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Learning Greek, Latin, and other languages simultaneously

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Learning Greek, Latin, and other languages simultaneously

Postby Prolixus Valens » Thu Jan 09, 2014 1:47 am

Is it sensible to learn many languages at the same time as long as they are dissimilar enough to prevent mixing them up? I'm interested in learning multiple languages in as short of a time span as possible. I only want a reading capability mainly in Greek and French, but I'm interested in speaking Latin and German. Someday I would like to add a reading knowledge of Akkadian Cuneiform and Middle Egyptian.

Can I begin all of these (or at least German, French, Greek, and Latin) at the same time to beneficial effect? I'm on chapter 9 of Lingua Latina at a rate of one chapter per week. I know that French is somewhat similar to Latin because of decent. But I'm not worried about mixing up Greek, Latin, or German.

Also, I'm going to be using JACT for Greek, A Graded German Reader Erste Stufe for German, Beginning French: A Cultural Approach for French, and Lingua Latina for Latin. How should I proceed with these books? Should I do one chapter a week, rereading the same chapter every day of that week, until completion of the book?

Any help would be appreciated.
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Re: Learning Greek, Latin, and other languages simultaneousl

Postby MiguelM » Thu Jan 09, 2014 8:14 pm

Well even should there be no learning disadvantages to picking up several languages at once (someone once mentioned triangular language acquisition in these boards not too long ago), still there are the psychological issues to consider. Do you really have the willpower to carry on so many processes at the same time? Maybe you do; Most people don't. And the major issue is that, having given up on something, you'll be more and more demotivated to keep going with the others, and what began as learning 4 languages ends as learning none.

My advice: stick to one, learn it hard; once you've got it solid enough that you're at least a solid intermediate, progress to the next one. Biting more than you can chew may seem heroic but is more often than not a recipe for disaster.
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Re: Learning Greek, Latin, and other languages simultaneousl

Postby Prolixus Valens » Fri Jan 10, 2014 12:39 am

I never did take into account psychological considerations such as those. I do, however, think that I can handle it. But if I choose not to, you said that I should reach a solid intermediate in one language at a time. Would this be the equivalent of finishing LLPSI one, LLPSI two, or even more advanced? And I really don't know to what level those Greek, French, and German texts take one to. I know that after LL2 one is ready for simple unadapted Latin texts.
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Re: Learning Greek, Latin, and other languages simultaneousl

Postby Scribo » Fri Jan 10, 2014 8:56 am

These are all rather admirable goals, but my suggestion would be to prioritise and wait a little. Simultaneous language learning can be a time sink even if you're good at it, which I've had to be over the years. So as an under-graduate I had to revivify my French as well as acquire Italian and German in order to read scholarship. I had 6 years of schooling in French previously (which had lapsed) and knew Latin very well and it was still a hassle. Admittedly I had a short time to do so, but still.

You must learn in terms of efficiency, rather than simply in terms of "time". For example it might take you seven attempts to learn a Latin conjugation when troubled with German but only two if you had Latin on its own.

I'm not saying take one language at a time and waiting until you're intermediate in one, while in some cases ideal, may take longer than you now suspect. I think its beneficial to learn more than one language at a time but you need to start slowly. Take Latin and German, for example, and see how it goes from there. Whatever you decide you'll need to be able to produce a flexible time table.
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Re: Learning Greek, Latin, and other languages simultaneousl

Postby pster » Fri Jan 10, 2014 11:49 am

How many hours a day do you have to devote total to the enterprise of learning languages? And how mentally demanding are the remaining hours of your day? Can you reinforce your language learning in anyway? E.g., can you read the news in French rather than English every day? What kinds of major interruptions do you forsee? E.g., holidays, vacations.

I am highly skeptical anymore of polyglots. I think that a few folks are bilingual at a very high level. E.g., politicians from bilingual countries. But I don't really think people can be trilingual at a very high level. Just yesterday I was speaking with a woman who spoke English pretty well as her fourth language. But the deeper we got into discussion, the more questions she had about vocabulary and pronunciation. (Just as in music. There are a few people who can play two instruments to a high degree. I don't know any who can play three. Yes Prince can play all the instruments on his records, but he wouldn't cut it as a studio musician on any one of them.)

So I think the real question is what kind of skills do you realistically want to have for each of the languages? And to put a finer spin on it, the real question is more like: what kind of reboot time do you want when you go back to a language that you have "learned" and you want to do something with it?

One of the greatest classicists was asked about his Greek ability and he said something to the effect that after decades of study he had the proficiency of a 5th century BC 10 year old Athenian boy. So obviously "learning" Greek at a high level is impossible. French is possible. French and German together at a high level? You might need to move to Strasbourg to pull it off.

I personally have tried to focus more on texts. Less so with Greek than with other languages. If you read all of Goethe in German, that will always be with you even after the German grammar has left you.
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Re: Learning Greek, Latin, and other languages simultaneousl

Postby whsiv » Fri Jan 10, 2014 12:43 pm

Hello there,

If you are interested in French mainly for reading (as you say), the best text I've found is Karl Sandberg's French for Reading (http://www.amazon.com/French-Reading-Ka ... or+reading). It is really remarkable.

Unfortunately there is no "Look Inside" option for this book on Amazon, but the greatest part about the book is how it's laid out. You are meant to check your progress constantly as you move through the book. At the beginning of each chapter there are little grammar snippets which are drilled throughout the chapter. The book is formatted in two columns: one with French sentences, and the other with English translations. At the the end of the chapter is a comprehensive reading passage, comprised in large part of the sentences that you were reading throughout the bulk of the chapter. All in all, this makes for an incredible way to learn how to read a language, and I only wish there were similar first-year texts for Greek and Latin.

Best of luck!
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Re: Learning Greek, Latin, and other languages simultaneousl

Postby Paul Derouda » Fri Jan 10, 2014 1:08 pm

Pster, I'm not quite as sceptic as you are - is English your native language? If it is, that could be the reason, because you don't have the sort of incentive to learn other languages as people from more "exotic" origins. Even in a foreign country, you can almost always revert to English. But I agree complete fluency is something that is very difficult to achieve, and probably has to happen in (early) childhood, in the middle of people who can only speak the target language. I have a friend who moved to Finland from the former Soviet Block at 11 or 12 years, and now she is totally 100% like a native speaker. But I guess that's about the oldest when it's still possible, and that was probably at the cost of losing much of her (formerly) native Russian, and she had no other way to integrate. People can be cruel here if you sound Russian.

But it really depends on what you mean by "very high level". English is my third language. I can read like a native, write like - well, you can judge, but not nearly as easily as Finnish -, but I speak very, very badly. I've never been to an English-speaking country. I think the hardest part is to learn to speak without an accent, even if you live in the target language's country for many years. But I think learning to read a language very well is possible even at adult age.

I agree you should focus on reading texts if you want learn to read a language (and commucative situations if you want learn to speak). My proposition: start new languages one by one. Once you have reached a situation that you can read easy texts with a dictionary or engage simple conversations, you can start a new one. The first stage is the most difficult, because you have to keep focused without any clear rewards.
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Re: Learning Greek, Latin, and other languages simultaneousl

Postby pster » Fri Jan 10, 2014 3:04 pm

Paul Derouda wrote:But it really depends on what you mean by "very high level".


Yes, it does all come down to that. One criterion for English would be this: Does the person routinely and without thinking reverse the noun and verb order whenever it is appropriate in declarative sentences? Are they comfortable with turns of phrase like "Be that as it may..."? I got tired of hearing Swedes brag about their English abilities. They certainly speak English better than the French. But just because one can function well in a multi-national corporation and go on vacation to Miami does not mean that one is "completely fluent" in English. Yet claims of "complete fluency" in English are made whenever the subject comes up. But I could pull a few contemporary English scholarly texts off the shelf that would humble just about any Swede.

So yes, I have an extremely high standard for "complete fluency" that derives from the level I see displayed in the most profound academic and literary texts for the language. Leaving aside writing such texts, in order to count as "completely fluent", I would say one must be able to read such texts with no more difficulty than other serious native students.

Another thing factoring into my scepticism is that once upon a time I was surrounded by many bilingual university students. And a common complaint was that many of them spoke neither language well. And as an adult, I have never met anybody that is trilingual at a high level. And the truly bilingual ones use both languages every day, typically as politicians or diplomats. I also socialize with some professional translators almost all of whom translate from English every day. And yet the English they speak is extremely bland and colourless.

I don't think it is that mysterious. I think that languages go extremely deep. And any time spent going down into one takes away from time going down into another.
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Re: Learning Greek, Latin, and other languages simultaneousl

Postby Paul Derouda » Fri Jan 10, 2014 4:18 pm

pster wrote:I would say one must be able to read such texts with no more difficulty than other serious native students.

I think this is not uncommon and I think many people who go to university reach this level, i.e. the ability read and understand even the smallest nuance in an foreign language (usually English). Native speakers of English are an exception here. I claim to be trilingual by this criterion. It's when you have to write and especially speak yourself that it gets really difficult.

pster wrote: And yet the English they speak is extremely bland and colourless.

I think the ultimate test of "complete fluency" is a sort of Turing test: can you have an extended conversation with a native without him or her noticing? I guess it would take me make less than a 30 seconds to fail in French and less than 3 seconds in English...

I think it theoretically quite possible to be very fluent in three or even more languages, but I admit I don't know a single true trilingual. With the right kind of exposure from childhood, however, I think it's quite possible. The problem in real life is that there are often discontinuities, i.e. the family moves from one country to another and suddenly you have no one to speak your native language with. With commited parents who understand this sort of problem, I think it's still possible.
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Re: Learning Greek, Latin, and other languages simultaneousl

Postby pster » Fri Jan 10, 2014 4:28 pm

I'll give you another kind of problem. I can read an English article on politics and almost always by the end of the first sentence I can deduce the bias and angle and what the conclusion will likely be. Yet, despite reading French and Italian at decent levels, when I read an article on politics, even if I understand/look up every word and grasp the overall meaning, I can't precisely describe the author's bias and angle. Now one might argue that much of that is not being immersed in the politics of either country. I agree. But I, along with most contemporary philosophers, don't believe in an analytic/synthetic distinction. In other words, one can't draw a fine line between the meaning of the terms in the article and the political realities in the countries. So, unless one is immersed in French or Italian politics, French and Italian political language, especially especially the all important nuance, will always be rather opaque. Does that opacity rule out one's "complete fluency"? I suppose that depends on how all encompassing one thinks politics is. I think I know what Aristotle would say. :)
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Re: Learning Greek, Latin, and other languages simultaneousl

Postby Victor » Fri Jan 10, 2014 4:29 pm

Paul Derouda wrote:I think this is not uncommon and I think many people who go to university reach this level, i.e. the ability read and understand even the smallest nuance in an foreign language (usually English). Native speakers of English are an exception here.

Could you shed some light on that statement for us? What are native speakers of English an exception to?
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Re: Learning Greek, Latin, and other languages simultaneousl

Postby pster » Fri Jan 10, 2014 4:45 pm

Paul Derouda wrote:I think this is not uncommon and I think many people who go to university reach this level, i.e. the ability read and understand even the smallest nuance in an foreign language (usually English). Native speakers of English are an exception here.


You may well be right about English speakers. Although, I think that the French are clearly worse. In other words, native French speakers have even less interest in foreign languages than native English speakers.
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Re: Learning Greek, Latin, and other languages simultaneousl

Postby Paul Derouda » Fri Jan 10, 2014 4:45 pm

Victor wrote:
Paul Derouda wrote:I think this is not uncommon and I think many people who go to university reach this level, i.e. the ability read and understand even the smallest nuance in an foreign language (usually English). Native speakers of English are an exception here.

Could you shed some light on that statement for us? What are native speakers of English an exception to?

English speakers who study at university level don't routinely acquire fluidity in a non-native language, because they don't have to. I mean the people who study natural sciences, medicine, business etc. Most of the relevant literature is in English. Now of course I don't mean students who study languages as their main subject - I meant "average people", not "average people interested in foreign languages"... :)
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Re: Learning Greek, Latin, and other languages simultaneousl

Postby Paul Derouda » Fri Jan 10, 2014 4:47 pm

pster wrote:You may well be right about English speakers. Although, I think that the French are clearly worse. In other words, native French speakers have even less interest in foreign languages than native English speakers.

I think the situation with the French is changing quite dramatically. But there's some truth in that too.
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Re: Learning Greek, Latin, and other languages simultaneousl

Postby pster » Fri Jan 10, 2014 4:50 pm

On a personal note, I might add that I am desperately looking to procrastinate until Feb. 1. And this thread is the best help I have found so far. True story!
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Re: Learning Greek, Latin, and other languages simultaneousl

Postby pster » Fri Jan 10, 2014 4:58 pm

Paul Derouda wrote:I think the situation with the French is changing quite dramatically. But there's some truth in that too.


Well, yes they are so desperate to get their economy going that now they want to use English in their business schools. And one can get around Paris now with English. Although my French is good enough that I can usually force them to speak French to me.

Italians are pretty monolingual too.
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Re: Learning Greek, Latin, and other languages simultaneousl

Postby Scribo » Fri Jan 10, 2014 6:24 pm

I agree Italians are rather monolingual. Obviously not the students and professors I know, but in the 20 or so days we were there we used Italian for everything from directions, ordering food, buying tickets, complaining etc.

I'd also say you're being somewhat harsh on multi linguals. It depends as much on acculturation as anything, I grew up very multi-lingual and even though I dropped one language through disuse I retain a good level in all of them. Because I spoke them everyday, read books and so on.

As for acquired multi-lingualism, as in via study, that's a different kettle of fish. I agree that a lot of these "polyglots" heavily over-estimate their own skills and for me not being able to use a language to a) enjoy its literature and b) function in an academic/professional environment is the equivalent of not having it at all. It takes a lot of work to build and maintain and is definitely possible, though.

However I'm absolutely exhausted now, sorry. :lol:
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Re: Learning Greek, Latin, and other languages simultaneousl

Postby pster » Fri Jan 10, 2014 6:59 pm

Paul Derouda wrote:
I think it theoretically quite possible to be very fluent in three or even more languages, but I admit I don't know a single true trilingual. With the right kind of exposure from childhood, however, I think it's quite possible. The problem in real life is that there are often discontinuities, i.e. the family moves from one country to another and suddenly you have no one to speak your native language with. With commited parents who understand this sort of problem, I think it's still possible.


Even here, I'm sceptial. In some tri-lingual countries, such as Luxembourg, children are taught all three languages, but different languages are used for different subjects. Luxembourgish will be used in the early years. Then science is taught in German. Then history is taught in French. So they don't really learn the full vocabulary for any of the languages.
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Re: Learning Greek, Latin, and other languages simultaneousl

Postby Paul Derouda » Fri Jan 10, 2014 7:24 pm

pster wrote:Even here, I'm sceptial. In some tri-lingual countries, such as Luxembourg, children are taught all three languages, but different languages are used for different subjects. Luxembourgish will be used in the early years. Then science is taught in German. Then history is taught in French. So they don't really learn the full vocabulary for any of the languages.

It's not enough to live in a trilingual country. But if the mother were French and the father German, and the children put into Franco-Luxembourgish kindergarten and then Germano-Luxembourgish school, and the family spent every year long periords of time both in France and in Germany with family members that a monolingual, and the parents generally made every effort to keep their children exposed to all three languages right from the start AND the children were motivated to go on even when they reach adolescence - that sort of situation can result into true trilinguals. Usually something comes up, and it just doesn't happen.
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Re: Learning Greek, Latin, and other languages simultaneousl

Postby pster » Fri Jan 10, 2014 9:07 pm

And there were physicists and historians on both sides of the family... :lol: But seriously, would they learn auto parts in all three languages? Know the word for transmission and carburetor in all three? And the vocabulary for skiing? And what if the family liked to sail? Hard enough to learn that vocabulary in one language. And the vocabulary for food? And the body and ailments? And furniture? If somebody actually tried to keep up on the vocabulary for everything in all three languages, even the weirdos over at textkit.com probably would probably think him extremely odd if not insane.

Jeez, I make such good arguments, now I don't even believe in true bilinguals. :lol:
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Re: Learning Greek, Latin, and other languages simultaneousl

Postby Scribo » Fri Jan 10, 2014 10:00 pm

If I may be so bold to use myself as an example again (forgive me) I can sort of say...well, no. I had the startling realisation at one point that a lot of my words for kitchen utensils were...let's say an odd mishmash. Obviously it took 20 minutes to correct, but that would be a good example of discrepancy across languages. I don't think that disqualifies me from being multi-lingual. Discrepancies are bound to exist. Doesn't mean I can't read complex literature and debate things just because I was using the wrong word for strainer...

To re-use your example about car parts. I don't know them in any language, I've no real interest in cars. If I was exposed to autotalk I'd pick up names and terms for things in that language but not the others. That doesn't say much, just that I'm not in the right kind of environment.

A French peasant isn't going to know the same kind of Latinate high register vocabulary as a German-French University educated person would. So? It invalidates neither of them.
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Re: Learning Greek, Latin, and other languages simultaneousl

Postby Prolixus Valens » Fri Jan 10, 2014 11:02 pm

@Scribo

Yeah, I'm getting the gist of Latin grammar now, from only 9 chapters of Lingua Latina, even though I have a lot to learn about things such as verbs. I can feel Latin getting easier to learn with each new thing I learn. I'm feeling like after about 9-10 more chapters I will have a solid enough basis to start another language. But I was just curious as to whether or not I could start them all at one time and get past the initial hurdles simultaneously. I've heard the polyglots on YouTube, whom I do not fully trust, saying (mostly) that it is beneficial to do several languages at once. I just don't know.

@pster

I have no job or school so I can devote some time to it each day. I don't really want to spend over two years on these languages though. I'm trying to give myself a sort of university education. My interests are in language, philosophy, and theology. So I want to speak Latin and German, ideally, and read Greek and French. But I don't really even "need" to be able to speak Latin and German. I want these languages for study of philosophy and theology. And I think that eventually I'll add in biblical Hebrew. Akkadian and Egyptian are purely for linguistic and ancient near east study purposes. Basically I just want to read the classics. But after no more than maybe 2-3 years I want to move on to other subjects (math, science, history...). But I only want to move on because I must. I'm absolutely fascinated with languages and would learn them ALL if I could (exaggerating a bit there).

@whsiv

Thanks for the suggestion. However, I already purchased "Beginning French: A Cultural Approach".

@Paul Derouda

Thanks, that is the feeling I'm getting from most on the site.



P.S.

May I direct people to a question I had in another section of these forums? It concerns Lingua Latina.

viewtopic.php?f=3&t=60893
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Re: Learning Greek, Latin, and other languages simultaneousl

Postby pster » Fri Jan 10, 2014 11:42 pm

Scribo wrote:If I may be so bold to use myself as an example again (forgive me) I can sort of say...well, no. I had the startling realisation at one point that a lot of my words for kitchen utensils were...let's say an odd mishmash. Obviously it took 20 minutes to correct, but that would be a good example of discrepancy across languages. I don't think that disqualifies me from being multi-lingual. Discrepancies are bound to exist. Doesn't mean I can't read complex literature and debate things just because I was using the wrong word for strainer...

To re-use your example about car parts. I don't know them in any language, I've no real interest in cars. If I was exposed to autotalk I'd pick up names and terms for things in that language but not the others. That doesn't say much, just that I'm not in the right kind of environment.

A French peasant isn't going to know the same kind of Latinate high register vocabulary as a German-French University educated person would. So? It invalidates neither of them.


There are easily 200 if not a 1000 things in the kitchen. I don't think you could learn them all in 20 minutes!

There is a continuum. Yet people often say they are "completely fluent", as though they crossed some line. I just don't think there is any such line.

Almost everybody I know these days speaks at least three languages. All highly educated folks. Funny. Yada, yada. Yet still, every conversation is filled with requests for vocabulary and pronunciation, and incorrect constructions. At a typical dinner party, easily 1000 errors occur. I usually try to make my way over to the French corner to hear better grammar!

It is all very different from the kind of language mastery that is displayed in an Oxford seminar. I can remember times when everything hinged on the difference between a non-restrictive 'which' and a restrictive 'that'. I'm pretty sure the point was lost for any non-native speakers in the room. Yes, they could have it explained. But they couldn't follow it in real time.

Musicians are pretty modest when compared to language users. They will readily admit that they don't play as well as any number of people. Yet language users can't pat themselves on the back enough.

Have you read Wikipedia lately? It is mostly rubbish to begin with. But it seems like half the articles on European history are written by non-native speakers and most of them are *@&^#$*@^$# incoherent. The French and Italian Wikipedia sites are far superior. I don't know who else can be to blame except a group of folks who think they are in fluent in English but really should be sent back to English for beginners.

Really, the French should be thankful that French was trounced by English around the globe. I don't think they could handle seeing French mangled as badly as English gets mangled.

And I do great in Italy too. Except when I got rear-ended in Taormina by an impatient taxi driver! Nothing like having to fill out an accident report without a dictionary to see how good your Italian really is. Or isn't!

Anyway, like I said, I was just looking for some help procrastinating today. Thanks for that!
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Re: Learning Greek, Latin, and other languages simultaneousl

Postby Paul Derouda » Sat Jan 11, 2014 10:41 pm

pster wrote:Jeez, I make such good arguments, now I don't even believe in true bilinguals. :lol:

Were you to take your arguments to their logical conclusion, you wouldn't even believe in true monolinguals. :P
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Re: Learning Greek, Latin, and other languages simultaneousl

Postby Victor » Sun Jan 12, 2014 1:48 pm

pster wrote:There are easily 200 if not a 1000 things in the kitchen.

Not to mention things in English kitchens that aren't found in Italian, African, or Chinese kitchens, for example, and vice versa; and those things in kitchens of different nations that are similar, but not identical, which there is no satisfactory translation of because the obvious word would be a misnomer and a different word misleading.

pster wrote:It is all very different from the kind of language mastery that is displayed in an Oxford seminar. I can remember times when everything hinged on the difference between a non-restrictive 'which' and a restrictive 'that'. I'm pretty sure the point was lost for any non-native speakers in the room. Yes, they could have it explained. But they couldn't follow it in real time.

Can you think of any concrete examples of that, Pster? I'd like to think the ability to distinguish restrictive and non-restrictive relative pronouns was basic, not advanced, English. Or have I missed the point?

pster wrote:[Musicians are pretty modest when compared to language users. They will readily admit that they don't play as well as any number of people. Yet language users can't pat themselves on the back enough.

That's a complex subject, but I think issues of verifiability and performance play a crucial part. It's easy to verify in a few bars of music how well or ill someone plays or sings; it's less easy to gain a reliable picture of someone's overall linguistic ability from a few sentences. As for performance, I can remember at school how certain of my fellow pupils succeeded in disguising their relative incompetence in foreign languages simply by speaking confidently. I seem to recall the same pupils were active members of our school dramatic society.
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Re: Learning Greek, Latin, and other languages simultaneousl

Postby pster » Sun Jan 12, 2014 10:37 pm

Victor wrote:Can you think of any concrete examples of that, Pster? I'd like to think the ability to distinguish restrictive and non-restrictive relative pronouns was basic, not advanced, English. Or have I missed the point?


You may be right. And it wasn't really the best example.

It's about a lot of things. Choosing just the right word in phrase after phrase. Choosing just the right metaphor. Coining a dozen words in a dozen pages. Formulating sentences that go on for a page. Choosing G, intending that your audience recognize that you are purposefully not choosing A, B, C, D, E or F, and having that intention fulfilled. Encapsulating an argument or a problem with an extremely pregnant phrase. I've seen brilliant people take over discussions of extremely subtle matters. I could never imagine somebody who wasn't a highly educated native speaker doing it. Now of course, sometimes a brilliant non-native speaker dominates a discussion. But when that happens, the audience makes all sorts of allowances and helps him along as it were. The more technical the subject is, the easier it is.

Those are thoughts about prose and dialectic. Another way to think of it is just in terms of poetry. Judging the exact effect of a combination of words is displaying a mastery of language use that goes far far beyond what we might count as "fluency".

That's my only point. There is a continuum. No English, Pidgin English, student of English, decent English, near fluent, "fluent", "completely fluent", native speaker, well educated native, excellent writer, brilliant thinker and writer, one of the greatest of her generation, one of the greatest ever, Hobbes, Shakespeare.

The people towards the end of that list have all made tens of thousands of decisions about style. That style is always developed around some content that is of particular concern. The merely "completely fluent" person can write a coherent paragraph for sure, but has probably made very few serious decisions about style. Some great writers only write books. Others only write essays. Those were serious decisions that were made for deep reasons.

I'm not saying that one needs to aim at the level of Hobbes and Shakespeare. But I am saying that they are masters of English. They have English skills that the "completely fluent" person doesn't have.

Here's an example of a great English writer. He writes out everything long hand. No computer. Very little revision. See First Pages:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Machiavellian ... ian+moment
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Re: Learning Greek, Latin, and other languages simultaneousl

Postby Scribo » Mon Jan 13, 2014 4:36 pm

Are we still rabbiting on about this tosh? Look, I had no idea your kitchens were culinary wonderlands but I clearly meant my own and yes filling in the gaps really didn't take that long. As for your criteria, you will quickly do away with monolingual speakers if you carry on. What is the point? That people vary in their abilities even with their native language? Well, yes. That it is impossible to completely know a language? Yes, that also.

I prefer a simpler way of gauging things. I can speak with good diction and automaticity in quite few languages, read both literature and complex academic treatises as well as happily debate and so on and forth. I'll happily call myself multilingual. Am I of a Shakespearean level? No, nor will I ever be. These are loose categories but I'm fine for that. For more finite boundaries there are always CEFR levels but even they aren't as expansive as they might be.
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Re: Learning Greek, Latin, and other languages simultaneousl

Postby pster » Mon Jan 13, 2014 6:16 pm

As I said, I'm procrastinating! I may keep this thread going till Feb. 1!

Given the tight connections between meaning, thought and world, and given how clueless most people are, I'm perfectly happy to get rid of 90-99% of multilinguals!

How many languages can you read at the rate of 12 pages per hour Scrib? You don't mind if I call you "Scrib" do you? Hehe.
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Re: Learning Greek, Latin, and other languages simultaneousl

Postby Scribo » Mon Jan 13, 2014 9:01 pm

Bah I'm procrastinating too despite having not one but TWO important deadlines very soon. Its a stupid habit but I'm too heavy headed from drink to work well. I've wasted yet another day, wow.

Anyway that's an odd question, I've never measured it and it seems a bit slow to me. I'd wager that there's a fierce divide in my languages between those I can happily eclipse that rate and those where I'd struggle to even meet it and most likely fail. Sorry! I've only ever been bothered with these sorts of things when I've had to take exams. I'm a poor example of a language learner in that sense.
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Re: Learning Greek, Latin, and other languages simultaneousl

Postby renaissancemedici » Sat Feb 22, 2014 8:37 am

This is a very interesting conversation. I have also asked myself the same question because lately I have been handling quite a few languages.

My answer whould be, yes you can, but the goals cannot be the same for all of them. If you want perfection I think you should focus on one or two, and go for conversational level for the rest. Which is ok, if all you need it for is travel, news etc. Then, one day in the future, maybe that language gets its turn to be your focus, etc.

I am willing to accept there are admirable people who can learn perfectly many languages all at once, but I am not one of them. The problem is wanderlust. That's what brings people down :D I should know.

I've been tempted lately to drop everything else and just read greek and latin.
Πολλ' οίδ' ἀλώπηξ, ἐχῖνος δέ έν, μέγα.
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Re: Learning Greek, Latin, and other languages simultaneousl

Postby Prolixus Valens » Wed Mar 12, 2014 4:15 pm

renaissancemedici wrote:My answer whould be, yes you can, but the goals cannot be the same for all of them. If you want perfection I think you should focus on one or two, and go for conversational level for the rest.


I really want Latin, Greek, French, and German for the study of philosophy. I don't really know what level is needed for that. For example, will JACT be enough to go right into reading Greek philosophical texts?
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Re: Learning Greek, Latin, and other languages simultaneousl

Postby Cheiromancer » Wed Mar 12, 2014 5:55 pm

Prolixus Valens wrote:I really want Latin, Greek, French, and German for the study of philosophy. I don't really know what level is needed for that. For example, will JACT be enough to go right into reading Greek philosophical texts?


No. JACT gives you the basic grammar and a decent vocabulary. You'll be at the intermediate level rather than a beginner. But any text you try to pick up you will need some hand-holding with. Bizarre syntactical constructions, obscure words, etc.. If you spend some time with a dictionary and a grammar you will get a good idea of what is going on, but probably no better than you'd get from consulting a translation. (For texts lacking a translation that might well be enough). But to get a deep enough feel for the language to get insights beyond what someone dependent on translation can do... that will take some work. A lot of reading of your target philosophers, and a lot of mulling over word choices and turns of phrase.
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Re: Learning Greek, Latin, and other languages simultaneousl

Postby Prolixus Valens » Wed Mar 12, 2014 9:22 pm

Cheiromancer wrote: ... [T]o get a deep enough feel for the language to get insights beyond what someone dependent on translation can do... that will take some work. A lot of reading of your target philosophers, and a lot of mulling over word choices and turns of phrase.


But will I need another textbook, if so which one would you suggest, or will it just take a lot of reading as you seem to be saying? If JACT isn't enough to read philosophy, then I don't understand how I can do a lot of reading of my target philosophers. Are you saying that this is only possible with a grammar and dictionary in hand? And why learn the languages if there is no benefit beyond what a translation will give you? I'm perplexed, but I appreciate your help.
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Re: Learning Greek, Latin, and other languages simultaneousl

Postby Cheiromancer » Wed Mar 12, 2014 11:22 pm

Prolixus Valens wrote:But will I need another textbook, if so which one would you suggest, or will it just take a lot of reading as you seem to be saying? If JACT isn't enough to read philosophy, then I don't understand how I can do a lot of reading of my target philosophers. Are you saying that this is only possible with a grammar and dictionary in hand? And why learn the languages if there is no benefit beyond what a translation will give you? I'm perplexed, but I appreciate your help.

If you are reading someone in German or French who quotes Latin and/or Greek passages (without translating them!) you'll appreciate having a reading knowledge of all those languages. Older books and journals (from the 1940's or earlier, roughly speaking) presume a classical education, and thus the ability to read at least straightforward passages. You'll miss out if you can't read at least at a beginner's level. Also, if you have more than one translation of a philosopher, you'll want to be able to zero in on a passage that seems disputed.

JACT and a few reference books are great for things like these. But if you want to, say, reconstruct corrupt passages of the Nicomachean Ethics... well, you're going to need a much higher degree of expertise. Ditto if you want to read medieval manuscripts or the like.

I think, too, that even a casual acquaintance with a language will give you some insights. Like the way that visual metaphors are used for knowledge in Greek. To actually do something interesting with those insights... well, that depends. But it could give you an angle that a monolingual philosopher would lack.

I'd suggest doing the JACT and then trying Geoffrey Steadman's "Plato's Republic I". Work your way through it, and then evaluate where you are, and what you want to be able to do.
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