Good evening,
I want to beg for your indulgence: on one hand, English is not my mother tongue, so that I am likely to make no end of mistakes; on the other hand, I have the gall to post to a uk. newsgroup while I'm not even British; and on the third hand (how freaky), I'll be speaking about a subject which I gather is far from being a hot topic here. Should you however bear with me, here it is:
I am a frequent contributor to fr.lettres.langue.francaise, a francophone newsgroup rather similar to this one, with this interesting difference that a significant number of its posts are about, er, let us call it the "language war" between English and French (e.g. the decline in the use of French in Europe). Several contributors are passionate about that, especially Frenchmen. Now I am a Belgian and I am using a lot of English at work (when we have a meeting with colleagues from Luxemburg and the Netherlands, guess the working language?), so I am reluctant to take sides in this "war". Someone addressed me recently, writing:

"You never answer when I ask you why we shouldn't be pleased when /la francophonie/ progresses, or grieve when it retreats, or get annoyed by elusive reactions."

My answer was:
"I am a win-win fan. I cannot be pleased by a progress if it means a retreat by someone else. But as far as languages are concerned, it is possible, and that's the point, to have progress /everywhere/. Nothing forbids /anyone/ from speaking several languages, save laziness and inertia, sometimes also, alas! xenophobia and/or contempt. And nothing forbids both French and English to progress together, and even to take advantage of their synergies to back each other up. But if we stick to concepts of struggle, hereditary enemy, and I-win- only-if-you-lose, then success won't be there."
Upon which it was suggested that I submit my subversive ideas to an English-speaking newsgroup, just to see how they would react. I took up the challenge, and here I am, hoping I'm not too much of an intruder.
Thank you for your kind attention and maybe for your feedback. You are also welcome if you wish to direct me to a more adequate newsgroup for my ramblings (europa. linguas, maybe? but someone mentioned you first).

Pierre Hallet (Brussels)
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Good evening, I want to beg for your indulgence: on one hand, English is not my mother tongue, so that ... wish to direct me to a more adequate newsgroup for my ramblings (europa. linguas, maybe? but someone mentioned you first).

Welcome to this newsgroup. You are not intruding.
I am just about to switch off my computer and go to bed, so I will make the brief comment that your answer does not seem subversive from my anglophone point of view.
It will be interesting to see what other people's replies are.

Peter Duncanson
UK
(posting from u.c.l.e)
Good evening, I want to beg for your indulgence: on one hand, English is not my mother tongue, so that ... to a more adequate newsgroup for my ramblings (europa. linguas, maybe? but someone mentioned you first). Pierre Hallet (Brussels)

Hi, first of all, let me remark, that your english is not bad at all. The contrary actually.
I don't have a specific answer, in reality I even believe the "war" is more intense than you would ever guess. I live in Germany, where the same problem exists between english and german. In fact all scientific conferencies, colloquia, meetings etc are held in english, even if they are held locally. At least in physics! Probably the english language has gained some ground in many aspects, so it is difficult to say.
But I will agree with you, I really believe that french are the most passionate defenders of their language. I am a member of both groups, and of two german ones as well fr.lettre.langue.allemande and de.etc.sprache.deutsch. Now, it could be simply a coincidence, but german contributions are generally of a much lower linguistic level than french ones. The answers giben to the questions, though correct, are not always followed by the same linguistic background support, i.e. rules, names of the discussed phenomena etc. Even less in english. But, since the number of people contributing is not really that big, I am not sure about the generality of the statement.
And a final thought (I hope I will not provoke too much), but since english has become a lingua franca, most of the english speaking people don't have to bother to learn any foreign language. And thus, quite often they do not have the same grammar background. I couldn't possibly estimate the extend of such a correlation, but at least along my acquaintances it is so. And there is a certain logic to it I dare say.
Well that's all. I just wanted to feed a bit the discussion.

Best regards
Schorschi
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At 19:05:53 on Fri, 20 May 2005, Sas (Email Removed) wrote in :
And a final thought (I hope I will not provoke too much), but since english has become a lingua franca, most of the english speaking people don't have to bother to learn any foreign language.

This is regrettably more and more often the case these days. When I was at school, we started to learn French at the age of 7, and German some years later. I don't think that happens now.
And thus, quite often they do not have the same grammar background.

Well, there are some parts of grammar which extend to all languages, and some which are related to one specific language only. I was taught the latter initially, extending a little bit to generalities once we started to learn Latin. I doubt whether grammar is much taught now in UK schools - at least, not in the way that I remember it (parsing, analysis etc.).
We had an extra incentive, however, to be fluent in French at least; in those days, French pop music was all the rage (Johnny Hallyday, Francoise Hardy, Richard Antony etc.) and one was expected by one's friends to know all the words, accurately, and be able to translate them. These days, practically all pop music is in English (although one could reasonably question the standard of English in many cases!) and so youngsters don't have that particular personal incentive to study songs in foreign languages.

Molly Mockford
They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety - Benjamin Franklin (My Reply-To address *is* valid, though may not remain so for ever.)
Molly Mockford:
Sas:

And a final thought (I hope I will not provoke ... people don't have to bother to learn any foreign language.

The key word here is "bother". Is learning French just a bother, or shouldn't it be an enrichment? I learned English at school and it was useful to my later career (I'm working in computers), but it went beyond being just "useful". Thus, I can recite Poe's "The Raven", or Hamlet's first soliloquy, which I learned just for fun, because I marvelled over the music of the words. But this must no doubt exist in the other direction...

"Mes chers amis, quand je mourrai
Plantez un saule au cimetière
J'aime son feuillage éploré
La pâleur m'en est douce et chère
Et son ombre sera légère
À la terre où je dormirai."
("My good friends, when I die
Plant a willow near my grave
I like its weeping boughs
Its paleness I find sweet and dear,
And its shadow will weigh lightly
On the soil where I'll be sleeping.")
This is regrettably more and more often the case these days. When I was at school, we started to learn French at the age of 7, and German some years later. I don't think that happens now.

Yes... school seems not to be the best place
where to learn a foreign language. Everywhere.
And thus, quite often they do not have the same grammar background.

Well, there are some parts of grammar which extend to all languages, and some which are related to one specific ... much taught now in UK schools - at least, not in the way that I remember it (parsing, analysis etc.).

You might smile to learn that they make similar complaints in French-speaking countries.
We had an extra incentive, however, to be fluent in French at least; in those days, French pop music was ... etc.) and one was expected by one's friends to know all the words, accurately, and be able to translate them.

Incredible! I hadn't the slightest idea of that. How long did it last?
These days, practically all pop music is in English (although one could reasonably question the standard of English in many cases!) and so youngsters don't have that particular personal incentive to study songs in foreign languages.

Besides, translating lyrics from English to other languages is kind of a challenge for many of the songs nowadays...

Thank you all for your kind answers.

Pierre Hallet (Brussels)
Molly Mockford:

Sas:

The key word here is "bother". Is learning French just a bother, or shouldn't it be an enrichment? I learned ... fun, because I marvelled over the music of the words. But this must no doubt exist in the other direction...

I think learning more than one language is a profound thing to do. Yeah, me and computers like yourself, too. That's my background.
High tech stuff gets commoditized faster than languages, I think, and although history doesn't reveal its alternatives, perhaps I should've spent more time in the language lab than in the engineering labs.
Well, I studied French in school, here on Cape Cod, in the late '50s - '60s, and I loved it. I did well then. French liked me. I played a frenchman on a small stage once.

My biz travels (yes, to Brussels, too) made me realize how important it is to get "immersed" in French. Or German, Spanish, Italian, etc. Language also defines a culture, and vice versa. So I figure I have only 1.5 "souls" because my French is only "advanced survival" now. (To put a finer point on it, my Dutch friend years ago used to tell me, 'to possess another language is to possess another soul'. He spoke
7 languages very well ...I forget who he was quoting).
"Mes chers amis, quand je mourrai Plantez un saule au cimetière J'aime son feuillage éploré La pâleur m'en est douce ... Its paleness I find sweet and dear, And its shadow will weigh lightly On the soil where I'll be sleeping.")

Nice. May I send it to my dear friend in Antibes
(British; language teacher) for comment?
This is regrettably more and more often the case these ... German some years later. I don't think that happens now.

I don't know what happens now in the States either. It's a 'no language left behind' issue (Sorry!)
You were fortunate. I didn't get to take French and Spanish until I was about 13 - 14. I wanted to earlier, but was deprived. That's because my English teacher said my English grade wasn't good enough, yet later, after 3 years of foreign language, I was top in my class. Screw her. A good teacher will nurture enthusiasm (a wonderful Greek word, BTW).
Yes... school seems not to be the best place where to learn a foreign language. Everywhere.

I agree, and more: language = culture.
My sweetie and I go to Canada once in a while. In Québec they will say 'une bicyclette au gas', when in France we're more apt to hear 'un moto-bike'!
Well, there are some parts of grammar which extend to ... in the way that I remember it (parsing, analysis etc.).

You might smile to learn that they make similar complaints in French-speaking countries.

Got some juicy examples?! I'd love to hear them!
We had an extra incentive, however, to be fluent in ... all the words, accurately, and be able to translate them.

Incredible! I hadn't the slightest idea of that. How long did it last?

I never heard of them either though I'm interested.

I still have some Edith Piaf records. She did a few songs in English, but I think (Americans at least) loved to hear her songs sung in French even though we didn't know most of the words. She was reasonably popular in the States, say, '30s - '50s.
These days, practically all pop music is in English (although ... that particular personal incentive to study songs in foreign languages.

Besides, translating lyrics from English to other languages is kind of a challenge for many of the songs nowadays...

Likely to do more with local culture than translating words.
Thank you all for your kind answers.

Merci, aussi.

Best,
Erick Andrews
delete bogus to reply
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"Erick Andrews"
(To put a finer point on it, my Dutch friend years ago used to tell me, 'to possess another language is to possess another soul'. He spoke 7 languages very well ...I forget who he was quoting).

Charlemagne.
Erick Andrews :
"Mes chers amis, quand je mourrai Plantez un saule au ... will weigh lightly On the soil where I'll be sleeping.")

Nice. May I send it to my dear friend in Antibes (British; language teacher) for comment?

The author won't object: he died in 1857.
.

Pierre Hallet
My sweetie and I go to Canada once in a while. In Québec they will say 'une bicyclette au gas', when in France we're more apt to hear 'un moto-bike'!

I've never heard that. Usually one says 'une moto', the short form of 'motocyclette'.
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