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Thread: Language barrier and acceptance.

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    Language barrier and acceptance.



    This is one of the great things that I have been experiencing since I moved to the states; I make mistakes in my speech almost everyday, which is embarrassing because I've lived here for over five years, but I have never met anyone who frowned or shook their head because of my mistakes!
    People just try to understand me or ask questions without hesitant which is a different reaction compared to people in my home country. In Japan, they don't like to be rude(or, understand deeply in other words...), so people don't ask many questions even when they need to.

    It seems to me that the majority of Americans have acceptance or feel comfortable to talk with someone whose native language is not English, of course, you can tell from the fact how diverse this country is.

    I am curious about other countries and your point of view;
    how important to be able to speak its native language and people's reactions when they meet someone who is not fluent in the language.

    I love this forum I can ask this kind of question and get answers by people from all over the world!

    Thanks.

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    Konnichiwa Misa.J-san

    Well I am starting to learn Japanese on my own. I had a friend from Tokyo come to my highschool, to learn about America. She was kind enough to teach me some basci spoken Japanese, and she did teach me a little Hiragana. But I was alays embarrassed when I screw up the pronunciation of Ohayo Gozaimas, or Konnichiwa. I always would hear her chuckle at me, but then she'd say the correct way, and Id try again. But she moved back to Tokyo, I told her that I would come see her country, as a guest, to repay the favor she made by coming to America, and eventually teaching me Japanese.

    This is one of the main reasons, I joined the JREF Forum server, I always wanted to see the world, So I am teaching myself Japanese to travel to Japan, to hopelfully see her again. I always was comfortable when she speak english to me, I never thought that it sounded funny, but she always thought that she wasnt saying it right.

    Thanks for asking the Question.

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    "In Life there are no stupid questions, just stupid answers given to you by redundant people, ho cant see past their own wants and desires."
    “To every man there comes a time in his lifetime that special moment when he is figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing unique to him and fitted to his talent; what a tragedy if that moment finds him unprepared or unqualified for the work which would be his finest hour.”

    Sir Winston Churchill

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    I guess my statement and questions were kind of vague, huh...

    Martialartnovice,
    Thanks for your response, though. What made you interested in learning Japanese language?

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    Cool

    It began when I was a little kid, up in Milwaukee, My mom would check out, foreign language books, they usually had a casette with them. I would study the books, then I would return them, I would always try to remember the lessons, from the books.

    I remember some French, German, and a smattering of Swahili, Chinese (Mandarin), Polish, Russian, Estonian, Italian, Swedish, Norweigian, and spanish. I also had tried to learn Vietnamese from my neighbors from Vietnam, they had taught their kids, in California, I was greaty relieved when they said that it would honor them for me to learn their native language. I guess I have always been tryin to learn about different nationalities and their languages or dialects. It would seem that it would help me in my dream of seeing the world.

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    Misa, to answer your original question, I'll use the example of swedish, since it's what I know =p

    Swedish has been said by some to be one of the "difficult" languages, ofcourse I couldn't say, I've been speaking it for as long as I can remember, but one thing is easy with the swedish language; Mistakes don't matter much.

    The Swedish language leaves a great margin of error, and sentences where every other word is wrong are easily comprehendable by a swede.

    So when foreign people speak our language and fail, It doesn't really matter much to us. We can usually understand it anyway.

    However, If there's something a non native speaker says that we don't understand, we'll usually turn to english to get the correct explanation of what was meant since most people know atleast comprehendable english.. I'd say this is common in most european countries.

    The sad part is when a Swede and a Dane turn to english to understand eachother (and it happens a lot) our languages are so much alike, we really should be able to understand eachother, but many don't.
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    Martialartnavice,
    You blew my mind!

    That's awsome that you have been studying so many other languages since when you were little.
    I also strongly believe that your language skill will be a great plus to achieve anything in you life. I think being able to speak or understand the native language where you are in opens up so many possibilities. That was how I felt when I first came to the U.S..

    I am sure your neighbors from Vietnam were very happy to know that you were interested in their culture. Did they speak English to you or did they try to speak only Vietnamese? Did they teach you their culture besides the language?

    Mac,

    That is interesting that a Swede and a Dane have a hard time understanding each other when they speak English. Is that because they pronounce the English words differently or gramatical difference? Do you understand them better if they were speaking in Danish?

    The Swedish pronounciation seems extremely difficult, but if I listened to your language carefully for a long time, I start to hear many words that are similar to English words.
    So I understand that non-Swedish speakers can get around in your contry without much of a trouble.

    That's cool.

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    I think it depends on what language you speak initially. First of all, Americans are pretty accepting since there are many different peoples here who speak English at many different levels. If I were to go to Canada (barring Quebec), or England/Scotland, people would know right off the bat that I was from the States from my accent, yet if anything I would recieve more attention because I would seem more unique to them than if I lived in their home country, even though we all speak the same language! We would have different words for some things (like gas and petrol, or soda and pop, or elastic and gum band, etc) yet since our language was for the most part similar they would be receptive of my "dialect".
    In terms of visiting Quebec, or other European countries where the official language is something else, I have usually tried to speak french just to have the person begin speaking to me in English. They can tell that I am not a native french speaker, and I think they are more pleased that I tried to speak their language than if I had just come up to them and began speaking in English.
    I haven't had experience with other regions of the world.

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    @misa j.
    Glad to hear you've had a positive experience in speaking English to people in America. I don't mind language mistakes at all and I usually can still understand (but I did get a lot of practice while teaching English in Japan). I think most Americans are patient with the mistakes of non-native speakers. I've seen some Americans who aren't and I always give them a hard time about it. I tell them that their relatives (probably) didn't speak English fluently when they came to America, so they should be more accepting. About half of my relatives couldn't speak English when they came to America so I think I should be accepting with other people in a similar situation.

    I actually get more uncomfortable when someone makes a big deal about the mistakes they're making when they talk to me. If they don't mention it, it doesn't bother me.
    Last edited by Brooker; 23-11-04 at 11:07.
    For information on the pros and cons of teaching at Nova English schools in Japan, check out

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    To quote Misa J. "I am sure your neighbors from Vietnam were very happy to know that you were interested in their culture. Did they speak English to you or did they try to speak only Vietnamese? Did they teach you their culture besides the language?"

    They spoke pretty good english, untill they got nervous. Then it went south from there. To answer your seconds question, yes they did, It did them a great honor by me asking to learn their language, I at first was a little afraid, thinking that I would offend them, if I asked so I hate to admit this, I had my mom to ask them for me. I was quiote relieved when they were excited to have a student, their childern were a little uneasy about the idea, because they had always called me Santa Claus in vietnamese.

    This is due to the fact that I wear a full beard and moustache.After awhile, I found out that the main way of teaching they had used when they lived in California, was a home-study course, they tried to get it for me, but the instructor that they knew who had it was unavailible. So I hope to learn Vietnamese after I master Japanese spoken and Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji. I plan to enroll in Nihongo class next year, then continue it in college. I want to graduate with a Bachelors in it, possibly a Masters.
    Last edited by Martialartsnovice; 23-11-04 at 17:45.

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    1 out of 1 members found this post helpful.
    I grew up bilingual (Japanese and English) with some French thrown in, and have lived in Canada, the Boston area of the US, and Dublin. I've also spent time (weeks, not just days) in major European capitals like Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, London, and some time in Tokyo and Taipei.

    In all of those cities except for Dublin (which I don't consider to be a "major" city by any means, unfortunately), people expected me to be able to speak in their national language (e.g. in Amsterdam they'd speak to me in Dutch; in Taipei, Chinese, etc.) Also, as I would try to speak if only simple phrases in these languages, the locals seemed appreciative (or even complimentary) of my efforts.

    In Dublin, however, they expect me to NOT speak English (most East Asian residents are Chinese, so they assume that I'm Chinese also). Overt racism has also grown worse here in the last four years, so I regularly have people telling me to "go back where I came from" or kids making stereotypical "Chinese martial arts" noises. There's a funny story I read in the newspaper a couple of years back where someone who was speaking Gaelic (Irish; the other national language) on a mobile phone was also told to go back to the country where she was from - which was in fact a county to the north and west of Dublin. Clearly the Irish person yelling at her didn't recognize his own official language.

    Taiwan is the only country where I haven't attempted to use the local language, but I did not receive the impression that people would have been resentful if I'd defaulted to English. However, I do hear of accounts in the US midwest and south where people speaking a language other than English are chastized for doing so. The same may be true in homogenous (ie rural, small communities) populations in Canada.

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    Your Right nekosasori, I lived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and I was also the victim of the chastizing that you speak of. I have german hertiage from my fathers family, and I remember speaking german, in the middle schol I was attending at the time. I was beaten up for saying hello in German to a friend of mine, and he answered back in German. I was condemned as a Nazi, and was tld to move back to Berlin, even though my Father's family had lived in Wisconsin, for at least five generations. Most of the kids at my school were German or Austrian descent. The Midwest was settled by the Germans, Polish, Austrians, and Norweigians. I had a hisanic friend that spoke spanish to his grandparents because they couldnt speak good english, he was also called border jumper, and a illegal immigrant. Some of the kids at the school, threatened to called the Immigration service to deport him, even though he was a an Ameican born Citizen.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nekosasori
    In Dublin, however, they expect me to NOT speak English (most East Asian residents are Chinese, so they assume that I'm Chinese also). Overt racism has also grown worse here in the last four years, so I regularly have people telling me to "go back where I came from" or kids making stereotypical "Chinese martial arts" noises.
    The town I live in now has the population of 6,000; at least 99% of them are white, and there are a few blacks, asians, hispanics, and middle easterners. I have had some experiences with kids saying "Chinese..." when they saw me, or better ones like when I went to a bar, people try to welcome me or shake my hands because it was so rare for them to see some asian woman at their local bar.

    I feel rooted to this town more than Japan after living here long enough to have friends and aquintances.

    I wonder dialects play an important role in communications. A small country such as Japan has many, many dialects which do effect on how people interact.

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    @MAN...
    I have a lot of family living in Milwaukee and it's no surprise that the Midwest isn't the most open-minded place.

    @misa.j...
    I would get quite a reaction from Japanese people in small towns, but it was usually positive. One time I was walking past a school playground in a small town and a group of about fifty children stopped playing and waved at me calling out, "Hello, hello...". That's actually one of my favorite memories from Japan.

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    I also agree. I have more friends where I live now, then I did when I lived in MIllwaukee, aot of them are Mexican ,Puerto Rican, Native American, and Asian. I remeber that if I would have dated a nonwhite girl, I would have ostercized from society in Milwaukee. I found its more commonm, to have mixed ethnicity friends here in the Southwest, than its in the Midwest. I still think that the Midwest needs to rethink its racist attitudes towards non caucasians.

    @Brooker
    I am glad to hear, that Im not the only one, who realized that Milwaukee is racist. I hope that when I go to Japan, that I have a good experience. I really want to see this friend of mine, that lives there. She was always polite to me, and the other kids, even though they were pretty racist to her at times.

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    In Nigeria, for instance, there are over 500 recognized languages, according to linguists. Out of this number, there are three major languages, namely the Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa, while English was adopted as the official lingua franca. The three local languages are used for local radio and television broadcasts. A West African indigenous version of English called "Pidgin English" also exist and is very popular among Nigerians.
    Experts said that about 65 per cent of the nation's population speak one of these languages, that is, Hausa is widely spoken in the north, Igbo in the southeast and Yoruba in the west.
    Only in Nigeria, there are 500 languages!

    An instance of recognizing language as a barrier was witnessed recently where a discussant could not respond to questions raised by another participant in an online discussion, simply because one speaks English and the other French.
    It took weeks for the French speaker to realize this and had to re-send the questions and contributions raised thereof in English to get a response from fellow discussant.
    I thought it was kind of funny that nobody told the French speaker that they didn't understand for weeks...

    Noting that in several online discussions, "it's clear that the Arab and Portuguese speaking people based in Africa are being left out on so many things" and called on African professionals and media to be precise, to develop an appropriate translating mechanism, which would benefit all in the heels of being part of Info Society.
    http://africa.oneworld.net/article/view/91423/1/2831

    Have you guys heard about this international language called "ESPERANTO"? I haven't, I wonder if it's really useful.
    http://www.esperanto-usa.org/about_eo.html

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    Quote Originally Posted by misa.j
    Have you guys heard about this international language called "ESPERANTO"? I haven't, I wonder if it's really useful.
    http://www.esperanto-usa.org/about_eo.html
    I remember hearing about that from my second high school Spanish teacher. I thought it was a cool idea -- a language with no irregularities. I mean, how could you go wrong with that?! But, it isn't useful at all, really. I think the only people who really bother with it are linguists. Maybe they use it to communicate to each other once in a while when they want to be really esoteric; I'm not sure.

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    Yeah but, In Nigeria the 500 languages are mostly tribal dialects, and some Arabic, Swahili, and maybe a few european languages thrown into the mix. But Im no linguist. So I could be all wrong.

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    I think it's great that english exist, else I wouldn't be able to communicate with my friend in Japan, and would have a much more problem with Japanese pronounciation....the more we talk with eachother, the better our skills become, she told me my Japanese pronounciation was very good, as did some friends of her who only heard me speak for the first time nihongo so I was kind of flattered hehe .I don't mind her error's and she doesn't mind mine..we just correct eachother and kinda remember the errors. I'm happy that now at least thanks to her (and Japanese class) I will be able to at least communicate more clearly when I'm Japan at the end of the week
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    RockLee,
    I agree with you about being able to communicate with a lot of people in English is a wonderful thing. I wonder which language would have been spoken as widely as English if we didn't have it...

    I look forward to hearing about your trip to Japan.

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    1 out of 1 members found this post helpful.
    Hey Misa J.,

    There are lots of Americans who will listen and try to understand you even if you make mistakes. I think since this country is so diverse many people are used to listened to non-native speakers. The other reason is the typical American is not bilingual, and so they have no choice in trying to communicate in any language other than English. I guess this pretty much goes for anybody in any country that only speaks their native language. If they didn't attempt to communicate in that certain language then you probably wouldn't be able to communicate hardly at all. For example, My Mom and Dad can only speak English (Not a suprise there), and my Wife can speak Japanese, Korean, and a little English. Therefore, if they don't try to communicate in English then it would be impossible for them to ever communicate(Unless I had to constantly translate). The point is that there are a lot of Americans who are interested in people of different cultures, and even if they make some mistakes, it is not a big deal.

    The same went for me when I was studying in Japan, there were a lot of people who couldn't speak English, so there was no choice other than us speaking in Japanese (Even if I was making hardcore mistakes). Learning a foreign language is not the easiest thing in the world, and more than being perfectly gramtically correct it is more important they have some type of understanding of what you are talking about.

    I think the difference between Japan and the US is that in America the nationals are expecting that if you are living there you should know or at least be attempting to learn the language. However, in Japan it seems like there is no expectations for foreigners living there to learn the language (these are just my observations, so I could be wrong).
    ビール。。。Its what's for dinner......

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    Quote Originally Posted by ragedaddy
    Hey Misa J.,
    However, in Japan it seems like there is no expectations for foreigners living there to learn the language (these are just my observations, so I could be wrong).
    Yeah this is very subjective...but I guess Japanese never really says they expect you learn Japanese. But they would prefer you to speak Japanese most certainly. Most people I met here speaks Japanese directly at me not even asking if I do understand their language or not. when I told them I don't speak Japanese very well, they just shy out or shut up completely.

    ax

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    Quote Originally Posted by TwistedMac
    The sad part is when a Swede and a Dane turn to english to understand eachother (and it happens a lot) our languages are so much alike, we really should be able to understand eachother, but many don't.
    I have a sadder story....an American and an Australian turning to Japanese to understand each other.

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    @Mike Cash,
    I agree, that its a sad, and funny at the same time.
    @MisaJ.
    In answer to your question about english. I think that the spainsih would be the most widely spoken, then it would have chinese, russian, arabic, swahili, french, and then japanese. Scary how though people can be 10,000 miles apart, they can still understand each other. Case in point, I lived in teh Midwestern US, I have relatives who live in the South, and they speak english, but with a accent, and a dialect of their own. I can understand them, because I can speak their dialect, though most of my extended family thinks their crazy. But thats just me.LOL

    @ Rock Lee

    How did a get the Arnold banner, its really cool.

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    You've Got A Great Line, Threre!

    Quote Originally Posted by RockLee
    I don't mind her error's and she doesn't mind mine..we just correct eachother and kinda remember the errors.
    Hey, there's some wisdom there that might be the solution to all those problems out there. I think it's a skill everyone (especially the hard-headed ones, that is ) should learn till they get it just right.
    They should be drilled on it and tested on it for a certification sticker to go on their IDs, drivers' license, passports, so any intollerant people don't get to....anywhere.
    However, I don't think any school or curriculum includes this valuable lesson unfortunately. Other than in language schools, maybe?
    This is a great line in JFORUM. Wisdom from the language learner's point of view. What a great contribution to learning!
    Last edited by lexico; 31-12-04 at 15:29.
    Z: The fish in the water are happy.
    H: How do you know ? You're not fish.
    Z: How do you know I don't ? You're not me.
    H: True I am not you, and I cannot know. Likewise, I know you're not, therefore I know you don't.
    Z: You asked me how I knew implying you knew I knew. In fact I saw some fish, strolling down by the Hao River, all jolly and gay.

    --Zhuangzi

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    Barriers within, Barriers without

    Responding to MisaJ's question about language barriers and tolerance,

    I think there are at least two different kinds of situations that involve strikingly different language attitides; that between two native speakers and that between a native speaker and a foreigner.

    My first language is Korean, and I barely understand all the 8 major dialects of my people. (People in the sense that I am not excluding N. Korea.) My Grandfather spoke the NorthWestern dialect, and I remember in my youth that I could never understand him very well. I wished very much to understand his stories even for just five minutes, but that never happened, and he didn't speak standar Korean, either. The problem was, he would like to tell me a story, but wouldn't let me interrupt; or rather I should say I thought it impolite to interrupt him. We never had any problems because of it, but I regret not finding a way to learn his language, which sounded very foreign to me. That's one sad story that I'll never forget.

    Even now if I hear a regional kind of Korean being spoken, there are words that evade me, and I have to ask, either right away or later on, to fully understand what was said. We have a standard language, but the local varieties are so diverse. It's not all bad, because it keeps the language rich and alive.

    When you talk to a foreigner, everybody is very tolerant and understanding, especially if that person is a guest visiting. If the host can make himself understood in English, they usually have no problem communicating. However, in my job as a language instructor years back, I've noticed the employer who speaks fluent English not trying hard enough to use English when foreign instructors are present. He was breaking the rules of ettiquette, which I think is pretty universal, of using English when the foreigner can't speak Korean. I disagree with his practices, but I guess when the foreigner is your employee, at least some empoyers can be mean. It might be related to language and authority, a strange mix, but some people think if you speak the other's language, that is equal to submission somehow?

    Quote Originally Posted by TwistedMac
    The Swedish language leaves a great margin of error, and sentences where every other word is wrong are easily comprehendable by a swede.
    I've noticed the same in standard Korean. I think, to a degree, English is like that, too. I wonder if there are only mild dialectal differences in Sweden, or people are acculturated in all the dialects? Lucky Swedes!
    The sad part is when a Swede and a Dane turn to english to understand eachother (and it happens a lot) our languages are so much alike, we really should be able to understand eachother, but many don't.
    I think it can also arise from politeness; politeness in the sense that no one has to give in to the other. This may be a sensetive topic, but I've heard there is some kind of rivalry between Swedes and Danes? If that's true, then it makes perfect sense to me that politeness might be a reason to choose a neutral language, possibly English is an acceptable common medium. A way to be equals and save faces, especially if there are other people who may overhear the conversation?

    In my language, especially influenced by the older generation, there are so many taboo words and topics that sometimes I prefer to use English if the other person speaks it too. I believe English has much less red tape when it comes to words and topics. I'm sure the younger generation speak a far freer form of Korean, but strange, my own language being a cause of hindrance or barrier to communication. Has anyone from any language experienced this, or is it just me?

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