles on one language...
    First off it's not settled on just one language...though in the sciences of course English tends to lead by a wide margin. And now that China leads the world in engineers and is rapidly starting to produce it's on PhD for the sciences and other areas of academia, Mandarin will probably be the language to learn for the 21th century.

    And there's a lot more to the human experience including business, government, arts, getting a house built, a car fixed, teaching pre-school, giving last rights and all the rest of culture--than what egged headed- ivory tower academia wants.

    I'd say it's very unlikely China will become pre-eminent in Academia anytime soon. I'm sure they're spending quite a lot of money, and so sooner or later it *could* happen.

    But yeah. Migration of pre-eminent language can and does happen. There is always only one, though (except during transition periods - when they are two). It's necessary because most of the scientists around the world will have troubled themselves to learn one language so they could communicate.

    Prior to English, German was the preeminent language. Einstein published his theory of relativity in German, not English. So English has been dominant for less than a full century.

    Prior to that it was Latin. Latin might have been more "fair", because everybody who spoke it had to learn it as a second language.


    But, the idea that you're going to publish academic research in just whatever language you happen to speak natively is beyond silly. It would make it impossible - or at least horribly impractical - for scientists to communicate across cultural or national boundaries.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flick Montana View Post
    Why english? Because it is so widely spoken? It's not a particularly easy language to learn.
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  12. #11  
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    Quote Originally Posted by dan hunter View Post
    The only reason English is so popular is because it was the mother language for one of histories great empires.
    If you look at it the great empires that preceded the British Empire all had a similar policy of advancing their own language.
    The Roman Empire spread the Latin language and Latin remained the common international language for science and diplomacy until recently.
    Before the Romans it was the Greeks.
    Even some of the not-so-great empires like the french, dutch, spanish and portugese empires did it too.
    And when Latin was the preeminent language, it was mandatory to learn Latin if you wanted to do anything in higher academia.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    And when Latin was the preeminent language, it was mandatory to learn Latin if you wanted to do anything in higher academia.
    Yes, but it wasn't like people were being forced to learn it against their will. If you wanted to do anything as an educated person learning Latin and Greek were pretty much required. You had to be able to read the classics if going for the philosophies or for religions. If you were going into government almost all international communications were in Latin or Greek.
    Learning Latin was a ticket to wealth and power.

    Maybe the question is just about whether people should be forced into speaking a single global language?

    My opinion of that is it would hamper rather than facilitate communication.
    Living languages mutate too rapidly. If you look at English today the dialects are so different around the world (and across generations) that people can hardly understand what their neighbours or their grandparents wrote.

    One of the reasons science, church, and state chose Latin and Greek was they were dead languages so the meanings were stable.
    Last edited by dan hunter; August 4th, 2014 at 06:50 PM. Reason: add a line
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    I think we should all speak Texan. Y'all!
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  15. #14  
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    Quote Originally Posted by dan hunter View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    And when Latin was the preeminent language, it was mandatory to learn Latin if you wanted to do anything in higher academia.
    Yes, but it wasn't like people were being forced to learn it against their will. If you wanted to do anything as an educated person learning Latin and Greek were pretty much required. You had to be able to read the classics if going for the philosophies or for religions. If you were going into government almost all international communications were in Latin or Greek.
    Learning Latin was a ticket to wealth and power.

    Maybe the question is just about whether people should be forced into speaking a single global language?

    My opinion of that is it would hamper rather than facilitate communication.
    Living languages mutate too rapidly. If you look at English today the dialects are so different around the world (and across generations) that people can hardly understand what their neighbours or their grandparents wrote.

    One of the reasons science, church, and state chose Latin and Greek was they were dead languages so the meanings were stable.

    There are quite a lot of examples from history on a smaller than global scale, both of requiring, and not requiring people to learn a common language.

    The most recent history of forced language conversion would be the USSR, where in outer territories such as Ukraine, or many of the "-stan" countries, the population actually was forced to learn Russian against their will. In Ukraine there is still a lot of resentment over that, but the conversion was certainly successful. There are more Ukrainians who can speak Russian than there are Ukrainians who can speak Ukrainian today. Except in the far Western regions, Russian is the language people use for their everyday business.


    However, in Mexico and Central America, there are still some regions where the native populations cannot speak in Spanish. Instead, they still speak various native American languages, with some borrowed words from Spanish. I've met some of these people in the USA, and since I only knew Spanish and English, it was sometimes difficult to communicate. Only a few key members of the community could speak with me.


    Is that good for them? I would have to say no. Their economic opportunities are insanely limited, so unless their native culture is unobjectively "better" in every way than the new culture, then the decision to impose the language is an obvious choice. Should they:

    1 - Keep the culture they have, and suffer debilitating economic consequences.

    2 - Trade the culture they have now away to get another culture of equal value, and avoid the debilitating economic consequences.


    The first generation that is forced to speak a new language will be sad and angry. The second generation will feel bad about what happened to the first generation. The third one will remember it in a very abstract way. For them, the new language will have always been "part of their culture" for as long as they can remember anyway.
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    China publishes just as many articles in Mandarin as it does in English.

    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    There is always only one, though (except during transition periods - when they are two). It's necessary because most of the scientists around the world will have troubled themselves to learn one language so they could communicate.
    I see now you've moved the goal post a bit by now just discussing scientist, rather than academic publications which are much broader and perhaps more inline with the OP. But even for science it's not really true, there are lots of works over the past few centuries that were neither Latin or German, there were quite a few in English, French and even some in Dutch or even Norwegian (in my field).

    If you broaden the discussion beyond science into government, philosophy, arts etc many writers were publishing in their native tongues.

    Probably important to note that rapid transmission in most academia isn't all that important--even today. Lock's note on government, or Jefferson's botany had plenty of time to be translated and circulated back then. Changes for nearly all matters of academic thinking were much much slower than today. Major works, regardless of their original language were then, as now, usually translated in a couple years.

    --
    I still see little reason to force the average Joe(or Jill) anywhere to learn anything other than their native language.
    Last edited by Lynx_Fox; August 5th, 2014 at 10:19 AM.
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  17. #16  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    China publishes just as many articles in Mandarin as it does in English.

    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    There is always only one, though (except during transition periods - when they are two). It's necessary because most of the scientists around the world will have troubled themselves to learn one language so they could communicate.
    I see now you've moved the goal post a bit by now just discussing scientist, rather than academic publications which are much broader and perhaps more inline with the OP. But even for science it's not really true, there are lots of works over the past few centuries that were neither Latin or German, there were quite a few in English, French and even some in Dutch or even Norwegian (in my field).
    I think my goalposts were always in one place, and my perspective was always limited to that. I was thinking the OP was talking about making English a mandatory part of a school's curriculum. That is sensible choice for a school to make.

    It seems instead that we're talking about a nation making one language a requirement for all of its citizens to learn.




    If you broaden the discussion beyond science into government, philosophy, arts etc many writers were publishing in their native tongues.

    Probably important to note that rapid transmission in most academia isn't all that important--even today. Lock's note on government, or Jefferson's botany had plenty of time to be translated and circulated back then. Changes for nearly all matters of academic thinking were much much slower than today. Major works, regardless of their original language were then, as now, usually translated in a couple years.
    That's true, but it means the work is only going to enjoy a limited circulation. If you want a wider circulation, you need to facilitate it.

    If we wanted French, German, and Russian botanists to immediately know what Jefferson was thinking - because it mattered enough for them to know, then we wouldn't immediately translate his work into German, French, and Russian. It would have been translated into Latin first. The scientists in those lands who could read Latin would thereby gain immediate access.


    --
    I still see little reason to force the average Joe(or Jill) anywhere to learn anything other than their native language.

    On the national level, the reason to force people to learn a common language is the same as the reason why the Chuj (native) speakers in Mexico should have been forced to learn Spanish.

    Because they speak this private language that nobody else in Mexico can understand, they pretty much aren't part of the political process. They can only work in the most unskilled jobs - jobs where communication between boss and employee doesn't matter.

    The ability to speak the language that is common to where you live is the "participate in a collaborative effort" skill. A very important skill to the economy, since most useful economic activities require collaboration.


    The children of such people are a burden on the economy, because they're below "unskilled". They don't even have the basic toolset of skills that we usually call "unskilled". But they still need to eat, even though they can't help provide food. That's what a "burden" is. It is something or someone that consumes but doesn't contribute.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    I think my goalposts were always in one place, and my perspective was always limited to that. I was thinking the OP was talking about making English a mandatory part of a school's curriculum. That is sensible choice for a school to make.
    From the OP: "if the entire world had mandatory english learning"

    The OP had a global perspective and didn't limit it to just science, or even academic subjects, since many(most) international communications aren't academic. We added that to the discussion.
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    One language would certainly allow for easier communications among peoples. Some linguists think that language defines our perception of reality, similar to seeing the world through only one hole in the fence (so to speak), whereas right now, we have several thousand holes through which to see the world. To me, loosing a language is similar to loosing a dimension of reality. See Linguistic relativity and the color naming debate.

    After you've read about the color naming debate above, cast your eyes on this:

    And jealous now of me, you gods, because I befriend a man, one I saved as he straddled the keel alone, when Zeus had blasted and shattered his swift ship with a bright lightning bolt, out on the wine-dark sea.
    —Homer, The Odyssey, Book V

    Perception is a funny beast. Homer’s “wine-dark sea” has puzzled scholars for centuries, leading to such far-flung hypotheses as strange weather effects, air pollution, and mass Grecian color-blindness.

    It’s a phrase repeated in the works of W. H. Auden, Patrick O’Brian, and Brian Jacques, among others. Reading it today, we naturally assume that it is intended as allegory, some evocative reference to the sea’s mystery, its intoxication.

    We may never know for sure, but one peculiar fact casts the mystery in an interesting light: there is no word for “blue” in ancient Greek.

    Homer’s descriptions of color in The Iliad and The Odyssey, taken literally, paint an almost psychedelic landscape: in addition to the sea, sheep were also the color of wine; honey was green, as were the fear-filled faces of men; and the sky is often described as bronze.
    ...
    This entire article (below) is a very good read.

    source
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    Quote Originally Posted by dan hunter View Post
    My opinion of that is it would hamper rather than facilitate communication.
    Living languages mutate too rapidly. If you look at English today the dialects are so different around the world (and across generations) that people can hardly understand what their neighbours or their grandparents wrote.
    That used to be true since people could not communicate via speech over long distances. Today with TV and telephones being common, the opposite is happening - accents are homogenizing.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    I think my goalposts were always in one place, and my perspective was always limited to that. I was thinking the OP was talking about making English a mandatory part of a school's curriculum. That is sensible choice for a school to make.
    From the OP: "if the entire world had mandatory english learning"

    The OP had a global perspective and didn't limit it to just science, or even academic subjects, since many(most) international communications aren't academic. We added that to the discussion.

    Again, I somehow read that as meaning he was asking what would happen if the various educational institutions of the world made the study of English mandatory in their curriculums. I think it is mandatory already in some public schools in Germany. Probably elsewhere too.

    If he means someone should point guns at everyone's heads and force them to speak English, then that is another matter. There would be a lot of resentment, at least for the first couple of generations. Wouldn't want to start World War 3, and then have nobody left alive. Would kind of defeat the whole purpose.

    But if it could be done without resentment, then yeah. I'd be all for it. Or well.... with one caveat. There needs to be a restandardization of English spelling first, so that the writing system makes more sense.

    Quote Originally Posted by jrmonroe View Post
    One language would certainly allow for easier communications among peoples. Some linguists think that language defines our perception of reality, similar to seeing the world through only one hole in the fence (so to speak), whereas right now, we have several thousand holes through which to see the world. To me, loosing a language is similar to loosing a dimension of reality. See Linguistic relativity and the color naming debate.

    Thank goodness for the internet, then, right? And modern computing. We can keep a record of all the languages that currently exist for future generations to study at their leisure (and a good number that have already become extinct).

    Nobody has to cripple themselves for life by growing up speaking a language that is only practically useful in their home region.


    Language learning would be a hobby instead of a necessity, like those Star Trek fans who teach themselves "Klingon" or "Vulcan".
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    what i tried to say was not everyone must speak one language, everyone must atleast know english as their secondary language, to be honest if chinise language was more spoken i would've said chinise but english is widely spoken and i know there are allot of countries has english as secondary language that they must study like in sweden.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Painter View Post
    what i tried to say was not everyone must speak one language, everyone must atleast know english as their secondary language, to be honest if chinise language was more spoken i would've said chinise but english is widely spoken and i know there are allot of countries has english as secondary language that they must study like in sweden.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Painter View Post
    what i tried to say was not everyone must speak one language, everyone must atleast know english as their secondary language.
    Saying the same thing once again isn't convincing. Why?

    This week as I plan to move into another home, I've talking to two plumbers, a local cop, rug installers, nearly a dozen people at hardware stores, a cable company, a telephone repairman, a post office worker---all of those things could have easily been done in any language (the local one) whether is was English or not--heck I routinely did similar things while living in Iraq with a combination of mime, pictures and by quite poor Arabic.

    In fact, probably the one things I've done the past few weeks which required English is read a bit about a new science study that ties decreased latitudinal temperature gradient to slower Rossby wave movement and perhaps longer extreme weather events.

    Getting access to the most current science probably requires English, something that only a small % of the population really needs. The vast majority of even the most advanced nations simply don't need it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Painter View Post
    what i tried to say was not everyone must speak one language, everyone must atleast know english as their secondary language.
    Saying the same thing once again isn't convincing. Why?

    This week as I plan to move into another home, I've talking to two plumbers, a local cop, rug installers, nearly a dozen people at hardware stores, a cable company, a telephone repairman, a post office worker---all of those things could have easily been done in any language (the local one) whether is was English or not--heck I routinely did similar things while living in Iraq with a combination of mime, pictures and by quite poor Arabic.
    I really don't think mime, pictures, and broken speech is conducive to efficient business. If we're going to go that road, then why don't we just forget about speech altogether and just grunt at each other?

    In fact, probably the one things I've done the past few weeks which required English is read a bit about a new science study that ties decreased latitudinal temperature gradient to slower Rossby wave movement and perhaps longer extreme weather events.

    Getting access to the most current science probably requires English, something that only a small % of the population really needs. The vast majority of even the most advanced nations simply don't need it.
    Just imagine how much better Americans would understand the people of Iraq if either :

    A) - All Americans could speak Farsi

    or

    B) - All Iraqis could speak English


    It would be much more likely for a large number of Americans to meet, and form interpersonal relationships with Iraqis, much like how many Americans have personal friendships with people from Canada, Australia, and Britain.

    If we spoke a common language then all Iraqi news, media, and literature would be accessible to Americans. We'd understand quite a bit more about how Iraqis look at the world, what is going on in their country, and what kinds of cultural contributions they could potentially make to our community. I'm sure there is at least one funny Iraqi joke I have never heard, which would make me laugh. But odds are it's only funny in Farsi.


    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Painter View Post
    what i tried to say was not everyone must speak one language, everyone must atleast know english as their secondary language, to be honest if chinise language was more spoken i would've said chinise but english is widely spoken and i know there are allot of countries has english as secondary language that they must study like in sweden.
    It would be better if we could choose a phonetic language, like Russian, or Latin. Spanish is phonetic but it's lame.

    Chinese, on the other hand, goes beyond just having odd spelling rules. I'd hate to have to commit 3000 separate images to rote memory just to be able to read a newspaper.
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    If it's for the benefit of being able to understand each other more, then I would agree to it but it shouldn't really be mandatory. I prefer that it would be of personal preference. There are already a few non-English countries who have incorporated the English language in their education system. It would be easier this way compared to learning another language.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kathmorgan12 View Post
    If it's for the benefit of being able to understand each other more, then I would agree to it but it shouldn't really be mandatory. I prefer that it would be of personal preference. There are already a few non-English countries who have incorporated the English language in their education system. It would be easier this way compared to learning another language.
    Not saying adults should have it mandatory just our generation and the future ones we are younger and have it easier to learn and kids have it easier than us, my aunt 9 years old is bilingual and it took her 1 year to speak fluently
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    Again, I somehow read that as meaning he was asking what would happen if the various educational institutions of the world made the study of English mandatory in their curriculums. I think it is mandatory already in some public schools in Germany. Probably elsewhere too.
    That would mean the discussion was about the teaching of English. The OP specifically mentioned the learning of English.
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    Again, I somehow read that as meaning he was asking what would happen if the various educational institutions of the world made the study of English mandatory in their curriculums. I think it is mandatory already in some public schools in Germany. Probably elsewhere too.
    That would mean the discussion was about the teaching of English. The OP specifically mentioned the learning of English.
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    Whoa! I only got halfway through the prior messages in this thread when I couldn't take it anymore.

    I am a professional English teacher and have spent most of three decades teaching abroad.

    First off, the OP, Mr. Painter suggests 'mandatory' English. Now,'impossible' is not a word I like to use, but it's the correct one in this case. I should also make an allusion here to herding cats, I guess.

    Mr. Painter, I have been teaching for thirty yeas, and I must confess to you that I am a fraud because you can't teach anyone anything! They must be willing to learn. A teacher presents the material. A good teacher may inspire the students to learn, but it is ultimately the student who teaches him or her self.

    Chairman Mao, whose mug is on every one of my yuan bills here in Gansu, China, famously said, "Power comes from the barrel of a gun". Well, who am I to disagree with the great one? But I can tell you all this: if you made English, or any other tongue, mandatory, and tried to teach it at gunpoint, you'd end up shooting no one but yourself!

    You cannot force people to learn. BTW, a valuable lesson is here presented to those of you who insist on brow beating and coming off as all high and mighty (in the name of science) in your 'corrections' to other posters. You are teaching them nothing! When you adopt such an attitude, I guarantee you that it is such a turn off that your audience will quite deliberately not agree with you. Much of the arguing and bickering we see here on this forum and ones similar are due to this very reason. If you have something to say, say it in a kindly, respectful and lighthearted way and you will be sure to win support for your argument. Mary Poppins was right. A spoonful of sugar really does make the medicine go down.

    Then there is the fact that many people, many intelligent people even, just aren't any good at learning a second language. As the old Berlitz series said in the intro,"anyone who isn't a moron speaks at least one language". The Little Professor's point was that it shouldn't be that difficult to learn a second one because we all have an innate ability for language. True enough, but for some individuals it is such slow going that their instructors really will want to borrow that powerful gun of the great chairman's.

    So how to make mandatory English succeed? Cash incentives? Ha! Good luck with that! Who would be in charge? What worldwide organization has that kind of administrative power? As I pointed out in a thread earlier today the UN and all of its individual and 'powerful' members have done virtually nothing consequential to slow climate change. An important issue like that on which the planet's survival depends, and they've known it for decades now, and they talk and propose things, but nothing has actually been done to any effect. Are they going to make English mandatory?

    Secondly, I once asked a mixed class of mostly Indonesian and Korean high school students what the best language was. They put on their teenage drone of boredom and subtle rebellion and replied, "English..." thinking that was the answer I wanted to hear. "No!" I told them. "Every language is just as good as every other. There is no 'best' language." I certainly woke them from their academic slumbers. I explained that there is no "Me Tarzan, you Jane" language. I don't want to slur anyone, but even a tribesman in the jungles of Papua New Guinea who speaks a language only he and 26 of his clansmen know, speaks a language just as rich as English, Greek or Mandarin (completely arbitrary examples). Granted they may not have an exact word or term yet for antidisestablishmentarianism or particle acceleration but their language could certainly convey the concept if it were needed. So why should English be the one world language?

    It is certainly true that it would be convenient if we all spoke one language, but so much would be lost. Having traveled the world and done my best to learn a few languages (Alas, I am one of the slowpokes though and a new language comes only with great effort to me) I understand the truth of the maxim that you cannot separate language from culture. While we all are human beings and think in much the same way, there are definitely divergent points of view that have everything to do with the language we are thinking in and speaking.

    For instance the English system of tenses reflect how important time and chronology are to our way of thinking. In other languages the emphasis in a conversation may be on what - while with English speakers the what is often clear enough so we concern ourselves with the when. Should the what not be clear, why then we can shift emphasis until it is, and get back to what really culturally and linguistically interests us - the when.

    Thirdly, if we were so foolish as to try to force everyone to learn the same language, English is a very poor choice indeed. Yes, it is the most widely spoken language around the world and dominates, the Internet, the post and all other mass media (with the exception of Koranic recitals), but it is also just about the most idiomatic language there has ever been.

    An idiom, as I define it to my students, is a group of words whose overall meaning in different than the usual meaning of the individual words. For example: money talks. Even the lowest level English student will know these two basic and essential words after a few lessons, but money talks!? Ben Franklin on those much coveted greenbacks actually speaks? No wonder everyone wants US dollars! But no; that's not what money talks means.

    English speakers say, "Birds of a feather..." and don't even have to say the second half of the expression because other English speakers know it, and get the meaning. A student of English, even a very advanced one is usually flummoxed by this common idiom. While most languages have idiomatic expressions, English has many more, they are used everyday by everybody from New Zealand to Point Barrow and everywhere in between and the language is notorious because of them.

    Then there is the ridiculous standards of spelling. Let's not go there! Suffice to reiterate that English would be a very poor choice for a world language.

    Finally, I'd like to say something about my Chinese hosts and good friends. They possess an uncommon amount of common sense, and although this is their century and they will soon rule the world (again) they understand it would be ridiculous to try to get the world to speak Mandarin. Whether they or any on else likes it or not, English as the world language is a done deal. Two great and belligerent military-commercial empires one on the heels of another were English-speaking nations and there is really no point in trying to undo that.

    The best plan, and it's not even a plan because it is what is bound to occur in any case, is for English with all its vagaries to carry on as the international language, while people go on speaking their mother tongues. There is much beauty, artistry and poetry in these languages. More than any one really knows. That's sure. There is absolutely no good reason to forgo the other 9,000 languages in the world. Many of them are disappearing fast enough as it is. Those who want to pursue scientific, academic or international commercial interest or just 'friend' foreign people on Facebook can learn English. They will do it because it interests them, and speaking as a dull purveyor of photocopied material and bloodless audio dialogs, this is the only way - the absolute only way- that anyone has ever learned, has ever achieved fluency in another language. One world is enough for all of us, one language, however, is not.
    Last edited by 甘肃人; September 23rd, 2014 at 11:34 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by 甘肃人 View Post
    Whoa! I only got halfway through the prior messages in this thread when I couldn't take it anymore.

    I am a professional English teacher and have spent most of three decades teaching abroad.

    First off, the OP, Mr. Painter suggests 'mandatory' English. Now,'impossible' is not a word I like to use, but it's the correct one in this case. I should also make an allusion here to herding cats, I guess.

    Mr. Painter, I have been teaching for thirty yeas, and I must confess to you that I am a fraud because you can't teach anyone anything! They must be willing to learn. A teacher presents the material. A good teacher may inspire the students to learn, but it is ultimately the student who teaches him or her self.

    Chairman Mao, whose mug is on every one of my yuan bills here in Gansu, China, famously said, "Power comes from the barrel of a gun". Well, who am I to disagree with the great one? But I can tell you all this: if you made English, or any other tongue, mandatory, and tried to teach it at gunpoint, you'd end up shooting no one but yourself!

    You cannot force people to learn. BTW, a valuable lesson is here presented to those of you who insist on brow beating and coming off as all high and mighty (in the name of science) in your 'corrections' to other posters. You are teaching them nothing! When you adopt such an attitude, I guarantee you that it is such a turn off that your audience will quite deliberately not agree with you. Much of the arguing and bickering we see here on this forum and ones similar are due to this very reason. If you have something to say, say it in a kindly, respectful and lighthearted way and you will be sure to win support for your argument. Mary Poppins was right. A spoonful of sugar really does make the medicine go down.

    Then there is the fact that many people, many intelligent people even, just aren't any good at learning a second language. As the old Berlitz series said in the intro,"anyone who isn't a moron speaks at least one language". The Little Professor's point was that it shouldn't be that difficult to learn a second one because we all have an innate ability for language. True enough, but for some individuals it is such slow going that their instructors really will want to borrow that powerful gun of the great chairman's.

    So how to make mandatory English succeed? Cash incentives? Ha! Good luck with that! Who would be in charge? What worldwide organization has that kind of administrative power? As I pointed out in a thread earlier today the UN and all of its individual and 'powerful' members have done virtually nothing consequential to slow climate change. An important issue like that on which the planet's survival depends, and they've known it for decades now, and they talk and propose things, but nothing has actually been done to any effect. Are they going to make English mandatory?

    Secondly, I once asked a mixed class of mostly Indonesian and Korean high school students what the best language was. They put on their teenage drone of boredom and subtle rebellion and replied, "English..." thinking that was the answer I wanted to hear. "No!" I told them. "Every language is just as good as every other. There is no 'best' language." I certainly woke them from their academic slumbers. I explained that there is no "Me Tarzan, you Jane" language. I don't want to slur anyone, but even a tribesman in the jungles of Papua New Guinea who speaks a language only he and 26 of his clansmen know, speaks a language just as rich as English, Greek or Mandarin (completely arbitrary examples). Granted they may not have an exact word or term yet for antidisestablishmentarianism or particle acceleration but their language could certainly convey the concept if it were needed. So why should English be the one world language?

    It is certainly true that it would be convenient if we all spoke one language, but so much would be lost. Having traveled the world and done my best to learn a few languages (Alas, I am one of the slowpokes though and a new language comes only with great effort to me) I understand the truth of the maxim that you cannot separate language from culture. While we all are human beings and think in much the same way, there are definitely divergent points of view that have everything to do with the language we are thinking in and speaking.

    For instance the English system of tenses reflect how important time and chronology are to our way of thinking. In other languages the emphasis in a conversation may be on what - while with English speakers the what is often clear enough so we concern ourselves with the when. Should the what not be clear, why then we can shift emphasis until it is, and get back to what really culturally and linguistically interests us - the when.

    Thirdly, if we were so foolish as to try to force everyone to learn the same language, English is a very poor choice indeed. Yes, it is the most widely spoken language around the world and dominates, the Internet, the post and all other mass media (with the exception of Koranic recitals), but it is also just about the most idiomatic language there has ever been.

    An idiom, as I define it to my students, is a group of words whose overall meaning in different than the usual meaning of the individual words. For example: money talks. Even the lowest level English student will know these two basic and essential words after a few lessons, but money talks!? Ben Franklin on those much coveted greenbacks actually speaks? No wonder everyone wants US dollars! But no; that's not what money talks means.

    English speakers say, "Birds of a feather..." and don't even have to say the second half of the expression because other English speakers know it, and get the meaning. A student of English, even a very advanced one is usually flummoxed by this common idiom. While most languages have idiomatic expressions, English has many more, they are used everyday by everybody from New Zealand to Point Barrow and everywhere in between and the language is notorious because of them.

    Then there is the ridiculous standards of spelling. Let's not go there! Suffice to reiterate that English would be a very poor choice for a world language.

    Finally, I'd like to say something about my Chinese hosts and good friends. They possess an uncommon amount of common sense, and although this is their century and they will soon rule the world (again) they understand it would be ridiculous to try to get the world to speak Mandarin. Whether they or any on else likes it or not, English as the world language is a done deal. Two great and belligerent military-commercial empires one on the heels of another were English-speaking nations and there is really no point in trying to undo that.

    The best plan, and it's not even a plan because it is what is bound to occur in any case, is for English with all its vagaries to carry on as the international language, while people go on speaking their mother tongues. There is much beauty, artistry and poetry in these languages. More than any one really knows. That's sure. There is absolutely no good reason to forgo the other 9,000 languages in the world. Many of them are disappearing fast enough as it is. Those who want to pursue scientific, academic or international commercial interest or just 'friend' foreign people on Facebook can learn English. They will do it because it interests them, and speaking as a dull purveyor of photocopied material and bloodless audio dialogs, this is the only way - the absolute only way- that anyone has ever learned, has ever achieved fluency in another language. One world is enough for all of us, one language, however, is not.
    I do agree with you on several points, a teachers job is supply materials and help them use it not give them incentive, teachers that go the extra mile is superb teachers.

    secondly I am not asking them to forget their original language just want them to learn at least something else so the world is easier place to communicate and in my original post I stated it would be impossible and I am dully aware of the worlds problems.

    besides it doesn't have to be English could be Arabic or even Latin

    and I did come here I hear people's opinion and their arguments and yours are really appreciated and I got new point of view for teachers
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    flattened rat 甘肃人's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Painter View Post
    I do agree with you on several points, a teachers job is supply materials and help them use it not give them incentive, teachers that go the extra mile is superb teachers.

    secondly I am not asking them to forget their original language just want them to learn at least something else so the world is easier place to communicate and in my original post I stated it would be impossible and I am dully aware of the worlds problems.

    besides it doesn't have to be English could be Arabic or even Latin

    and I did come here I hear people's opinion and their arguments and yours are really appreciated and I got new point of view for teachers
    Yes. I did in fact understand from the start that you never meant anyone should forget their first language, and I tried to avoid making it seem you ever meant anything different. Apologies, if I am not clear about that. I also understand that you 'want' them to learn another language - that's exactly what the mothers of most of my students have ever wanted. However, even Noam Chomsky, the foremost linguist of the 20th century opined that learning a new language is boring, and that he hated doing it. So if that's how he feels, imagine what I'm up against with a class of teenagers who would rather be playing Angry Birds?

    Do you know this ancient joke? A teacher, disgusted with her students, asks the class if they know the meaning of the ignorance and apathy. "We don't know and we don't care!" - they reply.
    Last edited by 甘肃人; September 24th, 2014 at 12:50 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by 甘肃人 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Painter View Post
    I do agree with you on several points, a teachers job is supply materials and help them use it not give them incentive, teachers that go the extra mile is superb teachers.

    secondly I am not asking them to forget their original language just want them to learn at least something else so the world is easier place to communicate and in my original post I stated it would be impossible and I am dully aware of the worlds problems.

    besides it doesn't have to be English could be Arabic or even Latin

    and I did come here I hear people's opinion and their arguments and yours are really appreciated and I got new point of view for teachers
    Yes. I did in fact understand from the start that you never meant anyone should forget their first language, and I tried to avoid making it seem you ever meant anything different. Apologies, if I am not clear about that. I also understand that you 'want' them to learn another language - that's exactly what the mothers of most of my students have ever wanted. However, even Noam Chomsky, the foremost linguist of the 20th century opined that learning a new language is boring, and that he hated doing it. So if that's how he feels, imagine what I'm up against with a class of teenagers who would rather be playing Angry Birds?

    Do you know this ancient joke? A teacher, disgusted with her students, asks the class if they know the meaning of the ignorance and apathy. "We don't know and we don't care!" - they reply.
    You don't have to apologize I should because I didn't fully contemplate what you ware trying to say, I am a teenager myself and it's sometimes hard to understand other teens my age personally when I was 12 I was really interested in English to I learned it on my own in games getting pieces from here and there and shortly after 2 months I could speak fluently but my grammar was very bad, I do get people need incentive but what I don't get is teens are so social over the internet they probably Gould learn for better experience.
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  34. #33  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Painter View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by 甘肃人 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Painter View Post
    I do agree with you on several points, a teachers job is supply materials and help them use it not give them incentive, teachers that go the extra mile is superb teachers.

    secondly I am not asking them to forget their original language just want them to learn at least something else so the world is easier place to communicate and in my original post I stated it would be impossible and I am dully aware of the worlds problems.

    besides it doesn't have to be English could be Arabic or even Latin

    and I did come here I hear people's opinion and their arguments and yours are really appreciated and I got new point of view for teachers
    Yes. I did in fact understand from the start that you never meant anyone should forget their first language, and I tried to avoid making it seem you ever meant anything different. Apologies, if I am not clear about that. I also understand that you 'want' them to learn another language - that's exactly what the mothers of most of my students have ever wanted. However, even Noam Chomsky, the foremost linguist of the 20th century opined that learning a new language is boring, and that he hated doing it. So if that's how he feels, imagine what I'm up against with a class of teenagers who would rather be playing Angry Birds?

    Do you know this ancient joke? A teacher, disgusted with her students, asks the class if they know the meaning of the ignorance and apathy. "We don't know and we don't care!" - they reply.
    You don't have to apologize I should because I didn't fully contemplate what you ware trying to say, I am a teenager myself and it's sometimes hard to understand other teens my age personally when I was 12 I was really interested in English to I learned it on my own in games getting pieces from here and there and shortly after 2 months I could speak fluently but my grammar was very bad, I do get people need incentive but what I don't get is teens are so social over the internet they probably Gould learn for better experience.
    Good for you! Or as English speakers dahn- undah would say, 'Good on yer'. I neglected to mention that in contrasts to the slow coaches who can study a new language for years and never get past the equivalent of dos cervezas por favor, there are 'naturals' who soak a new language up like sponges and have a working vocabulary in a matter of weeks. I envy such, but if everyone was like that, I'd be out of a job, wouldn't I?

    My unasked for advice to you is do not worry about grammar. It will come naturally as you gain fluency. Trust your 'ear'. Some things you say or write will sound incorrect to you. That's Chomsky's innate grammar ability doing its work. Also, unless one is a language teacher, most people will barely notice your errors. One thing I've learned as a language teacher is that everything is valid if it gets the point across. If a loafer on the streets of Tangiers shouts at me, "Ay Meestah, where you go!?" - well, his grammar may be shite, but I know perfectly well what he meant, and so he has communicated in a foreign language to a foreigner successfully. He was an annoying little cuss, but hats off to him!
    And what does the Lord require of you but to love justice, to be merciful and to walk humbly with Him?
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    Quote Originally Posted by 甘肃人 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Painter View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by 甘肃人 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Painter View Post
    I do agree with you on several points, a teachers job is supply materials and help them use it not give them incentive, teachers that go the extra mile is superb teachers.

    secondly I am not asking them to forget their original language just want them to learn at least something else so the world is easier place to communicate and in my original post I stated it would be impossible and I am dully aware of the worlds problems.

    besides it doesn't have to be English could be Arabic or even Latin

    and I did come here I hear people's opinion and their arguments and yours are really appreciated and I got new point of view for teachers
    Yes. I did in fact understand from the start that you never meant anyone should forget their first language, and I tried to avoid making it seem you ever meant anything different. Apologies, if I am not clear about that. I also understand that you 'want' them to learn another language - that's exactly what the mothers of most of my students have ever wanted. However, even Noam Chomsky, the foremost linguist of the 20th century opined that learning a new language is boring, and that he hated doing it. So if that's how he feels, imagine what I'm up against with a class of teenagers who would rather be playing Angry Birds?

    Do you know this ancient joke? A teacher, disgusted with her students, asks the class if they know the meaning of the ignorance and apathy. "We don't know and we don't care!" - they reply.
    You don't have to apologize I should because I didn't fully contemplate what you ware trying to say, I am a teenager myself and it's sometimes hard to understand other teens my age personally when I was 12 I was really interested in English to I learned it on my own in games getting pieces from here and there and shortly after 2 months I could speak fluently but my grammar was very bad, I do get people need incentive but what I don't get is teens are so social over the internet they probably Gould learn for better experience.
    Good for you! Or as English speakers dahn- undah would say, 'Good on yer'. I neglected to mention that in contrasts to the slow coaches who can study a new language for years and never get past the equivalent of dos cervezas por favor, there are 'naturals' who soak a new language up like sponges and have a working vocabulary in a matter of weeks. I envy such, but if everyone was like that, I'd be out of a job, wouldn't I?

    My unasked for advice to you is do not worry about grammar. It will come naturally as you gain fluency. Trust your 'ear'. Some things you say or write will sound incorrect to you. That's Chomsky's innate grammar ability doing its work. Also, unless one is a language teacher, most people will barely notice your errors. One thing I've learned as a language teacher is that everything is valid if it gets the point across. If a loafer on the streets of Tangiers shouts at me, "Ay Meestah, where you go!?" - well, his grammar may be shite, but I know perfectly well what he meant, and so he has communicated in a foreign language to a foreigner successfully. He was an annoying little cuss, but hats off to him!
    I understand thanks
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post

    Just imagine how much better Americans would understand the people of Iraq if either :

    A) - All Americans could speak Farsi

    or

    B) - All Iraqis could speak English

    Just so you know, it is Iranians who speak Farsi. Iraqis generally speak Arabic. Iranians, incidentally, prefer to call themselves Persians. In fact, the words Persia and Persian are derived from the word Farsi.
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    Either way, we can discuss both sides of the issue.

    There is that group of "Chuj" (Pronounced Chuh, with a hard "h" at the end) people I met living in the USA. Their problem was two fold. Only a few of them could speak Spanish, so they could barely even communicate with the Spanish speaking community living in the USA. And then secondly there was the issue of finding someone to translate Spanish to English (which I think is getting to be a virtual non-issue these days, with so many second generation immigrants around who can translate.)

    They told me of this rumor of a Chuj speaking immigration lawyer they'd heard about from a friend of a friend. I don't know if the guy really existed or not. I honestly have no idea how people in their situation get representation in court.

    Then there was another group I met from Oaxaca, that spoke another indigenous language - I've forgotten what it is called. They had come up to the USA on legitimate visas to do agricultural work, but they left the job because it wasn't paying them hardly anything (apparently less than minimum wage). My impression is that whoever brought them up did so with the intention of exploiting them, precisely because they knew that, with the double language barrier, the workers would be unable to complain to anyone about it.
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    So if a Mexican moved to England after they were say 25 years old they would have to retain their Mexican language there and not have to learn English? This wouldn't be prudent to me for they would never be able to do much there without learning English. Now what if there were millions of Mexicans relocating to England and none spoke English, would they have the right to make Spanish a primary language so that the rest of the English speaking people would have to learn that? Well that is a distinct possibility because it is already being done in America.
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    Language is a cultural and religious thing. I think language should be preserved. It would help if everyone spoke the same language but the question is which one works for all.
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    Quote Originally Posted by cosmictraveler View Post
    So if a Mexican moved to England after they were say 25 years old they would have to retain their Mexican language there and not have to learn English? This wouldn't be prudent to me for they would never be able to do much there without learning English. Now what if there were millions of Mexicans relocating to England and none spoke English, would they have the right to make Spanish a primary language so that the rest of the English speaking people would have to learn that? Well that is a distinct possibility because it is already being done in America.
    It works out in America because the second generation nearly always learns English. At this point in time there are so many capable translators available that a purely Spanish speaking Mexican immigrant would have no trouble finding someone who can give them a hand communicating.

    The major problem with failing to communicate is that people just plain get exploited. Or at least they are unable to explain what they need adequately.

    Imagine how things might go for a tribe in the foothills of Afghanistan if they understood the American legal system, and business practices. If they wanted to live a collective lifestyle, they could form a corporation, and give all of their land assets to that corporation. All the shares get divided equally among the tribe. Once they have an established land claim, and someone in the village is able to speak for the group on some level, now they can either keep it, sell it, give out mineral rights.... you name it. They would now have a basis to sue if their property were damaged by someone.

    The more articulate people are, the less we have to resort to the use of guns in order to sort things out.
    Some clocks are only right twice a day, but they are still right when they are right.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Painter View Post
    if the entire world had mandatory english learning would it make it easier for people to interact with each other more?
    oh and it would be efficient if only 1 language spoken but that won't happend anytime soon

    what are your thoughts about this subject?

    Great idea for world understanding. But if you go by population numbers everyone should learn Chinese.
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    Mandatory mandarin... and I just wanted to share that.. ♫ ♪ it's funny.
    Thanks for the wonderful contribution 甘肃人 You have said so much so well..
    The sciences and Air traffic control have adopted English by default.. It's the age we are in..
    Now where's my 'angry birds' Lol
    This just might not be true...; "Some place near a German airfield a German airman was reported to have said."
    ~ " flight Echo Whiskey Mike Down Wind For Finals on 27... oh why do I as a German in Germany and in a German field need to speak English. ? ~ Because you lost the war.. was the reply..
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    The more articulate people are, the less we have to resort to the use of guns in order to sort things out.
    Hitler was good with words.
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    The more articulate people are, the less we have to resort to the use of guns in order to sort things out.
    Hitler was good with words.
    I would not consider Hitler articulate, just highly charismatic. I do not think there was much wisdom behind what he said, just violence.
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    Quote Originally Posted by someguy1 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Painter View Post
    if the entire world had mandatory english learning would it make it easier for people to interact with each other more?
    oh and it would be efficient if only 1 language spoken but that won't happend anytime soon

    what are your thoughts about this subject?

    Great idea for world understanding. But if you go by population numbers everyone should learn Chinese.
    If they adopt phonetic spelling, then maybe. There are a number of factors to consider. One factor which English horribly fails at is having a sensible spelling system.

    But it has other very nice features, like only very limited noun declension or verb conjecture. That makes it very easy to add new words.

    Spanish and Russian both have very sensible spelling systems, but overly strenuous verb conjecture and Russian has that difficult noun declension. So if you want to add a new word, you first have to decide whether it will be masculne, feminine, or neutral, and which particular declension/conjecture system you want it to use. A bit of a hassle all around. It's probably easier most of the time to just keep the existing vocabulary and make a longer sentence.

    Chinese doesn't, technically, have any noun declension of verb conjecture at all. So if they'd just do away with that idiotic pictographic spelling system, and if their scientists would start discovering stuff, they would be a front runner for "best choice" I think. Also I think it can be fast spoken. I like the way that every syllable is a word unto itself, and longer words only exist as compounds of syllables that have their own meaning.
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    flattened rat 甘肃人's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by someguy1 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Painter View Post
    if the entire world had mandatory english learning would it make it easier for people to interact with each other more?
    oh and it would be efficient if only 1 language spoken but that won't happend anytime soon

    what are your thoughts about this subject?

    Great idea for world understanding. But if you go by population numbers everyone should learn Chinese.
    If they adopt phonetic spelling, then maybe. There are a number of factors to consider. One factor which English horribly fails at is having a sensible spelling system.

    But it has other very nice features, like only very limited noun declension or verb conjecture. That makes it very easy to add new words.

    Spanish and Russian both have very sensible spelling systems, but overly strenuous verb conjecture and Russian has that difficult noun declension. So if you want to add a new word, you first have to decide whether it will be masculne, feminine, or neutral, and which particular declension/conjecture system you want it to use. A bit of a hassle all around. It's probably easier most of the time to just keep the existing vocabulary and make a longer sentence.

    Chinese doesn't, technically, have any noun declension of verb conjecture at all. So if they'd just do away with that idiotic pictographic spelling system, and if their scientists would start discovering stuff, they would be a front runner for "best choice" I think. Also I think it can be fast spoken. I like the way that every syllable is a word unto itself, and longer words only exist as compounds of syllables that have their own meaning.
    They have been using their system for thousands of years and can read several lines of it in a glance. I agree, and probably many Chinese would agree that a phonetic system would have been better. However, because of homophones and, well, just a long and proud tradition of art (calligraphy) and literature it would be a tragic loss if Chinese ideographs were to be abandoned. I must say that I find your remark quite arrogant, as well as just plain ignorant. If you don't know what you are talking about, wouldn't it be better to just not make stupid, culturally insensitive comments? Also, think! If it's pictographic how can the Chinese writing system be referred to as a 'spelling system'.
    Last edited by 甘肃人; October 4th, 2014 at 04:50 AM. Reason: additional comments on kojax's dumb comments
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    Any culture that gets its feelings hurt too much when it is criticized is headed for trouble. If you can't adapt and change, then either you must be obsolete already, or you are destined to be obsolete in the future. All things that cannot change are headed for that.

    I'm not suggesting to abandon it completely. Let some students take it at the collegiate level, for elective credits. But most communication for low to average educated workers should be in a phonetic spelling system if you want to be competitive in the world market.

    Memorizing 3000 separate characters just to obtain basic literacy is class time that could have been spent teaching the kids better math skills or something else that is practically useful. The brain is finite. It can only absorb so much information so fast, and you want good analytical skills more than you want big memories.
    Last edited by kojax; October 6th, 2014 at 09:34 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    Any culture that gets its feelings hurt too much when it is criticized is headed for trouble. If you can't adapt and change, then either you must be obsolete already, or you are destined to be obsolete in the future. All things that cannot change are headed for that.
    We could say the same thing for people who want English taught because it is "their" language, as opposed to a simpler, more universal language. Adapt and change or become obsolete.
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  49. #48  
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    Any culture that gets its feelings hurt too much when it is criticized is headed for trouble. If you can't adapt and change, then either you must be obsolete already, or you are destined to be obsolete in the future. All things that cannot change are headed for that.

    I'm not suggesting to abandon it completely. Let some students take it at the collegiate level, for elective credits. But most communication for low to average educated workers should be in a phonetic spelling system if you want to be competitive in the world market.

    Memorizing 3000 separate characters just to obtain basic literacy is class time that could have been spent teaching the kids better math skills or something else that is practically useful. The brain is finite. It can only absorb so much information so fast, and you want good analytical skills more than you want big memories.
    If you mean the Chinese as the culture that is getting its feelings hurt - not so. You do realize, I am not Chinese? I just live in China, and I made my username in Chinese characters for no other reason than that I found that I could.

    The Chinese, as you must know, or a good one-fourth of the world population. You couldn't hurt their cultural feelings if you wanted to and worked very hard at it. It's just like they are not intimidated by The World's Biggest Bully - The U.S.A. I admire them for that. They don't care what Uncle Sam likes and doesn't like. They don't have to. The Chinese think of America, in much the same way we Americans think of, say, Hungary - an interesting faraway land that they'll probably never visit, and so what if they don't then? It's just another country.

    But to get to the point: The Chinese know very well that they and their children need to compete in the world market. Many strive to learn English, and virtually all of them know their ABCs. Roman letters are quite common here, and only those who just fell off the turnip truck are unfamiliar with them. So they do have a de facto phonetic alphabet.

    I have said you are right, and I and many Chinese would probably agree that a phonetic alphabet WOULD be better, but with the number of homophones reading a sentence and every sentence in Roman letters would get awfully confusing. For instance I just looked up zhong here, and there's like 20 meanings. Much of the "problem" has to do with tones. Mandarin and most other dialects of Chinese have four or even five tones. Change the tone and you have a different word.

    Now what I really want to get across is although written Chinese looks like 'melted TV antennas' as the comic Steve Allen once said, they really aren't that hard to learn or to use.

    I only know a couple dozen, but it's as I have said earlier, if you know the characters you can take in whole sentences in a glance. Like I know how to read Beijing 北京市 (these characters, left to right mean north, capital, city - Bei Jing Shi). You see these characters often enough and you recognize them even without knowing the meaning or pronunciation sometimes. I know how to read Shanghai 上海市 - the first character is 'above' (a child of five in China would know this) and the second character's root means 'a great many' and the splashy marks -called a radical- on its left side show that the character has something to do with water - so 'ocean' of course! (And Shanghai, like so many cities, is 'above the sea') Then the character for 'day' is a picture of the sun - never mind that it's stylized, it's so simple a small child soon knows it. Just as they know the character for 'middle' 中 - pretty elemental idea-graph isn't it?

    So what does this mean? 上海 ?

    With all the homophones and tones then, often a meaning is not clear except in the context of the characters around it. That's how and why they can take in whole long phrases at a glance.

    Still too complicated? Is a phonetic script easier to use? Yes! It is. Nevertheless the way the human mind works is to take in whole character clusters at a glance. Don't believe me? Read this:

    i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno’t mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghi t pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe

    Now you understood that, didn't you? Why then, if the Chinese are surrounded by their melted television aerial language from birth should it be more difficult to read than the Roman alphabet? Is it harder to write? Well, sometimes but not always. Which takes less effort (and strokes) to write middle or zhong or ? And these days - don't even ask me how it works- they can type on their qwerty (ABC) ipad touchscreens and produce a Chinese character text.

    One more example please, since I took this picture just for you earlier today:



    It's actually not very common for Roman letters to be used in conjunction with Chinese in this way, but it's lucky for those of us who can't read Chinese that these guys thought it would be posh to use "English". On the website I linked to above I learned that the first five characters are surnames and the last means 'business'. So any semi-literate turnip truck traveling Chinese would know these characters and he could read them in time to hop off the back of the truck if this were his destination. Assuming one can read Chinese and English -isn't this simpler than?

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    English has such a huge variety of ways to say exactly the same thing and each different way is more appropriate for a given context than other ways. I think that flexibility is a powerful and useful thing. Does Chinese have the same degree of flexibility, or is there only one or two correct way to say a thing?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Karsus View Post
    English has such a huge variety of ways to say exactly the same thing and each different way is more appropriate for a given context than other ways. I think that flexibility is a powerful and useful thing. Does Chinese have the same degree of flexibility, or is there only one or two correct way to say a thing?
    I don't know enough about Chinese to say. However I do stand by what I said a few posts back that no language is inferior to any other. Surely Mandarin possesses nuances as most , if not all languages do.

    I don't think I can find it online, but Bill Bryson (A Yank who spent 'donkeys in England) writes in one of his books about the English language that long before the Norman conquest, and long before the Empire arose and expanded, that the English were fond of having many words for the exact same thing or something quite nearly the same. It's just what they do. Call it a national trait. Yes, isn't it grand!?

    Also: Mandarin, Arabic, Greek, Spanish any of the major languages you care to name, as well as all of the minor ones (yes, all) have approximately 300,000 words. English has about a million. One reason is that expanding empire of theirs again and their affinity for adopting new words - but many of this million are science, technical and medical terms that no one much ever uses. In any language you can get by and be considered fluent with just a few thousand words. From online tests (which are crap anyway) I am told that I myself know between 28,000 and 90,000 words. It depends which test I want to believe. Not to boast, but I have taught SAT, IELTS and TOEFL, I have read every day of my life since I finally caught on early in the second grade, and I have taught English for 30 years, so I am probably above average in the number of words I know and can use properly. My point is, what's even 100,000 in one million? Apparently I can use less than 10% of the vocabulary of my native language. Does it show?
    Last edited by 甘肃人; October 7th, 2014 at 11:25 PM.
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  52. #51  
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    Quote Originally Posted by 甘肃人 View Post

    The Chinese, as you must know, or a good one-fourth of the world population.
    That's something to be ashamed of. Not something to be proud of.


    But to get to the point: The Chinese know very well that they and their children need to compete in the world market. Many strive to learn English, and virtually all of them know their ABCs. Roman letters are quite common here, and only those who just fell off the turnip truck are unfamiliar with them. So they do have a de facto phonetic alphabet.
    I have noticed this, and I am aware of "pinyin" or the Romanized method. I just think it would be cooler if, instead of using Roman letters, China would come up with its own, exclusively Chinese alphabetic system, and use that instead.

    I have said you are right, and I and many Chinese would probably agree that a phonetic alphabet WOULD be better, but with the number of homophones reading a sentence and every sentence in Roman letters would get awfully confusing. For instance I just looked up zhong here, and there's like 20 meanings. Much of the "problem" has to do with tones. Mandarin and most other dialects of Chinese have four or even five tones. Change the tone and you have a different word.
    Yeah. That's another reason why pinyin isn't quite so great. Having to put accents or funny tone symbols into the words just makes it more messy.

    But I imagine that if China ever came up with its own spelling system, they would have symbols exclusively dedicated to the tones, which might perhaps go at the end of the word or something.



    Now you understood that, didn't you? Why then, if the Chinese are surrounded by their melted television aerial language from birth should it be more difficult to read than the Roman alphabet? Is it harder to write? Well, sometimes but not always. Which takes less effort (and strokes) to write middle or zhong or ? And these days - don't even ask me how it works- they can type on their qwerty (ABC) ipad touchscreens and produce a Chinese character text.
    It definitely has advantages.

    As far as studying it, I must say the pictographs are a categorical barrier for anyone trying to learn Chinese as a second language. It's insanely difficult to look up words in a Chinese-English dictionary, because without alphabetization, there is no logical order for the words to be arranged in.

    On the other hand, I've heard that there is a bit of logic to the pictographs themselves. So if you know the meanings of the various strokes that are used in the system, when you see a new word, you might have a chance of being able to guess its meaning from the strokes that it is composed from.

    Certainly one thing that is needful for a "universal" language is ease of entry. If it's too hard for foreigners to learn it, then universalizing it places too much a burden on the rest of the world.

    Quote Originally Posted by billvon View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    Any culture that gets its feelings hurt too much when it is criticized is headed for trouble. If you can't adapt and change, then either you must be obsolete already, or you are destined to be obsolete in the future. All things that cannot change are headed for that.
    We could say the same thing for people who want English taught because it is "their" language, as opposed to a simpler, more universal language. Adapt and change or become obsolete.
    But is that the reason? Or is it because the language simply has too much momentum for it to be practical to move to another at this point?

    And what "simpler, universal" language exists? All the languages out there have their own limitations and strengths.
    Some clocks are only right twice a day, but they are still right when they are right.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by 甘肃人 View Post

    The Chinese, as you must know, or a good one-fourth of the world population.
    That's something to be ashamed of. Not something to be proud of.


    But to get to the point: The Chinese know very well that they and their children need to compete in the world market. Many strive to learn English, and virtually all of them know their ABCs. Roman letters are quite common here, and only those who just fell off the turnip truck are unfamiliar with them. So they do have a de facto phonetic alphabet.
    I have noticed this, and I am aware of "pinyin" or the Romanized method. I just think it would be cooler if, instead of using Roman letters, China would come up with its own, exclusively Chinese alphabetic system, and use that instead.

    I have said you are right, and I and many Chinese would probably agree that a phonetic alphabet WOULD be better, but with the number of homophones reading a sentence and every sentence in Roman letters would get awfully confusing. For instance I just looked up zhong here, and there's like 20 meanings. Much of the "problem" has to do with tones. Mandarin and most other dialects of Chinese have four or even five tones. Change the tone and you have a different word.
    Yeah. That's another reason why pinyin isn't quite so great. Having to put accents or funny tone symbols into the words just makes it more messy.

    But I imagine that if China ever came up with its own spelling system, they would have symbols exclusively dedicated to the tones, which might perhaps go at the end of the word or something.



    Now you understood that, didn't you? Why then, if the Chinese are surrounded by their melted television aerial language from birth should it be more difficult to read than the Roman alphabet? Is it harder to write? Well, sometimes but not always. Which takes less effort (and strokes) to write middle or zhong or ? And these days - don't even ask me how it works- they can type on their qwerty (ABC) ipad touchscreens and produce a Chinese character text.
    It definitely has advantages.

    As far as studying it, I must say the pictographs are a categorical barrier for anyone trying to learn Chinese as a second language. It's insanely difficult to look up words in a Chinese-English dictionary, because without alphabetization, there is no logical order for the words to be arranged in.

    On the other hand, I've heard that there is a bit of logic to the pictographs themselves. So if you know the meanings of the various strokes that are used in the system, when you see a new word, you might have a chance of being able to guess its meaning from the strokes that it is composed from.

    Certainly one thing that is needful for a "universal" language is ease of entry. If it's too hard for foreigners to learn it, then universalizing it places too much a burden on the rest of the world.

    Quote Originally Posted by billvon View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    Any culture that gets its feelings hurt too much when it is criticized is headed for trouble. If you can't adapt and change, then either you must be obsolete already, or you are destined to be obsolete in the future. All things that cannot change are headed for that.
    We could say the same thing for people who want English taught because it is "their" language, as opposed to a simpler, more universal language. Adapt and change or become obsolete.
    But is that the reason? Or is it because the language simply has too much momentum for it to be practical to move to another at this point?

    And what "simpler, universal" language exists? All the languages out there have their own limitations and strengths.
    Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions.
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  54. #53  
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    Quote Originally Posted by 甘肃人 View Post
    Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions.
    Albert Einstein
    My opinion is that Albert was a great physicist, but had we been around at the time, I would not have let him near my daughter.
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