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Arrogance in learning a language

Learn more about the community and how they are learning Japanese and about Japan. Do a little listener-to-listener chit chat. Keep it civil, and everything else goes.

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untmdsprt
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Arrogance in learning a language

Postby untmdsprt » July 5th, 2008 5:46 pm

The other day I was chatting with someone online that was arrogant in that he knew English as a second language. I said that I would chat with him on one condition, and that was if he ever had to ask what I meant, chat was over and no explanations would be given. He agreed to it, and said that I couldn't possibly chat over his head.

I started off in a normal chat, and as it progressed he became more and more arrogant sounding. I finally started speaking in slang, idioms, and threw in some Deep South hick words for good measure. He finally begged me to explain everything. I said sorry, chat's over, and you need to relearn English.

The point of this is, even if you pass Level 1 of the JLPT, you still wouldn't know squat about Japanese because you've never lived as a native speaker. Even the differences between the USA, England, and Australia are major enough that I myself need to learn British and Australian English, although English is my first language!

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Postby sashimidimsum7250 » July 5th, 2008 9:43 pm

Wow. I'm actually surprised to hear an ESL learner being arrogant about knowing English. My wife is an ESL teacher, and she tells me that the arrogance usually comes from the ESL teachers themselves. The general attitude from her fellow ESL teachers seems to be that if you can't speak English you are somehow stupid.
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untmdsprt
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Postby untmdsprt » July 5th, 2008 10:15 pm

Hmm, I get that from the Japanese ESL teachers when they see me studying kanji.

Personally, I don't hold it against someone when they are trying to talk to me. The things I do find annoying are when they keep apologizing for their bad English, they expect me to pick a topic, or they start laughing when I even say anything. I wonder why they are even learning if they have to apologize, I don't know their level, and don't care to give a lecture, and why do they giggle when all I say is "hey, hi or hello"?

The point of a conversation is an active two-way communication. If all they can talk about is their shoe, then please tell me about it, and be prepared for me to ask questions. Another teacher and I love photography, so he's patient with me when I try to speak to him in Japanese about it. It motivates me to learn more words so I can speak better.

Update: more and more students are coming up to me to chat. I have a lot of respect for these students. They're happy because I'll chat with them, and are patient when they are trying to think of words to say. I know how difficult it is for them to do this. I never correct them, but I want to encourage them to speak more. If they can get the words out, I can figure out what they are trying to say. If they are having difficulty, then I will offer my help.

One evening I was walking down the stairs to catch a train and heard my name. I looked up and two students were there. I went back up and talked to them. They were excited that I came and talked to them. I didn't care that I missed a train, because I could always get the next one. That made my evening that they wanted to talk to me. :)

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Postby SywenArk » July 17th, 2008 10:08 pm

As a learner I would like to say something about this topic.

I learned English by myself. It is not perfect at all, but I hope I will explain well what I think about "arrogance".

You can find arrogance everywhere. Studying, working, doing almost everything, you will find someone who thinks he knows everything, like the person you met.

But, well, arrogance is also when a learner get in contact with someone who already had the "learning" experience, who can be a teacher or an advanced student.

In my case, I get in contact with someone who went to a Japanese school and the very first thing he said to me was that selftaught-Japanese is impossible. Just because he went to a school, he said that I -myself- am an arrogant person, because I am trying to do something impossible, because I am saying that I can study it by "myself", because "I don't know how much hard is Japanese".(*by myself... Jpod101 is not pretty like "by myself!!!!!")

I just want to learn. It's quite clear that I will never speak or write as a native speaker, Japanese nor English. Well, I am just trying to learn and I am doing nothing wrong.

So, arrogance is when somebody thinks he knows a language without really realize that he does not.
Arrogance is when somebody (who is still learning) tells you that you can't learn in a way different from the one he is following.
Arrogance is when your interlocutor does not even try to understand what you mean saying something.
I think that arrogance is often shown from both sides, learners and teachers.

So, untmdsprt, did you felt relieved when your interlocutor raised the white flag asking you explanations about what you were saying? okay he was wrong, but maybe he didnt meant to be arrogant.
I think, and maybe I am wrong, that if someone asks me if I know English, well, honestly I will say "yes, I know English". "just a bit" would be a lie, "yes, I know it perfectly" would be also a lie. But I often say "I know English as a second language" also if I don't mean that I know it as a native speaker do , also if I don't mean that I know it perfectly.
Well what I am trying to say is that he, by saying "I know English as a second language", maybe did not *really* meant to say "I know English perfectly".

Anyway, I also know many people who write on their own curriculum vitae that they knows English very well. That is more than arrogance....is lying ... :D

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Postby Belton » July 17th, 2008 11:50 pm

I wonder how much it matters if you come across arrogance as long as you have a reasonable amount of self confidence and self belief, yet are open to other viewpoints and experiences.
I don't think language learning is a competitive sport.
What does it matter to me if someone claims more ability than they have or has an ego the size of a small house.
What does it matter to me if they make mistakes as long as I can understand them.
What does it matter to me if they know more than I do or study more?
I just go on. My goals to have enough language for my own needs, to satisfy my own curiosity.

People can seem arrogant. (no-one thinks themselves arrogant though)
Then it's a judgement call as to whether you talk to them, pay heed to them, help them or whatever. I suppose it depends on how much energy you have to spare.
In a work situation or teaching situation it might be a problem; in conversation and social settings... not so much.

Usually with people learning languages I find the opposite, they are unconfident in their abilities. Most Japanese seem to be. The apology for their 'meagre" skills being a bit of cultural based manners.

In the end it's all about communication. English speaking people sometimes don't understand me so even a confident non-native might have problems. When I realise I try to rephrase.

Being obscure is fairly easy in your first language. Pick up any academic text. Use jargon, use slang, use a local dialect or accent... Using clear simple English is often difficult in comparison.

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Postby untmdsprt » July 18th, 2008 10:57 am

Everyone has a good point. There are different ways of studying, and each has its merits. I personally miss the interaction with with a teacher and having them correct me if I need it. I love the lessons at JPod, but there's nothing like human interaction!!

Egos need to be left at home, because there will always be someone better than you. Belton, you're right about the point of learning a language is communication, but there are a lot of people who fail to realize that. People also fail to realize that in order to effectively use the language, you have to know the whys and what fors (ie culture) behind the language. Sometimes people need to shut their mouths and open their ears/eyes. There is a lot of non-verbal language that people need to learn. Though sometimes it's hard to do in Japan when everyone is sleeping on the train!

I've had some students try to correct me about something. I asked where they learned it, and they said England something or British so and so. I said I do it this way because I learned the American way not the British way.

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Postby johnpa » August 4th, 2008 3:59 am

Something's been bothering me about this topic, and I finally figured out what it is: a native speaker's grasp of the language tends to be culture bound whereas a foreigner's is more open.

English is my second language and, arrogant as it may sound, I believe that I am more attuned to the full range of English expression than most Americans. American culture has the (admirable) imperative to "Say what you mean, and mean what you say." Yet, one of the most fascinating aspects of English is that you can easily say what you don't mean and mean what you don't say.
In the right context, "Brilliant!" can mean "Incredibly stupid." "Don't you just love this job?" , can mean. "Aren't you sick of this job?" And so on.
This kind of irony is often exploited by comedians. But that's just the tip of the iceberg.
My native language is Greek, and I can't think of a proper way to translate, "This is a fine mess you've gotten us into." Greek is very ancient, so there's no way I could know every possible expression, but, as far as contemporary usage goes, it's either a "horrible mess" or a "fine resolution".
From a Greek perspective, English is rife with oxymorons. (I still get a kick out of "personal space".)
Great American satirists, like Mark Twain and Kurt Vonnegut often exploit this feature. But IMO the most advanced application of "saying what you don't mean and meaning what you don't say" is found in Nabokov's Lolita. In a sense, the entire novel could be seen as a double entendre.
Lolita is widely considered one of the greatest novels in the English language, yet the author's native language was Russian. I think it's because of (rather than in spite of) the fact that Nabokov was a foreign speaker that he could imbue his novel with so much irony, tragicomedy and multiple meanings.

Moving on to Japanese... In Making Sense of Japanese, Jay Rubin — who translated Haruki Murakami's The Wind Up Bird Chronicle into English — claims that it's not the Japanese language which is vague, but rather the culture. I don't know how true this is, but, if Rubin is correct, maybe it's possible that ten years from now I'll be speaking Japanese with greater clarity and precision than most native speakers.

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Postby Psy » August 4th, 2008 6:06 am

Well said, johnpa. I would have never guessed you weren't a native speaker, so the effort you've invested in your study has paid off remarkably. With any non-native language, I believe we learners have advantages in that we can both analyze things from an adult perspective and also focus intensely on nuance/structure. (Ironically, these same advantages can become problematic with the wrong study methods) Grammatically speaking, I'd argue any Japanese person who has gone through compulsory English education has a far better handle on English grammar than the majority of native speakers... but this works in reverse, too. Do Japanese people understand keigo? Not necessarily. However, you can count on it being taught extensively in any formal Japanese Class. It's not a matter of intelligence, it's just a matter of where the study time is spent.

But yes, I agree. I love the expressiveness of my native tongue, with its endless supply of words, synonyms and idiosyncrasies... how a simple change in intonation can flip the meaning of a sentence... how we have such a vast phonetic range, including the rarer "th"...

... for these same reasons I'm also glad I didn't have to study it. :shock: Learning to read English properly has got to be challenging...
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Postby johnpa » August 4th, 2008 6:56 am

Thanks Psy, but I've been living in the US for nearly 10 years, and graduated from the University of Iowa.(They say American English is at it's purest form in the mid-west.)

Greek also has the two "th" sounds (hard δ, as in "then" and soft θ, as in "with"). But, as we don't exactly have the "ee" sound, it took some effort to master the difference between "sheet" and "shit", "beech" and "bitch".
As far as reading goes, the grammar is quite similar except that English uses a ton of pronouns whereas Greek tends to include them in verb/adjective conjugations. (I pity any foreigner that has to learn Greek verb conjugations. At least as far as general usage goes, there are probably more irregular verbs than regular.)
But when it comes to writing in English... Thank God for spell checkers!

PS On the other hand, I know many Greek imigrants that have spent the better part of their life in the US and still have a poor command of the language.
Although I have no proof. I believe the deciding factor is whether or not you have a love for the language. Whether you're driven by more than just necessity.
At this point I really get a kick out of Japanese 擬音語 and 擬態語 (onomatopoeia), and I'm impressed by the way so much can be said with so little (at least in casual usage). So, even though I joined Japanesepod to prepare for a trip in 2009 I feel driven to go beyond mere survival Japanese.

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Postby touko » August 25th, 2008 10:01 pm

Moving on to Japanese... In Making Sense of Japanese, Jay Rubin, who translated Haruki Murakami's The Wind Up Bird Chronicle into English, claims that it's not the Japanese language which is vague, but rather the culture. I don't know how true this is, but, if Rubin is correct, maybe it's possible that ten years from now I'll be speaking Japanese with greater clarity and precision than most native speakers.


I haven't read this book, but if vagueness is ingrained in the Japanese culture instead of the language, then even if you spoke clear and precise Japanese you wouldn't fit in in Japan. That is, if you said "no" directly in response to an offer made to you instead of beating around the bush... you'd be very clear but no one would like you very much. :(

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Postby untmdsprt » September 5th, 2008 2:22 pm

johnpa wrote:Something's been bothering me about this topic, and I finally figured out what it is: a native speaker's grasp of the language tends to be culture bound whereas a foreigner's is more open.

English is my second language and, arrogant as it may sound, I believe that I am more attuned to the full range of English expression than most Americans.


That is a very good observation. I probably know more about Japanese grammar than I do English grammar. I speak English therefore why should I spend my time studying English? My brain is on auto-pilot so no thinking is involved. On the other hand, Japanese is my 2nd language so I still have to think "is this correct? Did I use the right particle?", etc.

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Postby untmdsprt » September 24th, 2008 7:01 am

ochazuke wrote:Wow. I'm actually surprised to hear an ESL learner being arrogant about knowing English. My wife is an ESL teacher, and she tells me that the arrogance usually comes from the ESL teachers themselves. The general attitude from her fellow ESL teachers seems to be that if you can't speak English you are somehow stupid.


I've now experienced arrogance from the Japanese teacher and students of me learning Japanese. For some reason they were asking me questions about my studies. The sentence in question is 渋谷へ/に行きます。I've always learned it as "I'm going to Shibuya." All my books and Jpod101 say that へ and に are interchangeable but mean the same thing. I told them that and the teacher had the nerve to say they are wrong, and one means "for" the other means "to". I did ask another teacher and she said that he was wrong and you can use either one. She stated that she usually uses へ, and I told her I usually do too.

BTW, the man insisted I teach the students "be going to" and couldn't understand why I was changing "be" to "am, is, are" when making the sentences. I finally had enough of him and the students, and started writing:

I be going shopping tomorrow
She be going to cram school this afternoon

He seemed delighted, and the students were happy. Hey if they want to learn bad pirate English, then go for it. Just don't complain to me!!!

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Postby Belton » September 24th, 2008 8:29 pm

untmdsprt wrote:I be going shopping tomorrow
She be going to cram school this afternoon

He seemed delighted, and the students were happy. Hey if they want to learn bad pirate English, then go for it. Just don't complain to me!!!


Maybe it was talk like a pirate day. Or he was teaching West Country dialect but that's only useful if you end up in Somerset.

The simple expedient of adding "will" would have made the sentences correct though.

I will be going shopping tomorrow.
She will be going to cram school tomorrow.


Actually I'd be hard pressed to explain the practical difference between
I am going shopping tomorrow
I will go shopping tomorrow
I will be going shopping tomorrow

my intention to shop is conveyed in all 3 although there must be differences if I stop and think enough. I'd normally say I'm going shopping tomorrow.

You seem to be in a classic ALT bind.
I don't know how you solve it. I'm not sure giving such poor examples really helps the students, as they now have to unlearn the incorrect usage and relearn the accepted usage. It's not something a teacher should do.
Maybe you could have asked him politely for an example of this usage in print. I'm curious as to how the teacher learnt this usage.


Are you sure the first arrogant teacher wasn't talking about the interchangeability of へand に in general? and not the specific instance of motion towards and verbs of motion?

There actually is a difference between に and へ、otherwise へ wouldn't exist. (offhand I can't remember it exactly but it has to do with how specific the destination is, if I remember correctly) But in practical terms に can replace へ.
Stylistically Japanese seem to use へ much more than に so there is some "lies to children" going on in those textbooks I reckon.

In the end a native speaker trumps everything.
They may say "this is fact" which can be arrogant when what they probably mean is "this is how I use the language and people understand me" which you can't really argue with, especially if it's not your first language, without ending up arrogant yourself. Grammar is just a study of how a language works, usually a specific subset of a language that the grammarians speak. It isn't a law book, nor is language static. It definitely isn't how a native learns their language. Though it is invaluable for second language learners to learn a standard adult version of the language in less time than a native child.

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Postby untmdsprt » September 25th, 2008 5:53 am

I did use "will be going" .... but the teacher didn't like that either. Guess I'll have to start bringing in my English grammar books to the school. Seems to me if it's written down they'll accept it.

As far as the へ/に problem, I told them that's how I learned it from my books. They said nothing as to confirm the grammar or not in the books. Personally, I use the books to learn everything and then try it out in the real world. I figure you have to start somewhere in which to learn, and then build on those experiences.

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Postby JamieJoystick » September 28th, 2008 4:52 pm

There actually is a difference between に and へ、otherwise へ wouldn't exist. (offhand I can't remember it exactly but it has to do with how specific the destination is, if I remember correctly) But in practical terms に can replace へ.
Stylistically Japanese seem to use へ much more than に so there is some "lies to children" going on in those textbooks I reckon. [/quote]

What I Was Taught Was That へ And に Are Interchangeable If Using Them As A Direction. The Only Difference Is That へ Is Used If Going Directly To The Place Of Direction. You Cant Use It By Saying "The Apple Exists" There i.e "それりんごがあります。" But You Can If You Were To Say, "Go To The Mountain i.e "山へ行きます。" Although Both Of Them Are Places Of Direction The へ Is Used If Something Is Moving Towards The Object.

Also, I Am Only 16 And Havent Been to Japan So This May Not Include All Japanese People But, When I Learnt The て Form, I Learnt It In A Song That Shows That All Verbs Ending In.. Wait, Its Easier If I Type The Lyrics Out...

い ち り  って
に び み んで
き      いて
ぎ      いで
きます   きて
します   して
いきます  いて

This Shows That Verbs Ending In The First Half Of The Line Will Change That Kana Into The Last Half.

The Last Line, いきます  いて, Shows That Its An Irregular, And Keeps The Song In Tune Lol.

All Other Verbs, Ending In "E" Sounding Kana Or "lonely" Meaning Only One Kana Before "masu" All End In て.

This Obviously Not Including All The Other Irregulars Out There.

But My Point Is That Out Of All The Japanese Student Teachers And Exchange Students That Have Come To My School Which Total To About... 50? In The Last 2 Years Ish Anyway, None Of Them New The Rules To Changing A Verb Into て Form.. They Just Knew.

And That Goes To Show That Native Speakers Are Less Tolerant About The Grammatical Rules In Their Own Language Because They/We Think We Dont Need Them?

We Know The Words That Go In Our Sentences. We Knows What Sounds Right And What Sounds Wrong. But Thats It.. We Dont Know Why? Well, Most Of Us Dont Know Why.

But When you Learn Another Language You Learn Those Rules Because Noones Gonna Implant That Knowledge In Your Head So You Learn From Scratch. And Thats Why Its Easier For Someone Whos Learnt Japanese For 5 Years Or W.e To Know More Rules About The Grammatical Part Of The Language Than The Native Speakers...

English Sucks. I Hate It. I Think Out Of All The Languages I Have Studied, It Is The Stupidist.

And I Study (Even though Ive Just Began Studying Them) German, Korean, And Russian. Japanese Ive Been Doing For 3 Years Now.

But Yea.. Thats My 2 Cents. Sorry If This Is Long =/


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