Genie grants you a language, which would you choose?

General discussion about learning languages
David27
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Genie grants you a language, which would you choose?

Postby David27 » Sun Oct 11, 2020 2:53 am

If you could be instantly granted the ability to speak one language to let’s say a B2-C1 ability, which language would you choose and why?
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golyplot
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Re: Genie grants you a language, which would you choose?

Postby golyplot » Sun Oct 11, 2020 5:35 am

Assuming that everyone else was similarly gifted, I'd choose ASL, since being able to sign with people is useful if you're in a noisy environment or so on (in addition to the obvious benefits to the Deaf community in terms of not needing interpreters). But obviously that's not useful if noone else knows it.

Another possible answer is Linear A. It'd be nice to solve that mystery once and for all.
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Re: Genie grants you a language, which would you choose?

Postby tangleweeds » Sun Oct 11, 2020 5:40 am

Japanese--if I get the ability to read it too!
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Earth
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Re: Genie grants you a language, which would you choose?

Postby Earth » Sun Oct 11, 2020 8:51 am

If I chose an extinct and unattested language I'd be able to gain fantastic insight into the history of quite possibly many language families, but I wouldn't be able to prove it's anything more than made up, so my contribution to linguistics would be ignored by every reasonable linguist. I couldn't handle making such fantastic discoveries that no one else would believe.

The language I would choose would probably be Mandarin. I like Mandarin quite a bit, along with the other Sinitic languages, but I got so tired with spending so much time looking up words in a dictionary that I gave up learning both Mandarin and Japanese because I only knew a few thousand characters.

My second choice would have been Arabic because I love its grammar, and because it is quite notorious for being difficult to learn. Its morphology is very rich and different from what I'm used to.
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Re: Genie grants you a language, which would you choose?

Postby David27 » Sun Oct 11, 2020 11:49 am

When I thought of this hypothetical, I struggled for one answer. I’m torn and ended up on 2 different languages. On one hand I’ve always wanted to learn Arabic. It would open up a very different world and cultures, and Arabic has influenced a lot of other languages so further exploring other languages of the Middle East and north and east Africa would be easier. After having studied mandarin and Japanese, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to learn them plus add another fsi level V language. So on one hand I’d be tempted to add it out of interest and because of its difficulty and time requirement. On the other hand, using this to learn a language with limited resources may be a better us of this power. If i really needed to/wanted to, I could make Arabic a priority and learn it. There are adequate recourses. So using this to learn Soninke (Mande language family from West Africa) or Kru May be more useful and interesting here in New York.
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Re: Genie grants you a language, which would you choose?

Postby Deinonysus » Sun Oct 11, 2020 12:08 pm

Earth wrote:If I chose an extinct and unattested language I'd be able to gain fantastic insight into the history of quite possibly many language families, but I wouldn't be able to prove it's anything more than made up, so my contribution to linguistics would be ignored by every reasonable linguist. I couldn't handle making such fantastic discoveries that no one else would believe.
I would try to use loopholes to get around this.

"If Proto-Nostratic existed I wish for you to truthfully announce to the world, with sufficient evidence, that not only do genies exist but you have given me true and accurate knowledge of this language as my single wish."

Then if the Genie says he can't great my wish because there was no Proto-Nostratic I would try the same thing with Proto-Altaic, and then if that also doesn't pan out I would ask for either Proto-Afroasiatic or Proto-Indo-European.

I wouldn't choose a known language because that would take away the fun of learning it myself.
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Re: Genie grants you a language, which would you choose?

Postby PeterMollenburg » Sun Oct 11, 2020 12:27 pm

Well I have two answers. The one without a conscience says Arabic. Since it's on my potential hit list and would more than likely take the longest time, it seems like the best choice for saving time and hard work...

...however on that topic (hard work), I think what makes language learning something we are proud of when we achieve our language learning goals is the fact that we've accomplished it ourselves and done the hard work. I may or may not take the offer from the genie, but I doubt I'd appreciate Arabic if it were given to me in the form of a wish. I therefore would perhaps reject it on some kind of subconscious level, or even consciously. Mind you were genie's the norm or if some kind of (scary) technology were invented that would download things including languages to our cyborg brains, and that was acceptable, then language learning would no longer seem a decent achievement and choosing Arabic would be like going out for lunch and choosing something to eat. Perhaps not, but food for thought.

I don't think I would take the genie's offer up in the end in all honesty. Sorry to be a kill joy. Perhaps we under value our struggles? Still, if we're just 'playing' and you want me to entertain you, Arabic it is.
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Re: Genie grants you a language, which would you choose?

Postby rdearman » Sun Oct 11, 2020 12:28 pm

French
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Re: Genie grants you a language, which would you choose?

Postby Aloyse » Sun Oct 11, 2020 1:16 pm

I was going to say "none", because learning languages is interesting, knowing languages is meh.
However after reading golyplot's post I would also choose sign language.
Useful/helpful to others, but not something I'd learn for fun.
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Re: Genie grants you a language, which would you choose?

Postby Eliza » Sun Oct 11, 2020 1:24 pm

PeterMollenburg wrote:...however on that topic (hard work), I think what makes language learning something we are proud of when we achieve our language learning goals is the fact that we've accomplished it ourselves and done the hard work. I may or may not take the offer from the genie, but I doubt I'd appreciate Arabic if it were given to me in the form of a wish. I therefore would perhaps reject it on some kind of subconscious level, or even consciously. Mind you were genie's the norm or if some kind of (scary) technology were invented that would download things including languages to our cyborg brains, and that was acceptable, then language learning would no longer seem a decent achievement and choosing Arabic would be like going out for lunch and choosing something to eat. Perhaps not, but food for thought.

I don't think I would take the genie's offer up in the end in all honesty. Sorry to be a kill joy. Perhaps we under value our struggles? Still, if we're just 'playing' and you want me to entertain you, Arabic it is.


Isn't that the situation of children that are raised bilingual? :) (Or more precisely this is "you put effort in it but you don't remember it because you are only two years old.)

I guess what makes things tricky is that the genie gives you "only" B2/C1 knowledge instead of full access. The gap to native is sufficiently big in my opinion that you still can put plenty of work into the language, but you can skip the boring textbook parts and get to interesting native stuff right away.

That being said, I guess I'd go for a language which pronunciation is difficult for me (Arabic seems like the obvious choice). Or can I just pile up some 2000 hours of learning on my existing C1 languages? Or maybe have two languages at B1 instead? Can I interest the genie in one of my Anki sets to get a better deal? Do programming languages count and if yes, what does B2/C1 in C look like? So many questions :)
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