Thursday, January 28, 2010

pai on esp-o. twist on WHY to learn an aux-lang

Pei was a prolific writer on linguistics.

He wrote a book called "One Language for the World" which is also available as audio files.

He points out how hard learning a new language is for many people, and why.

"At the outset of his French (or Spanish, or German, or Russian) course, he is required to do several things, and do them all at once:

attune his ear to unfamiliar sounds, and learn to reproduce them;
master a new system of relationships between alphabetic symbols and spoken language sounds;
adapt his mind to a new, unfamiliar word order, sets of agreements, grammatical rules that run into the hundreds, each with its own series of seemingly illogical exceptions; and above all,
break what to him is the 'natural' link between the objects and actions he describes in speech or writing, and the words by which he has been trained to express those objects and actions."

D: he doesn't claim ANY aux-lang will be EASY. But EASIER:

"But it is far, far easier to concentrate on more words, plus a system of logical, unvarying prefixes and suffixes that always have the same meaning, if one is relieved of the necessity of acquiring and memorizing an infinite series of grammatical rules and exceptions and an arbitrary system of links between spoken sounds and their written representations."

"Esperanto has often been described as a 'bridge' language to span the gap between the speakers of different tongues. It can also be described as a “bridge” language to span the psychological gap between one’s native tongue and any other tongue he may wish to acquire. In this sense, Esperanto justifies itself in the present day educational world by functioning as a stepping stone to the study of foreign..."

D: so he portrays aux-langs as useful to use as a gateway to... other nat-langs.

D: this takes the sting out of a criticism I heard. That English speakers encounter difficulties at the intermediate level of Espo.
At least for the above said purpose. Of course, I then wonder if a simpler intermediate stage would be the solution.
The simple act of cleaning up irregulars and exceptions could, in theory, be done to a reformed nat-lang. A controlled natural language. VERSE in large part is just that. Exposing the deep structure semantic meaning of English and using that instead.

D: I just finished "Voices in Stone", a book on deciphering ancient scripts. Terrific read!
Toronto has a King Tut exhibit now. I wish to be able to read everything phonetically, then up to and including common ideograms.
The book said the problem with short-hands has always been that they are language-specific. It proposed a shorthand derived from the IPA system. I suppose that is what HIOXian is in a roundabout way.

Anyway, the book points out that cultures are emotionally attached and highly conservative about their writing systems.
While reforms from within have been accomplished, they are tactical and not strategic, and never involve a major reboot.
He points out that MacArthur needed to force the Japanese to reform their system, or else they'd still need as many symbols learned for basic fluency as the Chinese. Since nobody forced the Chinese to reform when they were oppressed, safe to say it will not happen now or any time soon.
Trivia: the most complex ideogram is the Chinese sign for "nasal blockage". It involves 11 symbols and 42 or 43 strokes.
The QWERTY keyboard is not well suited to a system with 5000 signs...
A system that methodically applies phonetic aspects at the keyboard level could fare better.
For example, if we allow 13 'basic' letters, a hand-and-half keyboard with the left (off) hand providing 4 variants would have 52 additional permutations. The most obvious distinction would be voiced/voiceless (also called mute).

I imagine I'll become unhappy with the IPA keyboard layout as not sufficiently intuitive and do just that.

In that ABC's book on language, the XYZ's chapter on bilingual teaching points out the following.

There are many faux pas to be made, since one is also dealing with a culture as well as just formal content of the language.
-Silence. Americans fill it with small talk. Japanese like the quiet.
-volume and intonation.
-formal utterances. Nobody is expected to actually respond in detail to "how are you?".
-how personal? Americans ask about health and family. That's rude in India, I think.
Swedes don't ask direct personal questions since Swedes feel constrained to answer them.
I also hear North-Ams will ask about career and income, which apparently doesn't go over well in Europe.

D: I was reading about deaf ASL etiquette.
- wear a shift that contrasts with your skin colour.
- don't wear bright distracting colours. don't have a low neckline. <:
And so on.

D: the book also lists the personality qualities of a good language learner.
-good, willing, accurate GUESSERS.
- not afraid to appear foolish so they TAKE CHANCES.
- NOT AFRAID to construct new unheard sentences.
-look for NEW PATTERNS in the language
- SEEK PRACTICE, even to the point of finding native speakers.

D: some of these qualities are attitude, but many of them point instead to aptitude.
Put another way, my ego will seek out areas that let me shine.

D: like I said, I'm still scarred from learning French. Or not learning it, since I am unable to communicate in it after effectively um 8 years. Reasons for this:
- I moved and started in Grade 7 when the teaching started in Grade 6 for French. Oddly I did very well first year.
- I never learned phonemes.
- I never learned syllable timing.
- I never learned pronunciation.
- I never learned cues for pronunciation.
- I never understood how the grammar differs.
- I still don't know what those stupid diacritics mean
- I never worked on one aspect until mastered, so never really learned any of it
- I never had to use vocabulary enough to master it.
Plus, of course, French is almost entirely useless to a English Canadian anywhere but Quebec.
I could live my entire life fine without saying a single word in French.
It has no UTILITY.

It's safe to say I will never learn a spoken natural language other than English.
The school system saw to that.

My sis and I both have poor memories. We both need to study more then practise more to retain things.
The symester system was brutal on me. I lost so much math each year without constant exposure that I was nearly failing by Grade 13. And did fail stats in university. Her better study habits saved her.
That ABC's book pointed out a problem with a unilingual nation. The USA during the Cold War missed out on much international research. Not only is there a delay in the translation - history is rife with centuries, even millenia wasted due to this lack of dissemination. USA started learning Russian for their scientists. The Sovs, at least, would translate summaries of international research for their scientists.
There is also the massive duplication of redundant research.
Once again, the economic argument is not against an aux-lang. It's for it.

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