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CINDY

Learning French - Aspergers

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CINDY   

my son, aged 12 has Aspergers.

 

He is at Grammar school.

 

He was given the option of not doing foreign languages when he was diagnosed.

He has attempted French for thirteen months but has now asked to be removed.

 

His school will now not let him stop until he has had over the next several months, "a trench of assesments"

He has a pathological fear of failure, and wants to be removed.

 

Please, has anyone any knowledge of foreign languages/Aspergers, that could suppport our position

 

thank you

 

Cindy

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Mumble   

Welcome to the forum Cindy :)

 

I was removed from French lessons at school although I didn't have a dx then, they just knew something was 'wrong'. When I say 'removed' it was a case of the teacher shouting, in front of the whole class, "you're too stupid even for the bottom set, get out of my classroom". So I did. :devil:

 

Is there an option for him to learn a different language, maybe one that he finds more logical? I had to do German instead - I was still awful, but it made a little more sense to me and I scraped through my GCSE.

 

Some individuals with AS do very well in languages, some don't - I don't think there's any 'rules' about learning languages and AS.

 

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CINDY   
Welcome to the forum Cindy :)

 

I was removed from French lessons at school although I didn't have a dx then, they just knew something was 'wrong'. When I say 'removed' it was a case of the teacher shouting, in front of the whole class, "you're too stupid even for the bottom set, get out of my classroom". So I did. :devil:

 

Is there an option for him to learn a different language, maybe one that he finds more logical? I had to do German instead - I was still awful, but it made a little more sense to me and I scraped through my GCSE.

 

Some individuals with AS do very well in languages, some don't - I don't think there's any 'rules' about learning languages and AS.

 

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Bard   

My son is in mainstream, has a dx of Aspergers and is now in Y9.

He tried French for a year and got increasingly stressed about it, couldn't remember vocabulary and was bewildered most of the time. By the time he got to Y8 and the school added Spanish, he went into controlled lockdown and spent the lessons drawing and not talking.

By mutual agreement, and with a very co-operative school and supportive SENCO, we changed things. He can manage Spanish more easily, it makes more sense to him. He dropped French and is now on an ASDAN course, bronze level.

ASDAN is usually taken by children with learning needs to the point where a GCSE course would be of questionable value.

B can do the work without difficulty, but it also involves lifeskills, co-operation and some level of interaction which he is finding sufficiently challenging. So he helps the others academically, they help him socially.

Inclusion is not about the school making him do everything because he should. It is about adapting the curriculum for every individual to give an appropriate choice.

If B's school can do it, there is no reason why your son's school should not look around for alternative possibilities.

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CINDY   

Thank you for replying.

 

He does do Spanish as well, and finds that he is able to learn this, it is just French.

 

It seems that there are two different issues,

 

First, and it would appear the most important, what the school has to do to satisfy the education authority that removal is justified

 

then second and significantly less important, the enormous emotional tension he suffers, his pathological fear of failure whilst he tries to conform, and at the same time try to be inconspicuous.

 

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peaches   

Just to put the spanner in the works, my daughter, recently diagnosed as Asperger's was really good at languages, but found the oral exams too much. She was really good at French in written format, and had a lovely accent when she did speak it, but she didnt like her (male) French teacher, so refused to do the oral part of the GCSE. She did Spanish too, but because she liked her (female) Spanish teacher she turned up for the oral, despite cancelling once. She got her Spanish GCSE. She has also picked up a bit of German and Japanese, and has lots of knowledge about the origins of words in English. I must admit, French was one of my best subjects at school, even though I hated it.

 

However my son, NT, had loads of difficulty with French. I speak a little French and tutored him at home, we went on holiday to France for about 6 years and he was fine if you sent him to the shop or the bar. But it was his oral that let him down and he just missed getting a C according to his teacher because of this. According to mother in law, my husband was exactly the same, and he was allowed to drop French, but things were different then I know.

 

I came to the conclusion that secondary schools are remarkably inflexible about options. This used to cause me so much headache with my son, but funnily enough my daughter never complained.

 

Sorry if Ive rambled on, it doesnt really help you does it? Except to say that some Asperger's children can be good at languages and some NT ones not so good.

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I was made to drop french at secondary school. I really struggled with the noise levels in the class as the teacher would say something then we had to repeat, 40 kids all saying the same thing at once (or at lease attempting to :lol: ) equals :sick: A lot of my outbursts were in these lessons, I got changed to extra maths lessons with the year above :clap:

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Flora   

My son with AS is doing French, and learning Japanese!

 

I think like most things to do with autism, you really really can't generalise.

 

Flora

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i was very good at french (GCSE A, with no teacher for the finaly year), but absolutely terrible at latin (GCSE U) and spanish (taster course at degree). perhaps you could ask that he give another language a try, at his age he shouldn't have missed enough to make this excessively difficult. as a foreign language is national curriculum required this might be easier for his school to go along with. children with learning difficulties can drop foreign langauges, but it has to be apparent that they would not get anywhere with it which is probably why they want to do a lot of tests. german is supposed to be easier and a very different style to learn. i found spanish hardas it was too close to english and french and i got confused. i just couldn't remember the words in latin (but i did that as an extra GCSE after school 1 hour a week so probably also didn't have enough class time) at my school we were ability grouped and while the higher groups had a choice of french or german after year 9 (french only before) the lower groups started out with german in year 7 and had no choice in changing over, which would suggest it really is easier.

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CINDY   

-thank you all for your advice and support

 

I am upset that his school are going to make this hard for him/me.

 

The school said they would not stop his lessons, and this without talking to my son to see if/how it is effecting him,

 

I shall ring today and see if I can get an appointment with the lady who diagnosed him. Perhaps she can offer him some support,.

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Tally   

I think this is one of those things which can vary wildly between everyone. I am an adult with AS. In school I was rubbish at French, but really good at German.

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madme   

My son. 13 (Year 9) (AS) is having difficulty with spanish at school. The teacher tells me that he has a very good ability but doesnt apply himself. He tells me that he is bored and that they make such little progress which I feel is right as he seems to know very little. He has asked to drop the spanish but as yet nothing has happened. It is strange as I was very good at languages and french in particular doing my Olevel on my own early. I went on to study is at Uni with law. I can remember being quite obsessed about learning all the verbs, vocab and spent a lot of time with my head in a french-english dictionary. (BTW I think I am an un-dx AS) I also studied german and while quite good at it never really liked it. If it is stressful then your child won't be learning. You could however get him some study books and tapes to see if on his own he copes better. Looking back I self taught myself in the main.

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I was - am? - supposed to be "good at languages", whatever that means. I'm old (or young!) enough to remember the high hopes of the late 80s, with all the hype of 1992 and the new European era that year was supposed to usher in. Despite this promising future, my teachers advised me against continuing my languages (French, German and Italian) beyond GCSE because I was (allegedly) so gifted there was no need to - "you can always pick them up later on". Unfortunately I've made little use of them since.

 

The one chance I had to really use my languages was the Erasmus programme at university (St Andrews, BSc(Hons) 1998, Logic & Philosophy of Science - Mathematics), but I foolishly blew the opportunity on a disastrous semester in Stockholm. Having believed the hype about how good I was at languages, I naïvely believed I could become fluent in Swedish, no problem. Furthermore I - equally naïvely - believed that the words "approved Erasmus exchange" meant that it had been checked out, audited or suchlike by a bureaucrat from Brussels/Strasbourg/Luxembourg/wherever. In fact no such auditing had ever taken place: I ended up attending lectures on maths and philosophy in Swedish with only a basic-level language course to assist me, and even that didn't even start until half-way through the semester.

 

The longest job I've had to date was 7 years in a branch of the scientific civil service where the furthest I ever travelled on business was London. Apart from three isolated tasks (a presentation to visiting French meteorologists, translating German comments in a Fortran program for a colleague, looking at an email message in Italian which proved to be a phishing scam) the only use I made of my linguistic skills was a weekly lunchtime French conversation class (as well as a German conversation class before that was axed owing to falling numbers).

 

So all that leaves is holiday vocabulary - asking the way to the post office, listening to announcements at railway stations and the like. Shouldn't there be more to using my languages than that?

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I agree with the comments above that it is difficult to generalise with languages, or for any subject as school for that matter. I have taught young people with AS who have really struggled with French, right through to a young man who excelled with A grades in all his papers at A Level. I think so much depends on the attitude of the teacher, his/her understanding of ASD and also the size/dynamics of the class. Also, so much revolves around appropriate differentiation. If a child has difficulty with perceived failure, then languages can be a challenge, due to learning of vocabulary and the frequent testing that tends to take place in languages. AFAIK, there is no reason why a pupil cannot be removed from a subject and this is at the discretion of the school in consultation with parents, although it should never be a decision to be taken lightly.

 

Spanish may be better as it is more logical and phonetic, as is German.

 

I hope it all works out for you.

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rannoch   

He does do Spanish as well, and finds that he is able to learn this, it is just French.....then second and significantly less important, the enormous emotional tension he suffers, his pathological fear of failure whilst he tries to conform, and at the same time try to be inconspicuous.

I learned French and German at school. I dropped German in Year 9 and continued with French. I got thrown out of adult Spanish class, but will explain why later. I suspect son's difficulty with learning languages is probably not with the language itself, but the style of teaching used. The more interactive, noisy and auditory the style of teaching, the more stressful and overloading it is for someone with AS. I think we learn better in a calm and structured classroom environment. I can still remember the horror of our French teacher making us all stand up and sing one line of a song each. :tearful:

 

In a language class, the demands placed on a student with AS are massive. It involves a lot of listening (stressful if auditory processing is a problem), pair-work, role play and dialogues. The curriculum usually has a social context, e.g. talking about family, friends, hobbies, holidays, writing imaginary holiday postcards to friends, etc.....things a NT teenager should find easy, but perhaps less easy for someone on the spectrum.

 

As for my adult Spanish class, I got thrown out of the class because the teacher found me to be unresponsive to his style of interaction and not verbal enough for his liking, which he interpreted as "low ability" and affecting the group dynamic. He arranged for me to have 1-to-1 lessons with a colleague. They went slightly better, but now I am taking an online course. I'm learning a lot more this way, as it removes the pressure of the face-to-face interaction and I can do it in a calm, quiet environment. If I don't understand something, I replay it.

 

It may be worth asking your son about French lessons. What is stressing him out? is it too noisy? Too interactive? Too much teacher talk? Lack of structure? Can the school accommodate him in some way, e.g. doing some course work in the library or online instead of attending some lessons?

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lilnicki   

I think it all depends on the individual...... i did best at french, and worst at german....my french GCSE i got grade B....... i remember most of it.... i can use the "holiday" french as someone mentioned......can order food at a restaurant/book a hotel room/ ask for directions......my best subject was biology because it's quite a "literal" subject...... just lots of facts to learn...... i struggled mostly with physics because it was abstract things like forces and friction.

 

Nicki

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Tally   
my best subject was biology because it's quite a "literal" subject...... just lots of facts to learn......

It depends on your definition of literal. Languages can be literal because there are grammar rules and you either say something right or you say it wrong. Biology seems quite vague to me.

 

By the way, this thread is over 3 years old.

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Kathryn   

Please look at the date of a thread before replying to it- the original poster may not be around and even if they are, events will obviously have moved on a bit.

 

The general topic is still an interesting one though. I agree it's impossible to generalise about language ability and AS. People may struggle with the social aspects of language learning but enjoy the phonetic and syntactic elements particularly if they have an analytical mind. My daughter is one of the latter. She did well in French and German and is studying old and middle English as part of her course - and excelling in it, apparently.

 

K x

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at school always found languages of french and german so damn challenging/difficult annoying subject to learn i tried SO HARD but couldn't grasp understand any of it in the end i used get so frustrated end up acting out attention wise as struggling so bad much and get send out the class room for interupting and disruptive others!

 

XKLX

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Dijac   

We moved to France when Will was 4. At first he got by with his incredible memory, and would be able to memorise poems etc before the French kids - but it was soon apparent he had a knack for the language. Obviously, living here, and in a small town at that, he was immersed in the language.

 

When he started senior school, his friends didn't even know he was English - he is totally bi-lingual, with no accent in either language.

 

Someone made a comment about latin - and that is now his favourite language. He does German too, but likes that less, but that maybe because of the teacher.

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Sally44   

Is this a private school?

 

The professionals that would give advice about this would be a speech and language therapist [who could state that his understanding of his mother tongue was hard enough for him to master, nevermind another language].

 

Many special/independent schools for ASD or speech and language disorders don't even sit formal English language exams.

 

An Educational Psychologist may also be able to put in writing that it was inappropriate.

 

Regarding his anxiety, a Clinical Psychologist could advice on his anxiety and how having to repeatedly fail to understand or make progress in French could affect his confidence and self esteem.

 

If his anxiety is severe and he is showing any symptoms [head aches, stomache aches, refusing school, hurting himself, threatening to run away etc], then a referal to CAHMS might be worth asking for.

 

If it is a private school I don't know what access they would have to any of those services. So you may need to go to your GP and ask to be referred to whoever diagnosed him for them to refer onwards to any of the professionals named above.

 

Or phone the various professionals and ask them HOW you would get your son referred.

 

Whatever route you take, it is going to involve some assessment of your son.

 

You can also get advice from www.ipsea.org.uk, www.network81.org.uk, or www.ace-ed.org.uk.

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Canopus   

A friend with AS told me that he hated French at secondary school and was hopeless at it. The problem was attributed to the teaching style and curriculum along with a general lack of interest and desire in the subject. After he finished his A Levels he learnt Arabic at evening classes and found the course to be easy going and enjoyable. The French lessons at school were biased towards a social context and everyday situations. The Arabic course was based on grammar and verbs were only introduced in book 2.

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The Arabic course was based on grammar and verbs were only introduced in book 2.

That tricky, to sentences without verbs.

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"Newer research being conducted at the University of Pompeu Fabra in Spain, however, shows that people who know multiple languages process their surroundings in a different way and respond more rapidly to mental tests that require them to shift focus in ways completely unrelated to language, and unlike previous research that implied the biggest bang for your cognitive buck comes from learning a second language at a young age, this new study implies that people who learn a language later in life may also be able to reap those sharp-minded benefits."

Learning a second language can give your brain a boost

... but how do you get to use what you've learnt? Etc etc etc.

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Isobel   

I just couldn't follow the french exams at GCSE, had no idea what I was doing, particularly in the listening exam. I was ok at coursework, and funnily enough, the speaking exam.

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Mihaela   

Of course it is Aeolienne! People in this country are strange in their aversion to learning other languages. England is known for this throughout Europe. I know of many children in Moldova, the poorest country in Europe, who can fluently speak three languages. Italian, French, English, Russian, songs are commonly played on the radio, as well as the native Romanian. (All there is here is English and American - very boring). As soon as children start school at 6 they begin learning English. In Wales, every Welsh-speaking child also speaks fluent English, but go across the border and barely anyone will speak Welsh. I love languages.

Edited by Mihaela

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Mihaela, have you ever worked abroad?

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Worked? If you mean for pay, no. If I had my time again I wouldn't be living in England though.

But you have lived in other countries, as opposed to visiting as a tourist? Sorry if I sound nosy.

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Mihaela   

Yes, but my times of wandering are over - due to the stress of travelling, lack of money and my cats. They were good while they lasted and I learnt a lot. :)

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Canopus   

People in this country are strange in their aversion to learning other languages. England is known for this throughout Europe. I know of many children in Moldova, the poorest country in Europe, who can fluently speak three languages.

I have thought about this situation then concluded that the British might be lucky more so than lazy in that hundreds of millions of people worldwide know English either as a first or second language, and that vast quantities of written and audio video material is in English. The result of this is a lack of an incentive for the British to learn another language compared with people from countries where only a small number of people worldwide know their native language and very little in the way of material in their language exists apart from that which is localised. In order for them to study a subject higher than secondary (or even primary) school level; access foreign news; or learn about computers, machinery, wildlife, Asperger Syndrome etc. knowledge of another language becomes essential.

 

For many countries it is quite obvious which second and third languages its citizens should learn. This isn't the case for Britain where the most worthwhile foreign language is very debatable.

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Mihaela   

English has become the world's default language due to historical chance: British colonialism, later followed by American imperialistic cultural aspirations, and later still accelerated by the internet. A double-edged sword for England, for language is the central to cultural identity. Without its own language or dialect, the culture loses its identity and perishes. This is one reason why I feel England has lost its way, unlike Scotland, Wales or Ireland. Go to any European country and you'll find that their own distinctive languages help to maintain their own unique cultures and a sense of identity going back many centuries. England increasingly lacks this, and has to invent a pseudo-identity (mainly involving relatively modern royalty-related traditions and aimed mainly at the tourism market). East Germany still has a thriving Sorbian/Wendish/Lusatian community with it two languages (upper and lower Sorbian) centred on two small towns. Russia still has over 100 indigenous languages each with their own unique cultures. Moldova has its autonomous Gagauzian regions centred on Comrat and a couple of outlying villages. It's these little idiosyncrasies within large nation states which give them colour and life. Each region of Romania has its own distinctive dialect, costume, music, dance style, vernacular architecture, musical instruments. Dialects, costume, etc. even subtly change between neighbouring villages. The ubiquity of English along with the industrial revolution and intense US influence killed off all this variety in England - a great loss.

The result of this is a lack of an incentive for the British to learn another language compared with people from countries where only a small number of people worldwide know their native language and very little in the way of material in their language exists apart from that which is localised.

Even trying to learn a second language provides us with a whole new outlook on the world. There's no better way to understand different cultures. It helps us realise that there's more than one way of seeing the world. I often need to know how non-English speaking countries see a particular issue, and the only way to do this is to read on that subject in another language. These are all valid incentives.

In order for them to study a subject higher than secondary (or even primary) school level; access foreign news; or learn about computers, machinery, wildlife, Asperger Syndrome etc. knowledge of another language becomes essential.

True, but it's still a shame that the English show so little interest in other languages. It's their loss. It's often arrogantly assumed by that anything worth reading or watching must be in English and come from the USA. So wrong!

This isn't the case for Britain where the most worthwhile foreign language is very debatable.

A basic knowledge of Greek and Latin can still be useful, but maybe we should start with our closest neighbours, France and Wales. If we're thinking along economic lines (which I certainly don't) then perhaps Mandarin would be the most useful. When I study maps of Wales, Cornwall, etc. ...even England, I want to know what the place names mean. I have many books on languages, place-names, field names, personal names, a large tome on the Cassubian culture and a bigger one on Russian dialects (in Russian) containing the most detailed dialect maps I've ever seen. (Typical obsessive aspie!) Languages fascinate me for their own sake. Their origins, syntax, grammatical rules, vocabulary, etc. By studying them we train our brains to think in new and different ways, so learning any language is worthwhile.

Edited by Mihaela

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Canopus   

English has become the world's default language due to historical chance: British colonialism, later followed by American imperialistic cultural aspirations, and later still accelerated by the internet.

The United States is responsible for English becoming the world's default language after 1945. In 1900 English was a language confined to the United States and the British Empire rather than a truly global language. Only a small fraction of the people living in the rest of the world learned English then, and in Europe, Latin and German were more popular as second languages. If the United States had decided on German rather than English as its national language then history would have been much the same during the 19th century but very different after 1914.

 

Most programming languages are based on English. Some even expect dates to be entered in the American rather than the rest of the world formats.

 

A double-edged sword for England, for language is the central to cultural identity. Without its own language or dialect, the culture loses its identity and perishes. This is one reason why I feel England has lost its way, unlike Scotland, Wales or Ireland. Go to any European country and you'll find that their own distinctive languages help to maintain their own unique cultures and a sense of identity going back many centuries. England increasingly lacks this, and has to invent a pseudo-identity (mainly involving relatively modern royalty-related traditions and aimed mainly at the tourism market).

The identity of England - both in general and in relation to other European countries - is a subject that I have debated many times in the past. Does standard British English / the Queen's English / the National Curriculum English create an artificial identity? Is American English really as bad as the media and teachers make it out to be despite it being closer to the English of England during the 17th and 18th centuries?

 

Take into account that many countries use Spanish and Arabic but do they each lack local identities?

 

Even trying to learn a second language provides us with a whole new outlook on the world. There's no better way to understand different cultures. It helps us realise that there's more than one way of seeing the world. I often need to know how non-English speaking countries see a particular issue, and the only way to do this is to read on that subject in another language. These are all valid incentives.

This is very true but it still doesn't answer the question of which languages to learn. Take into account that it is exceptional for people in any country to possess a working knowledge of more than four languages unless they are language geeks or professional linguists.

 

John Enoch Powell knew 12 languages including Latin, Greek, Welsh, Hindi, and Urdu, and even held discussions with his constituents in some of them. I can't help wondering whether he understood people and cultures in a much different way from your average English monoglot 'far right nutjob' resulting in him being a very misunderstood person.

 

A basic knowledge of Greek and Latin can still be useful, but maybe we should start with our closest neighbours, France and Wales.

Very little teaching and learning of north European languages takes place in England despite historical connections between East Anglia and Holland, and Yorkshire and Tyneside and Scandinavia. To an extent I can appreciate that they are fairly minor languages on a global basis with most native speakers also fluent in English which acts as a disincentive to teaching them in schools.

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At times I've had people suggesting I look for jobs abroad as if it might be a panacea to the double whammy of Asperger-impaired social skills and the recession in the UK. All I can say in response to that is that abroad is a big place. From what I've heard/read from sources such as Prospects.ac.uk, job application procedures vary enormously from country to country, even between those which share a border and common language, so I guess you have to be quite focused. Additionally the nightmare of my failed Erasmus experience (see my earlier post) has made me vow never to live in a country where I couldn't speak the official language, even if the locals speak good English - but I don't want to learn another language from scratch unless and until I become fluent in the ones I already know.

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Mihaela   

Canopus said:

The United States is responsible for English becoming the world's default language after 1945. In 1900 English was a language confined to the United States and the British Empire rather than a truly global language. Only a small fraction of the people living in the rest of the world learned English then, and in Europe, Latin and German were more popular as second languages. If the United States had decided on German rather than English as its national language then history would have been much the same during the 19th century but very different after 1914.

I agree completely. What I really meant was that the spread of English was caused by British colonialism (even in Scotland, Ireland and Wales. In the eraly 20th century the speaking of Welsh by children was discouraged in Welsh schools). Of course, it was post-war American influence which extended this spread worldwide - due to Hollywood, the mass media, the plethora of US military bases worldwide and the rise of US multinationals. This is why most programming languages are based on English, or rather American English.

The identity of England - both in general and in relation to other European countries - is a subject that I have debated many times in the past. Does standard British English / the Queen's English / the National Curriculum English create an artificial identity? Is American English really as bad as the media and teachers make it out to be despite it being closer to the English of England during the 17th and 18th centuries?

 

Englans barely has an identity today. It began losing its way with the industrial revolution and the ensuing urbanisation of the rural peasant class, the class that lies ate very heart of any culture, that harbours and hold dear its folklore, traditions, music, art, costume, etc. Standard English only became universal in England due to films, radio and TV. In countries that retain living peasant cultures dialects continue to thrive regardless of the mass media. They're used in parallel with the standard language. This is why Occitan is still widely spoken in southern France, and why the Oltenian dialect is still widely spoken in southern Romania, etc. American English has its good and bad points, for it's only partly closer to to the Englsih of 17-18c England. All the modern accretions, slang, etc. are purely American and I feel they should should remain there! :)

Take into account that many countries use Spanish and Arabic but do they each lack local identities?

They do to a larger extent than countries with their own national languages. Their culture, traditions, etc are predominatly Spanish or Islamic respectively.

This is very true but it still doesn't answer the question of which languages to learn.

 

It doesn't really matter, but it surely helps to learn a language belonging to a culture with which you identify. Maybe a country you've visited on holiday or lived in.

 

John Enoch Powell knew 12 languages including Latin, Greek, Welsh, Hindi, and Urdu, and even held discussions with his constituents in some of them. I can't help wondering whether he understood people and cultures in a much different way from your average English monoglot 'far right nutjob' resulting in him being a very misunderstood person.

At the risk of being politically incorrect (not unusual for me!) I've always admired Enoch Powell's intellect. He stands out almost alone amongst modern politicians. I'm certain his knowledge of languages helped him understand other cultures more than most. He was almost certainly an Aspie too:

"There could have been something else, too (and others have realised that, as a trawling of the internet will show). In Powell one can recognise some, at least, of the symptoms of Asperger Syndrome, a medical condition not fully diagnosed until 1994. There need be nothing offensive about such a suggestion. Many sufferers are, like Powell, highly intelligent. They are child prodigies of enormous talent and ability who can sometimes find it difficult to emotionally relate to others. They are single-minded to the point of being obsessive. They may dislike change and identify very closely with the ethnic and national community into which they were born. They may experience frustration and failure later on, through their own personalities or the failure of others to understand them" http://www.guyblythman.com/page28.htm

Very little teaching and learning of north European languages takes place in England despite historical connections between East Anglia and Holland, and Yorkshire and Tyneside and Scandinavia. To an extent I can appreciate that they are fairly minor languages on a global basis with most native speakers also fluent in English which acts as a disincentive to teaching them in schools.

Our historical ties with France made French a politically more useful language to learn. Virtually all diplomacy used French. The Vatcan nuncios stuck to Italian, but now even they have started using English. I once laboriously translated a book from Dutch to English using a dictionary and a book on Dutch grammar. That's how obsessive I can be when I need to learn something! (I've done similar with other languages too, but not whole books).

Aeolienne:

It's surprising how quickly we can pick up languages when actually living in that country - even as adult.

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Aeolienne:

It's surprising how quickly we can pick up languages when actually living in that country - even as adult.

However "surprising" it may be, it didn't happen quick enough for me. After five months in Stockholm, I'd barely learnt enough Swedish to follow conversations, never mind lectures. By this stage I was a nervous wreck - I'd spend entire tunnelbana journeys sobbing continuously, I threw temper tantrums in public places and even after I came back to the UK, just saying the word "Stockholm" made me have a meltdown. My family's reaction to this was effectively to push me away and tell me to go and see a counsellor to sort myself out (yeah, right!) - I guess they felt embarrassed that they'd been largely responsible for pushing me into such a hare-brained scheme.

 

I hadn't been diagnosed with Asperger's then (even the counsellors I saw in the aftermath were ignorant of it); I often wonder what difference it would have made if my condition had been recognised and I'd been able to discuss my Erasmus plans with a support worker before going. Might I have simply been told: "You won't be able to cope with that level of change - you shouldn't go"? That's more than a bit defeatist.

 

Looking back, I wonder if it was a sensory impairment that was the issue here. I'm not generally affected by sensory impairments, which is probably why I remained undiagnosed until the age of 26. What I mean is that I was overly sensitive to the experience of walking into a room and hearing an incomprehensible wall of sound. All these people who say "they all speak English in Sweden" are so missing the point - Swedes don't speak English to each other.

 

That said, at least one person has advised me that I'd be wrong to assume that I'd have the same experience in, say, The Netherlands. In another thread on this forum it was observed that Swedes tend to be fairly introverted, which makes it that much harder for an ex-pat trying to reach out to people and communicate.

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Canopus   

What I really meant was that the spread of English was caused by British colonialism (even in Scotland, Ireland and Wales.

I don't fully agree with this. If the United States was factored out then English today would largely be a language confined to the Commonwealth similar to how French and Portuguese are confined to former colonies of France and Portugal. English would almost certainly be in the top 10 economically important languages but it wouldn't be a global language. Outside of the Commonwealth, far fewer people today would know or be learning English.

 

One factor that has upheld the learning of English in Commonwealth countries is the large number of students who take IGCSE and A Level exams. In many Commonwealth countries no English = no recognised qualifications because national qualifications either do not exist or are not valued by society.

 

It began losing its way with the industrial revolution and the ensuing urbanisation of the rural peasant class, the class that lies ate very heart of any culture, that harbours and hold dear its folklore, traditions, music, art, costume, etc.

Urbanisation and industrialisation irreversibly changes the culture of any nation but at the same time it can create new local identities. The Liverpool, Birmingham, Glasgow, and Tyneside accents and dialects are largely the products of the industrial revolution.

 

Germany and Japan industrialised but still maintain their own distinct culture, identity, and language. It's also notable that these countries have not endured the wrath of a politically correct liberal elite since the 1960s that England has which has exacerbated the demise of several aspects English culture and identity. The City bankers are equally to blame because they see England as nothing more than a machine to make money from and making money as the only activity of any worth in England.

 

Standard English only became universal in England due to films, radio and TV. In countries that retain living peasant cultures dialects continue to thrive regardless of the mass media. They're used in parallel with the standard language. This is why Occitan is still widely spoken in southern France, and why the Oltenian dialect is still widely spoken in southern Romania, etc.

The BBC (once dominated by public school toffs with Home Counties accents) was quite brutal towards local English dialects. They once wouldn't allow a person from Tipton to be a radio presenter because they had too much of a black country accent! ITV companies were once more localised than the BBC was but ITV today is a faceless monolith run from central London and Manchester. Remember TSW? Probably the most localised and homely of all ITV companies in England.

 

It doesn't really matter, but it surely helps to learn a language belonging to a culture with which you identify. Maybe a country you've visited on holiday or lived in.

In my opinion, education policy makers in England have not taken into account the increasing number of kids of foreign origin who know a language other than English when it comes to generating the MFL curriculum in schools. Very few schools teach the languages that these kids know or allow students to take them for GCSE. At an education meeting it was suggested that evaluations of teaching locally prominent languages and offering them for GCSE in secondary schools should be tried out in a handful of local authorities. The initial proposals were Urdu in Kirklees, Gujurati in Leicester, and Bengali in Tower Hamlets. European languages will still be available in secondary schools for GCSE but will be optional. Some concerns circulated that indigenous British students (and other students who don't know the languages) might struggle more than with a European language as a result of the different alphabet. What do you think of this?

 

At the risk of being politically incorrect (not unusual for me!) I've always admired Enoch Powell's intellect. He stands out almost alone amongst modern politicians. I'm certain his knowledge of languages helped him understand other cultures more than most. He was almost certainly an Aspie too:

 

"There could have been something else, too (and others have realised that, as a trawling of the internet will show). In Powell one can recognise some, at least, of the symptoms of Asperger Syndrome, a medical condition not fully diagnosed until 1994. There need be nothing offensive about such a suggestion. Many sufferers are, like Powell, highly intelligent. They are child prodigies of enormous talent and ability who can sometimes find it difficult to emotionally relate to others. They are single-minded to the point of being obsessive. They may dislike change and identify very closely with the ethnic and national community into which they were born. They may experience frustration and failure later on, through their own personalities or the failure of others to understand them" http://www.guyblythman.com/page28.htm

You are not the only one. Adults with AS who admire Enoch Powell and his intellect are quite common even though they do not agree with everything that Powell believed in. I think it's a combination of Enoch Powell potentially having AS himself and people with AS having a more questioning mind that doesn't go with the flow of popular opinion and the mainstream media like a high proportion of NT minds do. I have suspected that sections of the radical right have appealed to people with AS whereas liberalism and modern western socialism are difficult for people with AS to comprehend.

 

An admiration of Enoch Powell by people with AS has caused many frictions between them and NT parents of kids with AS who overwhelmingly despise Enoch Powell but rarely make the time and effort to study him in depth.

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