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What do you, native BE/AmE English language speakers, think of it?

IMHO that's great news :) English is (or is becoming) the universal language of business, so everyone all over the world is better off if they learn at least some English.

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diafol

What do you, native BE/AmE English language speakers, think of it?

I think that's awful. Why should you have to give up your native language in order to communicate with each other?

Some monoglot English speakers will probably find my opinion incomprehensible. Thing is, you won't realise the harm you're doing to your language and culture until you try to discuss something technical one day and find that you've no native terms anymore - the language has ceased to evolve and may whither away like Latin.

Don't get me wrong, English is a great international construct, but surely, it should be just that and then just 'one of'. I'm just wondering what the hell happened to your pride?

What happened to our pride?
Russians are a nation of thieves - an opinion from inside. I hate them all.
I'm not a Muslim, or a Jew. My both parents are from Bielorussian villages.
Both village idiots, so to speak =)

Who said they have to give up your native language? As far as I can tell this was a choice.

I'm just wondering what the hell happened to your pride?

I don't see how pride enters into it. The OP didn't express an opinion either way.

Who said they have to give up their native language?

diafol was referring to a kind of inevitable loss of some of your native language and culture when you get into the habit of using English day in day out. I feel this very much, I've used English predominantly at work, at university, and with most acquaintances. When I speak French with family and friends from back home, I realize I'm no longer entirely fluent (English words or expressions pop to mind faster than French words, hindering the fluency of my speech, and things like that). If I get into more work-related or science and technology topics, I'm virtually incompetent at saying anything meaningful without borrowing every other word from English (and technical words are obscure enough for the laymen already, it's even worse when they're in a foreign language). The point is that for many of the modern (tech-)topics or for scientific technical topics for which all research and "current events" are communicated in English, the domain-specific vocabulary is being created entirely in English, meaning that all other languages have "stopped evolving" in the sense of no longer generating new words to describe the new things.

So, "who said they have to give up their native language?", well: (1) no one said they had to, (2) they are often not consciously "giving up" their native language (only consciously acquiring / using another language), and (3) it's a natural consequence of having an international language. If you want to be connected to the world, English is a necessity, and yes, it will mean you will lose something of your native language and culture. The alternative is to choose not to be connected to the world. Both choices are fine, but the more you tilt one way the less you tilt the other, it's a zero-sum game.

My take on this is that it's the only reasonable way to make things work, and whether the consequences are good or bad isn't really relevant. In science, in technology, in international business, in trade, on the web, for diplomacy, and so on, we need one single easy-to-learn language for everyone to use. It doesn't really matter which (but hopefully not too hard). Now (and for historical reasons), English seems to be it, and will probably remain so for a long time. If you want to be involved in any way in any of these areas, you must get used to communicating in English. That's just the way things are, for better or worse. The good thing is, English is an incredibly easy language compared to most of the others (I know from experience learning quite a few languages myself).

I must accept this state of affairs, and if it means I lose some of my fluency in French and some of my contact with my culture (in favor of a more global culture), then so be it. The native English speakers are lucky because they don't have to make that trade off. Some of them say they're lucky they don't have to learn a second language, some say they're unlucky because they're not forced to learn a second language, but I say, that's a trivial matter. When living in the modern (connected) global cultural environment (at work, at uni., on the web, etc.), you must adopt English, but more importantly, it's really hard to bring any of your culture with you (e.g., "colorful" expressions, local cultural references, television shows / movies, etc.), instead you just assimilate, and leave your local culture at home, and live it part-time. Anglophones don't have to assimilate as much (if at all) and can bring along a lot more of their local culture, because there's no language barrier.

I guess what I'm saying is:
"Is it the reason that I speak in English?"
"I want to pogne!"
(RBO, French-canadian song making fun of this topic, YT, Lyrics)

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diafol

Russians are a nation of thieves - an opinion from inside. I hate them all.
I'm not a Muslim, or a Jew. My both parents are from Bielorussian villages.
Both village idiots, so to speak =)

Another chance to slag people off?

Who said they have to give up your native language? As far as I can tell this was a choice.

This is a choice, most definitely. The 'have to' here was not referring to a external force, perhaps a better way of putting it would be 'feel the need to have to'.

I don't see how pride enters into it. The OP didn't express an opinion either way.

This was directed at the Russian programmers in general. And he did ask for my opinion.

Technical jargon may have a English-based origin, but supporting language does not always have to be in that language. I don't understand why one needs to give up anything. You can discuss things in English on English/International sites and in your native language when discussing things with native speakers. I really can't see the issue. Many compatriots of mine, discuss their work in a piddling little language like Welsh - without the massive resources that a country like Russia could plough into standardising its technical terms, so I can't see why I can't see that it has to be a 'zero-sum' game.

It's a zero-sum game merely because it's a matter of time investment and finite resources. At least, I think so. Developing a comfort for using a language and a domain-specific vocabulary takes some time, not just initially but also as a sustained day-to-day "training". For example, I think I heard somewhere that the average person can retain around 10,000 words in his/her active vocabulary (these are the words that immediately come out when you speak, you don't have to look for them), and that's for all languages combined. So, this is literally a zero-sum game: if you have two equally active languages that you use, you'll have about half the active vocabulary that an average person would have in each language alone. That has a noticeable effect, I know it, I live it. And the active vocabulary is something that is fluid (i.e., like volatile memory), which means you can re-gain it over some time and you can also lose it quickly without day-to-day "training". In my personal experience, the re-training period is about 3-5 weeks for an almost full reload of the active vocabulary.

Culturally, things are also a zero-sum game. You have to choose which TV show you watch, which magazin or online articles you read, what artists you listen to, and what things you do in general. Your time is limited (finite), and your choices affect how "connected" you are to one culture or another (e.g., your local area, your country, the (US-centric) global culture, the domain-specific or interest-specific sub-cultures (e.g., "anime fans", or "PHP programmers"), etc.). And your level of connection to a culture is a prime factor for integration and participation to that culture. And you cannot be everywhere at once, it's that simple.

If you ask a scientist to maintain an equally good technical vocabulary for all that is relevant to his work in two or more languages, he might be able to do it, but he will either have to spend an inordinate amount of time educating himself on terminology and reading / writing technical articles / books in both languages, or he will have to maintain a deficient vocabulary and language fluency compared to his uni-lingual colleagues. That's what a zero-sum game means. And this is also the reason many (if not most) scientists just accept to adopt English as the unique technical language they use, but they will usually talk to local colleagues in the local language, just very heavily riddled with English terminology. For example, I would naturally say something like "Je vais broadcaster des packets sur le network." (translation: "I will broadcast packets on the network.") for the simple reason that I do not care to know what the technical translations of "broadcast", "packet" and "computer network" are in French, because I know that every person who can understand that sentence will understand (and probably be more used to) the English technical words, which is far from being guaranteed for their French translations (official or not) (proof: I don't know those terms in French). And it's far more practical to just have everyone agree on one language (in fact, AFAIK, all major scientific periods of development had a unique "lingua franca", Greek -> Arabic -> Latin -> French -> German -> English, even though they were all international in scope), and it really makes no practical sense to duplicate all that vocabulary (usually people do it for ideological reasons, i.e., linguistic purism). The only other reason you might need to duplicate the vocabulary is to be able to vulgarize technical speech for the layman.

I recall a story (possibly apochryphal) about how the German "language police" at one time were concerned about the widespread adoption of the term "chemist" (in North America, what we call a pharmacist). They tried to promote a German equivalent which was around 10-12 syllables. People ignored it and continued to use "chemist".

Aside from its many foibles (and outright insanities) the English language has always been free to adopt terms from other languages when there was no English equivalent. Unless you are concerned about the purity of the language there is no reeason not to.

Mark Twain considered German language as the language of the Future.
As for me -- my English vocabulary is enormous - ~20,000 words, but I can't neither speak it and write in it (I have to consciesely conscruct phrases of it).

Here's an interesting article about that. Depending on what you consider a word, Xantipius knows about as many words as most average native English speakers.

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diafol

That's what a zero-sum game means

I'm well aware of the meaning of zero-sum, but thanks for pointing it out again :)

By stating that 10K is the maximum number of words an average human may retain, we are firmly planting the nail in the coffin of polyglotism. My membrane biophysics and cholinergic neurone lectures are a distant memory - and I must not try to re-learn any of it lest I shove out that newly acquired stuff on this-or-that. So does learning a second or third language have a detrimental effect on your ability to communicate, as the number of words retained for each language has to make way for new ones? Reminds me of the cartoon, one-in, one-out. An amusing notion. I suppose I'm lucky as I deal with science topics in more than one language on a daily basis, and I speak two languages at home. I watch and listen to media in two languages (sometimes three). I enjoy one, I put up with the other :)

Fluency, as you report in your article, depends upon use. So, if you use more than one language daily and in many contexts, I can't see the problem. You see using one as being to the detriment of the other - a lost opportunity maybe - I think the biochemical and physiological basis for memory - especially for language is a little more complex - it is far more organic than a zero-sum game. I make new connections all the time - sometimes when perusing something in Italian - it will make sense of the bastardised Latin with which I was struggling in English.

I don't really care too much about linguistic purism, as all languages borrow and steal, but not feeling that you're able to discuss certain matters in your native tongue strikes me as very sad.

stating that 10K is the maximum number of words an average human may retain, we are firmly planting the nail in the coffin of polyglotism.

Well, obviously, that's merely a ball-park figure. And it's the "active" vocabulary, which is very different from the more general term "retain", which is probably only limited by the total amount of memory you have. I used to live in Germany, and I learned the language mostly in the "street" (i.e., not in a classroom). Today, my german is very "rusty" (i.e., it's "passive"), I used to be able to get around in day-to-day affairs in German only, and could even sustain a conversation with minimal English borrowings. Now, I can still understand it pretty well (e.g., watch a movie in German without subtitles), but talking is certainly a lot harder. In early childhood, I was perfectly bilingual (French (mother) and Swedish (father)) but I progressively lost a lot of my Swedish while growing up in a French environment. When going back to Sweden (family vacations), it usually took about 2-3 weeks before I could start to feel a bit more comfortable with using the language, i.e., progressively re-activating my passive vocabulary, but I could always understand it pretty well (understanding can draw more on passive vocabulary than speech). If I were to try and maintain a decent active vocabulary in all four languages (French, English, Swedish, German), it would require a lot of daily efforts (i.e., time), and I can't really afford to do it. I guess what I'm saying is, I've had quite a bit of personal experience with learning and losing languages, and with activating and deactivating languages, so, I'm very self-aware when it comes to assessing my own capacity and fluency in a language. In my experience, passive knowledge of a language is as permanent as any other memory / skill, but there is very little that is permanent when it comes to active knowledge, including of a native language. Your active skills in a language is in direct proportion to the time you spend using it on a regular basis, and that time is limited (24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week). Today, my fluency in French is definitely not at the level it was in my senior year in high-school, when I spoke only French, now that I mostly use English on a daily basis. Don't get me wrong, I'm still mother-tongue level, completely fluent in French, but there is definitely an impact to using it only part-time.

Is it possible to maintain a good active vocabulary in two or more languages? Sure. It is no doubt possible, as many people do it, including myself. I still see it as a kind of zero-sum game, with a flexible limit. The limit is a combination of the total amount of time you can spend developing / maintaining the vocabulary (or fluency) and your personal ability to retain things (memory). Overall, time and memory is limited, no doubt about that, but how you arrange it is flexible. You can store away information, you can compress it, you can retain only the essentials, etc... Think of it as a computer, you can consolidate, compress (lossless or not), you can associate, etc.., and that's how it seems like you can just learn an endless amount. For example, I could retain the word "Naturally" from English and then simply remember that the ending "-ly" is "-ment" in French, "-vis" in Swedish, and "-lich" in German, and then I can retain the words "Naturally", "Naturellement", "Naturligvis", and "Natürlich", but then, of course, it means I'm losing some of the subtleties of how they are usually employed in the different languages (in a nutshell, in German/Swedish it almost exclusively means "of course", in French it mostly means "with ease", in English it's a bit of both). The capacity of the brain to do all these kinds of things is pretty amazing, but it's important to understand that it's limited and that there can be a lot of losses when the brain has to accomodate and consolidate, whether you're aware of it or not (it is usually pretty seemless, which is also really amazing). This is also how languages bleed into each other, it's not just borrowed words, but often borrowed meanings for words, expressions, etc., you compress, you approximate, to the point that you forget subtleties that you can barely notice. But that's just how languages evolve.

And that's what I notice when I speak French, I use words or expressions with a meaning that is a bit off (and my mother is a linguist, so, she corrects me all the time), and it's usually because I'm approximating the meaning from a blend with the English meaning. Or I just have odd choices of words or sentence structure. I also have a lot of French bleeding into my English. The point is, I cannot maintain 100% good English in one section of my brain and a 100% good French in another section. Instead, they're largely blended together, with lots of interference and approximations that work out OK in both languages, and the balance favors the language I need the most in any given context. In science / engineering / programming, it's all English, so, even if I can manage some literal translations to French, the meaning is always the English one, e.g., "network" translates to "réseau" but the original French meaning of "réseau" is different (in contexts) but now it also has the English meaning.

I'm sure that you or anyone else who uses different languages on a regular basis will relate to the kind of things I've described here. It's a kind of zero-sum game but with a very smart (or agile) brain that can manage to do a lot of small reorganizations and "least-vexing" approximations to try and employ its limited resources as best as possible. And that is one of the good aspects of polyglotism, i.e., it makes you think differently, because the meaning of words (and concepts) must constantly be amended and re-combined to accomodate new words or expressions or contexts.

but not feeling that you're able to discuss certain matters in your native tongue strikes me as very sad.

I can discuss certain technical topics in my native language, as long as the other people have roughly the same borrowings (words, expressions, and meanings of words) as I do. When I speak of a technical topic with a French person (from France), where they're a lot more "purist" about using official French technical words, then we have quite a bit of trouble understanding each other (and we have trouble keeping the tower of Babel from crumbling, so to speak). But with people from Quebec, that generally borrow more of the technical English vocabular (even in French-speaking university courses), there is no problem at all, and of course, the spoken language almost sounds like English because it's riddled with borrowed technical terms. And with the laypeople, I cannot use any technical terms anyways (borrowed or not), although having some native-language technical vocabulary does help, but not always (e.g., in English we say "control systems" (a branch of engineering), in French it is "systèmes d'asservicement", which is insanely incomprehensible for a layperson, far more incomprehensible than a literal (but incorrect) translation which is "systèmes de contrôle", which is what I use).

And from a practical point of view, the ability to communicate on a technical level in English is a work requirement, being able to do so in French is not, merely an extra. That does make a difference for many people.

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diafol

There's not much that I disagree with here Mike, as a polyglot yourself, you're aware of the 'organic' connections that the brain makes when we communicate in any language and that was my point with regard to zero-sum. I fully appreciate your view on language wrt work requirements, but where we differ, I feel is on our views on the relevancy of non-English communication in the domain of science and technology. As is frequently quoted, "variety is the spice of life", and I feel this very strongly beit wrt technology or lay-speak.

As most subjects, even outside the realm of science and technology, continue to evolve and add new terminology, should we now start to educate our children solely in English? Today's terminology for those on the bleeding edge will tomorrow, become the terminology of the layman (well, almost!). How do we cater for this unless we keep our native languages evolving? Do we assimilate English (let's be honest - they're usually Latin or Greek anyway) terminology? I think we already do. English could not be the International language of Science and Technology had it not accumulated all those existing terms in the first place. There are certainly challenges ahead of us. Engaging young minds in a language that they readily understand is essential for the nation's future.

Thank you for taking the time (considerable!) to explain your personal experiences, it's been educational and a very enjoyable read.

I agree that you cannot do something like saying to children "we won't teach you how to use a computer until we taught you enough English to be able to navigate English menus and website" or something similar in other modern / technical topics. But at the same time, I feel that people go a bit crazy sometimes with coming up with "native" official terms when the English one works just fine and has already been adopted. For example, when the internet was quite new and people started to use emails, the French language office came up with the term "courriel" (fusion of "courrier" (which means "mail") and "el" for "électronique"), I thought it was kind of stupid. Most people here just use the word "email" when speaking French, although in formal speech (e.g., on TV), people make an effort to remember to say / write "courriel" instead. I don't see much benefit in that kind of thing, seems more like a contrived attempt to reject the English term just for the sake of "purity". If the English term is really difficult to pronounce or doesn't blend in very well as an adopted word, then fine, let's come up with a more suitable translation. There's been an onsloth of "official" French terms for all these new internet-related things, most of them are not used at all except by people who make an effort to speak well on TV and in official documents, most normal people just integrated the English vocabulary into their daily speech. And I don't have a problem with that, that's how languages (like English in particular) have always evolved. And children are generally oblivious to it, my nephew asked me the other day "Comment on dit 'barbecue' en Anglais?" ("How do you say 'barbecue' in English?"), was I supposed to correct him by saying that the correct French word for barbecue is actually "grillade", which is a word nobody actually uses? A friend of mine barely speaks a word of English, but he knows every single English word for car parts, because he's a car mechanic. And the really silly thing is that he learned all of the official French terms when in school, but forgot them all almost immediately after graduating.

Languages don't disappear overnight, and they're in constant evolution. It's not something you can really fight against, and the best thing that educators can do is speak a language that connects well with their students. Any teacher I had that insisted that we spoke and wrote in some insanely formal French (i.e., standard French from France) was a teacher I didn't like or didn't really connect well with, it creates a gap, a barrier, and it often focuses on the wrong thing. All I would hope for is that I could just speak / write nicely enough that the teacher would just leave me alone, that sets the bar very low for a student-teacher relationship, regardless of the subject. Teachers who spoke my language and let me speak my language had a much greater impact on me. And if the contemporary language includes all sorts of borrowed "modern" words, then so be it, as a teacher, you'll have to use / accept those words too, because the alternative is worse (alientating the students).

As for current bleeding-edge topics that will become part of tomorrow's basic education curriculum, I'm not sure that really happens as fast as you may think. Today, in mathematics, kids come out of elementary school with the bleeding-edge knowledge of about 100 B.C.E, teens come out of high-school with the bleeding-edge knowledge of the 12th century, and come out of college (from a scientific but not a math major) with the bleeding-edge knowledge of the 18th or 19th century, depending on their major. And it isn't much different in other disciplines, except maybe in IT classes (but these are mostly workshop-style classes). And there is usually plenty of time to establish a working vocabulary (whether it's mostly borrowed from English or whether it's all "native"), and whatever that is, it has to be the language / vocabulary that is taught in school. It never happens the other way around. If you want to know what language to use to teach some kids about programming, then go to a local business where many programmers work and just listen to the language they speak, and that's the language that ought to be taught, and it's probably going to be a version of the local language with some or lots of borrowed English words, but that's life.

In some sense Belarus (it's situated between Poland and Russia) is an unique country.
Here is 2 state languages: Belarussian and Russian (in this order). But the former is completely ignored by people. Ignored because it's very embarassing (and even "shameful") to speak in it. It sounds as a language of uneducated peasants. Of course, it is not this (it's an ancient language, but the impression of it is - a distorted Russian).

mike_2000_17,

I don't see much benefit in that kind of thing

I totally agree with you. French linguistic purism looks (from outside) very ridicule.
You know what? Here, in Russia etc, is so called "1C" software (extremely popular, it's for accounting, for HR staff and so on), but its internal script language is Russian. And all Russian IT public hates it for this reason. It's really aweful to program in Russian.
On the pic how it looks in Russian scripting: http://funkybee.narod.ru/misc/1C.png
It's more than aweful, it's both Phobos & Deimos.

"Russians are a nation of thieves - an opinion from inside. I hate them all.
I'm not a Muslim, or a Jew. My both parents are from Bielorussian villages."

and much of the rest of the world considers Belorussia to be a nation of thieves...
In fact Belorussian criminal gangs are a major problem in western Europe, far more so than Russian gangs and far more violent.

jwenting,
there is a minor nuance - when I say "Russians" I mean "Russians/Belarussians/Eastern Ukraines". In essence they are the same beast. As for cruelty of Belarussian gangs... the nation is abs alcoholized. And me too. I began to read "Researches of one dog" by Franz Kafka (my favourite writer) and felt boring, I'm tired to think. I'm turning gradually into some animal.