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200819Re: THEORY: Don't speak my language!

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  • MorphemeAddict
    Feb 2, 2014
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      There's a race in Star Trek (maybe the Founders?) that kept their language
      totally secret from outsiders. Part of the reason was so that they wouldn't
      have to flounder for codes and such to open doors if they were hurt (or
      young). They just told the door to open (in their language), and it opened.
      This way their whole language became an unbreakable code. I don't recall
      which novel I read this in.


      On Sun, Feb 2, 2014 at 2:51 PM, Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets <
      tsela.cg@...> wrote:

      > On 2 February 2014 12:39, Siva Kalyan <sivakalyan.princeton@...
      > >wrote:
      > > French is sometimes cited as an example, in that French-speakers
      > > supposedly insist on correcting foreigners’ faulty French to the extent
      > > that it discourages them from even trying to speak it. (Let me hasten to
      > > point out that this is not true of any French speakers I’ve met, in
      > France
      > > or outside.)
      > >
      > >
      > You were lucky then, because it's indeed quite a common trait among French
      > speakers (including myself. Although I try to minimise it, it was enough
      > that my husband has abandoned learning French. I was just trying to help!).
      > > Japanese is (or at least used to be) a quasi-example of this; I’ve heard
      > > that in at least some kinds of situations, a Japanese person will insist
      > on
      > > talking to a foreigner in English because they would feel “threatened” if
      > > the foreigner addressed them in Japanese. (Again, not true in my
      > > experience.)
      > >
      > >
      > What I've heard was that some Japanese people simply cannot believe
      > foreigners can ever hope to understand the Japanese language, so they
      > prefer discouraging those gaijins from trying.
      > > What you’re describing is actually probably the case to some degree for
      > > all language communities in which the language is a strong emblem of
      > > identity—and depending on how broad an identity the language is
      > emblematic
      > > of, different “foreigner” groups may be excluded to different degrees.
      > E.g.
      > > Hindi is emblematic not simply of Hindi-speaking identity, but more
      > broadly
      > > North Indian or even just Indian identity. Thus a native speaker of Hindi
      > > would find it completely natural to be addressed in Hindi by a speaker of
      > > Bengali; they might react with moderate amusement (or hostility,
      > depending
      > > on the circumstances) to being addressed in Hindi by a Tamil-speaker; and
      > > the greatest amusement/hostility would of course be reserved for English
      > > speakers (and European-language speakers in general) trying to speak
      > Hindi.
      > >
      > >
      > I believe it's common enough that field linguists are trained to handle
      > such cases when they end up trying to describe the language of a community
      > that has strong taboo rules about using their language with foreigners. It
      > will sometimes take years before the field linguist has earned enough trust
      > to be able to actually start doing their job!
      > On 2 February 2014 17:04, Thomas Ruhm <thomas@...> wrote:
      > > I read about the case of Dutch too.
      > Having learned Dutch in the Netherlands myself I can explain my experience
      > with that one. It's true that when they come across someone who sounds
      > foreign, they will automatically switch to English (or German in tourist
      > areas ;) ). There are a few reasons for that:
      > - The Dutch are very good at foreign languages, especially English and
      > German. TV series are broadcasted in original language with subtitles
      > rather than dubbing (except series for little children), so they are used
      > to foreign languages are often very much at ease with them. They are also a
      > practical folk who considers that time is money, and trying to make
      > yourself understood in Dutch to someone who is obviously not fluent in the
      > language is just inefficient. So they will switch to the mode of
      > communication considered more efficient.
      > - The Dutch have a bit of an inferiority complex about their language: it's
      > just a local language spoken only in a small area of the world (and the
      > other areas it's spoken it's as a result of colonialism, which opens its
      > own can of worms), so many Dutch people have difficulties coming to terms
      > with the idea that a foreigner would even want to learn their language. It
      > doesn't fit their worldview, so they can't quite grok it and often don't.
      > - Maybe related to the previous point, it's considered polite to speak in a
      > way that the guest will understand best, so if it means switching to
      > English because 1 person in a company of 10 doesn't understand English well
      > enough, then so be it. It goes so far that in many companies across the
      > Netherlands, the official workfloor language is English (that's the case at
      > my company, but I luckily work in a department which is mostly full of
      > Dutch speakers, so I speak mostly Dutch there :P).
      > This said, it doesn't mean that it's not annoying. It's been quite a
      > challenge for me to learn Dutch because of that behaviour, because as soon
      > as I was having any kind of difficulty or my pronunciation wasn't perfect
      > people just switched to English (if they didn't switch to English
      > immediately upon hearing my name!). Even nowadays, despite me being mostly
      > fluent in the language, with hardly any accent at all (I sound Belgian to
      > most people ;) ), there are still people who will tend to speak to me in
      > English, and carry on in English even after pointing out that I speak Dutch
      > well enough to follow them flawlessly! Luckily, those people are rare.
      > Note that the opposite behaviour can be just as difficult: Greek speakers
      > become so excited and happy when they hear a foreigner trying to speak
      > Greek that they will start having entire speeches in what I can only
      > describe as speed-of-sound Modern Greek. If your comprehension is still
      > wonky, you won't be able to make head or tails of it! I've been told by
      > Greek people that my pronunciation is simply too good. I sound fluent,
      > despite being actually only partially conversational. Really, when learning
      > a language you just can never win! :/
      > --
      > Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets
      > President of the Language Creation Society (http://conlang.org/)
      > Personal Website: http://christophoronomicon.blogspot.com/
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