foudebassan: (Default)
[personal profile] foudebassan
From [livejournal.com profile] esperanto : http://www.dotsub.com/films/thelanguage/index.php?autostart=true&language_setting=eo_1683

Extract: "In esperanto, you can be yourself. In English, non-natives have to imitate a foreign model, knowing that they'll never succeed perfectly. The miracle of esperanto is that you can keep your accent and your way of forming your sentences and yet everybody understands everybody. And no one ever feels inferior, inadequate, or simply foreign." (Claude Piron)

This rings true to me. It's not only about the language, its about the culture behind it. I've had serious trouble with Native English speakers in the past because they linked a word to their own understanding of a peculiar concept, without comprehending that the cultural baggage behind that concept cannot automatically be translated into another language. I believe that on that occasion, they didn't even get what a cultural baggage was - they'd never known anything else than their own limited universe and couldn't possibly translate to another worldview (don't get me started on the consequences of monolingualism and ethnocentrism). And that's when I feel brazen and try to actually assert my Frenchness - usually I just adapt to the mental patterns of English speakers - Brits mostly, as that's where the cultural gap is smallest. Of course, there are those individuals with whom one gets on no matter what and who make it all worthwhile, but on a systemic basic it can get really, really tiresome - not talking to others, just having others take it for granted that you think like them and have you conform to their own mental patterns and take their cultural baggage into consideration. Until I started reading on esperanto, I never occurred to me that communication - provided one took the first step and reached out for others - could be anything else than twisting oneself until one doesn't quite recognise oneself any more. I know better now.

I also need a green flag with star icon.

Date: 2007-10-21 11:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] shiv5468.livejournal.com
It's not just a language difference though, is it? People are different in all sorts of ways, and a lot of them expect you to think like them. I should think that there are ways I am culturally similar to you that would not apply to American English speakers, though they're nominally similar.

I tend to find thinking in French to be more formal, but then I don't know idiomatic French to think in.

Date: 2007-10-22 09:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] foudebassan.livejournal.com
Yes and no. I suspect you get the same kind of problem when talking to an American, as in, they don't know how your school system and TV programs and political system and sports are different from theirs and expect you to adapt. But we are speaking English here, which means I'm on your home ground. It can't be easy for you either to have to try to understand foreigners who make mistakes all the time, but in all dealings you have the advantage - you know how It Is and when in doubt, it is to be assumed that I don't. I'm not complaining, I chose to be and to to stay in LJ because I'm happy here, but esperanto does fulfil a deep-rooted longing as well.

I don't have enough distance to judge on that. I do know that I don't like your not having a difference between tu and vous, it encourages people to take liberties they have not automatically been granted.

Date: 2007-10-22 10:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ejab62.livejournal.com
"I don't like your not having a difference between tu and vous, it encourages people to take liberties they have not automatically been granted."

Thank you for mentioning that. It's one of my 'pet irritations' with some other languages. We (Dutch) make that difference as well. Some of the people I know come from other countries where they don't have this difference. I try to explain the correct forms to them but since they're not used to it (or don't understand it), they sometimes think of me as some sort of 'snob'.
It doesn't feel right.

Date: 2007-10-22 11:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] foudebassan.livejournal.com
I've had people tell me it felt awkward because, and that's true, you don't always know how to address some people and sometimes it takes extra clarification. I have the feeling you also don't use the formal addresses to the same people in French and in Dutch or German, though that could depend on the people more than on the country, I dunno. But I like that I don't get to be friendly with everyone right away and that it takes some gauging and talking before we get informal. Yay for snobbishness!

It funny because theoretically esperanto doesn't have an informal address, they have a "you" and an equivalent of the English "thou", but apparently southerners use the "thou" as a "tu" :)

Date: 2007-10-22 11:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] shiv5468.livejournal.com
It's very peculiar that a country as class conscious as mine should not have that distinction.

Date: 2007-10-22 11:45 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] shiv5468.livejournal.com
I'm not sure that's always the case though. Your understanding of English may be different to mine, but that idoesn't mean it's deficient / wrong. I wouldn't know a gerund if it bit me on the arse. You probably would. So, you could argue that your understanding is superior. Not to mention that we're talking about English here, which is not centralised, or controlled, or very organised, and anyone who has read HP Britglish has seen how much we disagree amongst ourselves about How We Should Speak / Write.

Oh yes. I would like there to be that in English. French does feel more formal. English is a language that slouches in alleyways. French would be telling it to stand up straight and get its hands out of its pockets.

Date: 2007-10-22 12:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] foudebassan.livejournal.com
But I understand English grammar only inasmuch as it relates to French grammar - and I'm proficient enough to see that I don't express myself as well as a native, and probably never will. I'm only an ickle noob in esperanto, we'll see how it turns on that front.

French has "argot", which feels like a whole other language at times and most certainly doesn't stand straight!

Date: 2007-10-22 07:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] shiv5468.livejournal.com
Compared to a shambling chav from the darkest reaches of Hackney, I'd say you were ahead of the game.

Surely we all speak a private language that may or may not correspond with our auditors. For years I thought mezzanine was a sort of marble.

Date: 2007-10-22 07:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] foudebassan.livejournal.com
If it's not out of print, I've just found your Xmas present.

Date: 2007-10-22 07:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] shiv5468.livejournal.com
And now I'm all intrigued.

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Date: 2007-10-22 01:57 pm (UTC)
ext_28553: stirred (Default)
From: [identity profile] duniazade.livejournal.com
I know a French couple who, after thirty years of marriage, still say "vous" to each other - at least in public. I've always wondered about the bedroom.

Date: 2007-10-22 02:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] foudebassan.livejournal.com
Jacques and Bernadette Chirac still say "vous" to each other as well.

Sarko, on the other hand, says "tu" to every single journalist he's ever encountered. He must be americanised or something vade retro Satanas.

Date: 2007-10-22 02:35 pm (UTC)
ext_28553: stirred (Default)
From: [identity profile] duniazade.livejournal.com
Vade retro Satanas indeed!

I find the idea of "vouvoyer" in the bedroom incredibly hot.

Er, are you sure?

Date: 2007-10-22 04:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] foudebassan.livejournal.com
"Marie-Sophie, vous..."

"Qu'y a-t-il donc, Charles-Edouard?"

"Votre négligé est presque translucide, auriez-vous l'intention..."

"Mais tout à fait, Charles-Edouard, tout à fait, allongez-vous donc!"

"Mais c'est que je suis... dans un état..."

"Parfaitement normal dans les circonstances présentes, rassurez-vous, laissez-vous faire, là..."

*grognement indistincts*

*grincements du lit Louis XVI, celui qui ne va ab-so-lu-ment pas avec la commode Empire*

(de concert:) "Aaaaaah!"

"Ce fut merveilleux, très chère..."

*bruit de Zippo, exhalaison bruyante*

"Et pour moi donc!"

*ronflements, d'abord ténus, puis qui augmentent d'amplitude*

Re: Er, are you sure?

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Re: Er, are you sure?

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Re: Er, are you sure?

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Re: Er, are you sure?

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Date: 2007-10-24 03:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] aswanargent.livejournal.com
"vade retro Satanas"??? You do know who Nico would love to hear that from, don't you? ;-)

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Date: 2007-10-22 12:51 pm (UTC)
ext_28553: stirred (Default)
From: [identity profile] duniazade.livejournal.com
How fascinating! Now I understand better your interest in esperanto.

But isn't misunderstanding the essence of human communication? I mean it in a wholly positive way. The moment when you realize that the person you're talking to puts different meanings/expectations behind the same words is the moment when you go "aah!" and both of you are enriched.

Except, of course, if the person is trying to do you some violence.

As to having to mould oneself to a different mental universe, that's the whole point, for me, of learning a new language. It's like visiting an alien and fascinating world - the best trip ever. If I had the time, I'd like to learn Chinese, precisely because the mental universe is very different.

On the other hand, I agree that if the other person is unaware of the existence of different universes, it's frustrating.

The fear of making mistakes is possibly a French specificity. In Romania, we were encouraged to practice as much as possible, regardless of mistakes, the idea being that imperfections will correct themselves by constant comparison with the "right" forms. Mistakes are considered natural, and transitory.

I know that I wield French better than a vast majority of native speakers. I don't know if I'll reach the same level of proficiency in English, but I may hope. And it's such a satisfaction to pwn someone in his own native language!

Date: 2007-10-22 01:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] foudebassan.livejournal.com
I'll convert you yet... *twiddles eyebrows*

But isn't misunderstanding the essence of human communication? I mean it in a wholly positive way.

Yes, when both are on an equal footing - like when we two communicate in English. But if, say, I only spoke French and you weren't proficient in it yet, I maybe wouldn't be that interested in the reasons why you mis-use a word and wouldn't go "aaah" at the clarification, and you'd get frustrated with not being able to express the different meanings. Ultimately, people communicate to get a message across, not to enrich each other, don't they? The enrichment comes from having passed so many messages over and back that one begins to form a global picture of what the other is like.

Mistakophobia could very well be French. All language teachers complain that no one participates in class, but they spend their time correcting every little mistake so that doesn't really encourage people to try.

And it's such a satisfaction to pwn someone in his own native language!

Oh yes. But, on the other hand, when I encounter native English speakers who consistently confuse "your" and "you're" or "their" and "they're", I can't help but wonder why I'm investing so much time and effort trying to understand them since they plainly aren't worth it.

Date: 2007-10-22 02:32 pm (UTC)
ext_28553: stirred (Default)
From: [identity profile] duniazade.livejournal.com
I have had a brush with esperanto, but I didn't take to it because it hadn't that rich, weird, textured mental universe I'm looking for.

"Ultimately, people communicate to get a message across, not to enrich each other, don't they?"

If the point is getting a message across, you're certainly right. You're making me realize (fruitful misunderstanding!) that I'm much more interested in exchanging imagination, sensation, emotion. I want to feel what it feels like to be the other, including what the other misunderstand about her/himself and me. The moment when I'm suspended between two visions of the world is priceless for me.

But then I never translate in my head - Romanian, French and English are separate universes for me, I change my worldview when I jump from the one to another. And if I make mistakes, I consider them a characteristic of my particular dialect.

"when I encounter native English speakers who consistently confuse "your" and "you're" or "their" and "they're", I can't help but wonder why I'm investing so much time and effort trying to understand them since they plainly aren't worth it."

I tend to consider they speak a particular variant of the language, just as I do when I make mistakes. It doesn't preclude being smug about having a better handle! As for the effort, I'm doing it for pleasure and enjoying it all along.



Date: 2007-10-22 04:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] foudebassan.livejournal.com
Hm. I don't know that much about it yet, but at present it looks like it does make for a complex universe - the philosophy behind the word-building, the way concepts are broken down to little bits and then reassembled, that sort of thing. I'd need to be more proficient to go further on that kind of analysis though.

are separate universes for me, I change my worldview when I jump from the one to another

But don't you dream of being able to remain Romanian when talking to a Frenchman or an Englishman? (or vice-versa). I know your self is made of all those components, but wouldn't you be able to syncretise all of them in a neutral language? That's kind of what I'm after in esperanto.

I think I'm probably "too French" in my perception of mistakes :(

Date: 2007-10-22 05:11 pm (UTC)
ext_28553: stirred (Default)
From: [identity profile] duniazade.livejournal.com
"But don't you dream of being able to remain Romanian when talking to a Frenchman or an Englishman? (or vice-versa)"

On the contrary, being able to leave and re-enter at will each separate universe is indispensable for me, or I'd feel trapped. If I used an artificial language I'd feel both trapped and without identity.

Maybe I am a freak. The fact is that I never knew what it feels like to have only one language - I'm bilingual since I was three years old. My identity is tied to the freedom to hop from one to another.

Date: 2007-10-22 07:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] foudebassan.livejournal.com
I feel like I'm losing my identity as I get more proficient. I might be wrong, I dunno.

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Date: 2007-10-23 01:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] littlelizzyann.livejournal.com
~is pleased by opportunity to use icon~

I do know what you mean by twisting yourself in another language until you almost seemed a different person. In English, I'm a verbally adept person who defines myself, to a large extent, through my use of language. In French, I'm...not. But having that experience for the first time was, I think, really valuable, both because it gave me an awareness of people who were very different from me, culturally, and it gave me a broader sense of myself. I could function and make friends even if I couldn't say clever things all the time. And once being told that "tu te debrouille tres bien" (have I got the endings right? it's been a while) was one of the nicest compliments I received in French, and very hard to translate.

On the other hand, perpetually being told that my speaking/writing betrayed a "tres anglo-saxon" thought process was less pleasant.

You think about the coolest things.

Date: 2007-10-23 01:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] foudebassan.livejournal.com
And the twisting gets really bad when you start betraying anglo-saxon thought processes when you write in English as a foreign language - what's left of your own Frenchness?

(It's good to have you back!!!)

Date: 2007-10-24 02:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] littlelizzyann.livejournal.com
Hmmm...my own Frenchness is of a rather limited sort ~g~, but if you'll give me the more general "one's own language-specific sense of self," I do agree with you (although it doesn't sound as nice). Except that I always aspired to French thought processes and never really made it...

I'm sensing a marathon conversation in the offing, because while I see your point about Esperanto, I like the idiosyncrasies of language (as you value your Frenchness), and I also think that if we all started speaking Esperanto, it would quickly become loaded with different meanings in different places. ~dangles cultural argument enticingly~

Date: 2007-10-24 04:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] foudebassan.livejournal.com
I don't think the goal is to all speak esperanto, all the time. It's more of a palliative measure - we can't all understand each other, nor access all of the world's literature, and that's a shame. Investing a couple of months to learn esperanto, on an individual level, makes one able to communicate on a whole other level, it's a passport for internationality and perhaps a gateway to learning another language, if one falls in love with one peculiar language, person or country via practising esperanto. It's not the panacea to all human dissent, but it's far better than the alternatives.

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