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Thread: Rudolf Steiner on the French Language

  1. #21
    Senior Member Godwinson's Avatar
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    I also think that mentality and language probably are somewhat correlated as well.
    Could you elaborate on this then, Danielion?

    Mentality can vary hugely, even within the same country where everyone speaks the same language, and many nations in Africa are francophone but the character of their people is vastly different to that of the French living in Metropolitan France.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Godwinson View Post
    Could you elaborate on this then, Danielion?

    Mentality can vary hugely, even within the same country where everyone speaks the same language, and many nations in Africa are francophone but the character of their people is vastly different to that of the French living in Metropolitan France.
    Here you are talking about vast racial and cultural differences that aren't comparable. It's not that if you teach someone to speak French or German that they suddenly become French or German of course. Language certainly isn't everything and in the end just a minor influence especially when other differences are that vast. Also those Frenchified people in Africa still speak their indigenous languages among large portions of their population and just have French as their administrative and educational language anyway. Even more, their French has a huge local substratum that shouldn't be underestimated. They'll never become French in the end and are something vastly different.

    I find it hard to explain, but roughly speaking French-speaking Belgians live in a different society than Dutch-speaking Belgians. We are more orderly and disciplined whereas they are more artistic. In my opinion this is how Germanic culture and Latin cultures tend to differ. Germanic mentality is more about looking at beauty in simplicity and logic whereas Latin mentality is more about beauty in form and grandeur. This is a gross generalisation not without overlaps, but it's still there. If we spoke French tomorrow, we'd probably lost a lot of our mentality, if not alone due to are eyes being faced toward Paris rather then toward the Low Countries as a whole.

    But I also think French as a language being more idiomatic and Germanic languages being more logical are testament to our mentality, but I don't know of any studies about this. I'm afraid we're talking gut feeling here.

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    But I also think French as a language being more idiomatic and Germanic language being more logical are testament to our mentality.
    You've now stated this twice so I'll assume it to be true.

    Idioms are a subject close to my heart and I was always fascinated by them when learning French but at no point did I count how many there were in relation to other languages. I wouldn't underestimate how many there are in German though because this book gives 1000 English idioms for which (in the vast majority of cases) there is a German equivalent ...


    Similarly, there's another book I have with French & German idioms that gives a German idiomatic phrase for each French one and there are no cases where the German language cannot provide its own alternative ...


    So, like I say, I'll accept that there may be a few more in French (if you're sure this is true) but there are a huge number German idioms out there and you certainly couldn't say that one language is more idiom-based than the other.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Godwinson View Post
    You've now stated this twice so I'll assume it to be true.

    Idioms are a subject close to my heart and I was always fascinated by them when learning French but at no point did I count how many there were in relation to other languages. I wouldn't underestimate how many there are in German though because this book gives 1000 English idioms for which (in the vast majority of cases) there is a German equivalent ...



    Similarly, there's another book I have with French & German idioms that gives a German idiomatic phrase for each French one and there are no cases where the German language cannot provide its own alternative ...



    So, like I say, I'll accept that there may be a few more in French (if you're sure this is true) but there are a huge number German idioms out there and you certainly couldn't say that one language is more idiom-based than the other.
    I could very well be wrong though. I wouldn't even be surprised that you'd do well in learning French, better than me despite it having been made mandatory for me in school since the age of 10. Language-learning is an individual endeavour, school only steers you in your progress.

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    Senior Member Godwinson's Avatar
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    I could very well be wrong though. I wouldn't even be surprised that you'd do well in learning French, better than me despite it having been made mandatory for me in school since the age of 10.
    Well, I taught it for 17 years and then worked as a translator for another 5 so I should have grasped it by now

    The thing is though, you can speak a language perfectly well but still be unaware of some 'basic' facts.

    For example, I know the subjunctive tense in French and German but I only discovered recently that the phrase 'God save the Queen' was an English subjunctive Why? Because I've never needed to know this, and there are loads of other things that non-native English students can teach me about my own language despite me speaking it more fluently than them.

    So as far as idioms are concerned, your general impression that French is more laden with them may well be correct but I'm still unsure of the impact (if any) that this would have on a behavioural level. As you say, there are no studies so your 'gut feeling' could be a reliable one .. who knows? For what it's worth, my gut feeling is that the difference between the Latin and Germanic temperament (that is clearly observable and no-one seriously questions) probably owes more to climate than language.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ahnenerbe View Post
    “…what France is doing today is like the last throes or the last frantic outburst of a declining nation, a nation that is fading out of earth evolution, only in history these last throes last a long time. A spiritual view of European history shows this aspect very clearly, of course. The French character is the first vanguard of decadent Rome, the declining Romanic nations of Europe…

    Now this whole phenomenon of decadence in French national culture is not least visible in their language. The French language is one of those languages one can learn in Europe at present which, if I may put it like this, drives man’s soul to the very surface of his being.

    It would be the one in which, to put it paradoxically, it is easiest to tell lies honestly. It lends itself most easily to telling lies candidly and honestly, because it is no longer connected with man’s inner nature. It is spoken entirely on the human being’s surface.

    This determines the soul attitude of both the French language and the French character. The soul bearing is such that the French language takes command of the soul. Whilst with a German person the inner configuration of the language puts the soul under the domination of the will element, the moment you speak French it has a numbing effect and takes over command.

    It is a language that violates the soul and therefore makes it hollow, and thus under the influence of the language, French culture hollows one out. Anyone who has a feeling for these things can always sense that in fact no soul is forthcoming in the French character, only a culture which has grown formal and rigid.

    No doubt about it, the soul becomes corrupted through using the French language. It gives one nothing except the possibility of a certain phraseology. And people who speak French with enthusiasm proceed to transfer this to other languages. It is also possible at the present time that the French will even ruin their own blood, the very element which has kept their language going as a corpse.

    That is a terrible thing the French people are doing to other people, the frightful cultural brutality of transplanting Black people to Europe. It affects France itself worst of all. This has an incredibly strong effect on the blood, the race. This will substantially add to French decadence. The French nation will be weakened as a race”.
    Very interesting! I never liked French language, and I don't speak it, even though we had many years of it in school!

    What about other languages? What did Rudolf Steiner say? Anything about the Scandinavian languages, Norwegian, for example? And anything about Romanian? Being curious...
    Die Farben duften frisch und grün... Lieblich haucht der Wind um mich.

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