Expanding out and learning other varieties of the same language

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Re: Expanding out and learning other varieties of the same language

Postby garyb » Wed May 23, 2018 8:55 am

I've just based it on necessity, and I grew out of the "chameleon" fantasy long ago, accepting that I'll clearly appear foreign as soon as or even before I open my mouth wherever I go. I've been one of these French learners who focuses almost exclusively on Metropolitan French, because that's what interested me, I was travelling to France rather than Belgium or Quebec or Africa, and about 98% of the speakers I encountered here in the UK were from France. If I had planned to visit one of the latter places or known more people from them, I would have made some effort to familiarise myself with their varieties. For Spanish, my main interest is in Spain but I also appreciate Latin American film and literature and hope to travel to Central and/or South America someday, so I mostly listen to and aim to speak Peninsular Spanish but also try to get some exposure to other varieties. I don't believe that learners are under any obligation to study every variety or that not doing so makes them ignorant or prejudiced, as some replies almost seem to imply.
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Re: Expanding out and learning other varieties of the same language

Postby tarvos » Wed May 23, 2018 9:46 am

Honestly it's not that other variants are inferior, it's just that I don't have the time to learn them all beyond their basic traits. I don't even know all the traits of the dialects of my own native language, because there are too many of them, so... I barely even speak my mum's dialect.
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Re: Expanding out and learning other varieties of the same language

Postby nooj » Wed May 23, 2018 11:08 am

iguanamon wrote:I too have noticed over the years that French learners here tend to concentrate overwhelmingly on Metropolitan French to the virtual exclusion of any other variety. To be fair, most French-learning materials almost exclusively concentrate on Metropolitan French. In the Super Challenge threads, I rarely see learners reading or listening to anything coming from outside of La Belle France- not even Belgium or Switzerland, let alone Quebec, Africa, the Caribbean or the Pacific. It's ironic because one of the reasons for learning French is that it is so widely dispersed across the world.
That's an interesting point. President Macron talks about how French is going to triple its speaker base because of demographic growth in Africa, but French is already important in many African countries. If people don't read literature now from Africans, or listen to music, or watch TV shows, or even talk to people in their city, what makes them think they will when there might be even more people who speak French? You might get to the absurd situation in 50 years of French speakers being 70% located on the African continent, and yet learners continue to learn the language variety belonging to a European country. If French ever does become as important in Africa as Francophiles wish it does, I hope we'll get to the situation of Brazil and Portugal, where the majority of Portuguese learners learn Brazilian Portuguese.

It's true that French learning materials concentrates heavily on a certain region of the world. It's not the beginner's fault... But that's the beginner. Once you hit a stage where you can start enjoying things in French, you could watch Belgian shows, you can listen to Swiss radio, you can read Canadian-Haitian authors (Dany Laferrière). Although I find it curious how many French beginners living in the USA learn the variety from France, and not one that is closer to home, namely Canada. Maybe they find Canada not exotic or different enough? Maybe that is why some people also learn a European Spanish over the Spanish spoken around them, which has the high chance of being Mexican Spanish.

I speak a general Latin American Spanish- heavily influenced by Puerto Rico (it's so close to where I live). I also enjoy visiting Spain but have never felt the need to make my Spanish more Iberian/Castilian... aside from the odd "vale" from time to time creeping into my speech. I don't use "vosotros". I don't use "vos" with Argentines either. Maybe that would change if I lived there. Still looking very anglo, I wouldn't be mistaken for a native anyway, with the possible exception of Argentina.


It's interesting you say that. When I am with Americans, I have recourse to several options. I can keep speaking in my approximation of the dialect that I was most exposed to (Madrid), without any accomodation and I expect the speaker to just roll with it. This I do sometimes. For example, using full vocabulary from Madrid (esta peli molaba mazo!). If the person doesn't understand, then I explain.

Or I can try to bleach it of its most obvious particularisms (no guay, no molar, no ejque, no laismo) but still retain everything else, like distinción and vosotros.

Or I try to approximate to the speaker. For example, with Americans I often switch to the use of ustedes and I purge vosotros. Why? There's certainly no real practical reason to. Americans understand me when I use vosotros, but in part I see it as a personal challenge to use a form that I don't usually. I also do the same with seseo, not just with Americans but with people from the south of Spain or the Canary Islands.

I've frankly never lived long enough or studied intensely enough another dialect in order to fully switch to another dialect. However, when I was in Cadiz for about a week, I hung around with enough locals for long enough that a lot of their dialect rubbed off on me, including full aspiration and use of vocabulary (picha etc). By the end, my friends from Madrid noticed that I spoke differently. I have no doubt that if I lived there for a year, I could have learned that dialect and have become bidialectical.

Yesterday I met an Australian woman who had gone to Toulon in order to be a teacher's assistant there. She lived there for an entire year. She had studied French before at a university. Her accent is as standard as standard comes. So none of the dialect from the city where she lived rubbed off on her. I think at least in part, it comes down to will. I simply think she didn't want to speak like someone from Toulon, although I never asked her outright why she didn't have a Meridional French.

The opposite of this story is another Australian woman who had gone to study in Montreal for a year, after having learned the same standard French at the same university, and who came back having learned Quebec French. She has fully assimilated it. She could well have stuck with what she had learned in Australia, but she evidently wanted not to.
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Re: Expanding out and learning other varieties of the same language

Postby tarvos » Wed May 23, 2018 2:41 pm

Sometimes having a standard accent is MUCH better in order to be understood. I know that when I move into my Spain-tinted Spanish sometimes my Mexican friend has to ask what I mean just because of the way I speak. The reason standard accents exist is to facilitate communication among a larger group of people, and that has its advantages.

I'll explain. In the Netherlands, there is such a thing as a standard pronunciation (more or less), but many people have local dialects or pronunciation habits (if you want to figure out where someone is from, listen to how they speak!) In many cases local dialect can be completely incomprehensible to outsiders (and by outsiders I mean people 30 miles down the road). I have friends who are from far-off provinces such as Limburg and they really make an effort to speak standard Dutch because if they don't, well, frankly no one from the Randstad understands Limbourgish, especially the more southern dialects. I'm used to hearing dialect (both the Western variants and Brabantian and a few others) and even for me that can completely impair comprehension. We speak standard Dutch in my house because if we wouldn't nobody would bloody understand each other. Sure, one person could get used to the dialect of the other, but who makes the first move? So we just speak standard Dutch, with some allowances for our pronunciation habits.

So I don't have the same accent as my parents. I don't even speak like my brother. I use standard Dutch because that's the only way to communicate with all the branches of my family. I understand my mum's side's Brabantian dialect due to exposure, but I don't speak it because it's not in my surroundings here and my parents speak standard to each other.

And when I mean dialect, I don't mean two pronunciation differences. Things go wild when you hit the areas outside of the Randstad here.
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Re: Expanding out and learning other varieties of the same language

Postby Ani » Wed May 23, 2018 6:13 pm

nooj wrote: It's true that French learning materials concentrates heavily on a certain region of the world. It's not the beginner's fault... But that's the beginner. Once you hit a stage where you can start enjoying things in French, you could watch Belgian shows, you can listen to Swiss radio, you can read Canadian-Haitian authors (Dany Laferrière). Although I find it curious how many French beginners living in the USA learn the variety from France, and not one that is closer to home, namely Canada. Maybe they find Canada not exotic or different enough? Maybe that is why some people also learn a European Spanish over the Spanish spoken around them, which has the high chance of being Mexican Spanish.


Most intermediate French learners, and some advanced, can't even tell whether they are listening to French from France, Switzerland or Belgium. When you say learners "could" watch and listen to these things, your are pre-supposing that they don't.
When you say courses focusing on metropolitan French are "not the beginner's fault", you are supposing that this is a fault.
I really dislike all the assumptions you've made about language learners and the way you are trying to paint moral superiority into language varient sélection or what materials people enjoy.
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Re: Expanding out and learning other varieties of the same language

Postby Xenops » Wed May 23, 2018 7:03 pm

To be fair, I actually considered posting a topic "can you change your Spanish accent?". In high school I learned Mexican Spanish with a touch of the vosotros form, and even with years of rust I still speak with Mexican pronunciation. I lost interest in Mexican Spanish, partly because it was a regular occurrence for a Mexican guy to ask if I was single. I realized that these interactions similarly bar any enthusiasm I have to learn more Mexican Spanish or try to learn Haitian Creole. I'm not proud of my prejudice, but I guess as a single woman there are things to consider. As such, I thought that perhaps I would like to learn Castillian, and maybe even pick up their "lisp". Upon further consideration, I thought this might be an impossible goal, because I already had "fossilized pronunciation", i.e. Mexican Spanish.

So in theory, I really like the idea of being able to switch between accents: but as I can't even do this in my native language, I'm not sure if it is worth the effort.
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Re: Expanding out and learning other varieties of the same language

Postby nooj » Wed May 23, 2018 7:18 pm

Ani wrote:
Most intermediate French learners, and some advanced, can't even tell whether they are listening to French from France, Switzerland or Belgium. When you say learners "could" watch and listen to these things, your are pre-supposing that they don't.
When you say courses focusing on metropolitan French are "not the beginner's fault", you are supposing that this is a fault.
I really dislike all the assumptions you've made about language learners and the way you are trying to paint moral superiority into language varient sélection or what materials people enjoy.


It is the fault of language learning materials that they don't cover more language variety. That is a fault - if not moral (because there is a lack of accurate representation of linguistic diversity, similar to the lack of representation of the true diversity of America in Hollywood films that feminists and cultural activists have pointed out), then at least practically. It is a fault, for English learning materials to only showcase for example, some American variety, and not the stunning diversity of English in the world. If you prefer the word mistake, misguided or even harmful, I will use those too. Chinese students I meet here for example are poorly served by never having been even exposed to Australian or New Zealand English, even though they are closer to Oceania than to America or the UK.

More options and variety on the market can only be a good thing. How many times have you heard language learners complain that there is a critical lack of Arabic dialectical material, or a critical lack of Cantonese, Shanghainese, Hokkien etc? You've never heard Korean learners inquire 'how can I learn a Korean dialect'? Never heard German learners who want to learn Plattdeutsch or Bavarian or Swiss German and then struggle to find much?

Why does this annoy you? I personally try to expose myself to as many varieties of languages as I can, from a practical and aesthetic point of view: I meet so many Chileans, Colombians, Mexicans here, it makes no sense to limit myself to Spanish from Spain, even though I lived and learned my Spanish from there. Did I say that other learners are inferior to me because they do not? No, each person has their own language learning goals. I personally am unsatisfied with just exposing myself to - and learning - one dialect of any language I learn.

As for French, I can speak from my experience and based on the experience of other French learners I have personally met and the dozens I have interacted with online when I say that learners OFTEN do not expose themselves to French other than that of France. I did not say all learners (and I challenge you to find the post where I said that all learners are like this!), for example the Australian woman who chose to go to Quebec and chose to learn Quebec French.
Last edited by nooj on Wed May 23, 2018 7:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Expanding out and learning other varieties of the same language

Postby Systematiker » Wed May 23, 2018 7:32 pm

nooj wrote:
Ani wrote:
Most intermediate French learners, and some advanced, can't even tell whether they are listening to French from France, Switzerland or Belgium. When you say learners "could" watch and listen to these things, your are pre-supposing that they don't.
When you say courses focusing on metropolitan French are "not the beginner's fault", you are supposing that this is a fault.
I really dislike all the assumptions you've made about language learners and the way you are trying to paint moral superiority into language varient sélection or what materials people enjoy.


It is the fault of language learning materials that they don't cover more language variety. That is a fault - if not moral, then at least practically. It is a fault, for English learning materials to only showcase for example, some American variety, and not the stunning diversity of English in the world. If you prefer the word mistake, misguided or even harmful, I will use those too. Chinese students I meet here for example are poorly served by never having been even exposed to Australian or New Zealand English, even though they are closer to Oceania than to America or the UK. More options and variety on the market can only be a good thing.

Why does this annoy you? I personally try to expose myself to as many varieties of languages as I can, from a practical and aesthetic point of view: I meet so many Chileans, Colombians, Mexicans here, it makes no sense to limit myself to Spanish from Spain, even though I lived and learned my Spanish from there. Did I say that other learners are inferior to me because they do not? No, each person has their own language learning goals.

I can only speak from my experience and based on the experience of other French learners I have personally met (and the dozens I have interacted with online) when I say that learners OFTEN do not expose themselves to French other than that of France. I did not say all learners.



So, I’ll preface this by noting that I do appreciate the diversity present in every language I’ve encountered, and by no means denigrate any particular variety.

However, you’re making a moral judgment about something that simply isn’t one. The practical decisions of the course makers are economical ones - what sells. To a lesser extent, what’s “neutral” (loaded term, I know, so perhaps “shares features of many variants and thus is “centrist”) and is most useful to a person who can’t make an informed decision about a language they don’t (yet) know. Perhaps you are even right in a practical sense about English in Asia - but the market doesn’t seem to bear that out.

And if you’re not making a moral judgment, your approach sure makes it seem that way. I’m not even in much disagreement with you about the richness of less-often-learned languages and variants, but you consistently express yourself in such a way that seems to disparage those who choose a so-called “standard” variant, or worse, those who can’t yet make an informed choice.

When someone starts with a language, especially their first one, even a precritical, naive assumption about culture and language is a starting point at which they engage with the other. People start somewhere, and experience the other from there. And that’s ok!

“Hey, check out this cool, different thing” goes a lot further than “why would you ever colonialismimperialismoppressionpluricentrality...”

Just saying.
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Re: Expanding out and learning other varieties of the same language

Postby aaleks » Wed May 23, 2018 7:44 pm

nooj wrote:It is a fault, for English learning materials to only showcase for example, some American variety, and not the stunning diversity of English in the world. If you prefer the word mistake, misguided or even harmful, I will use those too.

Why American? The texbook I've used were British. And it's one of the most popular textbooks among English learners. Let alone the fact that usually it's the British English is assumed to be the right version of English, or whatever the linguistic term is.
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Re: Expanding out and learning other varieties of the same language

Postby nooj » Wed May 23, 2018 7:57 pm

Systematiker wrote:

So, I’ll preface this by noting that I do appreciate the diversity present in every language I’ve encountered, and by no means denigrate any particular variety.

However, you’re making a moral judgment about something that simply isn’t one. The practical decisions of the course makers are economical ones - what sells. To a lesser extent, what’s “neutral” (loaded term, I know, so perhaps “shares features of many variants and thus is “centrist”) and is most useful to a person who can’t make an informed decision about a language they don’t (yet) know. Perhaps you are even right in a practical sense about English in Asia - but the market doesn’t seem to bear that out.

And if you’re not making a moral judgment, your approach sure makes it seem that way. I’m not even in much disagreement with you about the richness of less-often-learned languages and variants, but you consistently express yourself in such a way that seems to disparage those who choose a so-called “standard” variant, or worse, those who can’t yet make an informed choice.

When someone starts with a language, especially their first one, even a precritical, naive assumption about culture and language is a starting point at which they engage with the other. People start somewhere, and experience the other from there. And that’s ok!

“Hey, check out this cool, different thing” goes a lot further than “why would you ever colonialismimperialismoppressionpluricentrality...”

Just saying.


I said that beginners are not to be faulted or blamed for the lack of language learning materials. Certainly everyone has to start from somewhere. A standard language or dialect is as good as any place to start, given the abundance of resources and the fact that these also act as the cement in situations of big linguistic diversity (Norwegian, Dutch etc).

But once you are on your way, it is a choice to expose yourself to only one variety. There's a choice there between opening up Netflix and watching exclusively French films or watching a TV show from the Ivory Coast at least once in a while.

I feel like sticking to only one variety actually limits the broad value of learning a language. Someone mentioned this before with French, that technically it is supposed to open an entire Francophone world to you.

But if you only stick to one variety, then what happens when you do try to partake of a slightly different variety? Here I am reminded of an incident that happened between native speakers of Belgian and French French, when a Belgian show was redubbed at the insistence of a French broadcaster who wanted to retransmit the show. The generally slight differences in vocabulary or expression, such as the number system, was enough to motivate this absurd decision, which did go ahead, to the general derision of the Belgians. This is an attitudinal problem more than anything, and I suspect it is at the root of why French people have more trouble understanding Quebec people than the other way around, because the Quebecois are more exposed to European French through media than vice versa. It is a self-enforced restriction in other words. How many varieties of French do you hear on French national television or on French radio? Heck, how many varieties of French French do you hear? I can tell you, not many.

Now what about a variety that is more different than Belgian French is from French French, such as Quebec French? Only exposing yourself to a variety from Europe might make it difficult to access material from Quebec - what does c'est plate mean? Why are these people adding -tu to their yes-no questions? This can lead to two reactions: discouragement and disengagement from this material, or the desire to learn more about this variety. Exposing yourself to more varieties opens more and more of the Francophonie to you. Isn't that one of the great things about learning a language?

If you are only purely, exclusively focused on one standard variety of one country, you will certainly be able to reap the rewards of your effort. France alone is big enough and produces enough for a person if they want to only listen, talk to or read French people. There is nothing wrong with that if you choose to do that.

garyb wrote:I've just based it on necessity, and I grew out of the "chameleon" fantasy long ago, accepting that I'll clearly appear foreign as soon as or even before I open my mouth wherever I go. I've been one of these French learners who focuses almost exclusively on Metropolitan French, because that's what interested me, I was travelling to France rather than Belgium or Quebec or Africa, and about 98% of the speakers I encountered here in the UK were from France. If I had planned to visit one of the latter places or known more people from them, I would have made some effort to familiarise myself with their varieties. For Spanish, my main interest is in Spain but I also appreciate Latin American film and literature and hope to travel to Central and/or South America someday, so I mostly listen to and aim to speak Peninsular Spanish but also try to get some exposure to other varieties. I don't believe that learners are under any obligation to study every variety or that not doing so makes them ignorant or prejudiced, as some replies almost seem to imply.


It can be just plain useful.

There is certainly a great deal of variety within French French.

I was talking with someone from Lorraine and in the course of our conversation, some expressions I didn't know came up. It turns out that they are local to Lorraine. Similarly, I was talking with someone from Normandy and luckily enough I had a pencil and paper with me so I could note things from his place. Similarly with Lyon. What, as learners, are we to do with this? I try to passively learn them, so I can recognise them. That is eminently practical. With the eventual goal of even repeating them in the right context when I meet speakers from these regions. That is my aesthetic side.

Now perhaps it is not so useful for someone who is only visiting France for a short period of time. Perhaps it will not be very useful to know what 'c'est shount' means if you never go to Lorraine. However, there is a practical use for exposing yourself to as many varieties of French French as possible. I recall numerous occasions when French learners have told me that they found it difficult to understand people from the south of France. Quite probably they had never heard a Limousin speak, well that could be the source of the problem. So even if you're only going for a short trip down to the south, it could definitely be practical to exposure yourself as much as possible beforehand to varieties of French spoken in the South West, the South Centre or the South East.

Next, there is just the plain pleasure of doing so. After all many of us learn languages because it is fun. If you expose yourself to Alsacian French, you get the great joy of listening to Alsacian music, Alsacian theatre (and perhaps even Alsacian language). If you expose yourself to French spoken in Brittany, there is a rich resource of things there as well. If that means going to the inter Celtic festival of Lorient in order to get exposed to the French of the Bretons, awesome! If you expose yourself to French spoken in New Caledonia, likewise. It's harder to expose yourself to these varieties of French within France rather than the typical one that most media use, it's true, but it's worth the investment.
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