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Ray Sax BloOm

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For non native speakers of English : How has English changed your life ?

Nowadays,English got an important place in many people's lives.It does change some people for ever , I would be interested to know how it changed you ? and what is your story with English ?

Topics: Languages
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    Aug 5 2013: It opened a new and vast window to me - books, books and books.
    My story with English is funny. I started my schooling with Bangla, my mother tongue, as the medium of instruction. That continued till my the term end of my junior school (when I was 15 years old). But I used to be a bookworm and realized early that there was a treasure left to explore unless I mastered English. My dad was a civil servant who majored in English literature so there was no shortage of interesting books in home and I kept on eying 'Lolita' by Nobokov (an English translation of course) since I was 12 years of age :)
    I started struggling with the language but started somewhat wrong. I remember, one evening I was trying to read a copy of 'The Pilgrim's Progress' by John Bunyan. My dad came and suggested that I should try Nick Carter or James Hadley Chase. If you recall the front covers of such books, you can understand how strange a fatherly advice that could be, I guess ! But for a 15 year old kid, a car chase or an outrageous sex plot was just the required inspiration.
    I still remember how my mom cried murder!! And I also remember my dad telling her:
    If your cub is a vulture, he will always look for corpses even if he flies high. If he is an eagle, his taste will change in time and he will hunt for himself.
    A very non conventional inspiration, I think.
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    Aug 4 2013: English has helped me to be present places otherwise I couldn't have been at. And I'm not talking about geographical places. Accesing to knowledge has been easier to me when I've had the ability of reading English texts. Besides -for me this is an added value-, it's very pleasant to be able of reading my favourite books writen in English, when that's their original language. That's very important for me. (unfortunately I'm not (even) able to watch and understand properly an English spoken film, but I'm on the way...
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    Aug 10 2013: " I would be interested to know how it [English] changed you ?"

    The first time I actually got the use English in verbal communication with foreigners, not just reading and writing, was an astonishingly empowering experience.
    I was around twelve and a guest worker on a farm in Norway together with my family. I didn't always work in the fields as child labour is (and should be) forbidden, but I had a different task. Since the landlords were Norwegian and didn't know Polish/Russian, and most workers were from Eastern Europe and didn't know any foreign language, I got to translate some of the communication between the groups. I was told that when the farm owner came to speak with the workers he would make a gesture showing my height trying to say 'Where's the little one?' if I wasn't around. That really gave me the 'Yes, I can.' feeling.
  • Aug 4 2013: Hi Dear Ray Sax BloOm,your questions reminds me to think of:What I want to learn english to change in my life?Can't chinese help me?Or any others languages can help me to have those changes too?

    You know I have kept on english learning for a long time.It helps me to reflect my Chinese learning too.What is a language for?sometimes I sensed they are two worlds language,but sometimes I also can feel they are one too...The most important things are my thoughts,ideas...Languages just are tools to be used for me to express them.Meanwhile languages can help me to get boarden views of things.
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    Aug 9 2013: "The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.", as Wittgenstein famously quoted.

    I must admit that this notion doesn't fully appeal to me if the focus when utilizing this quote is on what is happening inside the intricate world of neuroconnections that we call our brains that we call our world, but it can definitely be applied on a social, geoscale - if a person doesn't know English, it limits the person's ability to truly connect to and understand what is happening outside the country of origin. This is true regardless of the fact that English is not the world's first language, statistically speaking. This works both ways though - native speakers of English unwilling to learn other languages (why should they if they have been given automatic access to lingua franca of economics, science, business, marketing etc.) limit their understanding and/or appreciation of other cultures.

    When it comes to my personal adventure with English - I could speak for hours about that but I see that the conversation is over soon, I'll try to be brief.

    My first contact with the language came early - through music, books, poems and then - talk shows on British MTV. That was before the internet. I sat for hours with dictionaries around me, trying to understand every single word aqnd every single detail. Then I went to school where it was enough for a teacher of English to have a FCE (http://www.cambridgeenglish.org/exams-and-qualifications/first/) which, at that time, meant that the teachers asked me if what they said in lessons was correct. Often, it wasn't.

    The journey continued - from 15 onwards I was giving private lessons to kids in the neighbourhood while exploring the language and literature further and slowly, step by step, I became a teacher of English as a foreign language, as they say it here. which meant the following - working three jobs as a teacher while studying at a Scandinavian Studies department, which led to something completely different.

    More to come.
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    Aug 8 2013: Sophia points out an interesting fact below: that some thoughts and expressions in one language can't be exactly translated into another. So one of the most useful benefits of learning any second language is to have this fact convincingly demonstrated. I think that's an "aha" moment. But to really grasp it, it helps to live a while in the culture of the new language, and realize that the language difference actually makes a difference in how people think.

    I experienced this after I moved from my native Norway (where we speak Norwegian) to the U.S. as a teenager. Over the next years, English gradually became my new mother tongue, I no longer thought in Norwegian. So the phrases and subtle meanings of words that formed my thoughts became largely those of English. After more than a decade, visiting family in Norway again for the first time, I experienced how awkward it was to express the thoughts of an American in a language made to express the thoughts of Norwegians. And the idea Sophia mentioned came home to me: that there are cultural differences in expression and in thought that always makes translation only approximate. It's good to keep that in mind when we communicate cross-culturally, even when we try to do it in the same language.
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      Aug 8 2013: Right on. :)))))))))
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      Aug 9 2013: Every translation is an interpretation, that's what I've always been told while studying.
      That is true, there are popular phrases in all languages, often phrases with historical background and source, that cannot be properly translated into a foreign language without giving a half-page explanation of the phrase. Sometimes equivalents can be found but in such cases it's an approximation and interpretation combined.

      How do you translate "remember the alamo" or anything of the sort?

      What is often happening now is introduction and incorporation of English phrases into European languages, Norwegian included. When I listen to Norwegians in some regions their language seems to be a hybrid of Norwegian and English and the English phrases are often not even translated, just borrowed, and badly pronounced as well. (f-word with 'ø'-vowel and so on). This is both fascinating and thought-provoking. Will the result be a pidgin language? Norwish?

      I promise not to come with examples of the above, that would be hermetic.
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        Aug 9 2013: Yes, Anna, Norwegian - and as you say, many other European languages - is taking in English terms at a record pace. Largely based on German/Danish, there was a time when Norw grabbed every French word they could find. Most of those were eventually respelled according to Norw pronunciation rules. The odd thing about the current English invasion is that the words are taken in as they are, with no respelling. The usual deal is that a word gets picked up in just one of its several English meanings, and it keeps only that meaning (usually slightly misunderstood). Thus the word lives on in a special Norw mispronunciation. (Norwegians seem unable to pronounce voiced "s" (z) or "j", for example.)

        Nonetheless, Norwegian is a linguist's dream, the way so many different dialects have developed in such a small space, because of the isolating role of mountains and fjords. The language has a pretty strong literary tradition, so I hope it hangs on a while yet. But it has changed more than most languages over the past 150 years, so it may be unrecognizable in another century.
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          Aug 10 2013: That is true for most languages - words from dominant field of activity were entering all languages - from French, Greek, Italian, Sanskrit.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loan_words

          When it comes to pronunciation of z - this phoneme doesn' exist in Norwegian, it takes practice and a lot of exposure to it to pronounce it correctly for speakers who's wired for s, just as with th and other sounds.

          The dialects are an interesting phenomena and a nuisance for learners.

          Do you speak Bokmål?
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        Aug 10 2013: Anna: "Do you speak Bokmål?"

        (Ran out of Reply buttons)
        Yes, I grew up in Oslo, though at that time we usually called the language form Riksmål. It was in the middle of the country's worst language tumults, when the government was trying to force everyone to speak a variety called "samnorsk" that was supposed to unify the major dialects (Riksmål and Landsmål/nynorsk). That didn't go over very well. Mostly what's left of it is the "new" Swedish-style counting system (tretti-fem instead of femogtredve), and that's not embraced everywhere either.
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          Aug 10 2013: Thanks for replying.

          Obviously, I can't say 'I grew up in Oslo', I was told Bokmål and told (too little) about the dialects and history of the language in detail.
          Some of my fellow students embraced and taught themselves the dialect and typical pronunciaion of the region they moved to, if they moved.
          I say femogtrevde and toogtyve, but not femogfør, the last one seems so grandmotherish ;)

          No government can force anyone to speak in a certain way.
          There was a new debate not so long ago on whether Nynorsk should be taught at schools. And that nynorsk is at risk because of dialects.

          Somehow I don't see or feel that these sort of debates could get heated in any other country.
  • Aug 5 2013: Sometimes, surprisinly, I realized that meaning or defintion of one world cannot be translated into another one completely. I want to translate my counrty's literature into English as possible as I can. Because I hope that the feeling I get from reading all those beautiful and inspiring poems or novels, essays, would impress other people in the whole world:)