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Poll: "A man who does not know a foreign language is ignorant of his own." Johann Goethe (1749-1832)
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Feb 19, 2008

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question ""A man who does not know a foreign language is ignorant of his own." Johann Goethe (1749-1832)".

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CeciliaMontano  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:56
English to Spanish
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Contradictory? Feb 19, 2008

"No man fully capable of his own language ever masters another."
George Bernard Shaw.


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:56
Italian to English
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Disagree Feb 19, 2008

While I think that learning a foreign language is a good thing in itself, I certainly don't believe it's necessary in order to have full mastery of one's own native language.

Although actually, looking at Goethe's quote against Shaw's, I'm not sure that they are contradictory! If Goethe meant ignorance in the sense of the language's etymology, then I'd have to agree that study of related languages certainly helps provide a broader view and understanding of one's own. If however he meant ignorance as opposed to Shaw's mastery (which is the way I understood it when I answered the poll), then I still disagree - it's perfectly possible to have an exceptional command of one's own language without speaking any other.
I'm not sure I'd go to the extreme of Shaw's position, mind you, although I'm sure that all of us have had the frustration of wanting to translate the untranslatable, because no word in our own language describes what we want to say as eloquently...


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John Cutler  Identity Verified
Spain
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Spanish to English
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Seeing things differently Feb 19, 2008

I think Goethe was trying to say that when you learn a second language you discover new things about your own language and see it in a different light. You also discover how language is used to express different worldviews and perceptions.

When you learn a new language, you suddenly discover new, previously unknown things (ignorance) that you took for granted and gain a different perspective about your own language, culture, etc and that of other people(s). As you see how thoughts or concepts are expressed in another tongue, it’s easy to find yourself thinking, “I never thought of that before”.

In common usage, the word ignorant is confused with “stupid” but I don’t think ignorance implies stupidity, but rather a lack of knowledge, not a lack of ability to acquire knowledge. (For me, at least, it’s two different concepts).

Learning a new language (or any subject for that matter) shows you what you hadn’t known up until that point and makes you less ignorant (unknowing). When I started learning Spanish and Catalan, I saw things in English constructions that I had never attached any importance to before. In other words, I saw my own language in a different light.

Learning another language is like holding up a mirror to your own.


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Anita du Plessis  Identity Verified
South Africa
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English to Afrikaans
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Ancestry Feb 19, 2008

It's useful to have knowledge of other languages,as it gives you insight into the history of your own language.Afrikaans for instance has a lot of Malay, French,German and English influence.It is like delving a bit into the ancestry of your mother language.

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Gianni Pastore  Identity Verified
Italy
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English to Italian
Disagree Feb 19, 2008

This poll pairs up with the one about openmindness required to be a good translator.
Gianni

[Edited at 2008-02-19 14:06]


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Kristin Leitner  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:56
Italian to German
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Goethe... Feb 19, 2008

I agree definitely with JOHN CUTLER's opinion...

Kristin


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Satto (Roberto)  Identity Verified
Colombia
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Spanish to English
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Agree with your Disagree Feb 19, 2008

Gianni Pastore wrote:

This poll pairs up with the one about openmindness required to be a good translator.
Gianni

[Edited at 2008-02-19 14:06]


..Yes, yes and yes...people who "know" another language are privileged and not many people are. There are millions upon millions of people that are much more knowledgeable than a person that knows a second language. Just be grateful we had the chance of learning a second or third language..lets not be arrogant about it..it's a gift to do well, not to shove into somebody's face ..because they did not have the opportunities in life as we had...


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Manuela Junghans  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
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Member (2004)
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Agree with John Feb 19, 2008

I totally agree with what John said that by learning other languages you discover things in your own language that you simply took for granted and then start to question.

I understand the poll to be directed that way and not to say that people who speak a second or third language are arrogant or think of themselves as better.

I also very much liked what Anita said about the similarities in languages.


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Elena Robles Sanjuan  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:56
English to Spanish
That is so true, however... Feb 19, 2008

anitadp wrote:

It's useful to have knowledge of other languages,as it gives you insight into the history of your own language.Afrikaans for instance has a lot of Malay, French,German and English influence.It is like delving a bit into the ancestry of your mother language.


I was wondering was "knowing" a language actually means. I take some pride in the fact that I studied ancient Greek and Latin and how they enriched Spanish vocabulary and grammar. I learned a lot about them, yet I can´t say I have any level of command of these two languages.

So, I have learned some aspects of the languages, which, for the purpose of this poll, maybe should do. But my inability to speak or write in these languages makes me doubt if I actually "know" them...


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:56
French to English
Codswallop Feb 19, 2008

One might perhaps justifiably argue that some knowledge (whatever "knowing" a foreign language is supposed to mean, exactly) of a foreign language might perhaps shed some light on features of one's own, pique the old curiosity and generally be of some benefit. That is certainly my experience.

However, to claim that the opposite is true is utter bilge. Not knowing a foreign language might mean you "miss out" on points of interest, etymological aspects you hadn't thought of, etc. But to say this equates to ignorance is gross over-exaggeration of the worst kind. The man is a buffoon


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Dolors Selis  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:56
English to Catalan
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Another language, another reality Feb 19, 2008

I agree with John, specially when he refers to language as a mean to express different worldviews and perceptions.

Even within a same language, let's put Catalan as an example, there many difference between the Catalan spoken by a person who lives in a country village and that spoken by a person living in Barcelona. The reason for the difference has to do with the different context.

If we make the same comparison between Catalan, English or Spanish and the language spoken, for example, by the skimos, we'll find out that colour white, which for us is only one, has got for this society a wide range of intensities, each of them receiving a different word.

When translating we need to look into our own language and see how we can communicate to other other people a reality about which we were not aware or to which we had not paid enough attention. It is then when a translator becomes obliged to explore into the native language and find the resources that can help him or her to put into one's own words what a speaker of another language perceives.

Knowing another language, therefore, gives you the chance of observing things and facts from another perspective and at the same time makes you feel in the necessity of explaining the difference in your own words while being faithful to the context where it comes from.

Not knowing another language does not imply ignorance or your owns, but it prevents you from developing it in many senses.



[Editat el 2008-02-19 17:36]


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Maria Isabel Pazos Gómez  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 15:56
Member (2007)
German to Spanish
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Looking for the quote of Goethe Feb 19, 2008

Hi to all,

I think the quote of Goethe is wrong. German is a very complex language and I cannot believe that Goethe, who loves simplicity (Gretchen) thought like that.- have you got the original one?

I have found one of him, that seems to be the one you mean:

Wer fremde Sprachen nicht kennt, weiß nichts von seiner eigenen.

Those who do not know foreign languages, know nothing of their own.

(Johann Wolfgang von Goethe).

You should verify the quote,

have a nice evening,

Mabel

PD: In this sence (as I quoted him), John is right!

[Bearbeitet am 2008-02-19 18:09]


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John Cutler  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:56
Spanish to English
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I want my points Feb 19, 2008

Maria Isabel Pazos Gómez wrote:

You should verify the quote,




Ok, just one question, do I get any KUDOZ points for this?

A man who does not know foreign language is ignorant of his own ...

"A man who does not know foreign language is ignorant of his own." - Copy to Clipboard. -- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Add Quote To Your Quote List ...
www.quoteworld.org/quotes/5516 - 14k - En caché - Páginas similares
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Quotes by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe on Men. ... "A man who does not know foreign language is ignorant of his own." 4.6154 average rating, Rate this Quote ...
www.quoteworld.org/category/men/author/johann-wolfgang-von-goethe - 42k - En caché - Páginas similares

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He who does not know foreign languages does not know anything about his own. ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Kunst and Alterthum ...
www.quotegarden.com/language.html - 22k - En caché - Páginas similares


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Maria Isabel Pazos Gómez  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 15:56
Member (2007)
German to Spanish
+ ...
Searching for the oiginal quote in German Feb 19, 2008

John Cutler wrote:

Ok, just one question, do I get any KUDOZ points for this?

...


Sure!

I was searching the German original quote and could only find the one I mentioned. Maybe the translation of the quote is wrong and everybody misunderstands Goethe?

Receive a hug,

Mabel


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