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  The Chatter Box : Blathering On
Cunning linguists by finnguy on 8 March 2004 8:16am
In the 'preparation' sequence at the start of 80 Days, Alan Whicker advises Michael to always speak English and never try to attempt communicating in the local language. Fortunately Michael hasn't always heeded this advice and the series are the better for it. For example, his use of French in Sahara seems only to add a more authentic flavour to the show.

Brits, in general, have a reputation for being poor and lazy at foreign languages. I wonder what language talents are hidden amongst us Palinites?

I studied both French and Spanish to A-level at school, but having not used them in 11 years I would be hard pushed to string two words together now. I also studied Russian for a year, but that was more for a laugh than anything else. (I can still, however, count to ten and ask directions to Red Square!) When I moved to Finland with my (Finnish) wife 4.5 years ago, I started studying the language quite intensively. I am OK at it now - I can hold basic conversations with my in-laws, cope in shops etc. - but really my skills should have progressed more than they have. (Finnish is widely considered to be one of the most difficult European languages - see what Michael has to say about it in Pole to Pole: "Feel embarrassed, as always, at the efforts foreigners make to learn English, compared with the other way round. But by any standards Finnish is a tough language, unlike any other in Europe except Hungarian. Verbs have sixteen cases.").

Anyway, I'd be eager to hear other people's comments/experiences regarding foreign languages.
Re: Cunning linguists by Izot on 9 March 2004 7:30am
I'm studying Spanish a year ahead of my actual year of study (I'm doing final year of Spanish in my second-to-last high school year), and I'll be going over to Spain in December so I'll be forced to speak the language... but I agree on what you're saying about foreigners saying nothing of the native tongue, it only gets you in trouble. They assume you know the language back to front and just confuse you in the end.

I suppose what made Michael speak French in the Sahara is that it was much bleaker than anywhere else, so really he needed to communicate well with the people looking after him so that he could essentially stay together in the desert. Do you understand? I'm really bad at explaining myself.

I guess it was also just fun to talk in a different language. I didn't know he spoke French until then (unless you count the Flying Sheep sketch... that's funny...)

"I wish I could speak Whale." =D
Re: Cunning linguists by Sara B on 9 March 2004 1:06pm
I speak basic French, a little German and a little Italian-oh, and I try my best to speak English, when I can!
Re: Cunning linguists by *Amy* on 9 March 2004 1:20pm
Ich Wohne Nicht in Dagenham.

and thats all i can remember from GCSE German! :D you should try me on russian, its even worse! *giggle*
Re: Cunning linguists by Palinite14 on 9 March 2004 2:09pm
A couple of years ago, when I was 12, a girl from Tokyo came to my school...she spoke a little bit of English (she is now fluent and one of my best friends) but I was determined to make an effort to speak a bit of Japanese...however misguided that may have been! We got on fine with 'hello, goodbye, thank you' but the problems started when the school decided to hold an event when we had to pair up in 'twins'. Now I could just have asked her in English, but I decided to get out my little Japanese dictionary and string together a sentence that would at least communicate the basic meaning of what I was trying to ask her. Unfortunately the sentence 'Will you be my partner for Twins Day?' when translated word by word into Japanese makes NO SENSE AT ALL..the word order in Japanese is completely different from English and effectively what I said was a meaningless collection of words...my long-suffering friend stared blankly at me and I applaud her for not laughing!
Eventually we sorted it out with the help of another friend and lots of hand gestures. It has a happy ending...we became best friends and although she went back to Japan after a year we still write to each other; my friend's faultless English throws my abysmal grasp of Japanese into sharp relief and until I manage to force myslef to study the Japanese textbook our communications will remain monolingual! (Is that a word?!)

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