Author: Caged

To fail to learn English or to successfully learn Esperanto? [Copy link] 中文

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Post time 2015-6-28 21:25:34 |Display all floors
All my quotes are there now. I was confused because some of my later posts had appeared before my previous posts, and the only difference I could see was that the posts with the quotes hadn't appeared.

Bizarre. Oh well, at least they are there now.

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Post time 2015-6-28 22:10:52 |Display all floors
seneca Post time: 2015-6-28 19:57
I think you have to be a charlatan if you want to maintain that one language is easier to learn  ...

Sorry Seneca, but François Grin is a specialist in the field of language economics and teaches it at the University of Geneva. He'd written his book-length report  "L'enseignement des langues étrangères come politique publique" in 2005 at the request of the Haut conseil de l'évaluation de l'école, a French government department under the ministry of education ( http://www.ladocumentationfrancaise.fr/rapports-publics/054000678/ ).  Let me remind you that the French ministry of education refuses to recognize Esperanto as a credit course on the grounds that it lacks a "national culture" (though I do not see why it's so important for a culture to be "national"), so is hardly sympathetic to Espetanto and so can't be accused of being biased in its favour. Even François Grin in his report acknowledges that it was his decision to include Esperanto to produce a more complete coverage of possible foreign language education policies.

In the same report, he quotes many linguists and refers to one pedagogical cyberneticist and refers to one controlled study in which French students had reached the same level of English in 1,500 hours as they had Esperanto in 150 hours. You could try to attribute that to French being Romance, and English Germanic. But then how do you explain 1,000 hours for Italian, another romance language and therefore undoubtedly more similar to French than Esperanto is? I remember hearing a conversation in Esperanto once before I knew what it was (I'd asked one lady if they were speaking Hebrew), and could not understand a word of it. I'd also watched a TV programme in Italian once and my French helped me pick out enough words to at least know the topic of discussion if nothing else (and I've never studied Italian). If similarities between languages were the only determining factors in how easy a language is to learn, then there is no doubt that Italian should have been easier for a French speaker than Esperanto. I remember a Chinese friend whose English was very poor and who knew no other European language tell me in fluent Esperanto that he had found Esperanto to be far easier than Japanese. Again, if similarities between languages are the only determining factor, he should definitely have found Japanese to be easier than Esperanto.

I remember reading how Europeans can master the Korean script in 12 hours, yet a European can't master English spelling in 12 hours, not even close.  Again, this cannot be explained by similarities between European scripts and the Korean script. The answer lies in the rationality of the rules. The more rational the rules (e.g. phonetic spelling, no exceptions and no redundancies in the rules of grammar and the vocabulary, etc.), the easier a language is to learn. You as a linguist should know that. And you as a linguist should accept the studies done by the department of pedagogical cybernetics of the University of Paderborn and of the Italian ministry of public instruction among many other such studies if you believe in science.

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Post time 2015-6-28 22:19:12 |Display all floors
So you attribute a seven-year discrepancy to snobbishness among English kids worldwide and all the experts at the OECD attributing it to English spelling must be anglophobes I assume?

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Post time 2015-6-28 23:02:03 |Display all floors

Just to clarify, I'm not denying the legitimacy of "relative ease of learning". For example, due to the extreme similarities between Uighur and Turkish (extremely similar languages), a Uighur might learn Turkish faster than Esperanto. Likewise a European will certainly learn Esperanto faster than a non-European will due to the similarities between them.

When we are talking about somewhat more different languages though (even as different as French and Italian as we've seen above), that is when "absolute ease of learning" becomes more important. So relative ease of learning is more important than absolute ease of learning only when the L1 and the L2 are extremely similar to one another. For example, a Japanese learning Esperanto compared to English will likely find Esperanto easier due to its more rational rules, not because it's more similar. A European will likely find Korean easier than Japanese due to its more rational writing system, again not because of similarities to European languages.

All I am saying is that as important as "relative ease of learning" is (which will vary depending on the similarities between L1 and L2), "absolute ease of learning" (which is intrinsic to the L2 itself independently of the L1and refers to the rationality of the structure of the language) is possibly a more important determiner of the likelihood of success in the L2, especially given how many non-Europeans learn English. If the languages in question are extremely similar, the learner could benefit from a language's relative ease of learning for himself. The more different the languages are, the more he will appreciate the language's absolute ease of learning.

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Post time 2015-6-29 01:14:59 |Display all floors

Actually, I would find a controlled experiment to test absolute ease of learning between three groups of Chinese high school students, one learning English, one Turkish, and one Esperanto, to be quite interesting. I would hypothesize that the "English" group would likely require at least three (but more likely closer to ten) times as many hours of instruction to reach the same standard as the "Esperanto" group, with the "Turkish" group sitting somewhere in the middle, though probably much closer to Esperanto than English. To prevent influence from relative ease of learning, we'd likely want to avoid including Uighur, Kirgiz, and other Turkik students in the mix, sinse the relative ease of learning of Turkish for them would give Turkish an unfair advantage over the other two.

If I could add a fourth language, I'd seriously consider Indonesian (also reputed for its rational linguistic structure). The only problem with Indonesian is that it contains many more words of Chinese origin, which could therefore make it difficult to tell how much of its ease of learning compared to the other languages is relative to Chinese, and how much absolute. Given that English, Esperanto, and Turkish contain minimal Chinese influence, the comparative ease of learning of any of them for a Chinese would have to be absolute. If Indonesian were included though, I would guess that it could stand a chance to match and maybe even beat Esperanto, though again that would be due in part to its relative ease of learning to Chinese.

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