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DaveUKagain
24-02-2004, 03:10
Interesting one, this...... well, I think it is... ;)

Russian speakers of English. When you SPEAK in English, do you THINK in English ??? Or Russian ??? ;-)))))

Mmmm, I don`t know, but I think you have to "think Russian" to speak Russian, and vice versa. I certainly know foreign language speakers who have to "think" a different nationality to speak the language...... question is, do you tend to "become" a different personality by speaking another language ???? :)

britmikh
24-02-2004, 03:19
Hmm. I know what you mean but personally when I am in Russia, speaking Russian I tend to notice a difference, a subtle change if you like in my persona. But when I speak Russian in the UK I don't notice any difference whatsover---strange never really thought in depth about it before. Now I will probably be very self conscious....thanks mate! :shame:

Filimon
24-02-2004, 03:20
Originally posted by DaveUKagain
Interesting one, this...... well, I think it is... ;)

Russian speakers of English. When you SPEAK in English, do you THINK in English ??? Or Russian ??? ;-)))))

Mmmm, I don`t know, but I think you have to "think Russian" to speak Russian, and vice versa. I certainly know foreign language speakers who have to "think" a different nationality to speak the language...... question is, do you tend to "become" a different personality by speaking another language ???? :)

I do think in English. First it's just easier, especially when you need to consider what you are about to say. Although in a normal situation I don't think at all :), I just say it as if I were speaking Russian. Secondly, especially in my job, sometimes there are no ways to say something in Russian. If anyone can give me a two-word translation of "promissory estoppel" I shall be mightily impressed.:)

I do not become a different personality. My tone of voice may change, but that's about it. I change my attitude dependent on the situation I am in, notwithstanding the language I need to speak.

:)

sevan
24-02-2004, 09:19
I became a different person when I came to Russia the first time - but I think it had more to do with the change of scenery than the language. However, I think that when I was just beginning to speak I was in some ways much more direct and blunt with people - which I kinda liked. :) My theory is that with my limited vocabulary, I always had to get straight to the point. But who knows?

Now, i don't think that there is a differnce at all. Though until recently, I would force myself to think in English if it was something important. I wanted to make sure I was thinking straight. Now I've given up on that... :D

vanross
24-02-2004, 09:46
Dave, I allways think in the language that I speak. Otherwise you can never achieve proficiency. When I go to France for instance I tend to forget everything except French, I even dream in French, that used to surprise me, but not anymore.

ghost 6-3
24-02-2004, 11:23
Every human thinks in the same language, which psycolinguists call 'Mentalese' for lack of another term. What you hear in conversation is the surface structure, after it has been generated through intermediate stages in the brain.

The best source on this topic (if you have a technical education), would be 'Noam Chomsky: Syntactic Structures', one of the most influential books ever written. If you are an humanities type, Steven Pinker has very good pop science language books (and great scientific texts). The Language Instinct by Pinker would be a great read if you are interested in this subject.

DaveUKagain
24-02-2004, 11:31
OK, Ghost, granted, everyone GENERATES thoughts in "mentalese" but down the line they get translated into English / Russian / French, etv........ ;)

DaveUKagain
24-02-2004, 11:32
OK, Ghost, granted, everyone GENERATES thoughts in "mentalese" but down the line they get translated into English / Russian / French, etc........ ;) We all hold "internal mental conversations" - if I speak English, my "internal mental conversations " are in English....... ;)

J.D.
24-02-2004, 11:40
I wouldn't want to go head to head with Chompsky but I don't believe that's exactly true. I don't think Chompsky presents it quite the same as you do either.

There probably is some lower fundamental level of thinking that all people think at but we normally think at a higher level. At this higher level more complex concepts are taken as fundamental. These complex fundamental concepts vary from language to language. The simplest form of them is vocabulary. A simple translation of a word from one language to another does not carry all of the nuances with it because different languages have compiled different base aspects to form the word. Much the same way a mathematician can think much faster than us normal people because he has compiled many many many base aspects into a single thought/symbol.
So thinking affects language and language affects thinking. And the greater your vocabulary the the greater your thinking power can be. I'm sure you've seen someone who didn't understand some idea very well but when you gave him just the right word for it everything became clear to him.
The apparent opposite can also be true. In Russian 'dog' incorporates all of what it takes several forms in English to cover, 'a dog', 'the dog' and more. In this case English with more smaller forms is more exacting.
so what tools do you use to think with?

ghost 6-3
24-02-2004, 12:04
J.D., what you are talking about is known as the Saphir-Worf hypothesis (language effects thought). It was developed in the early 1900's but has been thoroughly discredited now (starting in 1954?, actually). Remember, with fMRI's we can see in the brain - traces, proposed by Chomsky, are actually visable in these scans. We can see the Broca's, Wierneke, and other areas working as proposed, in real time.

Dave, I think the answer to your statement is that language is generated so fast (brain reaction to humour in wordplay is measured in under 5 milliseconds - and that is slow, because it is humour), that we are unable to differentiate what we are thinking from how we are thinking it.

This is definitely a good question, though.

kniga
24-02-2004, 12:12
J.D.,

A very fine explanation of the thinking process. A a matter of fact, those who point out that without thinking in the language spoken there is no fluency, are absolutely correct. It is impossibly slow to translate word for word from one language to another. If you would like to test this theory, try contructing a sentence using words from different languages you know (even if only in a rudimentary fashion), e.g., "Ich èäó a mon domus" ("I am going to my house" - German, Russian, Spanish, French, Latin) and saying it rapidly. It simply cannot be done because of the time it takes the mind to switch out of one language and into another one word after another. On the other hand, it is no problem for multilingual individuals to hold conversations where the languages used switch from time to time.

Dreaming in Russian is a nightly occurence for me being here in Moscow, and when I return to the U.S. for a visit, the process continues for a night or two until English takes over again. This can only occur when one thinks in the foreign language, Dave, so the answer to your original question is, yes, you have to think Russian to speak Russian. And Ghost 6-3 is right about his book recommendations; while Chomsky is pretty heavy going, Pinker's books are easy reads and quite thought provoking and well worth the effort.

kniga
24-02-2004, 12:25
Ghost 6-3,

Without the proper formal grounding in linguistics, it is difficult for me to assess what present theories about how we think are vs. my own experience with languages. I have discovered that changing languages does change to some degree the thinking process, although such general characteristics as humor or quick wit, e.g., repartee, plays on words, etc., replicate themselves with all languages. The degree to which this transference is possible has to do with the level of fluency in each language, of course, but I find it fascinating that at the end of the day, acquiring fluency in another language(s) not only opens a broader look at a different culture, it also provides the only true path to self awareness and evaluation of one's own thinking processes. It's almost as though monolingual individuals see the world in black and white and multilingual people see the world in color. This is a bit of a stretched analogy, of course, but I am attempting to indicate that to the person who speaks only his native language, the "colors" of other languages are simply unavailable to him.

ghost 6-3
24-02-2004, 12:57
Kniga, I am not a linguist. However, when my son was born, I knew he would be at least bilingual. Since my son is not a social experiment, and I had such a hard time learning Russian, I thought it best to do some research to try to make it easy for him (and me). That led me to the linguistics department at MIT, then on to Steven Pinker, who is generally recognized as one of the best in child language development and acquisition.

At any rate, as I worked through their language theories, compared it to my use of the languages I know, and then watched my son acquire English and Russian (he is now on a third, VSO language), I became convinced they are on the right track. Also, it is hard to argue with a functional Magnetic Resonance Image.

There is a nice on-line linguistics course which is designed to introduce students to linguistic theories: http://www2.sfu.ca/person/dearmond/222/course.outline.222.htm

Done by a Canuk. Guess they had to come up with another category for 'ay'.

sfjohns67
24-02-2004, 13:07
My own two kopecks of an answer to the original question...

After 15 years of fluency in Russian, I only recently (within the last year) began actually thinking in Russian. Previously, my mental language train was such that I thought in English and basically "translated" my thoughts into Russian (and vice-versa). Recently, however, I find this "language train" is Russian only, at least when I am in an immersion situation. This is particularly prevalent, and more importantly USEFUL, whenever I'm conducting contract negotiations for my project with our Russian vendors.

Another twist to my idea of mental translation is that I can now conceptualize purely in Russian, again in conversational immersion situations. For example, whereas before I might see an apple and think "apple," I can now see an apple and automatically think "yabloko." The reverse works as well, i.e. I immediately can generate a mental image of whatever is being discussed without having to step through the translation process, thereby potentially missing other details. Where I've seen this most evidenced is when I watch Russian news, particularly political news such as Duma session coverage. I'm now able to grasp completely on the fly almost everything except the most obscure technical details or maybe abbreviations of some Russian agency. Russian movies offer a different challenge, as they almost always contain unfamiliar jargon, so I still have to rely on my wife a fair bit of the time.

Great thread!!!

kniga
24-02-2004, 13:26
Ghost 6-3,

I looked at the site you provided and was quickly reminded why I passed on Transformational Grammar and other tenants of Linguistics, as in order to study them, I would have been required to lean another whole language. Instead, I spent my time on acquiring languages, a time consuming enough project in itself. However, I understand your reasoning for going to such lengths because of your son's happy circumstance of being in a position to grow up bilingual. In America, the second generation of immigrant children too quickly throw away the great advantage of retaining their parent's native language and even their own in favor of blending in with "real" Americans. They quickly learn to speak American English like the kid next door at the expense of discarding their precious linguistic legacy.

If your wife is Russian, your son should have no problem learning her native language and English will take care of itself outside the home. However, there will come a time when he may well shun Russian for social reasons. I hope you and your wife find a way to prevent this from happening.

Johnny Reb,

Have you learned to translate "Spit in one hand and wish in the other and see which one fills up the fastest" into equivalent Russian? :-)

Fa-Q!
24-02-2004, 13:29
I think that there are no givens in regards to this issue. Each individual's thought process adjusts differently based on his language aptitude, experience and surroundings. I remember when, with a limited Russian vocabulary, I thought in broken Russian. Of course, only in simple situations. I also remember speaking Russian and thinking in English. That is, for every sentence, thinking in which case I should construct the sentence before speaking so that everything agreed. Now, depending on the situation, I "think fluently" in both languages. I think faster in in Russian than I can speak. ("tak.......vot tak.....i sledushe...vot tak... a teper' vot eto... i vsyo! Blin, kak mnye eto vsyo nadoelo... What the hell is going on in my head?! Think it's time for me to go back to Florida before it's too late!!!")

DJ Biscuit
24-02-2004, 13:30
Unlike SFJ I cannot claim to be fluent in Russian, though I speak it and have done for several years. I think in Russian when speaking it and what is most worrying is that when I am alone and have one of those 'talking to myself' moments, you know, like ''where the hell did I put those socks'' or something I find myself doing it in Russian. I have no idea what that means!

J.D.
24-02-2004, 13:31
Well I certainly don't believe that it has been thoroughly discredited. Niether has it been proven. An experiment performed some years ago took radioactive sugar and injected it into peoples blood stream. They were then given different problems to solve. The radioactive sugar could be traced and mapped it was thought that the parts of the brain that were doing the work could then be identified. This was indeed true. It was further speculated that smart people would show greater use and concentration of the sugar(energy). This was not the case. They showed less use. Smart people don't think harder they think more efficiently. later experiments showed that people who were taught basic patterns of problem solving could decrease the energy, and time, of the thinking process. I think that all of this supports my view.

Fa-Q!
24-02-2004, 13:40
You certainly are versed in scientific research, JD. I speak only from my limited individual experience. One question: Do you speak any foreign languages fluently? Think in any foreign languages?

Fa-Q!
24-02-2004, 13:41
Actually, two questions. I can count.

Limitchik
24-02-2004, 13:42
I completely agree with SFJ. I don't know Noah Chomsky or the science behind the linguistic thought process, but there was most definitely a point where I stopped doing the mental translation and began actually thinking in Russian, dreaming in Russian, etc. It wasn't 15 years with me (I always knew SFJ was a bit "special" :) ) but then again I've been here 99% of the time and that probably sped the process up.

Similar to wht Fa-Q was saying, I can force myself to do the mental translation bit and switch out of the "Russian thinking mode" but I evolved from that and it's much more difficult for me to speak Russian while thinking in English.

One interesting note, is that while I guess my Russian would more or less be considered fluent by most standards, is that I still make mistakes (particularly in regard to inadvertantly switching case endings). So, while I "think" Russian, I'm "thinking" with mistakes. Interesting.

Good question, UKDave.

Fa-Q!
24-02-2004, 13:46
I think you can pretty much say you think in Russian if you scream out during sex (without thinking, of course!) "Oi, blya! vot tak esho! Blyaaaad'!

Fa-Q!
24-02-2004, 13:47
Sorry bout that. What were we discussing?

Limitchik
24-02-2004, 13:48
Originally posted by Fa-Q!
I think you can pretty much say you think in Russian if you scream out during sex (without thinking, of course!) "Oi, blya! vot tak esho! Blyaaaad'!

Or if you inadvertantly comment: "blin, pochemu-to ne khochet stoyat moi malysh. Mozhet po-pozhe"

DJ Biscuit
24-02-2004, 13:50
Originally posted by DJ Biscuit
Unlike SFJ I cannot claim to be fluent in Russian, though I speak it and have done for several years. I think in Russian when speaking it and what is most worrying is that when I am alone and have one of those 'talking to myself' moments, you know, like ''where the hell did I put those socks'' or something I find myself doing it in Russian. I have no idea what that means!

The other 'problem' is knowing a word in Russian, talking to someone in English and forgetting what that word is in English. This happens to me a lot, I often ask my Russian friends ''what is....insert word in Russian..... in English''

Also, again unlike SFJ and others although my Russian is good and I rarely don't know a word I believe if you make mistakes, and I don't mean the same as you might in your native language (I've seen enough of that here :) ) then I don't think it's fluency.

kniga
24-02-2004, 14:08
Originally posted by DJ Biscuit
Unlike SFJ I cannot claim to be fluent in Russian, though I speak it and have done for several years. I think in Russian when speaking it and what is most worrying is that when I am alone and have one of those 'talking to myself' moments, you know, like ''where the hell did I put those socks'' or something I find myself doing it in Russian. I have no idea what that means!

DJ,

It just means you are thinking in Russian! I find myself doing the same thing when I wake up in the middle of the night to make a trip to the "little room," and realize that my sleepy internal conversation with myself is going on in Russian.

ghost 6-3
24-02-2004, 14:09
Kniga, my son is already doing very well in his languages - he's six. The studies I do are designed partly to put my mind at rest, and partly to help him when he, for example, uses Russian (i.e. Subject - Object - Verb) order for an English sentence (S-V-O), or makes other 'mistakes' which need to be corrected. True, studies show these corrections to be largely pointless, as the child develops language on his own time. But as he gets older, nudges in such things as irregulars have been shown to help. You’re right, exposure enables the acquisition mechanism to get on with what it’s been doing for millennia. Relative exposure time requirements are another thing, though.

I have wondered if he will develop some sort of identity crisis as he gets older. So watch this space as he grows up. For the time being, however, he loves being multi-lingual. The babushkas always tell him he’s sooo smart.

As for your statement on acquiring the language, as opposed to acquiring the mechanism, this is good policy. However when I was finally able to get it through my head that English has cases, and that they are only covert, hidden through word placement vis-à-vis the verb, I did have a bit of a 'Eureka' moment. I think it did help me, and provide a long-term benefit. It may be best for those seeking to become proficient in more than two languages.

The interesting part now is teaching him how to read. I have a great teaching book on 'Phoneme Awareness', a method which has been promoted by the National Institute of Health (NIH), and, increasingly, by every other specialist organization. Beats the hell out of 'Whole Word' and 'Phonics' (both of which are responsible for the dismal literacy rates in developed countries).

DJ Biscuit
24-02-2004, 14:15
Originally posted by kniga
DJ,

It just means you are thinking in Russian! I find myself doing the same thing when I wake up in the middle of the night to make a trip to the "little room," and realize that my sleepy internal conversation with myself is going on in Russian.

Obviously!!!

But I meant more than that. Why do I tend to spend more time thinking (and yes dreaming) in Russian? The obvious answer is because I spend more time talking Russian than any other language. However it can be embarresing when for example at a London pub you ask the barman ''please can you gave me the pepelnitsa'' !!!

Alethea
24-02-2004, 14:57
Vladimir Dal, famous Russian linguist and ethnographer, was half-Dane and half-German. He spoke several European languages fluently. However, he considered himself to be a Russian , because he thought in Russian.

kniga
24-02-2004, 15:04
DJ,

All multilingual people make these occasional mistakes, although it is more common to start speaking in the wrong language than to pull a single word out from another language and drop it into a sentence.

DJ Biscuit
24-02-2004, 15:09
I have that problem too!

Sometimes I think in Russian when I am composing in my head what to write/say in English, then I realise my mistake and try to translate! Do I need help? :D

DaveUKagain
24-02-2004, 19:19
Hehee - now to make it a little MORE complicated......

Suppose I think "Apple" in English and "yabloko" in Russian.

Am I thinking about the same object ? Of course, but...... will the object - in Russian - have different connotations, cultural resonances - than in English ???

I tend to think so. Perhaps an "apple" is a bad example, but "government" (as a concept) certainly is. So, to expand this a little further - I`m convinced that to speak Russian you have to think Russian (differences between Russian and English being so huge) - but - no matter what level of proficiency you reach - verbal or mental, you`ll never BE Russian. ;-))))))) It`s imprinted on you from birth.

I also think that the Russian Deyv Frensees is somewhat different from the English Dave Francis. Russian is, to me, more precise, English more descriptive, and I find my personality changes when I try to THINK in Russian. Even though I`m at a totally basic stage. And it seems to suit me as a personality type, more so than when I speak in French or German. I got to the stage where I was thinking in German....... and I didn`t like it at all. ;-))))))

blue1051
24-02-2004, 20:19
My wife is Russian, started learning English in grammar school, majored in English at university, taught it for 12 years in Russia. She even developed curricula for teaching English.

When we first met, she told me that she was worried that having to converse in English 24x7 would be "exhausting". After a couple of weeks, her mother asked her what I had just said, and she turned and told her - in English. Mama and I both stared at her and then started laughing. It took her a moment to realize what she'd done, and she told me that, to her surprise, she had switched all of her thinking into English and was having to stop and make a conscious change into thinking and speaking Russian.

She also tells me that my Russian will improve greatly with immersion, a theory that will be interesting to test once we move back. I've studied French and Spanish, and now Russian, and have always been rather linguistically "challenged".

camus
24-02-2004, 20:40
A few quick observations from a bilingual:

1. I don't find myself "thinking" in any language. Also, even though I'm bilingual I've been exposed to English more extensively than to Russian. As a result, I often speak Russian with English-language constructions (for instance: "what time is it" instead of the more idiomatic Russian versions: "what hour is it" or "hint me the time, please".

2. All this talk of dreaming in languages seems really bizarre to me since language has never been a component of my dreams.

3. The idea of having to verbally render everything immediately is an oddity. When I look at an apple, I see the concept of an apple, not "apple" or "yabloko".

Peter

DaveUKagain
24-02-2004, 21:00
Funny. ;-) I "think linguistically". ;-) I`m also a lucid dreamer- someone who`s able to go off and explore things and chat in my dreams - ie., there`s a level of interaction. And I tend not to *speak* a language, but to think it AND thus speak it.

My brothers` a musician - and it`s a fair guess that his brain is wired up somewhat differently (on a synaptic, not gross) level than non - musicians. Strange, isn`t it ?? We tend to use language in several different ways...... excuse me if this a clumsy description, but there`s got to be both a conscious process of speaking and an unconscious process of forming speech- we seem to all perceive the totality in different ways.....

Edith
25-02-2004, 09:40
I am bilingual Russian/English, always have been.
I also speak Mandarin and realy grotty French.

I always think in the language I am speaking, when its French I just think very slowly!

Limitchik
25-02-2004, 09:48
Originally posted by camus
A few quick observations from a bilingual:

1. I don't find myself "thinking" in any language. Also, even though I'm bilingual I've been exposed to English more extensively than to Russian. As a result, I often speak Russian with English-language constructions (for instance: "what time is it" instead of the more idiomatic Russian versions: "what hour is it" or "hint me the time, please".

2. All this talk of dreaming in languages seems really bizarre to me since language has never been a component of my dreams.

3. The idea of having to verbally render everything immediately is an oddity. When I look at an apple, I see the concept of an apple, not "apple" or "yabloko".

Peter

Peter (Petya ?)

Just out of curiousity, how can your dreams be void of language ? Is everyone in your dreams mute ? Do you refuse to converse with people in them ? Have you never noticed that you talk in your sleep, and if you have, what language were you doing it in ? I can't imagine a subconcious abstract nocturnal reflection of reality WITHOUT language, I guess, unless you're deaf.

Edith
25-02-2004, 09:55
I once drempt a whole dream in Italian and I do not speak a word!

geordie
25-02-2004, 10:26
Here is an example of what happens when you don't learn to think in a language properly, the old ones are the best: The Italian Who Went To Malta

(Must be read with an Italian accent)

One day ima gonna Malta to bigga hotel. Ina morning I go down to
eat breakfast. I tella waitress I wanna two pissis toast. She
brings me only one piss. I tella her I want two piss. She say
go to the toilet. I say you no understand, I wanna two piss onna
my plate. She say you better no piss onna plate, you sonna ma
bitch. I don't even know the lady and she call me sonna ma bitch.

Later I go to eat at the bigga restaurant. The waitress brings
me a spoon and knife but no fock. I tella her I wanna fock. She
tell me everyone wanna fock. I tell her you no understand. I
wanna fock on the table. She say you better not fock on the
table, you sonna ma bitch.

So I go back to my room inna hotel and there is no shits onna my bed.
Call the manager and tella him I wanna shit. He tell me to go to toilet.
I say you no understand. I wanna shit on my bed. He say you better
not shit onna bed, you sonna ma bitch.

I go to the checkout and the man at the desk say: "Peace on you".
I say piss on you too, you sonna ma bitch, I gonna go back to Italy.

J.D.
25-02-2004, 12:01
No Faq I don't speak any foreign language fluently. My Spanish was just starting to get good when I came here. My Russian is definitely not fluent but I do find myself thinking with some of the terms and phrases. For instance 'dacha' and 'babushka' just don't have a good translation into English. Somthing is definitely lost if you use 'Grandmother' and dacha might be 'cabin' or 'summer house' depending on the context. 'Devushka' difinitely doesn't mean 'girl' in all contexts, more often it means 'miss'. So I have added these to my vocabulary and when I am thinking in a Russian context these are the words that I am thinking. My Russian thinking is limited mostly by my extremely bad grammar.

Limitchik
25-02-2004, 12:11
J.D, it goes the other way too. Look at Russians' use of

Killer
Chips
Businessman
Impeachment

I know it's not particularly relevant to the discussion and that you were answering Fa-Q's question, but it's an interesting point that there are in all languages certain words or phrases that better express a point or feeling that those of our native language.

Limitchik

DJ Biscuit
25-02-2004, 12:15
Using foreign words in everyday speach is so passe. ;)

J.D.
25-02-2004, 12:53
Of course. In English we don't have anything that can come close to 'bon voyage' or 'bon appetite'. And in modern American we use 'cheers' for lack of a good American word.

earl
25-02-2004, 13:08
One of the best and worst things about english is we never met a word we didn't like and weren't willing to borrow -- and imbue with multiple meanings while we were at it.

-earl-

DJ Biscuit
25-02-2004, 13:13
Originally posted by J.D.
Of course. In English we don't have anything that can come close to 'bon voyage' or 'bon appetite'. And in modern American we use 'cheers' for lack of a good American word.

???????

Yes, it's English. Americans use a lot of English words 'for lack of a good American word' !!!!:p Duh!

fat_chick
25-02-2004, 14:49
there can't be any fluency if you don't actually think in the language

by the way I never say "what's the hour" or "hint me "whatever"

Ignia
25-02-2004, 18:42
Interesting...Very interesting! Dave's genius gives our minds something to dwell on :) *THANK YOU DAVE*
And here is what I tought of while reading...

1. Learn a new language and get a new soul (Chezh proverb).

2. (This comes from one of my favorite books - "Out of the Silent Planet" by C.S. Lewis. 'They' are Martians, 'hnau' is something close to human being as far as I understood it, and 'sorn' is one of three Martian 'hnau' and 'our world' it the Earth, or the Silent Planet......*drivel*)


...Two things about our world particularly stuck in their minds. One was extraordinary degree to which problems of lifting and carrying things absorbed our energy. The other was the fact that we had only one hnau: they thought this must have far-reaching effects in the narrowing of sympathies and even of thought. "Your thought must be at the mercy of your blood," said the old sorn. "For you cannot compare it with thought that floats on a different blood..."

DJ Biscuit
25-02-2004, 18:45
Cool!

Interesting how the film A Clockwork Orange is translated into Russian. As the gang have their own slang ( in the English language version at least) , which is in fact derived from Russian. Thus friends = droogs.

How do you reverse that?

DaveUKagain
25-02-2004, 20:04
Genius ? ;-))))) Oh, nooooooooo . ;-)))))))))))) (Embarrassed :) )

DJ, it always helps to govoreet Nadsat in a bolshy gromky goloss, oh my brother. When all them lovely slovos come out of your rot all horrorshow like, you can impress the ptitsas who`re all up for a bit of the old in out with Your Humble Narrator. ;-)))))

:)

Actually, I read A Clockwork Orange when I was 11 and that`s partially where my interest in Russia came from........ oh my brothers. ;-)))))

Wanderer
25-02-2004, 20:42
I would like the luxury of thinking in the language I am speaking.

The trouble is my head is either full of nothing, or sexual thoughts.

J.D.
25-02-2004, 23:04
Sorry if that went over your head DJ.
I'll try again
We (Americans) use a lot of antiquated expression left over from a small island near the continent of Europe that spoke a mildly post-middle ages language that is coincidently called English, the same name for our language. For lack of a better word in our modern language (American English) we sometimes resort to one of the antiquated words from this all but forgotten language (British English). Why? Because its hip, because its cool, maybe retro even.

fat_chick
26-02-2004, 10:03
Interesting how the film A Clockwork Orange is translated into Russian

it looks preatty bizarre - all these words are written as they are but in Latin among Cyrillic text

razor_tongue
28-02-2004, 16:58
ghost 6-3, kniga, J.D., or other fellow informed in linguistics, I wonder if you heard anything about a mathematical theorem allegedly proven around 1950 and stating that an electronic translator was not possible (assumptions of the theorem, I suppose, were somehow rooted in the computer technology available at that time)

earl
28-02-2004, 21:34
Originally posted by razor_tongue
I wonder if you heard anything about a mathematical theorem allegedly proven around 1950 and stating that an electronic translator was not possible (assumptions of the theorem, I suppose, were somehow rooted in the computer technology available at that time)

You aren't about the halting problem, Turing, 1936?

-earl-

polly
28-02-2004, 21:46
Originally posted by fat_chick
Interesting how the film A Clockwork Orange is translated into Russian

it looks preatty bizarre - all these words are written as they are but in Latin among Cyrillic text

i did a paper examining two Russian translations of ACO a coupla years ago. It was frustrationg. There's so much room for a little creativity in there, but there wasn't necessarily all that much creativity in either of those translations.

camus
28-02-2004, 22:02
I've been away from this thread for a while, but...

to Limitchik:

Language isn't part of my dreams, period Whatever underlying "thought" is in the dream is conveyed without verbalization. And, yes, people don't talk in my dreams.

to Fat Chick:

I'm happy that you don't say certain things, but your lack of usage doesn't make these phrases any less idiomatic among native Russian speakers. According to your profile, you're not a member of the native Russian speaker population, so how you structure Russian dialog is irrelevant. "Podskozhiti pozhalista kotoriy chas" is quite proper and translates literally to "hint me what hour it is, please".

Second, it is indeed possible to be fluent without "thinking" in a language. Americans think I'm nothing other than an American and Russians likewise mistake me for "one of us" -- so much for your hypothesis.

to DJ Biscuit:

Since the Russian plural of "Droog" is "Droosya", keeping the bastardized English form "Droogs" seems appropriate.

Cheers,

Peter

CaliforniaAngel
28-02-2004, 23:40
"Podskozhiti pozhalista kotoriy chas"

Actually it doesn't matter what they say, if they point at their naked wrist you know what they are asking. ;)

kniga
29-02-2004, 10:58
razor_tongue,

I haven't read the premise you referenced, but I agree with it. I do not believe as marvelous as today's computer is that the science has reached the point where machine translation will be anything but an approximation of human translation and one with many errors in it. The sources of machine translation errors are many: slang, idiomatic expressions, sarcasm, subtleties, between the lines meanings, implied information, cultural nuances needing no explanations, etc. Since programming requires an eventual selection of a word/phrase no matter how many branches on the logic tree, selecting the proper rendition for the sarcastic reply, "Yeah, right!" to express the intent of the English speaker/writer into proper Russian would seem highly improbable.

Camus,

"Second, it is indeed possible to be fluent without "thinking" in a language. Americans think I'm nothing other than an American and Russians likewise mistake me for "one of us" -- so much for your hypothesis."

Your reply astounds and fascinates me! If you mean by this statement that you are truly bilingual in English and Russian and speak both languages without consciously being aware of the process of thinking in either language as you do so, I can buy that. But if your statement is to be taken at face value, apparently I need to understand your definition of "fluent" better. None of my foreign languages ever became fluent until I made the transition to thinking in them.

sfjohns67
29-02-2004, 13:31
"Yeah, right!" - "da ladno tebe!"

DaveUKagain
29-02-2004, 13:45
Well, interesting thing is "thinking po-Rooskiy" isn`t "being Russian". I wonder if it`s ever possible to assimilate so deeply in another culture that you become "nearly" a member of that culture ??? I suppose not......

I used to tell my ex that when she came here, the best way of looking at life would probably be to think she was Russian but on an extended holiday in England. I certainly know it`s the only way I coped with life as an expat - I was "an Englishman abroad". No matter if you speak to such a degree of fluency - even thinking and dreaming in the language (and I know Welsh speakers living here who dream in Welsh, not English) - you`ll never ever be a different nationality than the one you were imprinted with at an early age and as the result of deep cultural immersion during your formative years.

But - I`m SURE that learning a foreign language to the point where you THINK in that language has to change your personality to a degree - you are "thinking foreign". So where does "Me" begin - who you are ?????? Seems to be independent of even thinking in a different language.......

J.D.
29-02-2004, 15:27
Hey Dave, I used to say the same thing when I was in the US. I kept thinking I was on an extended holiday. My ex-wife didn't exactly care for my way of thinking.

As to a theorem that says computers will never be able to translate- I don't buy it. But I would certainly be curious to see the axioms that the proof is based on. Just look how far the current grammar checks have come. The only limitations I see are the same ones a human has, 'is it serious or is it sarcasm?' "I saw the boy with the telescope." ok who had the telescope? me or the boy? 'Jack and Jill make a great martini.' each of them is individually capable or it takes the two of them working together to get the job done?

camus
29-02-2004, 16:01
kniga,

As far as I can tell language is a conduit for thought, not the other way around, so I am not sure I believe that anyone "thinks" in a particular language (certain idiomatic constructs suggest themselves by virtue of familiarity but the more abstract thought happens on a para-linguistic level).

For me thought seems to get rendered in a variety of (interconnected) ways:

1. Imagery -- when I started writing the response for this thread, I saw an image of your avatar rotating in tandem with a drunken, gap-toothed Englishman furiously trying to pound on an incoming stream of wooden letter blocks. Sounds pretty odd, but I guess this my brain's visual way of representing "half formed idea".

2. Base emotion -- empathic responses triggered after seeing someone react in way indicative of a particular emotion.

3. Metalanguagese -- some kind of weird stream of half-formed ideas which I have in my head represented using a combination of the vocabularies I know -- mostly English and Russian, but bits of Spanish, Latin, and chunks of whatever I've heard somewhere in some context are possible. Ultimately this stuff gets converted into a (hopefully coherent) phrase in whatever language it is I'm trying to speak.

For the most part, I believe (1) and (2) are the more "toplevel" responses with (3) being an intermediate form.


Peter

DaveUKagain
29-02-2004, 23:48
Originally posted by J.D.


As to a theorem that says computers will never be able to translate- I don't buy it.

Hiya JD - know what you mean about ex`es not buying things, mate (shoes by the ton excepted. ;-))) )

There`s a famous test for computer linguistics - one of my old friends at work was writing a HIEROGLYPH translation program - now it`s got complicated - the test (formulated years ago) said that a translating machine would be classified as intelligent when it derived the probable meaning of

"Fruit flies like a banana"

.... from the context alone. ;)

earl
29-02-2004, 23:50
Originally posted by J.D.
As to a theorem that says computers will never be able to translate- I don't buy it. But I would certainly be curious to see the axioms that the proof is based on. Just look how far the current grammar checks have come.

I'm actually a CS student and I'm 99% sure there is no such proof. There are somewhat related proofs for the halting problem and decidability for certain problems, but nothing that applies to translation. I'd wager that within 20 years there will exist very high quality translation software; the state of the art has come a long way in the last 20 years.

-earl-

ghost 6-3
01-03-2004, 10:47
razor_ tongue

I don’t know about the theorem you mention, but, as earl noted, Alan Turing worked extensively in this field. There is a famous contest held annually to test some of his ideas, one of which is the Loebner Prize Competition. Here is a description of the contest and a research paper from a professor at the Center for Machine Translation at the Carnegie Mellon University: http://www.lazytd.com/lti/pub/aaai94.html

I suppose the biggest problem facing a computer translator is the fact that we do not always speak or right perfectly grammatically. And as Kniga mentioned, we also depend on environmental clues, and our life and social experience to understand fragmented, disjointed, or grammatically incorrect speech. I can speak Russian with an accent, mangling vowels and consonants, using the wrong verb aspects, and confusing my case endings, all while being (usually) understandable to your average person on the street. A computer has almost no way of figuring out that what I actually said is not what I meant, when what I said is either grammatically wrong, or bizarrely improbable.

As for the ‘Fruit flies like a banana’ translation, it a variant of ‘Time flies like an arrow’, which can be understood by a computer as:
time moves quickly just like an arrow does;
measure the speed of flies like you would measure that of an arrow;
measure the speed of flies like an arrow would;
measure the speed of flies that are like arrows;
a type of fly, "time-flies," enjoy arrows (compare Fruit flies like a banana.)

earl
01-03-2004, 10:53
Ghost,
Actually, lots of the research in the last 10 years or so, a good chunk of which does come from CMU, has revolved around forgoing the requirement for the computer to "understand" what the input text "means". The quoted words are kind of hard to define, so just cut me some slack.

The more promising work right now revolves around hybrid approaches; rule based interpretive approaches to try and divine meaning from text and either neural net/markov models/various stochastic processes to analyze large quantities of sample text and draw cues / divine meanings without understanding by similarity to sample text.

-earl-

kniga
01-03-2004, 11:20
Camus,

I found your reply very interesting, though I had to read it several times, first overcoming my initial impulse to dismiss it as irrelevant babble because it is so far removed from what I understand about the process of language.

Point Number 1. is a bit difficult to absorb because for me personally whatever mental imagery that may be taking place in my mind (and surely there is) is doing so in the unconscious background because I concetrate on what I want to say and how I wish to express it. Of course, this process is forced to happen more rapidly during verbal exchanges which allow little time for the more careful formulation and presentation of ideas that are possible in written form. And yes, I agree that language is the conduit for thought, as I am able to to use a number of "conduits" to express the same thought.

Point Number 2. Except as a matter of fact, I do not see the relevance of this statement as it pertains to the process of thinking and speaking; perhaps only because you provided a too truncated idea for me to understand.

Point Number 3. I don't understand this point at all, as if you are suggesting that there is a secondary level of some mishmash of fragments of languages or vocabulary from them which helps you formulate coherent verbal expression, this would seem to contradict your originial contention that you do not think in a language in order to speak it.

If it's worth it to you to comment on these points, I'd be interested to read your clarifications.

ghost 6-3
01-03-2004, 11:23
Earl,

Exactly. Any result will be based on statistical dependencies. Low probability outcomes (even if correct) run the risk of being discarded, even with a large sampling. The result can simply be completely wrong.

Even given recent approaches, and the huge growth in computing power, my six year-old can translate far, far better (excepting, of course, technical discourse), than anything currently produced.

Computer generated translations have great potential, and will be useful. That 'understanding' and 'meaning' are now not in play, however, certainly underlines its quite real limitations.

earl
01-03-2004, 11:27
I dunno about that.

The post-industrial revolution, which I posit we are currently experiencing, will be one of automation via software and robotics. Human translators are expensive; software is cheap.

Given the current progress with speech-to-text, I do believe this will be largely a solved problem in 20 years. Speech-to-text with great -- well over 90% -- recognition rates has moved out of the lab and is shipping right now. The current generation even forgoes the need for training; it's quit impressive stuff.

And I wouldn't underestimate the ability of the statistical approaches to discern meaning; the ability of SpamAssassin and such programs based on HMMs are amazing. I'm getting well over 99% accuracy with relatively minimal training.

-earl-

ghost 6-3
01-03-2004, 11:56
Speech to text of 90% + is impressive, if you don’t stop to remember that language is a discrete combinatorial system. 99% right can mean 100% wrong. ‘I believe in cod’ does not mean 75% of ‘I believe in God’. Furthermore, speech to text will be limited by the ability of our brain to hold the necessary grammatical markers during dictation. For this reason spoken sentences tend towards simplicity. Speech to text will still have great uses (think of the handicapped), but it is unlikely to banish the keyboard forever.

Spam assassin and other such programs are limited in scope. The ability to achieve high accuracy is facilitated by the restrictions based on this task. That is where they will be used, with humans fitting the software to the application. Translators will still be vital (and probably better paid), and even more necessary where cultural nuances can be the final determiner.

camus
01-03-2004, 12:03
kniga,


What you "know" about language is a result of biases acquired by taking to heart the postulations of "experts" Unfortunately there is little to indicate that these people know much either.

By point:

1. Obviously the degree of visualization depends upon how amendable the problem is to being visualized. However there always seems to be some kind of visual queue floating around in my head no matter how seemingly irrelevant.

2. Emotions aren't visual, but they can map to linguistic constructs or hint at certain things. Someone cuts you off on the road and "motherf*cking son of a bitch" (or whatever) comes out as a visceral response.

3. The point is that a form of "half-ass" verbalization is one of the intermediate forms of speaking for me. This says nothing of thinking in the proper form of any particular language.


Of course, all of this is how I think that I think and could be completely out of sequence, partially out of sequence, or just plain wrong.

Peter

earl
01-03-2004, 12:03
Originally posted by ghost 6-3
Speech to text of 90% + is impressive, if you don’t stop to remember that language is a discrete combinatorial system. 99% right can mean 100% wrong. ‘I believe in cod’ does not mean 75% of ‘I believe in God’. Furthermore, speech to text will be limited by the ability of our brain to hold the necessary grammatical markers during dictation. For this reason spoken sentences tend towards simplicity. Speech to text will still have great uses (think of the handicapped), but it is unlikely to banish the keyboard forever.
Oh, sure, it won't banish the keyboard -- speech is pretty much sucks as a UI for most purposes. But it makes dictation one heck of a lot nicer. In any case, I just cited it as a similar area where lots of progress has been made in the last 10 years. For clear speakers, the programs I've seen do at least 95%, although they seem to have real trouble with southern accents.


Spam assassin and other such programs are limited in scope. The ability to achieve high accuracy is facilitated by the restrictions based on this task. That is where they will be used, with humans fitting the software to the application. Translators will still be vital (and probably better paid), and even more necessary where cultural nuances can be the final determiner. Oh, I completely agree. There won't be wholesale replacement, but the same way there will be one worker in McDonalds in 20 years there will be far fewer translators, and the ones that do exist will probably be more like editors: there to correct the mistakes that the programs made. Similar to the way OCR works now: instead of typing documents, we scan and proof.

-earl-

kniga
01-03-2004, 12:27
camus,

I never thought that you were wrong, I was just somewhat mystified by your original response to DaveUKagain's originally posited question,"Do you think in the foreign language you speak?" From your responses, it appears that you don't believe that you do, whereas from my experience with languages other than my native English I know that I think in them when I speak them. You seem to be wired differently or are so flawlessly bilingual that you are unaware of thinking in English when speaking it and then thinking in Russian when speaking it. From my perspective and experience, it is impossible for me to believe what you say other than it being a process whereby you are thinking in the appropriate language unconsciously. Doesn't mean you're wrong, it just means I cannot accept your premise.

camus
01-03-2004, 12:36
kniga,

The crux of the matter is that I don't believe that thought happens in a language given its very nature as a means of expression. The other stuff is probably more a result of how my brain is wired.

I'm a master-level chess player and being able to play games without looking at the board is common at this level (although not everyone can do it) From experience, some people rely on pseudo-algebraic techniques to do this while others (like me) just "look" at the boards in our brains. I'm sure some wackos have third and fourth approaches I'm not even aware of :)

People really do seem to process certain things quite differently even if the results are similar.

Peter

J.D.
01-03-2004, 16:05
Wow, lots of great stuff here.

Camus, I do believe that people can think in images and not words. I believe this is comparable to a low level computer language and 'words' are a high level language. Somtimes images are fine especially when you're not sure about some aspect. When one is sure about this aspect they tend to give it a name, that is they assign a word to it. Words and phrases contain a lot of mental imagery and make it possible to think much 'faster'. If one thought in images all the time I can't imagine that they would get much work done. And when they finally wanted to voice their results they would then have to translate/complile all of those thoughts into English, Russian, Spanish or whatever.

As to speech recognition, I think that many people would have fewer mistakes with this technology than with a keybaord. Then again with instant spell check such as in word processor programs now maybe not.

I think that part of the confusion here is that we have not defined 'understand'. Can the computer 'understand' the context? Can the reader? What does it mean to understand? Often times people misunderstand each other. Maybe because of bad grammar or maybe because of cultural differences. I had quite a few of these philosophy classes and a great deal of time was spent reading famous philosophers who were talking in circles. I think they enjoyed talking more than they enjoyed getting to an answer. I wrote a thesis on this in college and basically I said that language was agreement. My professor asked me if I didn't think that was a bit simplistic. I said "Yes, why shouldn't it be?" Yes he was a philosopher who liked to dance around the question with the goal of never letting anyone get to the goal.
We can communicate because we agree on what a word, phrase or grammatical construction means. Occasionally we cannot communicate because we don't agree. The complete list of agreements will be long and involved but Hey! look how far we've come already. We can either tell the programer this list or he can try to write an algorythm to short cut and second guess it. It will probably be right more often than any of us will be.

kniga
01-03-2004, 16:32
Originally posted by camus
kniga,

The crux of the matter is that I don't believe that thought happens in a language given its very nature as a means of expression. The other stuff is probably more a result of how my brain is wired.

I'm a master-level chess player and being able to play games without looking at the board is common at this level (although not everyone can do it) From experience, some people rely on pseudo-algebraic techniques to do this while others (like me) just "look" at the boards in our brains. I'm sure some wackos have third and fourth approaches I'm not even aware of :)

People really do seem to process certain things quite differently even if the results are similar.

Peter

camus,

You are living proof of your premise (last paragraph)! Been enjoyable walking through your mental jungle and remind me never to play chess with you! :-)

exyabloko
05-03-2004, 08:54
This is coolest thread I ever read on expat.ru.

Unfortunately I am not fluent in English yet and strange thing is that I am dreaming in English. Sometimes when I do shopping in Russian part of Brooklyn, I could say something in English, thinking that I have said it in Russian.

However I just would like to turn this thread in the little different direction. Let’s talk about English speaking people from different part of world.
Let’s say I have a friend from New Zealand just moved to New York for teaching at college. She has a hard time to understand people and vice versa. Once she went hysterical after her Dunking Donates experience of buying bagel with cream cheese. The Puerto–Ricko’n salesgirl who speaks English also can’t understand what the “bagel“ is in the New Zealand pronunciation. My friend tried to show and explain what bagel is, but sales girl still don’t get it. Then NZ friend spelled the word “bagel”, but sales girl don’t know how to spell English words and still don’t get it. Finally, another Irish customer who watched this situation “translated” bagel to sales girl. So the same words could be pronounced with slide difference and it became a different image of sound.

Excuse my English

geordie
05-03-2004, 16:01
Kiwi is definitely the wierdest English accent. Takes a bit of getting used to. If you listen closely there is an element of Scottish in it because so many went there in the first place.