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Northern Paladin
Tuesday, April 4th, 2006, 11:16 AM
June 11, 2005 — Daniel Tammet of England can verbally reel off the number pi to 22,500 decimal places in just over five hours — though he admitted after a recent demostration that it made him "very tired."

Tammet, 26, is a phenomenon. He has done lots of amazing things — like learning Icelandic, one of the world's most difficult languages, in just seven days.

That's because Tammet is an autistic savant. His extraordinary abilities stem from a combination of autism and a condition known as synesthesia. His form of autism, however, leaves him with less limited verbal skills than many other autistics.

more at:
http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/Health/story?id=830166&page=1&WNT=true

With that said how long does it take you to learn a language fluently? What I mean by fluent is proficient in all the basics and being able to communicate effectively not neccearly full mastery. I define full mastery as a deep understanding of the complexities of the target language and a mastery of the vocabulary.

I found out I can learn languages to the point of proficiency pretty quickly. Such has been my experience with French and Spanish. In fact if the pace was fast enough I'm fairly confident in my ability to attain full mastery of any Indo-European language in at most in a year.

Graumahd
Tuesday, April 4th, 2006, 11:53 AM
I voted for "A few months".
I guess if you really concentrate on it, a normal person can learn in about 4-5 months.

If you are just left in a special country and if you´re forced to communicate and understand the people I guess it takes you 1 month to understand the people and 2-3 more to get the language that much to know that you can fluently talk with them.

Allenson
Tuesday, April 4th, 2006, 01:23 PM
A lifetime. I'm still trying to learn English. ;)

Nordgau
Tuesday, April 4th, 2006, 02:59 PM
Depends of the language, I'd say. As the American author expressed it resignedly in his notorious "The Awful German Language":

"My philological studies have satisfied me that a gifted person ought to learn English (barring spelling and pronouncing) in thirty hours, French in thirty days, and German in thirty years."

Maybe we should indeed stick to that Folkspraak thing of Frans after all ... :P

ChaosLord
Wednesday, April 5th, 2006, 12:17 AM
A said 'a year or so' because I like to study the language more in-depth, and because I use my free-time for multiple recreations.

Imperator X
Wednesday, April 5th, 2006, 01:18 AM
This makes me much more confident in attempting to learn Hindi. I should know quite a bit after I go to Jaipur, Rajasthan for a semester.

Gorm the Old
Wednesday, April 5th, 2006, 04:37 PM
Er, Dylan, this man is an autistic savant (they used to be called idiot savants) . Memorizing is all he can do. The question is how long does it take a normal human being to learn a language ? That depends on the frequency with which the language is used and one's facility in recognizing the sounds of a foreign language. It has been said that we actually hear only about 60% of what is said to us and unconsciously fill in the rest from the context. Obviously, this works well only if one is very familiar with the language. The circumstances under which one learns a language are very important. Learning it from books and recorded lessons on one's own ("without a master", as it used to be called) is slow and ineffective. Learning it in the classroom situation is faster and more effective, but still slow. The "total immersion" classroom method works well only if one is not constantly exposed to one's own language outside the classroom. The best way to learn a language is to live in the country where it is used and where other languages are not understood. This is probably the fastest way to learn to speak and understand it. Learning to read the literary language requires developing a good understanding of the grammar and syntax and a long period of study. I voted for 2 years, which , on the basis of my own experience in the classroom situation, I have found to be enough.

Leofric
Sunday, April 9th, 2006, 05:49 AM
So, Northern Paladin, is this poll meant to ask about just fluency (the ability to speak fluidly, without excessive pauses, breaks, false starts, and stutters), or are you asking about attaining a certain degree of overall linguistic competence and proficiency? And if you mean the latter, then what degree of competence and/or proficiency is considered "fluency" for the purpose of this poll? Without such clarification, it's a very difficult question to answer.


"My philological studies have satisfied me that a gifted person ought to learn English (barring spelling and pronouncing) in thirty hours, French in thirty days, and German in thirty years."

A fun quote, but hardly accurate. English is no simpler than German as an overall system. The simplicities in certain areas are easily outweighed by complexities in others.

I wonder what the ethnicity of the author was. Most of our authors are ethnically English, which makes sense, since a large number of our countrymen who are not ethnically English never reach the same level of mastery of the language that their equally well-educated English counterparts do. But some of our authors here in the States are not English. I have found that, among Americans, it is mostly the non-English who consider English a second-rate language. On the other hand, as with all things regarding humans, exceptions abound.

Nordgau
Sunday, April 9th, 2006, 02:41 PM
I wonder what the ethnicity of the author was.

"The Awful German Language" is by Mark Twain. You may type the title of the essay in at Google or so if you like to read the whole text ...

Dr. Solar Wolff
Monday, April 10th, 2006, 04:11 AM
"The Awful German Language" is by Mark Twain. You may type the title of the essay in at Google or so if you like to read the whole text ...

Nordgau, have you ever read Mark Twain? I can't understand anything he writes and it is supposed to be an American dialect.

Otherwise, I agree 100% with 90% of what appears above.

Gorm the Old
Monday, April 10th, 2006, 05:25 AM
Samuel L. Clemens, "Mark Twain" wrote in a somewhat slangy 19th century American dialect. Many expressions which he used are long since obsolete. He didn't intend to write for the ages, though he did. but merely to entertain, and often enlighten, his contrmporaries who would have understood him without difficulty. Slang and nonce-words grow stale rapidly. The best proof of this is to browse through Capt. Francis Grose's "Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue" (1811). It's British slang, but , even to a present-day Englishman, more than half of the expressions defined in it would be unfamiliar and incomprehensible.

Leofric
Monday, April 10th, 2006, 10:07 AM
"The Awful German Language" is by Mark Twain. You may type the title of the essay in at Google or so if you like to read the whole text ...
I had the feeling it was our dear own Bard of Hannibal-on-Mississippi. He was predominantly English, despite his Continental-sounding surname. But then, he also made something of a name for himself by making controversial, outlandish statements. I love a lot of what he said, but most of it has to be viewed with a healthy dose of caution.

One of my favorite Twain quotes:
"Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence in society." :D

Nordgau
Monday, April 10th, 2006, 05:15 PM
Nordgau, have you ever read Mark Twain? I can't understand anything he writes and it is supposed to be an American dialect.

Only that "German Language" text. I anyway do not read so much fictional literatur, and if, then rather German classics. One can't get away of course from getting knowledge of certain characters and scenes of Twain's writings as they are reproduced again and again in popular culture, such as Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.--After that what you say the "Simpsons" version, however, seems to be more interesting than the original. :D

http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/railton/projects/tysse/images/huck%20and%20tom.JPG

Oswiu
Wednesday, April 19th, 2006, 07:37 PM
I can't believe that some people voted for any period shorter than three years! I'm a 'sort of' Russian speaker, but I don't think I'd ever be able to claim to be 'fluent' with a clear conscience! Some languages are far harder than others. From my own experiences, it's quite easier to learn enough to be understood in English, but far harder to be absolutely to grips with usage and the finer ppoints of grammar. For Russian, that 'being understood' threshold takes far longer to reach. And the later 'perfect' phase is nigh on unattainable, save by a lifetime amongst the people.
This probably has much to do with the mechanical classification of languages, with Russian being more synthetic, and English more analytical, and the direction you're travelling in [i.e. the nature of your mother tongue in comparison with the desired one].
Romance languages are possibly the easiest for English speakers to learn, funnily enough. They're quite familiar in lexica, and their origin as an adopted imperial language amongst provincials has made the inner workings of them quite simple, relative to many other languages.

fms panzerfaust
Saturday, April 29th, 2006, 09:23 PM
To be fluent you need to: read, write and speak. I started to learn english alone in 2001-2002, and was translating entire texts at that time to portuguese to understand it, but was not that good to write with it. To write correctly you need to translate from your native language to the other, this gets more time, and in 2004 I started to write something directly to english, yet was horrible. To be really fluent you need to talk with it. And talk is not posting on the internet, you really need to talk with it. I can talk nowadays, but yet is something slow, because dont have practice.
Some languages are more hard to learn. This is because these languages aren't in the same group as yours. Languages are grouped in families: romance, germanic, slavic, etc, and these are grouped in proto-families: indo-european for example. Thus, is more hard to a spaniard to learn a dialect from India or China than to learn french, because of the linguistal distance between them.
English is the most easy to learn, because the internet is fully 95% written in english. You can learn without a course, just navegating with a translator activated to identify strange words, after some months you'll not need the translator anymore.
Actually I'm learning german. I'm learning it with a course because of lack of understanding in the structure, it's different from english, and the lack of reference for pronunciation (there are more songs and movies in english than in german). English have more latin (or romance) elements into it. French have still more and is considered a romance language. My motivation comes from philosophy, I'm interested in reading some books in the original.