I "Secretly" Understand a Language
Hello, fellow language learners!
As the title says, I secretly understand a language, which I shall call Language X, but here's the thing: I only understand it when I HEAR it. I can't speak it, write it, nor read it.
I'll try to make this story short. As I grew up, my family spoke Language X (sorry, I won't mention the language name as I don't want speakers of that language to think I'm hating on the language, which I am not) to each other, which is their native language, and my cousins even learned it. Sadly, no one in my family would speak to me in the language nor teach me it, so I only learned English as I grew up. At every family party and event, I would just amuse myself as they spoke Language X.
Here's the thing though... after more than 20-something years of just hearing the language, I started to understand it when I hear it. 2 years ago, I admitted to my cousin that I could understand it. She told me I only understood it in context. For example, if there was food nearby, and someone spoke to me in Language X, then likely they are asking if I wanted some food. So I proved to her I could understand it by translating everything people said around me. Yup, I translated everything! She then tested me with a couple of Language X phrases, and I got everything right, except one word: armpit. Haha, my family doesn't say "armpit" enough in Language X for me to know it.
I tested it further. Could I read it? It does use the alphabet familiar to people who speak English, but when I read it, I did not understand what I was saying. When another cousin read the passage, I immediately understood what he said and laughed because it was actually a funny comment. And no, I cannot speak it. It's funny because I can hear the word for "water" and understand it, but when I want to recall that word, I have no idea.
I can't believe I managed to keep this story short! I still can't believe I can only understand the language if I hear it, but can't use it myself. I think some family members are on to me as some are using a combination of English and Language X on me.
And in case anyone is wondering why my family wouldn't teach me this language, sorry... I don't know. I kept asking to teach me it as I grew up, but they wouldn't, and someone told me to get a book to study it, so I didn't bother studying it.
Anyways, thanks for listening/reading my weird story! Feel free to share any similar experiences in the comments below!
P.S. If any of my real family members are reading this, LOL, my secret is out! :-D
* Edit (11 August 2018): Oh my gosh! I had no idea how many people would respond to this post! I thank you guys soooo much for all your wonderful comments. Many of your comments made me feel good to read as I realize I am not alone, and I appreciate everyone's support. Honestly, I wanted to write this post months ago, but I was afraid to because I was afraid it would be downvoted and disappear. If you want to know what "Language X" is, just scroll down to the bottom of the post. I read a lot of people want to guess what the language is, so before I answer, here are some clues:
It is the most common language to be spoken outside of English and Spanish in California and Nevada. (Warning, the answer is in this link, so check it out after you read the clues: https://gizmodo.com/the-most-common-languages-spoken-in-the-u-s-state-by-1575719698.
It is one of the official languages of a nation consisting of about 7,641 islands.
My family says there are a lot of Spanish words in the langauge (or at least similar).
And the answer is....
It happens a lot with heritage speakers - the family keeps speaking the language around the child (not always at home but at social gatherings) so they grow up hearing it but never speaking it. Sometimes the family considers the language less prestigious or the are too afraid not to confuse the children so they never teach them their language. And recognition and recall are two very different skills.
So not very weird (or unusual). There are even textbooks specifically created for heritage speakers.
Thanks, AnnieMod, for letting me know about "heritage speakers." Yes, I thought that was a main reason (or the fact that my mom and dad spoke 2 different languages, and English was just easier to use as a universal language in the house), but as a child, I was always bummed and saddened that I was the only one that didn't know Language X, as all my cousins around me understood it. Ah well, maybe one day I may study the language myself. :-)
I'm in a similar situation with Tagalog. My mother is from the Philippines but my father was American and I grew up in the US. We only spoke English at home, but I heard my mom speaking to her family and friends in Tagalog all the time.
I can understand it pretty well when I hear it but the sentence structure and verb morphology are very different from what I'm used to, so speaking and writing is very difficult. I even know some people who grew up in the US and have spoken Tagalog with their families their entire lives, but their Tagalog is broken and they use incorrect syntax and verb forms, so their families understand them but other Tagalog speakers can definitely tell that they didn't grow up in the Philippines. Reading is very difficult for me too because many Tagalog words are spelled the same but they're differentiated by stressing different syllables. The stressed syllables are supposed to be marked with diacritics, but pretty much the only text you'll ever see using diacritics are materials made specifically for people learning the language. So native speakers are able to look at a word in context and know what it means, but a learner who's not fluent will look at the same word but not know for sure how it's pronounced, making it very hard to know what it means because there may be several ways to pronounce it and all of those pronunciations have different meanings.
Thank you so much for your story, Skyflakes95! When I read it, it felt like it was a story of my life because of how similar it is! Also, my mysterious "Language X" is revealed in my post (I edited it), so you will see why I really felt strongly with your story. :-)
many Tagalog words are spelled the same but they're differentiated by stressing different syllables.
I had a mishap with stress, and let me tell you absolutely do not want to be the person that says boto, instead of buto. I got sent to the principals office for that. XD
That is super cool and interesting! I really want to know what the language is now!
I appreciate your comment, Dylan224344! I guess I can give you a clue... it's not any of the languages I'm currently studying (see the flags by my name). I may say what the language is if a bunch of people keep asking. :-)
Or just keep giving us little hints. It more fun to tease us than the entire reveal. XD
Could you say what "hello" sounds like in this language? Even though you can't write it.
Thank you so much for your response and your guesses (I saw them throughout this post). I edited my post and gave clues and the answer at the bottom. :-)
Haha nice. I never would guessed that. :D
Well when the reverse course is created I think language X will by made for those who know English. :)
Will keep you posted if I see it. ~
You can also learn some language X here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XoGhKL6CKwg&list=PLA5UIoabheFMhXqxQOEsjv-61Gow8a4-n
Do tell! You have the entire Duo forum on tenterhooks. It's worse than waiting for a new course to come out!
I answered! Check out the end of my newly edited post. Haha, the answer isn't as unique as Klingon (that would be funny!) but I hope everyone is satisfied with my response. :-)
Hi NtateNarin, I don't know if this is the same or not but I live in Bavaria a part in Germany where you can't leave one village and go to another without encountering a different dialect. And those dialects can sound like a different language entirely. My father just gave me a book which was written in "Fränkisch" a dialect mostly spoken in the region of Mittelfranken. I can read this book and when I do I usually understand what is all about but I would never be able to talk in this dialect. (Well, I was born in the north of Germany and although I moved here very early I never made this dialect "mine". ;-))
Thank you for sharing your story, Birgit72635! It is similar to my story in the fact that you can usually understand what you are reading but not being able to speak it. What's interesting about your story is that the Language X I was talking about has 4 large dialects in the country it is spoken, and my family told me they don't understand the other dialects. In fact, I was talking to someone who knew a different dialect of the language and I had no idea what he said. It is crazy how different these dialects are, that they can almost be its own seperate language.
Well, when my relatives in the north meet my kids they can't understand them either.. ;-)) Mhm, I am part of a small group of duo members on discord. We chat and we learn together and I would like to invite you when you are interested to join us. You could answer here.
It is crazy how different these dialects are, that they can almost be its own seperate language.
Here's one of my experiences with this.
So, I lived in, like, the "upper middle" of the Philippines, while my friend is from the, "definitely up and above the capital city," part. My parents speak a dialect of Filipino, called Bikol. My friend, and therefore his branch of his family, speaks an entirely different dialect which I forgot the name of.
When we were in Grade 8, we were at our lockers and he asked to borrow my phone, so he could ask his mom to pick him up. I agreed, and when the phone stopped ringing and the people start talking, let me tell you, that was the strangest linguistical experience I've had.
I could tell he was speaking a branch of Filipino, but, it's entirely different, and I can't understand a thing. All I recognized was yes, no and bye.
Wow, thanks for sharing! I've had a very similar experience and whenever I told people that I can understand what's being said but nothing else, they just give me a weird, puzzled look. (Apparently this "heritage speakers" thing is common though, according to the comments!) I lived in Japan for a few months when I was really little and only spoke Japanese. When we moved to America, I began to learn English and started to forget Japanese along the way. My mom was encouraged to learn English when we moved, so I had to help her with that growing up and there weren't a lot of Japanese people around where I lived. But whenever someone speaks Japanese, I understand what they're saying but I don't know how to reply back. (I also didn't, and still don't, know how to write in Japanese. I think I can recall reading some hiragana, but also losing that ability as well.)
There was one experience where a kid in class told me I wasn't Japanese because I couldn't prove it! Ended up just crying out of frustration, eheh..
Also when someone asks me if i'm Japanese and if I can speak any, I want to be able to "prove myself." ;p Just ONE of the reasons why I'm trying to learn the language now.
Are you going to learn "Language X" someday soon?
Thank you for your story, HecticSketch! Sorry that happened to you as you were growing up, as I totally understand how that feels. I wish you the best in your Japanese learning, as it will be awesome to prove yourself to everyone that you are Japanese! Granted, you don't need to know the language to be considered one, but I know what you mean.
As for Language X? I don't know because I'm learning so many other languages already. Who knows? I may someday. Also, I edited my post to put what "Language X" is if you want to check it out. :-)
こにちは！ Wow, I didn't know people forget languages! For some reason I just thought it stuck with people, so thanks for sharing! When you do Duolingo, do you find it easy to remember certain words or are they lost and you literally have to re-learn them? Also theres a site called Wani Kani that can help with learning Kanji. It uses mnemonics and doesn't let you rush your learning. I use it and I think it's really clever how they teach.
When my family and I moved to Canada, he steadily forgot how to speak Tagalog, to the point where video chats with my grandma back home are basically Volapük. To be honest, he was really good at speaking it before we moved.
Why would anyone think you are hating on "Language X"? I'm dying of curiosity. That's a very interesting experience. Thanks for sharing.
That's a good question, as if I were someone else reading my post, I would never think it was offensive. I think it's due to real life experiences. When I would mention I don't speak Language X to someone from the country it is spoken, and they find out where my parents came from, although very rare (thankfully), it can be taken as an insult. I was even told I was a disgrace once for not knowing the language. Anyways, thank you for your comment, Multi0Lingual4! :-)
A couple American born immigrant children get looked down upon for not knowing their parents native Language. I have seen it from Chinese, Mexicans, and other Filipinos! I can't relate because I can speak the language where my parents come from but I can understand the "being a disgrace" portion for not knowing their parents language.
Hey guys! I put in what Language X is in my post (I edited it). Also, thank you for your response, DoctorBran, and as you can see from the langauge I mentioned, I relate to your post! :-)
I grew up in a house that spoke Tagalog. My parents never taught me it because they didn't want me to have an accent. I can pick things up contextually as of now. There was a point in my life where I understood most of what they said, word for word. But, I moved out on my own around that time and in the years that I have been out, have lost that ability. I went back to just being able to pick up most of the context.
I'd still love to learn Tagalog.
A Tagalog incubator is in the process. It’s release is expected this December, but it’s from Tagalog to English. I don’t know how much Tagalog you know but you could try and ladder the tree went it comes out or wait for a reverse tree. I hope the contributors make one because I would love to see people learning my native language. I am always impressed whenever I have a non-Filipino talk to me in Tagalog
"My parents never taught me it because they didn't want me to have an accent." Aw :(. If this does happen, then it's while the child is a toddler and still trying to figure things out. As soon as they get into preschool and then real school and have local friends, it goes away. And I'd think parents speaking Filipino accented English to the child would have exactly the same effect. The child would adopt it, and then drop it when they get more native input.
If they had taught you Tagalog, it could be that you'd now speak English accented Tagolog. The language of the country you live in is more dominant unless you raise the child is an isolated manner where they have little contact with it.Which you can't do if they attend local schools. I often hear bilingual children speak their parents' language with an accent someone from the country they live in would have, but all of them speak the language of their country they grew up in with a native accent--unless they were over a certain age when they moved there, then it's hit or miss and forgetting their native language won't help their accent either.
I hope you'll be able to learn Tagalog. It's a beautiful language.
The child would adopt it, and then drop it when they get more native input.
That is exactly what happened to me! :D
Thank you for sharing your similar experience, Svillagraccia! Similar with my family, as my brother has a very common name in America, but he is so used to English that he hates the accent my parents gave him. Also, there is a log of Tagalog in the replies, and I edited my post to say what Language X if you want to see it. And yes, you probably already guessed what it is based on what I am saying right now. :-)
My parents never taught me it because they didn't want me to have an accent.
I used to have an accent, but I just watched a duckton of YouTube videos, to the point where a Filipino employee at Subway
complimented noticed how I spoke English. I can still speak Filipino to the point where jokes on a TV show I used to watch are the equivalent of kids using obscure words to sound smart. I wish you luck on relearning Tagalog. :)
This is fun. :3 You have inspired a lot of curiously here. :>
My guesses: even though I'm probably wrong. XD
Siberian, An old dialect the soldiers of the Tsar would speak in Crimean Tatar or Mongolian.
Is this a common language or an unknown language?
Could you say what the letter of the language X is in the middle?
Think about how you learn you native language. When you are just a baby you cannot speak, much less read or write it. Something clicks in your head and you start understanding. Still, you cannot speak it. One day, gibberish turns into a word. Words become phrases and shortly thereafter, you can speak. Still no reading or writing, until school or preschool. I think this is just the natural way the brain is wired to learn languages. Parents will not transmit a language if they do not think it is useful or if there is a social stigma attached to it, which may happen among some immigrant communities, in colonies or in countries where one language community has advantage or power over others. Parents do think passing or not passing a language is in the best interest for their children, but the children do not always agree. That been said, I am not saying this is your specific case. I am by no means attempting to state the latter as a fact, but I have observed it.
I guess this is partly the reason I am interested in languages. From a very early age i knew my grandfather had been born in Catalonia and Catalan was his native language. My great-grandfather and his family migrated to Puerto Rico when he was very young and my grandfather had sadly (from my point of view), forgotten Catalan. I honestly do not know if he had forgotten the language or thought it useless to pass it down to my mom and uncles. Regardless, I now have the oportunity to learn the language through Duo and several other resources.
Some yaers ago my mom was touristing in Catalonia and found out we have 'cosins' there. We since have met and they speak in Castillian to us, but it is my personal goal to be able to have a conversation with them in my granpa's language.
My point is, if you rally want to learn it, you can and you will.
Thank you for your response, Guaybana_elBravo. I totally agree with what you said about growing up with a language. With me, it was always English, but at the chance my family comes over, that's when I can observe Language X being spoken.
I wish you the best with learning Catalan! It will be great to use it with your cousins one day. :-)
A similar-ish story I have to share: My family and relatives speak a language that I don't know but whenever I ask them to teach me they refuse. Sometimes they mix in phrases of that language with English (no idea why) and now I'm attempting to learn the language on Duolingo.
I love how we all have similar stories to share! Thank you for sharing yours, RachelF12345 and I wish you the best in learning the language your family speaks. Haha, it will be a fun surprise when you just go up to them one day and speak it out of nowhere. :-D
I bet you could learn to speak it very quickly if you practised speaking, considering that all the difficult parts of knowing the vocabulary and the grammatical patterns are already in your head (even if you're not used to calling upon this knowledge actively).
As to the identity of language X, is it Sesotho?
Honestly, I think I could! I may do that one day, but I'm currently concentrating on Spanish and French. Also, go ahead and scroll up as I edited my post to say what "Language X" is.
Also, I love that you guessed Sesotho! So many people forget that language exists (or didn't realize it existed at all!). It is not Sesotho, but good guess! :-)
Not really a good guess as I was thousands of miles off! It was mainly based on the assumption that your name is actually 'Ntate', and the four main dialects (if we consider Sotho-Tswana to be the macro-language) and use of the Roman alphabet with misleading orthography/pronunciation for English-speakers seemed to fit.
However, thank you for putting us all out of our misery and I hope you do decide to learn to speak Tagalog one day (I dare say it's a rather more useful language to know than Sesotho, in global terms, anyway). You could always have a go at the English-from-Tagalog DL course when it eventually comes out; there will likely be a longer wait for a Tagalog-from-English course.
That is amazing how you deconstructed my name to guess what Language X could be. I was wondering if someone would choose something similar to Sesotho because of "Ntate" and possibly Thai because of "Narin."
That is interesting. I am a bit similar with Spanish and it always baffled me as to why I couldn't speak it with others. Yet, at the same time, I can read it. My aunt (Cuban) and I can carry on a conversation, but I am clueless as to what others say most of the time; it sounds like one long sentence. I've often wondered if my aunt is enunciating better than most or talking slower or what's really going on. We're all going to Cuba next year and I don't want to be the only one with a blank stare, especially if the jokes on me... lol!!
I'm wondering if "language X" is pronounced much more differently than Spanish is. I am studying Spanish now, but even before that, I could probably get to a reasonable approximation of how a word sounded by looking at it, because it's close enough to English (not to be pronounced RIGHT, mind you, but close enough to figure out what the word was if I knew how it was pronounced). But in other languages, the letters are much different, so trying to sound it out might not work as well.
You are close, Betsys2003! There is a bit of Spanish in it. Well, sort of! Recheck my post as I added what Language X is. :-)
Thank you so much for your story, TotheChurc! Haha, one of the reasons why I learned "Language X" is because I would ask what people were saying when I heard my name. Thankfully, no one said jokes about me (or maybe they were lying about what they said, LOL). Anyways, I hope you have a great time in Cuba next year! :-) Oh yeah... I just put what Language X is on my post (I just added it on).
That is a very interesting story! Maybe you should try learning Language X on Duolingo (if it's on here)!
Thanks, Sean405747! I may do that one day for fun! Also, I just edited my post to put in what Language X is in case you were curious. Bonne chance (good luck) with your French studies! :-)
Haha, thank you, Davey944676! Also, I ended the mystery as I edited my post to put in what Language X is after a bunch of people asked for the reveal. :-)
I can understand german alot if i hear it because words are kinda the same but i cant really speak german. My family never speaks german around me or speaks german at all unless we just want to mess around. So i guess if someone spoke german to me i would understand alot of it but not all of it. The pronunciation of it causes confusion for me (sorry is i spell any words wrong but idc) but its the special characters alot. I want to say the language is probably swedish. i know some people in sweden speak english but idk if all do i dont know alot about the nation. So thats my guess
I appreciate you sharing your story, PatrickKlo13! I'm glad so many of us have similar stories to share. :-)
I have a similar case. My ancestry is Hokkien, and my father and grandma speaks it. Sad thing is I can only communicate with them by using a few phrases, most of the time I don't speak Hokkien to them. But when they talk to each other I found out I knew more than half of their dialogue. Well I'm currently 14, and I have to keep going :)
That is amazing you already know so much Hokkien! I'm glad you're trying to learn the language of your ancestry and I wish you the best in surprising your family with full fluency in the language! :-)
I'm going to guess Norwegian, but I could be wrong. Awesome story, thanks for the entertaining read.
Haha, I love how there are already two guesses so far for Sesotho (or Sotho)! That made me smile. :-) Great guess since I spoke it before, but it is not the right answer. I give clues and what Language X is on my post (I edited it with the answer).
Scratch my initial guess, I'm going to guess it's Sotho, which is a language I learned about when I was reading Trevor Noah's book memoir "Born a Crime"
I really enjoyed your post and learning about the concept of "heritage speakers". Also, your post did not at all come across as hating Language X.
Thank you! I re-edited my post to show what Language X is if you want to see what it is. Also, I appreciate what you said as I'm always afraid someone might get upset. :-)
I really don’t understand why you wouldn’t say what the language was. There was nothing in there that would have been offense to the language or the people. I don’t like being left hanging I guess. I was the same way with Polish when I was little. I could understand what my grandparents were saying but had no clue how to speak it. I just knew not all of the language but a lot of it. I can remember being little and my grandparents saying in Polish that they were getting pizza and i remember how excited I got because of it. So i understand where you are coming from. But I’m still bitter about keeping the language a secret. I’m sure you have reasons but I’m thinking that are why you wrote. Maybe you know people on here and don’t want to be tested??? Nah, i understand you have your reasons and that’s cool.
Thank you, Ginasem, for letting me know this post isn't offensive. I responded to another user that people did make fun of me for not knowing my "native language" as I was growing up, which is why I was hesitant to post what the language is. Well, I have it posted! Go ahead and check the end of my post and you will see what Language X is.
Also, I appreciate you sharing your story! :-)
Wow, what an interesting story! Honestly, I'm sorry for you, it sounds sort of sad. Is it?
Oh, please! I'd love to know what the language is! Some random guesses: (no need to tell me if I'm right with one of them, though I'd love to know if I am) Afrikaans, Russian, Chinese... I'd love to know what the language is!!! AP4418
Written in the alphabet familiar to English speakers, which rules out Russian and Chinese.
Haha, I love your guesses, Dessert-Rose! And as Theron126 said, it uses a similar alphabet to what we are using now.
Is it sad? In a way, yes, as it can really make someone feel alone at family events. Also, I felt that I was singled out all the time since I was the only one they didn't teach this language to. But no worries, as when my cousins had kids, they started to learn English, so now I have nieces and nephews to talk to, haha.
Also, I added what Language X is in my post! Go ahead and scroll up and see for yourself. I even give more clues if you like the mystery! :-)
You know, that's not really uncommon. Like I know people that understand Spanish but can't speak it. But I still think that's really cool and I wanna know what that language is!
Thank you, Hollyleaf___! Also, I edited my post to say what Language X is, so if you're curious, just scroll up. :-)
This is the most entertaining post I've seen in some time. And plus it is true.
Your comment made me so happy, Dhawal.Vaghela! And congrats on your 1,000-day streak and level 25 in Spanish! Also, if you're curious what Language X is, I updated my post with the language, in case you want to know. :-)
I just edited my post with what Language X is! Go ahead and scroll up and the answer will be revealed. :-)
Haha, thank you for the comment! This story is on one of the languages my parents speak, so maybe if I do a part 2, it will be on the other language: Language Y! Also, if you're curious as to what Language X is, go ahead and scroll up. I just added it to my post. :-)
Well I think it's one of the following languages: Afar, Bislama, Chamorro, Fijian, Pulaar, Kikuyu, Haitian Creole, Hausa, Hiri Motu, Igbo, Kinyarwanda, Kirundi, Kongo, Lingala, Luganda, Malagasy, Oromo, Samoan, Seychellois Creole, Shona, Somali, Sotho, Tahitian, Tongan, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Wolof, Xhosa, Yoruba, Zulu.
Haha, I love how you're the third person to guess Sesotho (Sotho), which is a very good guess since I had to study it! Oddly enough, despite so many languages you posted, none are it. But if you want the answer, I just updated my post with the language, so just scroll up. :-)
When I was in Central America many years ago, I spoke only a few words/phrases in Spanish. I try learn basic phrases when I travel to another country, as not to be rude. The thing that was amazing to me was that I understood most of what was being said around me, even though I couldn't really read,write,or speak Spanish. As your cousin said, for me it was all in context.
As far as any "disgrace" for not knowing your language, if you were never actually taught it - you're not the one at fault for not knowing it. No hate, just logic.
Thank you for sharing your story, Jim291610! I love reading these as it makes me relate to so many others that I never knew existed.
I appreciate the kind words and bonne chance with your language learning! :-)
I’ve had a similar experience with persian! I was born and raised in France but my mother is iranian. I heard a lot of persian when I was a baby because my mother often talked to me in that language, but it was not enough because she did it during a too short period of my life to allow me to become bilingual. And as I grew up, she started to talk less and less persian with me and whenever she talked it with me, I simply replied in french. So I grew up hearing persian, never talking it and even when I wanted to talk in persian, I was not able to do so. Sometimes, when I came to Iran during vacations I had to face some weird situations when people talked to me, and I was perfectly able to understand them but had absolutly no idea how to reply. I had to face also that very frustrating situation when some friends asked me to talk in persian and I was barely able to recall few words and sentences.
Wow - I have something similar with Spanish. I grew up in California, where a lot of Spanish is spoken; and from the time I was about 5-10 yo, my mom worked as principal at Spanish-English bilingual schools and pre-schools. Sometimes work friends who did not speak English would come visit us at home, and she would sometimes take me to work with her. (I will never forget the time I slipped away for a very specific purpose; and, by observing the plumbing in two otherwise unoccupied locations, indelibly learned the words "Hombres" and "Mujeres.")
I can read simple things in Spanish, and occasionally surprise myself with how much I understand. But most spoken Spanish is beyond me, and - like you with Persian - trying to compose even a simple sentence usually leaves me stymied.
Spanish is not my priority language right now, but I've been "treating myself" to the Spanish Stories in Duolingo Labs. (Sadly, these wonderful little stories are only available in a few languages, not including Persian - or Tagalog.) On the one hand, it's helping me in the area in which I need the least help(!); but on the other hand, my reading comprehension is way up and my vocabulary is improving too. :)
I appreciate your story, Zummile! It looks like you're already bilingual with your English and French. If you do try to learn Persian, I wish you the best, and hopefully, it won't be so difficult because you got somewhat of an understanding of the language (even if you can barely recall a few words).
Wow! That's a really interesting story! Can you give us any other hints, please? I'm really curious to know what language X is.
Thanks, Bethany281730! As to what Language X is, I just edited my post to give you clues as to what it is, and I even give the final answer! Go ahead and scroll up to find out what it is. :-)
Thanks so much for sharing your interesting story. I am a pediatrician and one of the things I discuss at well child visits is the child's speech and language development. If a family speaks multiple languages, they often ask about whether/when to teach the child the various languages they speak. I generally advise them to expose the child to multiple languages as early as possible because of some research suggesting that the period of brain development when it is easiest to acquire multiple languages is in early childhood. However, some families still worry that they are going to confuse the child. I would be interested to hear whether other adults remember being confused by multiple languages, think it was a good experience to learn early, or "accidentally" learned like NtateNarin. (Also, not going to guess on language X but curious!)
Thank you for your input on exposing children to multiple languages! I'm going to be a teacher, and during my student teaching, I loved to encourage my students not to lose their language, and I even learned a couple of phrases of their language with them!
Also, I updated my post with what Language X is, so if you are curious, just scroll up! :-)
Based on experiences of my brother's (German/English) and cousin's (Arabic/English) respective children, it seems thus far that their three year olds have good understandings of both languages, but slower to speak both of them. They both seem to do more mimicking. But they both have greater immersion to both languages than other situations might be. My brother's wife immigrated from Germany 10-ish years ago and they live quite near other German family members; with my brother's long work commute she has less of the English. My cousin married a British man while they were both living as expats in northern Africa, but I think they see both English and Arabic speakers fairly regularly. My sister married into the same German family but due to his work situation he is able to spend somewhat more time with his 2-year old, who is a louder, more prolific bilingual talker for her age and petiteness ;)
You and I are in the same boat.
But I can't understand any of it. My mother is filippino, my dad is english. Growing up my mum would speak it to all her friends and on the phone but we only got english.
you know what she said: I didn't want to force it on you.
Now: You can just go to uni and study it.
I've been to the Philippines a multitude of times but never was taught or learnt the language. The unfortunate thing is even if mum tried to teach us she would've had to speak Tagalog to us exclusively to combat the english we would've learnt based on the rural community we lived in.
I'm definitely thinking the "forcing it on me" is likely one of the reasons why I never learned. In my family, my mom spoke Tagalog and my dad spoke Thai, so it was probably just easier to teach me English. And ugh, I always hated when my family told me to just learn it elsewhere when I could learn it much better with my family!
Anyways, I wish you the best in your language learning, especially Tagalog if you try it out! :-)
i have the exact same thing, when my family speaks in Latvian i always understand what they say, but i cant speak or read Latvian at all
Thank you for sharing your story, Daniels318760! I have a friend that speaks Latvian and what's nice is that she wants her child to be bilingual, so she speaks to her child in Latvian and the father speaks to their child in English. It's interesting hearing what words come out of their child's mouth! Anyways, I wish you the best in your German studies! :-)
Yes, in fact, even if both parents speak to a child in language A and the place they live in speaks language B the children practically always wind up speaking language B perfectly, at least after they start school. An added benefit is when parents speak their native language, not only do the children learn that language, the children end up speaking the language of the place they live in without an accent because they imitate their peers instead of their parents accent in Language B. One can get a better job if one is bilingual too, but the best thing is having the best of two worlds (or three or four or more). Same with recipes. Each country has something interesting and to add to what the rest of us have. I'd really hate it if we were all the same. The world would be so boring, and there would be so many inventions lost.
My wife's father went ages 0-5 speaking Swedish....and was sent to American Public Schools. At that point he began to speak English and his family supported (demanded) that. When he was much older, he and I, while sitting at the kitchen table had an had a interesting conversation. I began to speak FAKE Swedish. A giant smile creased his face and he began to tell me what he really thought in REAL Swedish! Hahaha.....it was soooo funny to hear the old guy drag that language outa the depths of his memory.
It is! When I was reading about its history, it got me fascinated by the language, including the fact that it almost wasn't an official language of the Philippines, as I read that English and Spanish were going to be a long time ago. Thanks for your comment, Bethany281730! :-)
Thanks, PayKleind! Just take it one day at a time and you'll eventually get a high streak. Honestly, I don't really think about my steak, and noticed it when someone told me I had like a 3 year streak, LOL. :-)
Interesting, so did your family ever give you a reason for not teaching it to you?
"And in case anyone is wondering why my family wouldn't teach me this language, sorry...I don't know"
While they didn't give me a reason why they didn't teach me, I tend to agree with all these responses to this discussion post as to possible reasons why they didn't teach me.
I guessed it was Tagalog because actually my story is pretty similar! I can understand, especially in context and I recognise words better spoken than written. I grew up in Australia so my parents wanted us to speak English and wouldn't speak to my siblings and I in Tagalog no matter how many times we asked. I recently bought a textbook to help me with those active language skills. Hopefully it will be on duolingo one day! P.S. armpit is kilikili!
Haha, I love how so many responses assumed it was Tagalog, or had a similar story to them growing up with their parents not really teaching them Tagalog. :-) Thank you for your story, Kzulu92, and I hope you get to learn Tagalog to fluency! And LOL, I love saying "kilikili" that it's permanently in my brain. :-)
Oh my goodness! Tagalog is such a cool language! This has inspired me to now learn Tagalog!
Thank you for sharing this interesting story. I wouldn't have guessed which one it is, but apparently, this happens all the time.
So, from what I've read in your posting, your parents gave you at least 90% of a great gift. You are bilingual (from birth).
Bilingual persons have an easier way of grasping additional languages, which is always a good thing.
I hope, that you, at some point, can learn Tagalog (I have to admit, I've never heard of it) to speak and write it (again, you are already at the 90% mark).
I appreciate your kind words, Hubert802318! Many times Tagalog is just called Filipino, which is why many may not have heard of it. Don't get me started with the different dialects that seem like different langaguages, LOL. :-)
This is such a funny story! As a Filipino I wasn't offended by your story at all. I kinda guessed the language when I read your second clue but I wasn't so sure because I remember being told that our country has 7,107 islands. But that was taught in primary school which was more than a decade ago for me so things might have changed. Do learn Tagalog if you can! It's such a fun language though I understand it might be difficult for some to learn.
Here's a weird (but very correct) sentence: Bababa ba? Bababa. (Disclaimer: Google Translate doesn't give justice to it).
I always called the land of thousands of islands because I could never figure out how many there were (I used Wikipedia for the amount I listed). Thanks a lot for the sentence! When I see my family, I will ask them what it means (since Google translate doesn't translate it really well).
This is a great story, thanks for sharing! It's a little sad you weren't taught it as a child when it is so much easier to learn language. Still, you're most of the way there now: I hope you can learn it fully some day. Haha, I'm glad you posted the answer - was following the discussion hoping to find out.
Merci for your kind words, AnnaNomalie! Haha, if I do decide to learn it, maybe I'll write a followup post with my experiences in learning the langauge. Best wishes on your French studies! :-)
It does use the alphabet familiar to people who speak English, though, and Hindi doesn't. I'm thinking maybe Polish.
It isn't Polish. The OP has stated that Language X isn't one of the languages he/she is currently learning.
Ah true, he/she IS learning Polish duh. I need to work on my flag recognition skills.
Now I'm thinking of languages that are commonly spoken by immigrants to English speaking countries. A lot of them are out because they use different alphabets..
Or maybe I’m doing it wrong by assuming they immigrated. It in fact almost sounds like they didn’t because generally, it’s unlikely that the whole gang moved to a different country, cousins included. It sounds like the cousin grew up in the same country.
So my guess now: It’s Afrikaans. The more I think about it,the more sense it makes. Of course I could be way off.
Of course it could be that the GRANDparents immigrated and their children taught the language to their child aka his/her cousins. But children of immigrants often marry natives and consider the language their parents speak their 2nd language rather than their native language. Not always but keeping everything in mind, Afrikaans makes the most sense.
He made the statement because he assumed he was black. You can't tell. And it is racist. Sorry. Not all of it. But most of it. The word well was not racist sorry. And English is the 2nd most spoken language in the world. And did he say they all live in the same country?
He didn't say so. Maybe they don't all live in the same country but it seems more likely to me because of some things said in his original post.
I honestly think his potential race tells us very little, if not nothing. It doesn't matter. He did say on top that his parents speak two different languages, which means that he could be bi/multiracial.
You volunteered in Lesotho for 2+ years? And there's a Language Y? You really do have some stories to tell, don't stop writing!
It's a reasonable assumption, based on his profile picture. OK, that might not be him, but I have no reason to think otherwise.
Hi all! Just responding to this part of the discussion. The profile picture is me, but I used one with my face in the shadows to be "hidden" a bit.
Also, the picture is in Africa, more specifically... Lesotho (I volunteered there for 2+ years). So Africaans was actually a nice guess as I did learn Sesotho when I volunteered there, and Africaans was spoken widely all over.
Entirely racist? Oh, please. Not every reference to skin color is racist, sometimes it's simple fact. There just aren't that many black families where the whole family (parents, children, cousins) is emigrating from Italy to an English-speaking country. Possible, yes, but unlikely, and there's nothing racist in pointing that out.
Even stronger is that he is studying French and Spanish. So if it was Italian, the similarities would be enough that he'd surely be able recognize words when reading. I'd guess it's a language that has phonetics very different from English or Romance languages.
Ok, his/her parents could be African and they moved to Italy. And you can't tell if he is black. And that post is entirely racist
I loved reading all your guesses! I edited my post with the answer (and clues if you like decoding the mystery) if you want to know what Language X is!
Is language X spoken in many places around Europe (and also a bit more far to the East) and is it close to German?
It is not close to German, and I doubt it is widely spoken in Europe. I edited my post with clues (and the answer) if you want to check out what it is. :-)
Sorry, but nope! If you want to know, I re-edited my post with what the language is (and clues if you want to play along). :-)
Very interesting and relatable story! It's pretty amazing that listening and speaking can be such different skills. I'm in a similar situation; I learned to understand Shanghainese from listening to my grandparents, but never learned to speak it as we usually use Mandarin. Do you think that, if you tried to learn Tagalog, you'd be able to pick it up very easily?
Thanks, Yummyricecake! Thank you for your story! I didn't realize there was a Shanghainese, but I know what you mean by that. With my family, many speak Tagalog with English in it, so they call it Tagalish, haha.
I think would be able to pick it up a little easily. Since I can already understand a lot of it by hearing it, that will help, but in terms of using it, I will still have to learn the grammar and other things. But I feel that once I learn how the letters of the alphabet are pronounced, and me practicing speaking it everyday, I can be pretty decent in a year!
Nice and entertaining story Ntate Narin! If I look at your success with ohter different languages, I'm quite sure that you'll be able to learn it porbably, especially with the help of you relatives!
My situation is similar, german is my first language, but my grandparents and also my father also speak a certain slavic language (you can say that we are historically a slavic minority in that country) since I spent lots of time at my grandparents' house when I was younger, the language always sounded familiar to me. Some weeks ago they told me, that they often asked me sth in this language and I understood it, but answered in German. Furthermore, it also helped me learning a bit of a different, more common slavic language, but I really want to learn the language of my ancestry properly one day - also because it tends to be an endangered language, which is mostly spoken by older people.
Sometimes a friend of mine, who even learned it, when he was younger, and I tend to speak a few slavic phrases without any reason. So sth like joking could also be helpflul in a certain way to lose the fear of speaking it - despite learning it, is the only way to speak it porperly.
Thank you for sharing your story, Martin941385! I'm jealous that you have some experience with a Slavic language as I tried learning Polish, but it was overwhelming!
Haha, I joked in another post of listening to French jokes, and I agree that it can help loosen me up and learn the language. I wish you well in learning the language of your ancestry one day! It would be cool to read about it especially since it's endangered. :-)
I really enjoyed your post. I am so glad you shared your experiences and I think it was wise to initially call it language X. It made me think about going to my friend's house when family from the Netherlands was visiting. It also made me think about how each skill is separate and distinct. I have really come a long way in being able to read in my language X. When I try to listen to people speaking it in the real world, I only get fragments. When I studied in school, a visiting teacher laughed at my accent.
Thanks for sharing your story on your Language X, Deb1134! That feeling about being laughed at is pretty awful and I know how you feel. In fact, my family still laughs at me when I try saying a Tagalog word and would tell me to repeat what I said so they can keep laughing, but I'm getting used to it.
Congrats in better being able to read in your Language X and I wish you the best in gaining fluency in it! :-)
Sounds like you're a bit insecure about it. But being able to understand it already goes a long way, thus you shouldn't beat yourself up too much about it.
If you can understand it, it should be fairly easily for you to learn how to speak it - the main issue seems to be that you're a bit scared - scared to try. If you want to learn it, why not start off with learning how to read it? Since you can understand it, it also should be relatively easy to learn how to read it as you solely have to focus on what the writing stands for - reading also allows you to further improve on your own and to build your confidence in the process. Another good idea might be to say things in Tagalog inside your head (without making noise but do move your vocal cords) whenever you're in contact with the language. Before you realize it well, you should be ready to speak it. I'm sure that if you try you can easily do it! (in relative terms)
Yeah, I was made fun of quite a bit growing up not knowing the language, and I was laughed at for my accent for attempting the language, which is why I neglected even trying after many years. Haha, I tried a word with my family just a few days ago, they laughed, and kept telling me to repeat what I said so they could laugh some more.
One day I will likely try to learn the language, and I commented on another post of doing the things you mentioned. And to build up my self-esteem... I will likely learn the language with people other than my family. :-D
Thanks for your comment, Elvper! I appreciate it!
Thanks, Becky3086! Many people usually call the language "Filipino" which is why Tagalog isn't mentioned too often.
Yes, I have more than one secret language. I can't speak a word of Catalán for example, but understanding and reading it is easy which actually got me in trouble once at school as they ran out of manuals, I saw one in Catalán and grabbed that. As fate had it, it was the instructor's. I also overheard some friends speaking about money problems to pay the light bill. I understood what they were talking about, and didn't realize how close Norsk is to other Scandinavian languages. I also found at least written Svensk is pretty easy to understand and there are several others like that. At work they'd actually push languages I'd never heard of at me and ask me to please read them. The funny thing is sometimes they actually did make sense, almost surely due to being a mix of languages I already knew. As far as understanding and not speaking, that's actually a stage in fluency. You will usually then reach a stage where you can speak more than you can understand, in my experience, then it will level out where you can do both. I don't know if others have had difference experience.
My friend's grandmother doesn't speak English, so she only speaks to him in their native language. I was able to correctly guess (exact words) what she said to him based on her tone of voice and gestures. It was pretty cool.
That is interesting. I don't think I would ever pick up on a language just by sound. I have trouble with sound. Foe example, I can't sing to save my life, as I struggle with the tune and if clapping along, I can never keep the same beat as the crowd. I can hear a pin drop, but as soon as there is any other noise, it all just becomes a hodgepodge in my head. As for languages, I have never been successful but now I am trying to learn Esperanto and I find I can read it much better than recognize it or speak it. I think I must be a visual learner, because the only other "languages" I had any luck with, was American Sign Language and Elder Futhark(read/write only). I've only recently thought about this and have always chalked it up to not being overly blessed with intelligence. I thought if I can read it, I should be able to speak, write, and listen, but maybe I'm not as defective as I thought. Thanks.
I once worked with a woman of German descent. She said that when she was young, her parents spoke German when they didn't want the children to know what they were saying. When the kids were in their mid-teens, they let their parents know they could understand every word. :)
That may not help, but it might give some consolation. Can you understand your girlfriend?
I guessed it at the 7,000 islands comment. I wish duolingo would add Tagalog already... ")