Things you wish people would stop saying when you tell them the languages that you're learning

General discussion about learning languages
Rem
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Things you wish people would stop saying when you tell them the languages that you're learning

Postby Rem » Fri Nov 11, 2016 11:01 am

Are there things that people say to you over and over again when they find out that you're studying a language?
I hear the same things repeatedly and, although I know that people don't usually mean anything by it, it does get a little...irritating after a while.

I've given up trying to answer these on most occasions. Now I usually just give vague responses "I like it/enjoy it" etc. and wait for the subject to change (conversations rarely stick to languages/language learning for long anyway). ;)

Here are the most common ones that I hear for my languages...

German
"That's a harsh language/sounds ugly."

Mandarin
"Oh that's such a difficult language./How can you study something that hard?"
"Why not learn 'insert language name here' instead it's much easier." (Usually said by someone who hasn't attempted to study the language that they're recommending).

Czech
"Why? What can you do with Czech?/Wouldn't you rather learn a more useful language?" :(


General assumptions about why I'm learning languages

"Oh, so you want to be a teacher/interpreter." (Note: I don't think there's anything wrong with these professions, it's just not what I want to do)
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Re: Things you wish people would stop saying when you tell them the languages that you're learning

Postby Bones » Fri Nov 11, 2016 11:12 am

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Last edited by Bones on Mon Mar 20, 2017 4:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Things you wish people would stop saying when you tell them the languages that you're learning

Postby smallwhite » Fri Nov 11, 2016 11:37 am

I'm easier to please than you are. I appreciate it when people take the time to chat with me about languages when languages is just my passion and not theirs. And I think they're free to think that a language is harsh/ugly.

There's one thing I don't like hearing, though - that I managed my languages because I'm talented while they didn't or won't theirs because they're not talented.
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Re: Things you wish people would stop saying when you tell them the languages that you're learning

Postby Tillumadoguenirurm » Fri Nov 11, 2016 11:46 am

"Why?"

"Uhmm...okay"

"Right, don't you have anything better to do? "

Various versions of " You must be like some kind of a genious like and I wish I was you like you like.. (you nerd/you pretentious. ..*cough* ass).
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Re: Things you wish people would stop saying when you tell them the languages that you're learning

Postby Ari » Fri Nov 11, 2016 12:19 pm

Right, the "you're a language genius" is the one that really irks me. Lots of people find it more comforting to think they cannot learn a language (English doesn't count, of course) because they have no talent, rather than because they don't bother or prioritize different things. Which is fine. I haven't learned to play any musical instruments, and that's because I've prioritized other things, like language learning.

This is especially often said whenever I have opinions on how to most effectively learn languages. This exchange is common:

They: "In order to learn to speak a language, you have to go live in a country where it's spoken."
Me: "Nonsense. I speak a pretty decent French and I've spent maybe two weeks combined in francophone countries."
They: "Yeah, but you're a language learning genius. I could never do that."

Somehow because I have learned to speak several languages, my thoughts about how to effectively learn languages are dismissed?
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Re: Things you wish people would stop saying when you tell them the languages that you're learning

Postby LadyGrey1986 » Fri Nov 11, 2016 1:00 pm

Someone once said to me that I must be learning Arabic because I want more attention from Arab men. :?
No-one suggested I was learning French, English or German for that reason.
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Re: Things you wish people would stop saying when you tell them the languages that you're learning

Postby garyb » Fri Nov 11, 2016 1:41 pm

Similar discussions: Negative reactions /prejudices towards your target language and Why are you learning our language? (my thread on negative reactions from native speakers of the language you're learning).

I find that most people have a lot of respect for my language learning goals, but I realise that my languages are as mainstream as it gets and are generally considered useful and/or nice-sounding. The only negativity I tend to get is from native speakers of Italian and French who see their languages as relatively useless and extremely difficult and don't understand why somebody would learn them, as discussed in my thread. I often wish I could just skip past the whole "why are you learning our useless language?" routine almost every time I meet one, and just move onto the real conversation.
Last edited by garyb on Fri Nov 11, 2016 2:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Things you wish people would stop saying when you tell them the languages that you're learning

Postby Cavesa » Fri Nov 11, 2016 1:47 pm

This one by various French people around here, especially in hospital: "French must be really hard for you, isn't it?" or "It must be so hard studying in French!" No, the problem is not French. Medicine is hard. Being tired is hard, having sleep troubles is hard. Sure, I make mistakes and have a stupid accent, but I am one of the best speaking foreigners around, I do almost as well as the normal students here. So why can't you just treat me like a normal person? And no, your native language is not the hardest one in the world, sorry to break your bubble. This one actually bothers me quite a lot these days.

Ari wrote:They: "In order to learn to speak a language, you have to go live in a country where it's spoken."
Me: "Nonsense. I speak a pretty decent French and I've spent maybe two weeks combined in francophone countries."
They: "Yeah, but you're a language learning genius. I could never do that."

Somehow because I have learned to speak several languages, my thoughts about how to effectively learn languages are dismissed?

So true. Combine this with "the best way is to go to classes, because there is nothing better than a teacher and the opportunity to practice with other beginners" Yeah, just because I actually learnt a few languages, I am automatically ignorant about the subject :-D

Rem wrote:Czech"Why? What can you do with Czech?/Wouldn't you rather learn a more useful language?"

But we've got very creative vulgarisms and a good collection of fantasy and sci-fi authors :-D

The funny thing was hearing "Why? what can you do with French? Wouldn't you rather learn a useful language like German?"
Fortunately, these people are no longer asking or laughing, but the first 10-13 years were not easy.

I would as well like the people stopped assuming that just because I know French, I must necessarily be a naive stupid francophile unable of any criticism, bound to experience a huge cultural shock. This is a huge prejudice in my country towards the French learners, which absolutely doesn't apply to German learners (those are the practical admirable people with great salaries waiting for them) or Spanish learners (those are not practical thinking, but obviously do something fun and interesting)

Tillumadoguenirurm wrote:Various versions of " You must be like some kind of a genious like and I wish I was you like you like.. (you nerd/you pretentious. ..*cough* ass).

Actually, my IQ test is by some definitions that of an genious, but I am convinced it is much more of a curse than blessing in most ways. So no, most people don't wish to be like me. For example, I fail so often, compared to more dilligent people with lower IQ, as I started learning to study systematically too late. Look at my medicine studies :-D But my languages are much more a result of love, of interest, of having fun, of being passionate and curious. The intelligence makes learning easier, true, but not to the extent that would justify your excuses. It is especially weird to hear this excuse from people studying at university. If you don't feel intelligent enough to learn a language, how comes you feel intelligent enough to get a degree?
So, it is unpleasant in two ways to hear stuff like this. First: no, my languages didn't just appear one day without any work, and your "I am not genious" excuses are just that-excuses. I'm not gonna pity you and apologize for having made different choices. Second: I am tired of being ashamed of a quality of mine, of all the prejudices, of having just the disadvantages of it (ok, the time I save is nice). I am tired of being "explained" that one of my few actual talents is useless, as I know the limits very well myself and feel bad even without other people reminding me so passionately. So, what the hell am I supposed to answer? How the hell am I supposed to express my feelings about my skills and weaknesses without being judged as pretentious?

I hate it when people judge me like that. Why is it pretentious to passionately talk about my hobby, while talking about theirs (usually sports) is absolutely ok? Having intellectual talents or hobbies is something to not mention too much, but sports talents and hobbies are being glorified all the time. And do you think anyone would take it as a reasonable argument (despite the truth in it), if I said "Oh, you must be some kind of a sports genious, I wish I were like you"?

"You don't have anything better to do?

Like doing sports. That's what they mean. How do I dare find other things fun than sports?
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Re: Things you wish people would stop saying when you tell them the languages that you're learning

Postby Iversen » Fri Nov 11, 2016 1:49 pm

Ari wrote:Right, the "you're a language genius" is the one that really irks me.


I even heard that one at the polyglot conference in Thessaloniki, where people should know better...
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Re: Things you wish people would stop saying when you tell them the languages that you're learning

Postby Cavesa » Fri Nov 11, 2016 1:58 pm

Iversen wrote:
Ari wrote:Right, the "you're a language genius" is the one that really irks me.


I even heard that one at the polyglot conference in Thessaloniki, where people should know better...


Wow, this is weird.

You know, this might actually be a very interesting discussion, if we dared to be open about the subject. Either we hear "you must be some kind of genious" or we know that it is not about the talent but more about the efforts. But sometimes, we go too much into the extreme of disregarding talent completely, in my opinion. And that is not correct.

I would be very curious to get some more insight into the matter. Such as various talents and level intelligence and their impact on learning. Because it simply is true that we are not the same and we do not start from the same point. Perhaps we could that way discover some new points of view to help us battle our weaknesses as well.

Sorry, if I am getting slightly off topic.
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