Wednesday, September 05, 2007


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Many of you have written to me or commented on my use of French, Spanish and Chinese languages in my posts and reference links. As I blog, I learn. Since I first "noticed" blogs in other languages (circa 2004) and later understood their importance, I realized one must have the ability to share information with others in their native tongues.

As the world gets "smaller" and the distance between all of us shrinks thanks to the Internet, cellular telephony and modern technology, a new creature is emerging, an entity unlike any other in modern history. This creature transcends classes and cultures. It is a chimera: the classic DNA of the mainstream media reporter spliced with DNA of the citizen journalist (and there are legions of them, more and more, and they are called "bloggers") cultured in a petri dish of hardware and software. It doesn't stop there.

This bold new observer, in order to take full advantage of the Net as a communication device, will learn, must learn, other languages so that he or she may reach the widest audience possible. How to accomplish this?

#1 - brush up on any foreign languages you may have learned in high school or college, or at home from your parents. You'd be surprised how little effort it takes to resume a relationship with an already hard-wired (into your brain) language. have any kids of your own? get them interested and involved in other languages.

#2 - never learned a foreign language? There are courses available at colleges, adult ed centers, night schools and online...

#3 - before you say "ah, I can just use Google or another online translator" TRY it. You will quickly learn it is a less than accurate tool. Having said that, if you can familiarize yourself with the patterns and begin to think like translation software, you can align your native language in ways the translator can more accurately convert into another language. The patterns differ from tongue to tongue, so you'll just have to experiment.

#4 - local libraries usually have language courses and translation materials that you can borrow. You can copy cassettes or CDs and make notes in efforts to learn. If you are going to invest in language software (or download a little ;) shoot for the highest standard: Rosetta Stone.

Look for language dictionaries in stores and at book or garage sales. As you go along day to day, blog to blog, use the translator services but also look up words that seem meaningless to you. In a short time, you'll notice yourself relying less and less on translators. The hardest transitions are Chinese characters to English and vice-versa. You can Google up free software and dictionaries. You may also want to secure a copy of "Essential Kanji" by P.G.O'Neill [Weatherhill Books, NY & Tokyo - ISBN 0-8348-0222-8 $16.95 new $4-10 on]

"I don't understand any language but my own," you say. I say, no matter how young or old you are, today is the beginning of whatever time's left in your life. Start now, take it slow. You may find someone willing to help you. It's all good.

What languages are most important? If you understand just one language, then pick: English. French. Spanish. Chinese. Arabic. Those are your "core" languages. Once you have an understanding of, say, Spanish and French, you'll find it relatively easy to get a foothold of Portugese, or Italian, or Cebuano. There are many, many more!

Don't worry about making mistakes! People in other places will be delighted that you've made the effort to communicate with them, and they will return the favor.

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Anonymous said...

T'es déjà allé en France ? Pas sûr que les gens soient si contents quand tu fais des fautes, et si t'en fais, ils te reprendront. Et là tu vas vite en avoir par dessus la tête !

Hope you understand....

Gavilan said...

C'est quoi cet anonymous défaitiste et pisse-froid? Bien sûr que les gens apprécient qu'on essaye de pratiquer leur langue, et s'ils reprennent les fautes, autant en profiter pour s'améliorer! C'est le premier pas qui coûte! Aller Anfang ist schwer! Vive la polyglossie sans complexe!

(Et je trouve que le "Hope you understand..." pourrait sembler quelque peu condescendant).

Dave Lucas said...

I understand. Some tolerate nothing less than perfection.

Anonymous said...

Loin de moi l'idée d'être condescendant.... je ne savais pas du tout s'il allait comprendre ou non.
C'était vraiment un 'hope'.

Et, pour avoir voyagé un tout petit peu, je trouve que les Français sont ceux qui font le moins d'efforts avec les étrangers DE MANIERE GENERALE. Bien entendu il y a des cas particuliers, comme dans tous les pays.

Et à part ça, je voulais quand même dire que j'avais bien aimé la teneur de l'article !!!

Anonymous said...

people need to get together to stop wars and other bad things

Hunkston said...

I recently decided to broaden my horizons and decided to learn a new language; the question is what should I learn? I’ve asked a few friends and they were useless! Everyone was telling me something different, in the end I have decided to attempt to learn Chinese. I work in business and the power China has keeps growing and growing, so learning a bit of the language could be a massive help in my future career. Does anybody know of any reasonably priced but high-quality language learning software?

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