Franglais row: Is the English language conquering France?
Moderator
SanneT 487 343
Is the inevitable coming sooner than expected? Here's a little BBC article, straight from France


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22607506
March 2014
  • lu1974 3581 14075 0
    Interesting article Sanne, I thing every persona has the right to use the language he wants anywhere in the world. Legal limitations are chauvinism.
    March 2014
  • Prinz_Skogsvin 6511 13 0
    If you ask me it serves 'em right - French has been screwing up English ever since 1066...
    March 2014
  • Moderator
    ColinJohnstonov 51559 7603 179
    Speaking only about the sciences in French universities, they put themselves and their students at a major disadvantage by requiring everything to be done in French. English is now the dominant language in the sciences and it is a very good thing. If you want to go to a conference, publish your research, collaborate with international colleagues, or read the research of others, you need to have your English at a very high level.

    Students who finish their undergraduate work will be much worse off if they have only ever done science in French. Also, by requiring courses only to be taught in French, they immediately exclude the possbility of hiring the vast majority of best professors and researchers for teaching positions. The best people are not going to spend years learning French so they can get a job in France when they can just as easily get a job in Germany and teach in English. Science PhD students in France will publish their research during their PhD in English and then have to translate it all into French in order to write their thesis, which then becomes a useless book in the library of their university.

    Of course this does not necessarily apply to the arts. If somebody wants to go to France and study French culture, it makes sense for the courses to be in French.
    March 2014
  • Prinz_Skogsvin 6511 13 0
    @Colin

    True.

    And yet, I can understand very well where the opponents of this measure are coming from.

    There are plenty of people in the EU who would like to go back to the days where Latin (today: English) was the language not only of academia but of all education - and, of course, the language of governance. In this scenario the local languages probably wouldn't disappear, but they would only be spoken by the elite on a limited basis (around the kitchen table, so to speak.) As a primary means of communication they would mainly be reserved for uneducated "plebs" and relatively uneducated manual workers - people who would also be completely excluded and locked out of any kind of intellectual or political discourse.

    I can see why this would have advantages for some people, but would it really be a very healthy state of affairs for society? Wouldn't it almost inevitably lead to a huge impoverishment of local identity and culture?

    (If I'm entirely honest, I suppose there is also a part of my psyche which feels profoundly uncomfortable with the way my mother tongue has been hijacked by so many millions of foreigners as a kind of global lingua franca...)
    March 2014
  • OzzyHellBack 14 123 689
    Even though I'm a French American, I think that the languages need to become more separated from one another. French is losing it's uniqueness a language and I don't want that to happen.

    About the science part, I think latin should be the dominate language the sciences and not english. That is only my opinion, because I've grown up learning science with latin names. English I think should be used as a diplomatic language and not a language of sciences or of conferences. As I've said before, it's only my opinion.
    March 2014
  • Moderator
    ColinJohnstonov 51559 7603 179
    "There are plenty of people in the EU who would like to go back to the days where Latin (today: English) was the language not only of academia but of all education"

    I have not heard of such people, but the idea is ridiculous. The idea that people in academia should learn a dead and useless language to communicate with each other instead of a live and otherwise very useful language makes no sense.

    Science especially requires that there is one language that everybody can use to communicate with each other. This is very important. This languages should be English primarily because it already is English. Basically all serious scientific literature in the last 50 years, and most of it from the last 100 years, has been written in English. Some countries, such as Russia, still publish some stuff in their own languages, but this stuff has basically no influence and is largely written, at least in the case of Russia, for political purposes. Scientists everywhere have already learned English to use as their work language, except for native speakers of course. Should these people have to learn another language? Of course not.

    English should also be the main language used in the sciences because it is the most useful language outside of the sciences and because it is the most widely taught second language. Should an 18 year old German going to university with a C1 knowledge of English have to learn Russian from scratch?
    March 2014
    • eugrus ru Russian Federation 17101 40810 1
      Some fields are more connected with a language than others are. The English language, though very important for international trade and its legal accompaniment, is very clumsy as means of the legal science in continental legal systems. There is no English-speaking country with a Romano-Germanic legal system and thus no establishments in the language to deal with its structures and the English language does not share the same history with them. Even Latin is significantly more useful in this respect. But there are two nations which made the greatest contribution to the continental legal science, those are German and French. It's only natural for me that these languages stay as the most important within the continental legal science. Should I ever be in a position to contribute to that, then I would.
      I also believe that the use of English as a mean of communication between two cultures more close to each other than to English does alienate them. An even more depressive effect for national esteem has the refusal from the use of the national language for humanities within the country.
      And to your last question. Well, I would certainly rather prefer German students learning Russian than English and it certainly is to a huge extent a matter of politics, cultural politics, and cultural PR. We all see that at this point the USA are doing best on this field, but it should not ever stop anyone from trying.
      November 2014
  • Prinz_Skogsvin 6511 13 0
    @Colin: "...The idea that people in academia should learn a dead and useless language to communicate with each other instead of a live and otherwise very useful language makes no sense..."
    ---

    There is a misunderstanding here. Nobody is suggesting that people should learn Latin, rather they want to recreate something similar to the time when Latin was the lingua franca, *but using English in place of Latin* - this is what I was saying.

    BTW
    I'm not so concerned about what a bunch of wild-haired loons in a lab get up to (as long as it doesn't involve live goats.) I'm more concerned about the notion of secondary school systems in non-English countries switching over to having English as the main language of instruction. (And yeah, there really are some people in European countries who would like to see that happen.)
    March 2014
  • Moderator
    ColinJohnstonov 51559 7603 179
    Oh, sorry, I did misunderstand.
    March 2014
  • jstoddard 119 1930
    A lot of scientific papers are still published in German and French; I know that most graduate programs I've looked at in physics in U.S. universities require before graduation demonstration of at least the ability to read scientific papers in German, and strongly recommend proficiency in French as well. (Of course whether their testing of these languages actually means anything in terms of real world ability could easily be questioned). From what I understand virtually all graduate programs in classics in the U.S. require proficiency in German and French before graduation as well, which would indicate that they're still used in branches of Academia outside of science as well...

    Oh, and there are a number of latinists who would like to bring back Latin as the primary language of international communication, academia, etc. I always thought that was a pipe dream (I participate in some Living Latin groups because it's fun, but some people take it *very* seriously), and now -- thanks to MediumCORE -- I see it would probably be a bad thing if it were ever to happen; it would effectively exclude the working-class from participation in intellectual and political life. There is one place in which Latin would probably be useful as a language of academic discourse: in the field of classics. Not all classicists speak English, but (theoretically, at least) they have Latin as a common language...
    March 2014
    • djc463 us United States 14841 18870
      As someone who has studied physics and knows people who have done postgrad work in the field, they don't test for it, and the majority of the students don't speak French or German (although some do)
      November 2014
  • Paule89 15423 2657 13998
    It seems like France is trying to push the French language just like the anglophone countries are pushing English so yeah...I don´t see the problem.

    Besides that... "If you ask me it serves 'em right - French has been screwing up English ever since 1066..."
    March 2014
  • Moderator
    SanneT 487 343
    This is something that illustrates how technology influences languages. I came upon a fascinating little verb in an American biography about Edith Wharton:

    Morton bleus her one morning.

    I had never before heard of "to bleu someone".....Luckily enough, I knew that Morton Fullerton and she were keeping the Parisian postal pneumatic service quite busy - those missives were actually sent in blue envelopes. Nice, hey? I like these snippets of information.
    March 2014
  • dooo 21 9383 2269
    I really do not think it is problem. Latin conquered. English will too, whether or not Administration or Government wants it. I just don`t want to be around for the events that eventually cause the displacement of English... (I note I am talking about the events. I would happily learn a new language if a government official asked and gave me a reasonable amount of time and resources.)
    March 2014
  • Moderator
    ColinJohnstonov 51559 7603 179
    "A lot of scientific papers are still published in German and French"

    Which sciences? Certainly not physics. There are of course magazines, some written for professionals, and even technical stuff like textbooks written in German, but real original research is not published in German. I just asked a couple of German physicists, and they don't know of any physics journals that publish in German. I can imagine the French might have a few for political purposes, but very few people will actually read them, and the research published in them will be of a much lower quality.

    "I know that most graduate programs I've looked at in physics in U.S. universities require before graduation demonstration of at least the ability to read scientific papers in German, and strongly recommend proficiency in French as well"

    I find this very hard to believe. Could you send some links to a few? Even in Germany, you do not need to have a knowledge of German to become a PhD student (though this will depend a bit on the university and on your PhD supervisor).
    March 2014
    • djc463 us United States 14841 18870
      Agree 100%. My experience with academics has been the same as yours (I'm getting an MD, but have friends working on PhDs.... all journals that you want to publish in publish in English. I actually got a summer job in an Italian institute in order to help write an academic paper in English for the team.
      November 2014
  • Prinz_Skogsvin 6511 13 0
    @Sanne: "...I had never before heard of "to bleu someone"..."
    ---

    Well, ya know....I can't say what I'm thinking here, because it just wouldn't be nice...
    March 2014
  • Moderator
    ColinJohnstonov 51559 7603 179
    Yeah, it's probably best just to let that one slide.
    March 2014
  • jstoddard 119 1930
    I studied physics at UCSD (and worked as a research assistant for about 6 months in the affiliated Scripps Institution of Oceanography), and that was one of the schools I looked into doing a Ph.D. program; they did indeed at the time require proficiency in German to graduate (that would've been about 5 years ago). I don't have a link unfortunately; I don't know if that requirement was published online or only available on internal websites. It may have changed, of course, but that change would've been recent. I also know the requirement was the same at the other universities I was looking at. I'm really not interested in taking the time to research it for an argument online at the moment, though, so if you don't want to believe me, then fine.

    Also, Annalen der Physik is an important physics journal, and it published physics research in German up until the early 90's. It does publish in English today, so I could be wrong about present-day physics research being published in German, but it has happened recently enough that there is scholarly research that is still relevant and important and was published in German. Serious science not being published outside of English in the last 50 years is definitely an exaggeration...
    March 2014
  • jstoddard 119 1930
    Hmm... there doesn't seem to be a current foreign language requirement for the physics program at UCSD, so either I was wrong about that or it has changed since I was attending...
    March 2014
  • Davidjvl 46301 44608
    @Jstoddard

    My younger brother is a Nuclear Engineering undergraduate student at NCSU. I asked him what language he was studying at school, since I was going to buy him the Assimil book for the language as a gift, and he replied by saying that a foreign language is not required. This seems to be a growing trend.

    Our bachelor's degrees take 4 years. Europe's take 3. Our students spend way more time on the so called "gen-eds," so why can't they also be exposed to a second language?
    March 2014
    • djc463 us United States 14841 18870
      They can be, but if they aren't interested in it why bother? People should chose gen eds based on interest, because it's more likely to be what they will learn better, and can work into their lives and further develop that interest later in life. For my undergraduate elective credits, I had time to get minors in French and Russian, and take 3 Spanish classes, but if someone else just wants to do 2 semesters of that and then study more physics or computer programming. literature, ballroom dancing, basket weaving :)
      November 2014
  • jstoddard 119 1930
    That's interesting. I've been under the impression that a foreign language requirement was nearly universal in undergraduate programs, but I just checked and it's also not a requirement at UCSD. I transferred in, so maybe it was a requirement at my community college beforehand (or maybe I just took Spanish for the fun of it).

    On that note, I had an interesting discussion on Google+ the other day about foreign language requirements in grade schools and universities in the United States. If I recall correctly (and, as you can see above, my memory is apparently more flaky than I'm comfortable admitting), it started with an article promoting the allowance of computer languages as fulfilling (or even replacing) a foreign language requirement. A major argument was that if fluency is the goal in a foreign language requirement, we're failing at a rate of nearly 100%, so why have such a requirement? I can say that I didn't really know how to respond to that one. I speak Spanish fluently, but can't credit it to my university courses at all (I can credit my understanding of English grammar to the Spanish courses, but that's something they really should have taught me in the English classes). I would like to see more multilingualism in my country, but I doubt that someone can be forced into fluency...
    March 2014
  • Baietease 349 10116
    I highly recommend to watch this video.
    http://blog.ted.com/2011/03/28/dont-insist-on-e...

    About the "franglais", the same kind of things exist in other countries as Japan with the "franponais". It is not a French particularity. Trying to re-appropriate a foreign language becomes a part of the country's culture itself. The language is alive and evolve along history.

    As it says in the video, you can be very good in Sciences department and not in English. But now if you want to succeed you have to learn English anyway ? So what happens if you are not able to learn this language ? Maybe we are losing great ideas.

    I think it is good to teach in English in some French universities, if you want students from other countries come to study. It's the part of the global sharing. But if in the same time we have the same class in French for foreigner who have French as second language. Yes they still exist. ;) But it has a cost...

    And there are also an interesting article here > http://www.economist.com/news/britain/21585031-...
    March 2014
  • Farrago 18422 17
    I know Missouri S&T has a foreign language requirement at least for a BS in Chemistry (It's primarily an engineering school). They don't tell you which to take, but they pretty much tell you to take French or German. The advanced courses in this are simply having you to read scientific literature in those languages which appears to be the main focus of having to learn them.
    March 2014
  • Moderator
    ColinJohnstonov 51559 7603 179
    Do I understand it correctly that the American university system often tries to give their students rounded educations by making them do some light courses on subjects that are not directly relevant for their main subject? This might be the reason for the language requirements. It is not the case that a foreign language is useful for somebody studying any of the natural sciences in America.
    March 2014
  • +MediumCORE
    (If I'm entirely honest, I suppose there is also a part of my psyche which feels profoundly uncomfortable with the way my mother tongue has been hijacked by so many millions of foreigners as a kind of global lingua franca...)

    It seems you are confused? You have points in 5 languages in lingq and you dream of studying another 9 languages as stated from your ling homepage...... so how can you feel uncomfortable that your mother tongue has been "hijacked".......
    Surely you have hijacked 5 languages including French (I see you are fond of the French from your other commment) and dream of hijacking 9 others! When you lived in Germany as a FOREIGNER do you think the Germans were uncomfortable that you were learning German. You are hardly encouraging language learning...is this not a double standard? Choose your words wisely in your reply mon ami.....

    +Davidjvl

    Very few european undergraduate degrees are 3 years......it´s 3 years in the UK and that´s because students have specialised from day 1 as an undergraduate. Also their school leaving system (A levels) involves focussing on only 3-4 specialised subjects so 3 years is enough for a degree there. I'm not biased as I'm not British and didn't go through this system.

    I was at a conference where I saw 2 academics argue about having to learn English or not. One guy was French, the other guy was Canadian (Native French). Both were famous scientists and the rest of the table was predominantly native English speakers sitting in silence.The Canadian has learned English as a 2nd language and had recently moved to a German university where he was told learn to teach German in 2 years. He did it and he was over 40 which was his part of his argument. Anyway, perhaps the French people could insist on each student learning French at C level prior to graduation while taking courses in English. No C level, no degree....French is still widely used predominantly as a second language in Africa, EU etc. I can't see it going anywhere.
    March 2014
  • Moderator
    ColinJohnstonov 51559 7603 179
    I watched the TED talk several times and have thought about her points all day. It is an interesting talk. Mostly it is a mixture of confusions, bad or irrelevent reasoning, a terrible understanding of what is and is not feasible in the sciences, and one very interesting point (plus a great opening joke). Here are my comments on the video.

    Her argument really starts at 3:30 into the video.

    "...but if you're not a native speaker [of English], you have to pass a test. Now can it be right to reject a student on linguistic ability alone?"

    This depends on the course, but in general, sure. If English is necessary for competence in a certain subject or for ability to take part in a certain course, then of course universities should select based on English ability. She obviously disagrees. Here is her first argument in favour of her opinion.

    "Let me put it this way. If I met a monolingual Dutsch speaker who had the cure for cancer, would I stop him form entering my British university?"

    This is irrelevant. In almost every case, students applying to study at a university as an undergraduate has nothing to immediately offer the university other than money. In general, it is only after many years of being educated by the university that they can start to do things that benefit the university and this will probably only happen if they do a PhD. The vast majority of students applying for PhD places at universities have no significant expertise to offer the university that couldn't be learned in the first couple of months of the PhD anyway. If somebody did come with the cure for cancer, or something like that, I am sure the university would find a way to make an exception for them if they did not know English.

    "What about the research, it's all in English? The books are in English, the journals are in English, but that is a self-fullfilling profecy. It feeds the English requirement."

    This is true, and it is a good thing.

    "I ask you, what happened to translation. If you think about the Islamic golden age, there was lots of translation then. They translated from Latin and Greek, into Arabic, into Persian, and then it was translated on into the Germanic languages of Europe and the Romance languages..."

    The idea that scientists around the world with different first languages could work together by relying on all of their work being translated is ridiculous. Scientists communicate with each other in many ways. They communicate through carefully written peer-reviewed technical science papers, by email, by Skype and phone calls, face to face at conferences, and by giving talks at conferences. It is unreasonable to think that even a small fraction of this can be translated into even a small number of the main world languages. Even if there was a convenient way to do this, the natural sciences do not have the resources for anything like this. Who is going to pay the translators? It certainly can't come out of the tight budgets of science departments. Who will pay the interpreters at conferences, if indeed technical science talks that can only be understood by a small number of experts can be interpreted? There are no resources in the sciences for this so it would require huge amounts of extra funding to be paid for, and this is extra funding would be better spend on hiring more scientists.

    Maybe this worked in older times where there were many fewer scientists, most of whom were only able to do their work because they were already rich and therefore well funding, producing much less work. Maybe it didn’t really work then either. In the periods of history that she mentioned, science moved extremely slowly in comparison to nowadays. Real advances were few and far between. Effectively, not having one dominant language would mean that scientists around the world would not work together. Translation is not a solution.

    “And I want to remind you that the giants upon whose shoulders todays intelligenciasomething stand, did not have to pass an English exam. Case in hand: Einstein.”

    Well for a long time, Latin was the dominant language in the sciences, but certainly in Einstein’s time, this was not the case. However, in Einstein’s time, there were many fewer scientists, everything progressed at a much slower pace, and the work they were doing was much easier and simpler than it is now. Fortunately for all of us, the main subject Einstein contributed to was dominated by physicists from the German speaking world so the language barrier was not such a problem. As I understand it, and I could certainly be wrong, his work was mostly ignored outside the German speaking world until the English physicist Arthur Eddington wrote a book about it (don’t quote me on this though).

    However, her point was not entirely dependent on the one case of Einstein, and I am sure she is right to an extent that by having the sciences dominated by one language, we lose out on some good work by people who are at low-levels of English simply because they cannot communicate their ideas. However, the benefits far outweigh the losses. If we did not have one language to communicate, we would lose much more work due to scientists not being able to communicate with each other and the people whose work we are losing now due to the dominance of English will still not be able to communicate their ideas to much of the scientific community.

    “Let me tell you a story about two English scientists. They were doing an experiment to do with genetics and the forelimbs and the hind limbs of animals, but they couldn’t get the results they wanted, they really didn’t know what to do. Then along came a German scientist who realised that they were using two words for forelimb and hindlimb whereas genetics does not differentiate, and neither does German, so bingo, problem solved. If you can’t think a thought, you are stuck. But if another language can think that thought, then by cooperating, we can achieve and learn so much more.”

    This story sounds very unlikely and even if it did happen in the way she presents it, which I doubt, it is irrelevant. I have never heard of any scientific breakthrough, or any result whatsoever, that was achieved as a result of a random oddity in the native language of one of the researchers. Maybe this did happen the way she says, but we are talking about an event of extreme rarity.

    I don’t understand what she is trying to say with the story about her daughter and Arabic or with the story about the Kenyan boy. She did make the interesting point that the dominance of English means that the poor in other countries who cannot afford an English education are being excluded. I don’t know how true this is, but it could be. (Anyway, sorry about the essay).
    March 2014
  • Prinz_Skogsvin 6511 13 0
    @Treiscuarenta:
    ---
    "...It seems you are confused?..."
    ---

    Frequently - especially when I have been hitting the jolly old Vodka ;-)

    ---
    "...how can you feel uncomfortable that your mother tongue has been "hijacked"...
    ---

    Because it is used (often quite badly) by countless zillions of Johnny-Fs the world over - many of whom would insist on speaking Pidgin-English with me, even if I had a far better command of their language.

    ---
    "...I see you are fond of the French..."
    ---

    Well okay - I admit it. I do have a soft spot for those Frog eaters. I know I shouldn't, but I just can't help it.

    ---
    "...When you lived in Germany as a FOREIGNER do you think the Germans were uncomfortable that you were learning German...."
    ---

    Some of them certainly gave that impression. (At any rate, it required a truly Churchillian effort to elicit even so much as one teutonic squeak from between the lips of some of those monocled crewcut sausage munchers...)

    ---
    "...You are hardly encouraging language learning...is this not a double standard?..."
    ---

    I really don't think it is.

    ---
    "...Choose your words wisely in your reply mon ami...."
    ---

    I wouldn't dream of doing anything else.

    In spite of their inherent awfulness I actually like those foreign b******s quite a lot, and I'd encourage every Englishman to learn their languages, drink their beer and b*** their women.

    (I would put it more frankly than this, but I do need to choose my words with care...)
    March 2014
  • +MediumCORE

    You make a lot of assumptions with the reactions of so called foreigners...perhaps you are wrong...I wonder do you notice the same things with your fellow brits. Your comments appear juvenile and xenophobic too...maybe yout think people think this is funny?
    March 2014
  • Prinz_Skogsvin 6511 13 0
    "...so called foreigners..."
    ---

    Come to think of it, it is rather a rum thing to call foreigners foreign. Let's call them, I dunno, "lizards"...

    ---
    "...Your comments appear juvenile and xenophobic too..."
    ---

    Oh yes, I'm very juvenile. And quite xenophobic too. And did I mention that I'm also a drug dealing car thief? (Boom-boom.)

    ---
    "...maybe yout think people think this is funny?..."
    ---

    Maybe I do - who knows? There's just no accounting for taste is there? (And if you ask me, that's the only really funny thing about funniness.)
    March 2014
  • Prinz_Skogsvin 6511 13 0
    PS

    Hey, don't mind me - I'm not normally an Arschloch, it's just when the magic nectar is flowing ;-)
    March 2014
  • lovelanguagesIII 40 2 137
    ad Colin: I responded to your question on interpreting in the other thread.

    English as a lingua franca already is a fact. What I experience on a daily basis in my job is that poor English is extremely counterproductive. So, yes, knowing English and communicating in it can have advantages but you need a certain level to actually benefit from it professionally.

    And that is what people forget about today. You need time to learn how to speak and write good English, I'm not talking about perfection here (nobody is perfect in my opinion and I don't consider "nobody" a name ;-)).

    There are not half as many people who can actually converse in English at a professional level as is sometimes suggested. Yes, people can get their basic message across but that is not always enough.

    In Germany and Austria we now have an increasing number of doctors who don't speak enough German to really explain things to their patients. These doctors are experts in their fields but due to their lack of linguistic skills they make mistakes (misunderstanding responses of their patients) which sometimes turned out to be fatal for their patients.

    The same can and actually does happen with English. It is one thing to be able to order a pizza in English and another one to be able to describe to a patient what is going to happen with him in a chemotherapy. You may argue that you don't always understand what doctors tell you in your mother tongue but when a doctor needs you to provide him with information he is going to base his medical decisions on, he'd better understand exactly what you are telling him.

    I have a client where English is the "lingua franca" within the group. Austrians communicate with Italian, English, French, Spanish etc. colleagues in English. In many cases their written English is so poor that the national units of the group have decided to have the documents translated back into their native tongue.

    I do believe that a "lingua franca" has its advantages, but I don't think "pidgin English" should be the standard to settle for. However, in my experience this is exactly what happens. And by "pidgin English" I mean a kind of English which is distorted to the extent that it mostly becomes incomprehensible (I'm not referring to the linguistic term of "pidgin languages" here).

    _________

    ad Jay (alias Medium CORE): I don't think you are an Arschloch but sometimes you seem to make an effort to come across as one ;-)

    As for your comment on how English is hijacked by foreigners, well, this is what happens when people start out imposing their language on others (see imperialism for more information ;-)). It is only a matter of time then till people get back at you with their version of the "invader's language".

    Seriously, I think the main problem is that people don't seem to think that it is worth making an effort to learn a language to a level which goes beyond speaking in infinitive constructions. I experience that all the time in my line of business as well.

    The general assumption appears to be that as long as the person I talk to understands what I'm saying there is no need for me to try and speak correctly. The problem with this attitude is that you might not really know anymore if you are understood if you can't comprehend the answers you are given. It is all along the lines of "ah, yeah, I know what you mean...." without actually having a clue of what the other person is saying.

    There is a lot of laziness and carelessness involved, in some instances probably also a certain lack of respect (that's what I feel if people have been living in a specific country for decades and just don't seem to have any intention whatsoever to make an effort to learn the local language).

    Of course, it all depends on what your goal is. If you plan a trip to a country where you'd like to be able to have some small talk, then 3 months may be enough for you to get where you want to be.

    Other than that I'd prefer if people realized that learning a language takes time, lots of work and commitment. Even if you were to achieve a rather high level within half a year or a year, you'd still have to invest a lot of time to make sure you maintain your level.

    Language learning should be and can be a lot of fun, but it comes at a price. Nowadays, people think "paying a price" is something "indecent" or "improper" to do. But the bottom line is you get what you pay for (and the payment here is your commitment).

    We all make mistakes, I'm not asking people to be perfect (I'm not even "perfect" in my native tongue) but I think that too many people settle for too low a level. I very much enjoy talking to foreigners in German and as long as people make an effort to converse with me in German, I'll do the same. I just don't enjoy talking to people who are too lazy to learn enough German to make themselves understood. In this case a "lingua franca" like English might come in handy indeed, as long as both of us are capable of conversing in it at an appropriate level and that level basically depends on what we are aiming at.

    A good example of what I mean are people on this site who actually ask questions like "What does "car" mean?". If you don't even bother to look up a word in a dictionary, how can you expect people to take the time to respond to your questions?

    Don't get me wrong, I very much enjoy helping people but they need to be serious about what they are doing.

    March 2014
  • Prinz_Skogsvin 6511 13 0
    @Robert: "...I do believe that a "lingua franca" has its advantages, but I don't think "pidgin English" should be the standard to settle for. However, in my experience this is exactly what happens. And by "pidgin English" I mean a kind of English which is distorted to the extent that it mostly becomes incomprehensible (I'm not referring to the linguistic term of "pidgin languages" here)...."
    ---

    I strongly agree - and this is exactly what I was getting at in my earlier post.

    I had quite a lot of experience of people in Germany who pretty much insisted on speaking English - even if it was far from clear whether all of them were very good at it.

    I don't want to exaggerate the point, but as a native speaker it did slightly annoy me when people did this. It is perhaps not easy for a native speaker of another language to grasp what this is like. But to imagine the reverse scenario, we might consider the situation if a German speaker came to England and continually had the following kind of experience:

    German person: "Excuse me, could you tell me which ticket option is the best value? I want to travel to London today, and I'll be returning either tomorrow or the next day."

    Ticket clerk: "Doo London geyhen, ja? Dayn diesuh Ticket for doo - Funzig Pond kosten"

    German person: "Er, thanks. And could you tell me which platform the train leaves from?"

    Ticket clerk: "Doo in gros Toor geyhen. Geyraduhaws geyhen. nummuh fir gleys.

    ...and so on...ad infinitum...

    After a while, that might just get to be mildly annoying, right? :-0
    March 2014
  • lovelanguagesIII 40 2 137
    ad Jay: This is exactly how I interpreted your comment when I read it and I agree with you.

    Similar things happened to me in China. Even though most people were more than happy to talk to me in Chinese, I met some people who insisted on talking to me in English even though they only knew a few standard sentences. If I tried to talk to them about something else, they would just "change the subject" to make sure whatever they thought we were talking about fitted their vocabulary.

    I have not had many experiences like this so far, but I find them kind of annoying too.

    Personally, I would never dream of responding to someone in English if I am addressed in German and I understand what the person says. Quite on the contrary, I very much appreciate the effort of any foreigner trying to speak my native tongue. But if it turns out he or she is incomprehensible in German, we might have to switch to English.

    March 2014
  • Prinz_Skogsvin 6511 13 0
    @Robert: "...Personally, I would never dream of responding to someone in English if I am addressed in German and I understand what the person says. Quite on the contrary, I very much appreciate the effort of any foreigner trying to speak my native tongue...."
    ---

    You know, when I think about it, that is very much in line with my experience - it is a kind of paradox that those people who have an extremely high level in English (and I would certainly include you in that category) are often the people who are most willing to speak other languages.

    (That is perhaps true of the internet too.)
    March 2014
  • Moderator
    ColinJohnstonov 51559 7603 179
    I plan still to write something else on this thread about the feasibility of using translation and interpretation in the sciences, but I am all tapped out. I typed way too much stuff today. Not only was I being childish on the other thread, I was also continually exchanging emails in English with an Austrian colleague and a Brazillian colleague about work stuff. I am so glad that they have learned English to such a level that I am able to communicate directly with them. They must be pretty happy too that they can communicate with each other using the same language they use to communicate with me. My Austrian colleague doesn't know any Portuguese and my Brazilian colleague certainly doesn't know any German. My Brazillian colleague must also be pretty happy that the language she has learned that allows her to communicate with me and her Austrian colleague also allows her to communicate with her Russian and French colleagues (of which she has a few). Her Russian colleagues must be pretty happy that the language they learned that allows them to communicate with their Brazilian colleague also allows them to communicate with their Japanese and German colleagues. I won't go on any more. I am just glad that I can communicate with you guys, my LingQ colleagues.
    March 2014
  • Prinz_Skogsvin 6511 13 0
    @Colin: "...I was also continually exchanging emails in English with an Austrian colleague and a Brazillian colleague about work stuff..."
    ---

    If a bunch of spaced-out loons from the lab want to communicate their weird bearded fu**ery in English that's 100% okay by me.

    I'm more concerned about mainstream society adopting some kind of dumbed-down version of English as the official language of globalism. In fact, if this thing goes too much further I may well start using Middle English with foreigners (sorry, I mean with "lizards") just as a form of one-man protest...
    March 2014
  • Moderator
    SanneT 487 343
    I have always thought it a good approach: tell them what you are going to tell them and then do it.

    To telle yow al the condicioun,
    Of ech of hem, so as it semed me,
    And whiche they weren, and of what degree,
    And eek in what array that they were inne,
    And at a knyght than wol I first bigynne.

    A few centuries later we might have said:

    He affects the metaphysics, not only in his satires, but in his amorous verses, where nature only should reign; and perplexes the minds of the fair sex with nice speculations of philosophy, when he should engage their hearts, and entertain them with the softnesses of love.

    Fare thee well, kind stranger!
    March 2014
  • Prinz_Skogsvin 6511 13 0
    "...and perplexes the minds of the fair sex with nice speculations of philosophy..."

    Fair sex is all well and good, but how about great sex?? :-D
    March 2014
  • Moderator
    SanneT 487 343
    Sire, you don't deserve a rose for this, although it raised a huge grin.
    March 2014
  • Hello
    I'm a french young woman and I was interested in answering this conversation.Concerning the topic of discussion, of course english is more and more present , especially in my country. And it's so easy to use because we can hear it on the TV ( ads , films ...), usual words are often used (expressions like "I'm ok", "cool" and so many others)and sometimes replace the french ones. But anyway I don't think that we'll ever forget our language, its particularities,it's part of our culture.
    And we are not "frog eaters" , stop with this stereotype, personnaly I don't like frogs!!
    If ever one of you would like to exchange in french and in the same way prove that it's an important language, go and have a a look at my site. I propose communication through SKYPE in french and english:

    http://wide-open.e-monsite.com/

    hope to see you soon!
    Estelle
    March 2014
  • Davidjvl 46301 44608
    @Wide

    I looked at your site. Are you seriously trying to sell English/French translation services? You are helping to justify Colin's point without even realizing it.
    March 2014
  • Paule89 15423 2657 13998
    What´s Colin´s point?
    March 2014
  • Davidjvl 46301 44608
    @Paul
    Unless I've missed something, it is that English as a lingua franca makes more sense than trusting translators who may or may not understand the work they are translating.

    I've yet to be convinced for either side, actually.
    March 2014
  • Moderator
    ColinJohnstonov 51559 7603 179
    My point is only about within the natural sciences. It has no application outside of the natural sciences. It had nothing to do with not trusting translators, though I have had a discussion on another thread about how trustworthy interpreters are when interpreting the most technical of scientific talks. This discussion is not really crucial to the point I made on this thread since my point about translators and interpreters not being a solution in the natural sciences is a practical one and is not related to their reliability.
    March 2014
  • Davidjvl 46301 44608
    @Colin

    Why does it have no application outside the natural sciences?

    Yeah, I agree, I just could not think of a more polite way to point out the low level of this "translator's" English. At the time I saw her post more as an offense to the translation profession, and Robert, than anything.
    March 2014
  • Paule89 15423 2657 13998
    Why not use an easy, politically more neutral language like Esperanto? The only "advantage" of using English as a scientific lingua franca is that scientists from English speaking countries don´t have to spend thousands of hours learning another language (instead of science-related stuff...), like their colleagues from pretty much every other country.

    March 2014
    • Administrator
      steve ca Canada 55516 2826 92339
      The advantage of English is that a lot of people speak it and understand and want to use it. None of this is true of Esperanto, which has no future.
      November 2014
  • Moderator
    ColinJohnstonov 51559 7603 179
    @ David

    "Why does it have no application outside the natural sciences?"

    Sorry, what I wrote was a bit misleading. I just mean that I am only talking about the natural sciences because that's the world I live in. I have no opinions about the dominance of English in other subject because I don't know about it. Maybe what I say can be applied to other areas. I don't know.

    @ Paule

    I wrote why I thought it should be English in my second post on this thread.

    "Science especially requires that there is one language that everybody can use to communicate with each other. This is very important. This languages should be English primarily because it already is English. Basically all serious scientific literature in the last 50 years, and most of it from the last 100 years, has been written in English. Some countries, such as Russia, still publish some stuff in their own languages, but this stuff has basically no influence and is largely written, at least in the case of Russia, for political purposes. Scientists everywhere have already learned English to use as their work language, except for native speakers of course. Should these people have to learn another language? Of course not.

    English should also be the main language used in the sciences because it is the most useful language outside of the sciences and because it is the most widely taught second language. Should an 18 year old German going to university with a C1 knowledge of English have to learn Russian from scratch?"

    I don't think politcal neutrality is an issue here. I have never heard anybody in the sciences complain about English being the main language. Maybe they just don't do it in front of me.

    Of course the state of affairs is very unfair. People from English speaking countries have a huge advantage over everyone else. I don't know what can be done about this. I can think of a few things, but none of them strike me as likely to work in practice.
    March 2014
  • Paule89 15423 2657 13998
    English is important because English is important because English is important and that´s why English should be important and be made even more important...
    March 2014
  • Paule89 15423 2657 13998
    English is a dominant language because English speaking people successfully invaded many countries. I read somewhere that only 20 countries or so were never invaded by the U.K. and America is probably the most warhappy country since Nazi Germany. I think 'murica has bombed 20 countries since WWII and was attacked by how many of them? None of them? English is spoken in northern America because some (mostly anglophone) went to another continent and almost eradicated the native americans. It´s probably a similar story for australia.

    A language that is spread through imperialism is not "neutral" in my opinion. I´m pretty sure some of these countries in your list still have the U.K. flag somewhere on their flag.

    March 2014
    • Administrator
      steve ca Canada 55516 2826 92339
      Most languages that are widely spoken were spread by one country dominating others, militarily, commercially or culturally; Romance languages, Greek for a while, Arabic, Turkish, Chinese, Sogdian on the silk road, Russian, Spanish, Portuguese, just to get started. That is history. No real reason to get in a sanctimonious flap . Today, most speakers of English as a second language simply find it very useful and practical.
      November 2014
  • Davidjvl 46301 44608
    @Paul

    I have more or less the same opinions as you regarding the past.

    The speakers of English in these countries may have these opinions, too. This does not mean that they do not, today, consider the language an essential part of their personal and societal identities.
    March 2014
  • Paule89 15423 2657 13998
    Well, I wouldn´t call English an "essential part of my personal identity" (I wouldn´t say that about German either, btw) but speaking English is a nice, little "add-on" to my life. I´m not "against English". I have spend muuuuuuuuuuuch more than with English than I had too...

    Anyway, to some extent, the "imperialism"-argument applies to French, Spanish, Russian etc.

    I´m just saying that if we have to push a language...down people´s throats...all around the world...it should be a language that is more neutral and easier than any "natural language" I can think of.
    March 2014
  • Paule89 15423 2657 13998
    Since we´re talking about science...

    I wonder how many cool stuff would happen if all these brilliant minds in Asia were able to comfortable communicate with the rest of the world (and use all they time spend learning English for other things, like doing their job...). Just imagine going to a university where you have to do pretty much everything in Chinese because it´s "the international language":..holy shit...
    March 2014
  • Prinz_Skogsvin 6511 13 0
    @Colin: "...Should an 18 year old German going to university with a C1 knowledge of English have to learn Russian from scratch?"..."
    ---

    The little scroats wouldn't be happy about it - that's for sure. But it'd be good for their souls, IMO :-D

    BTW History has a way of playing funny little tricks on us: for all we know, German kids (or even English kids!) in 20 or 50 or 100 years time from now really could be learning Russian! It seems unlikely now, but I'm sure that stranger things have been known to happen on the banks of River Time...
    March 2014
  • Paule89 15423 2657 13998
    I just have to look at my family...my older siblings learned Russian and I learned English...so maybe my children or my grandchildren will learn yet another language (or Russian again...)

    My grandparents and their ancestors spoke Polish and Sorbic (and maybe other languages) too...
    March 2014
  • lovelanguagesIII 40 2 137
    I see the practical side a lingua franca offers but what is happening with English nowadays is that it is not considered a lingua franca anymore but some sort of replacement for other languages and that's what I am opposed to.

    To me that is comparable to the situation with dialects and so-called standard variants of a language. I speak both standard German and my local dialect. I use standard German in certain situations, mostly to ensure communication between me and people who don't speak and/or understand my dialect.

    However, I will never give up my dialect. It is neither less nor more important than the standard variant of German I speak at my place of work or with people who have studied German as a foreign language or other native speakers who otherwise would have difficulties understanding my local dialect.

    Unfortunately, however, dialects are considered a "less prestigious" variant by many people for various reasons.

    It is the same with English in many cases. It is considered to be "cool" to use English. People are too lazy to come up with German expressions and words because supposedly their English counterparts are easier to understand, shorter, more concise whatever. This is a ridiculous excuse. German, and any other language for that matter, is just as powerful as English. Languages are different, they are neither better nor worse per se in my opinion.

    There were scientists before WWII and they cooperated quite successfully as well and I guess hardly anybody will question the fact that English became the dominant language in many fields only after WWII. The reasons are mostly political ones.

    So, yes, a lingua franca is a great tool when it comes to bridging certain linguistic gaps, I don't think it should be viewed as a means to further push back other languages. As powerful and useful as it may be, a lingua franca in my opinion is only an additional asset that needs a sound basis it can be docked onto. And that basis is getting lost if we keep (self) imposing English as a replacement for other languages.

    Especially scientists, technicians and other "experts" are all too ready to use English terms for a supposedly better understanding even while speaking German. I'm convinced there is nothing you can express in English which you can't express in German too. People just have become lazy. In German I'd say they have become "denkfaul" (too lazy to think, to reflect).

    I might start a thread on the dominance of the English language in German ;-)

    March 2014
  • Moderator
    ColinJohnstonov 51559 7603 179
    "It is considered to be "cool" to use English. "

    I remember during paintballing last year somewhere near Vienna I had some guy pinned down in a little house and was waiting patiently for him to try and get out. I was on the edge of the field and a group of youngsters, maybe around 15 or 16 years old, turned up to play on the neighbouring field. The guy in the house found a little hole that I didn't notice and was able to hose me down with paintballs. I stood up with my mask completely drenched not being able to see a thing. The group of kids were laughing their asses off and I heard of lot of stuff of the form 'whoa, nice shot!' coming from them.


    "There were scientists before WWII and they cooperated quite successfully as well"

    Sure, but there are shades of grey here (hopefully not fifty of them or this post is gonna get weird). The sciences were nowhere near as interconnected before the war as they are now. Sure there were plenty of scientists who could work with a small number of scientists from other parts of the world. There were British scientists who knew German and could work with German scientists and read the literature published in German. Having learned one language, they were then able to work with scientists who knew German and would have been useless for working with, say, Russian scientists who didn't know German or English. For that, they would have had to have learned Russian, which they likely wouldn't have done.

    My own group in Vienna contains several Austrians, a German, a Swiss, a Brit, a Russian, a Greek, and a Chilean. This is possible only because we all know English (lucky me). The Russian guy, for example, works closely with a group of Japanese combining his particular expertise with theirs. This is only possible because they can speak with each other in English. None of the Japanese know any Russian and he certainly doesn't know any Japanese. Several of the Japanese visited our group last year (I think these were actually the first Japanese people I ever met) and we were all able to sit down and chat about their work. And why were we able to chat about their work? I think you can all guess...


    "I guess hardly anybody will question the fact that English became the dominant language in many fields only after WWII. The reasons are mostly political ones."

    Sure. I don't know, but if I was to make a guess, I would say that if WWII had gone the other way, German would have likely become the dominant languages in the sciences. If this had happened, I would be writing now about how great it was that scientists are all able to communicate with each other in German.
    March 2014
  • Prinz_Skogsvin 6511 13 0
    @Colin
    "...Sure, but there are shades of grey here (hopefully not fifty of them or this post is gonna get weird)..."
    ---

    Very good! That would have gotten 3 roses from me - if it were possible to give more than one :-)

    ---
    "...I would say that if WWII had gone the other way, German would have likely become the dominant languages in the sciences. If this had happened, I would be writing now about how great it was that scientists are all able to communicate with each other in German..."
    ---

    Mmm, I dunno. On this 'spoils-of-victory' reasoning it could be argued that Russian should now be the dominant language of science. We don't like to acknowledge the fact in the West, but it was Russia that did far more than America and the British Empire to knock out Hitler. (Even after D-day, there were far more German forces on the Eastern front than the Western front....)

    Besides, even in a nightmare world where Uncle Adolf would have been the master of Europe, you would still have had a massive English speaking block in North America...
    March 2014
  • waled1902 150
    Hello ,i need to practic my french on the skype as french Conversation on Skype=waled.cataract.aswan
    November 2014
  • Moderator
    ColinJohnstonov 51559 7603 179
    Oh man, I remember this thread. What ever happened to Jay? Was für ein tolles Kerlchen!
    November 2014
    • Ozemite au Australia 60 2050 3530
      Yeh, both him and Robert were great guys. I miss them:(
      November 2014
  • Moderator
    Yutaka 15406 1621
    "Antoine Compagnon, a distinguished French scholar who taught at Columbia University and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Science, maintained in a public letter that it would be better to teach foreign students French than tolerate 'Globish' (the primitive English of non-English-speakers) and the dumbing down of teaching that would inevitably follow."

    I agree with this opinion. Teaching English is very different from teaching in English, which will dumb down teaching.
    November 2014
    • Moderator
      ColinJohnstonov gb United Kingdom 51559 7603 179
      "it would be better to teach foreign students French"

      Sounds like a fantastic way to hand most of your potential foreign students to British universities.
      November 2014
    • Administrator
      steve ca Canada 55516 2826 92339
      Globish is someone's idea of a simplified, dumbed down English for non-English speakers. I think that it is a bad idea. It is better for learners to reach as far as then can in whatever language they are learning. CLIL or teaching subjects in a second language is a good idea but only if it is not limited to English. French immersion in Canada is an example of this practice, where anglophone schoolchildren take all their instruction in French.
      November 2014
  • iaing 27678
    The issue is less -- is Proust better read in French or in a lingua franca? -- but more along the lines -- how is Proust best integrated into an evolving world that includes; a short attention span, google translate, selective quotes, mis-interpretations, and a majority of people fluent in languages other than French?
    November 2014
    • Administrator
      steve ca Canada 55516 2826 92339
      Proust is best done via audio books. Really enjoyed listening to it, but found reading it a little boring.
      November 2014
    • Moderator
      ColinJohnstonov gb United Kingdom 51559 7603 179
      I don't think the issue is at all whether or not Proust is best read in French or some other language. The proposal discussed in the original BBC article that SanneT posted was about allowing French universities to teach some courses in English. The univerisites could choose wisely which courses to teach in English. Of course French universities are not going to teach French literature in English. That would make no sense at all. Most subjects would make no sense to teach in English. The few where it might make sense are subjects like economics, engineering, physics, and mathematics.
      November 2014
      • iaing au Australia 27678
        The irony of your response, Colin. Actually, your comment works for me on a number of levels, if only to reinforce the point I was making (with little success).

        ""We must teach in English or there will only remain in France a handful of experts discussing Proust around the table," she said.

        But Proust was an unfortunate choice. The author is actually one of France's best literary exports and the reason why many students in the world take up French at university."
        November 2014
  • Jorgis 77 6044
    Those who want to speak English can cross the Channel, it's often cheaper than going to another French city.
    November 2014
    • Moderator
      ColinJohnstonov gb United Kingdom 51559 7603 179
      It seems that's what they do, and nobody loses but the French universities.
      November 2014
  • transat59 0 0
    Hi!
    I do not think English is neutral at all, to me only an English/American native speaker could say that.
    It carries a liberal stance because this is what characterizes the way of thinking Anglo-Saxon people have in my opinion.

    You can read the works of the French linguist Claude Hagège about that. He says that if you impose your language you impose your way of thinking. It is common sense.
    http://www.lepoint.fr/grands-entretiens/hagege-...

    You can also read the works of Yukio Tsuda, it is quite old but not old-fashioned and it is so interesting to my point of view. Why in international communication would we have to speak English, especially between two persons whose native language is not English? That is not democratic with the definition of democracy I have.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yukio_Tsuda
    November 2014
    • transat59 fr France 0 0
      I would ike to add, that generally we have to be cagey to everything that carries what we call in French "Pensée unique". I do not know how to translate that but it is about everyone thinking the same way.
      November 2014
      • transat59 fr France 0 0
        It is very political, for example the word "laïcité" in French cannot be translated as secularism in English because it is not exactly the same principle. And if you do not understand what "laïcité" really means, you cannot understand France's stance about it.
        November 2014
  • Moderator
    Yutaka 15406 1621
    "Teaching English is very different, they argue, from teaching in English. They support the teaching of foreign languages, and suggest starting it even earlier - in nursery schools - but they oppose the teaching of subjects such as <b>mathematics, history and literature</b> in any language but French."
    If French students are to study these subjects only in English, or what is called Globish, France will become like a country that was under the control of France as a colonial power.

    November 2014
    • Moderator
      ColinJohnstonov gb United Kingdom 51559 7603 179
      "If French students are to study these subjects only in English, or what is called Globish, France will become like a country that was under the control of France as a colonial power."

      I don't see a good reason reason for French schools to teach in English - in fact it sounds like a pretty bad idea - but I think you are being a little bit dramatic here.
      November 2014
      • Moderator
        Yutaka jp Japan 15406 1621
        Thank you for your response. History is always dramatic. By the way, I wish I could write in English like you. Is it your native language?
        November 2014
        • Moderator
          ColinJohnstonov gb United Kingdom 51559 7603 179
          Worry not. Your English writing reads like the writing of a native speaker.
          November 2014
  • Moderator
    Yutaka 15406 1621
    In mathematics, they develop their ideas in complicated formulas or equations, but they use only simple words and relatively short sentences. If you want to describe more complicated matters like those in legal documents, English cannot be considered the most useful language because of its grammatical simplicity. German has stricter grammar, and it is more suitable for describing complicated matters than English. I wonder whether French grammar is stricter than German grammar.
    November 2014
    • Moderator
      ColinJohnstonov gb United Kingdom 51559 7603 179
      I certainly think there are differences in how good different languages are for expressing meaning in different topics, but I doubt these differences are signficant. I suspect English is basically as good as German when writing about complicated matters.

      Anyway, it is not obvious that grammatical simplicity has any connection to how appropriate a language is for describing complicated matters. It might be so, but this can't simply be claimed without justification.
      November 2014
  • Moderator
    Yutaka 15406 1621
    "Hanoi still presents the appearance of a ghost ciy although fighting inside the city has long ended and general conditions slowly improved."
    Sekiguch Tsugio wrote that in the above sentence, if it were written in German, "has" would come last and you would not wonder where the although-clause ended.
    November 2014