Monday, April 16, 2007

Language Goals

Aspiring Polyglot has inspired me to post my language goals. I've posted my linguistic autobiography before, but there's something to be said for putting your objectives down in writing.

Unlike Aspiring Polyglot, I don't want to be that concerned with government certifications. I don't ever want to be a translator or interpreter, and I live in the US, so I don't really have to specialize.

One drawback to being American, specifically from the Pacific Northwest, is that culturally speaking, we tend to not speak in paragraphs. Not even in English. If you meet someone in Seattle who talks to you in paragraphs, chances are they didn't grow up here. We tend to say a sentence or two, and then ask a question, even if it's just to check for comprehension.

In other cultures, the educated norm is to speak in paragraphs (sometimes pages). So when I'm in speaking Spanish or French, my normal m.o. is to listen quietly for a long time, and then say something thoughtfull when I can get a word in edgewise. This in itself is cultural, since typical French and Italian speakers, especially, both speakers tend to speak simultaneously when they converse.

I might never get to the level of acculuration of simultaneous conversation. It might be a cool trick to learn how to do simultaneous translation, but my bias will probably always be translating into English rather than from it. Old dogs....

Anyway, here are my goals:

Spanish: I want to be able to do stand up comedy in Spanish.

French: It would be cool to be able to watch a movie in French without putting on subltitles. My French could potentially be as strong as my Spanish, but it's a lower priority. Although I can express myself in French without much effort, my listening comprehension could improve considerably. Quebec accent is pretty tough for me, since I'm not used to it.

Italian: As with French, I want to improve my listening comp. I should work on my written skills and do the advanced grammar that I never did. Also, I want to get the killer accent back that I used to have; nowadays when I speak Italian, I hear a Filipino accent. As far as speaking, I need to learn more vocab, so I'm not inventing vocab and grammar by italianizing French or Spanish words that come more easily to me. It's hard to believe that in '94, my Italian was stronger than my French or Spanish put together.

Tagalog: I need to learn conversational vocabulary and drill the crap out of grammar, especially focus constructions. I would love to speak Tagalog well enough to write a textbook, because existing material is all FUNCTIONAL APPROACH, which annoys me.

Mandarin: I started later in life (unlike Sp/Fr/It) and I have no heritage knowledge (unlike Tagalog) , so killer near-native pronunciation is probably going to be out of the question. My goal is to become an advanced speaker and to learn how to read and write. That's all. If I can have an intelligent conversation, read a newspaper, and order Chinese food with no surprises. I don't care if I sound like a laowai. As long as I don't sound like a gringo.

Portuguese: Portuguese makes me laugh, because it's so sexy, the grammar is different in charming ways, and I already understand half of it. If I get to the point where I'm satisfied with my Mandarin (i.e., I have a teaching job) then I'll try to pick up conversational Brazilian Portuguese. Not necessarily for mastery; just as a palate cleanser. I have a minor fantasy of moving my family to Portugal, spending my days eating fish and drinking vinho verde, and getting paid in Euros.

Advanced restaurant proficiency: Korean, Arabic, Greek, Japanese

Probably won't get around to it: Farsi, Pangasinan (my parents' endangered language)

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