Problems with English

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I live in Russia and to keep my English fit I usually download movies from torrents and watch them. I also read books. And yesterday I tried to watch movie called "Do not knock twice" (quite silly teenagers horror) just for English.
I was shocked! I understood completely nothing! When I found the subtitles it got me worse: it turned out that the vacabulary of this movie was limited and I knew all the words but I merely could not indistinct them at listening.
Have you ever encountered such problems? and what did you do?
I feel that this thread is not for native speakers:)
 

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  • #2
BvU
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I sympathize. On the other hand, every language has dialects that are incomprehensible for outsiders. And you don't want to communicate with silly teenagers in their own language -- that language was 'designed' with the purpose of excluding outsiders in the first place !
 
  • #4
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Have you ever encountered such problems? and what did you do?
Yes. I observed several phenomena.

While reading and writing is quite o.k., except the fact that my vocabulary is rather limited compared to my native language, and that I tend do phrase my sentences in a wrong order, I get along. It usually takes me a week or two in order to speak and listen to English on a comparable level, if I'm forced to. That means: English only. This is the time it takes to change the filters, i.e. a) expect another sound, b) answer without preprocessing sentences, and c) change my own setting of lips, tongue and breath. Especially the latter is required in comparison to other European languages.

I observed that I make mistakes I never made at school. I write what I hear in my thoughts and do not check it often enough. Thus the standard mistakes occur: their - there - you're - your - etc. Unbelievable, since I do know the correct usages. It occurs while typing (without reading control). Especially embarrassing is write - right.

A language consists of a lot of cultural specifica. There are words which do not exists in either language, and even more, aphorisms which cannot be translated. You cannot translate: "Here it looks like at Hempels' under the sofa." whereas every German would immediately know what is meant. This is equivalently true in the other direction. Furthermore there are all the slang expressions which you are nowhere taught. It is a second unknown language within the language. This takes considerably longer to assimilate than weeks.

The different size of vocabulary is a problem. I can look up how the sophisticated words I'm used to in German translate into English, however, I cannot look up when and where to use them. The details and technicalities(?) aren't noted in a dictionary, or only to a small extent. Hence although I can appreciate Goethe, I cannot appreciate Shakespeare to the same amount, let alone speak in that way.

And last but not least: subtitles are a horror. I have caught myself reading Hebrew subtitles, a language I do not speak at all, while the original soundtrack was in English; or reading german subtitles while listening to Swiss German which I do understand. It was extremely disturbing.
 
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  • #6
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For entertaining insights into this dilemma, I recommend romantic drama "Lost in Translation" directed by Sofia Coppola. The jaded protagonist, brilliantly underplayed by Bill Murray, drifts on currents of misunderstanding and ennui exacerbated not only by language and cultural differences but also by encroaching age, his stalled career as an actor and existential alienation.

As for teenage argot and movies aimed at teen audiences do not expect coherent plot much less dialogue.

Perhaps the definitive prescient English language novel "A Clockwork Orange" by Anthony Burgess (1962) describes teen angst and alienation enveloped in a culture of violence, rapine and theft. This 1971 movie reproduces the dark brooding nature of the novel with a breathtaking Beethoven soundtrack.

Burgess interleaved Russian language slang into the Молодняк 'nadsat' (teen) argot, invented to represent cultural drift and language accretion. The novel includes a glossary of Russian ↔ UK English slang terms such as 'pititsa' Птица (bird) for girl; 'chick' in contemporary American slang; and Бритвы 'britva' (razor) referring to the sharp hidden blade in Alex's sword cane.

English incorporates words and expressions from any and all other languages without the strict language purity rules of, say, modern French. This strength in my opinion (IMO) represents challenges to non-native speakers and translators also increasing ambiguity even for relatively common terms that context may not be sufficient to resolve.
 
  • #7
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Russian is presumably more difficult to get through than english, starting with the alphabet.

However I could not say that with certainty, as my english is also far from good.
 
  • #8
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Russian is presumably more difficult to get through than english, starting with the alphabet.

However I could not say that with certainty, as my english is also far from good.
It is, but because of the cases, not the alphabet.
 
  • #9
phinds
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I live in Russia and to keep my English fit I usually download movies from torrents and watch them. I also read books. And yesterday I tried to watch movie called "Do not knock twice" (quite silly teenagers horror) just for English.
I was shocked! I understood completely nothing! When I found the subtitles it got me worse: it turned out that the vacabulary of this movie was limited and I knew all the words but I merely could not indistinct them at listening.
Have you ever encountered such problems? and what did you do?
I feel that this thread is not for native speakers:)
Have you asked an English speaker if the dialect of English in the movie was something that would be less understandable to a non-native speaker. I can easily image your not being about to understand a Southern dialect, for example.

EDIT: OK, I watched part of a trailer and I could not understand anywhere near everything that was said. They don't always articulate well at all AND they run their words together in a way that makes them very hard to understand. SO ... don't feel at all bad that you had trouble with this movie.
 
  • #10
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I could not understand anywhere near everything that was said
wow
not even you
then no chance someone like me get it
 
  • #11
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I live in Russia and to keep my English fit I usually download movies from torrents and watch them.
Is that even legal?
 
  • #12
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English, despite its flaws, is the new 'lingua franca' (common inter-lingual communication language). I am among those who are well-prepared and willing to help you to learn it, regardless of what your first or other language or languages may be. Please let us communicate well.
 
  • #13
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Happened yesterday.
The guy was wishing me well in french - puits de donne

I heard Puy de Pomme - a mountain in France, I wondered what the .. was he talking about.
Could have been his accent - more likely my brain and ears filtering went wacky.
 
  • #14
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Happened yesterday.
The guy was wishing me well in french - puits de donne

I heard Puy de Pomme - a mountain in France, I wondered what the .. was he talking about.
Could have been his accent - more likely my brain and ears filtering went wacky.
At least you didn't get 'pommes de terre' -- potatoes, although they're better than nothing, if you need to eat something.
 
  • #15
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  • #16
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Have you ever encountered such problems? and what did you do?
The official language within the company where I work is English, but there are no native speakers at all. Everybody is trying to speak written English, and since everybody is making the same mistakes somehow it works out.
A native speaker would go mad within half a day among us, I guess... :eek:
 
  • #17
Russian is presumably more difficult to get through than english, starting with the alphabet.
yes, English grammar is much more logical and clear than Russian one. The main difficulties that Slavic people experience is understanding English at listening. It is also my problem.
Polish is faster than Russian but English is even faster than Polish

Is that even legal?
I do not think so
 
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  • #18
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I think it takes time, also you need to find materials to train for English, I mean it is not just for listening movies, it is also for your progress on English world, for example, for academy or for work. English is complicated, and it is a language for convey real effects to people globally and inter-personally, so it is important. And a suggestion to make it prior to other things in your life can help I think, to make you get more progress on learning and acquiring it, and some day, while after you could communicate with natives, you might find the scripts of movies are easier and more casual to be understood. I found English is hard to make excel, but I like TOEFL, it is clear and full of language wisdom and others, so if you can think, while learning, it is also very helpful.
 
  • #19
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yes, English grammar is much more logical and clear than Russian one. The main difficulties that Slavic people experience is understanding English at listening. It is also my problem.
Polish is faster than Russian but English is even faster than Polish
I have studied some French, and I can understand Spanish or Italian when a calm man speaks it, but not always when an annoyed woman speaks Spanish -- she's apt to speak it much too fast for me -- I might ask "lente, por favor", and if she slows down, maybe I'll understand her well enough . . .
 
  • #20
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I might ask "lente, por favor", and if she slows down, maybe I'll understand her well enough . . .
When my sister came back from her first visit to the US (a road trip fresh from school), she reported that she had difficulties to understand people from the south. She told them to speak more clearly and, well, they spoke slower. However, that didn't improve the situation.
 
  • #21
phinds
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When my son in law, from Laos, was last in America we went down to Kentucky to visit some relatives and one of the in-laws was a really nice young many who articulated well and spoke in a normal cadence but had a very thick Kentucky accent. Taek could not understand a word he said. For that matter, I had to pay careful attention sometimes to get it all and I've spent a lot of time in the South.
 
  • #22
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EDIT: OK, I watched part of a trailer and I could not understand anywhere near everything that was said. They don't always articulate well at all AND they run their words together in a way that makes them very hard to understand. SO ... don't feel at all bad that you had trouble with this movie.
Sound engineers and sound engineer's equipment vary widely, as do other things. For example, Anthony Hopkins in heroic roles mumbles unintelligibly, When Eight Bells Toll, and the movie is not subtitled, requiring an enormous amount of replay, while Robert Morley delivers the thickest British accent quite clearly. Compare with Silence of the Lambs, in which the "mumbling" is precise, and clearly understandable, and critical to the development of the sense of menace.

Heroic roles have little to say that's worth hearing, nor do victims; it's all about deeds, and great dramas develop hero's characters with the villains' dialogues and acts. Teen screams, not great, mumble and splash gore/catsup.
 
  • #23
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I have read that the Southern United States and certain remote areas such as Appalachia speak English with archaic accents derived from the 16th and 17th Centuries. While Great Britain modernized spoken English in the 18th and 19th Centuries, the Southern states were 'left behind'. I have read that contemporary UK linguists travel in our South to study Regency period English in the Virginias and Caviler speech modes preserved in Alabama and Georgia, if I remember the variants correctly.

Note the similarities between New Orleans, Louisiana accents with some New Jersey accents; and, not unexpectedly, New York with Nova Scotia. Apparently US New England speakers also preserve speech modes that have largely vanished within the UK. Several linguists noted that the Pacific Northwest accent which includes Northern California is the 'purest' most representative American English accent. Do tell :cool:.
 
  • #24
phinds
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I've always heard that the midwest "accent" is "standard" English because it is what all the news anchors use so it's becoming the standard, at least the the extent that ANYTHING is.
 
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  • #25
phinds
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English incorporates words and expressions from any and all other languages without the strict language purity rules of, say, modern French. This strength in my opinion (IMO) represents challenges to non-native speakers and translators also increasing ambiguity even for relatively common terms that context may not be sufficient to resolve.
As I often point out to folks, my favorite quote about the English language is, to paraphrase since I don't remember the exact quote "Many languages accept a few terms from other languages. English chases other languages down an alley and mugs them".
 

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