It’s-too-hot-to-do-anything-but-take-this-poll Poll

Ok, so I’m in Arizona. Maybe it’s not that hot where you are, but we all know you have nothing better to do. Check all that apply:



  1. There needs to be a “I can speak it, but not read it” option for those of us who went to Japan.

  2. SMP,

  3. wait…Canadian totally counts as a foreign language, right?

  4. I served an English-speaking mission in the United States, where I was born, but for the sake of feeling represented, I will say that I am still fluent in English.

  5. What about those who have not kept up with their foreign language? Or is that just not something that happens?

    I served English-speaking in the barren desert wasteland of southern California so the only language I learned was Spanglish. Speak but not read, keep up via movies.

  6. andrewh says:

    I learned “Okie” (also known as “Southern” or “Redneck” or “Hick”) does that count?

  7. Matt W. says:

    I don’t do anything to keep up my foreign language skills. It’s just embedded in my brain. But Visayan/Cebuano isn’t that complicated of a language.

  8. Honestly, I have not had any interaction with my mission language since I left the country of service 15 years ago. I imagine myself as fluent, because last time I used the language I was, however I would not be at all surprised to find that, should I need the language tomorrow, I would struggle.

  9. Ditto to what Syphax said.

  10. Kevin Barney says:

    I’ve always been envious of folks who learned a foreign language on their missions. I just learned Coloradan.

  11. Andrea R. says:

    Mostly I keep up with my Spanish because I live in Florida where 80% of the population (I’m exaggerating, but it’s close) speaks Spanish. I sometimes help interpret at church and I toss off a few Spanish phrases to make sure my students know that I understand them if they’re talking about me. Occasionally, I’ve been able to help out conveying a message between two people (at a store, for example) who aren’t able to communicate.

  12. Where is the option for “married a native”?

  13. I’m pretty much awesome.

  14. Duke of Earl Grey says:

    I couldn’t find a box for my situation. I can read Spanish, I can speak broken Spanish, but I don’t understand a lick of native spoken Spanish anymore.

  15. Hans,
    I should’ve added that, but that could be its own post.

  16. My option wasn’t on the second poll. I keep up my language by speaking to my Filipina spouse. I guess other than that it’s listening to music. So I’ll check that one.

  17. re #16, the option for you is “I’m pretty much awesome” — see # 13.

  18. Raymond says:

    The second poll omits what I would guess is the most common way for Spanish-speakers to keep their skills up – talking to people (see #11). I don’t know, maybe Spanish isn’t really that foreign anymore.

  19. I still speak it, but certainly not as well as I did while I was there.

    There just aren’t enough German speakers around, and I get embarrassed because my grammar is atrocious.

  20. Last Lemming says:

    There should be something between “I can’t speak it” and “Im fluent.” When I went back to Germany after 28 years, I got by, but was hardly fluent (if I ever was).

  21. Agree the options for keeping up the language are not enough. I speak it at home a bit with my German-as-a-second language (like me) spouse when we don’t want the kids to understand. Of course we mix our German with the Spanish we learned while working in Latin America. And my kids reverse the favor of secrecy by practicing the Mandarin they learned in Taiwan that I couldn’t while I was working there.

  22. Peter LLC says:

    I’m as awesome as a month of Sundays is long, if I do say so myself.

    There should be something between “I can’t speak it” and “Im fluent.”

    Enter the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages:

    A Basic Speaker
    A1 Breakthrough or beginner
    A2 Waystage or elementary

    B Independent Speaker
    B1 Threshold or intermediate
    B2 Vantage or upper intermediate

    C Proficient Speaker
    C1 Effective Operational Proficiency or advanced
    C2 Mastery or proficiency

  23. Peter LLC,
    Touche. There is a lot of space between no language ability and fluency, and fluency can be relative. I’m always amused when people say they are fluent in a language, just because I am skeptical.

  24. Last time I took a Bulgarian test for the Army, I got the maximum score. At one time, I was hoping to be able to answer “Using it at work,” but the closest I ever got to going back to Bulgaria was Bosnia.

    And you must not be in the right part of AZ if you have nothing to do. I’ve got a pretty sweet fire to watch!

  25. it's a series of tubes says:

    I learned to speak Brummie. I keep up with it by watching the Osbornes.

  26. Wait, mmiles, why are you in Arizona? Just vacation I guess?

    I sure wish I spoke my language better. But alas, I felt like I couldn’t meet all the demands my life was placing on me and still diligently maintain this skill. I sort of had to “let it go” as it were. I have some strange notion that if I were to get back to mother Russia it would not take me long to “pick it back up.” At least that’s what I tell myself.

  27. There needs to be a “I use my foreign language in my current church calling.”

    I’m a service missionary and high councilor to a Spanish branch. Spend a year in a branch of the Church that speaks your mission language, involved in lots of activities and callings, and I guarantee your skills will be at least as good as they were on your mission!

    For example, try teaching Institute classes in your foreign language…

  28. BTW, anyone who has to tout his/her own awesomeness is not as awesome as those of us who do not feel a need to tout our own awesomeness.

  29. re #6 andrewh, when did you learn Okie?

  30. Peter LLC says:

    I’m always amused when people say they are fluent in a language, just because I am skeptical.

    Same here, mostly because ten years ago I walked all over a level C2 test and yet still had enough room to improve by leaps and bounds over the ensuing decade.

  31. I’ve lost much of my mission language (Finnish). Sometimes I regret letting it slip, but I’m not sure what the return on investment would be for spending the time to try and keep it.

  32. kentslarsen says:

    It is very easy now to keep up your mission language. The Internet makes it almost child’s play. There is plenty to read in your language, usually a lot to listen to in your language, and at a minimum ways to converse with others in writing in your language.
    It’s merely a matter of whether or not you can fit it into your priorities or not (no judgements in that statement).

  33. Fluency in this poll is self-defined, which is how most people behave in real life. “Oh, yeah, I speak Spanish” not “I scored a 3 on the Foreign Services Institute Spanish exam.”

    BTW, for my foreign languages (German and Spanish), speaking is far easier than reading for me, since I learne them both primarily through day-to-day usage in country. For my MA I did a far amount of German translation, but that is a skill that has waned significantly.

  34. I never totally learned it. I was sent to Cantonese-speaking Australia and after 14 months of running into one or two Chinese-speaking contacts a month they finally dissolved the program. With nobody to talk to, and feeling guilty about studying a language God no longer needed me to learn, I had lost most of it by the time I came home. Then returning to Utah didn’t give me much opportunity, and the school I was attending didn’t offer Cantonese.

    So I can recite a few scriptures, say hello, and can remember less than 50 random words.

    The pretend written Chinese that they teach does come in handy to use as passwords on web sites though.

  35. Jonathan Green says:

    Peter LLC, the A1-C2 framework (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) has only come into widespread use over the last decade, and only since ca. 2004 for German. Are you sure you were taking a C2-level exam a decade ago? It’s certainly possible, but the C2 material I looked at recently was really high level stuff, along the lines of “Please deliver a 20-minute presentation on Topic X. You have 15 minutes to prepare. Go.” Breezing through a C2 exam represents an extremely high level of proficiency.

    You’re correct of course that there’s still plenty of room to improve, even at that level, and that it’s hard for people to accurately describe their own level of fluency (which makes the CEFR such a useful thing).

  36. Elouise says:

    When interviewing me for my mission (fifty years ago), Elder Hugh B. Brown looked at the information sheet , and seeing quite a few college courses in French, he said, “So you are fluent in French?”

    “No, sir, Elder Brown, not fluent, just conversant.”

    Was then, still am–as long as I’m conversing with
    a kindly old Parisian woman who uses no slang at all, spent her professional life teaching third-graders, and is now interested only in the weather.

  37. Peter LLC says:

    Are you sure you were taking a C2-level exam a decade ago?

    Jonathan, it was in 2002, so not quite ten years ago, and I don’t recall if it was marketed as a C2-level exam at the time, but the test I took is now known as the ÖSD “C2 Wirtschaftssprache Deutsch.”

    But even after a master’s program and six years of living and working in a German-speaking country, I still feel that my skills are barely up to the task, test results notwithstanding. Fluency on paper? Check. Fluency in real life? Well…jein.

  38. Jonathan Green says:

    Peter, thanks, that helps explain things. The equivalent German tests were in the process of being reconfigured to the CEFR in 2004/2005, at least the B-levels. My impression was that the C-level exams came along later, but on that I’m not sure, and I don’t know if the Austrians were ahead of the Germans. In any case you took a very high level exam that required a high degree of proficiency.

    And I know the feeling of still having large gaps in linguistic and cultural knowledge, even after years of training and experience. (Of course, sometimes I feel the same way about English: I’m not fluent enough to extemporaneously summarize a conversation in front of a large audience after a poor night’s sleep, as I discovered this morning.)

  39. Peter LLC says:

    Good point, Jonathan; there’s fluency and then there’s general stupors of thought. :)

  40. One day as we were tracting in Vienna a young woman said that she knew all about us American sects. She got me “Elmer Gantry” in translation. I honored her by reading it and realizing that I did not know German at all. Since then I have read lots of stuff. I am reading Herman Hesse, Das Glasperlenspiel, sort of slowly, now.

    While reading Hesse I finally realized that the true beauty of the German language is in its written form. A writer can write a sentence of such a length and create compound words to say exactly what he or she wants to say with precise implications. It can be a little off-putting to read a paragraph as a single sentence, but there it is.

    About 10 years ago I was at a Siemans plant in Bavaria and sat through a half-day presentation of a technical spec. The presenter knew little English. I passed the test and even asked questions in German. The presenter was amazed that I spoke grammatical German. So, basically, like Elouise #36. After a couple of days’ training I can listen to news broadcasting. I read the Frankfurter Allgemein occasionally on the Web.

    Once, about 40 years ago in the Physics Department, I translated a paper on general relativity by Einstein. I stumbled over the word Sprung which means break or crack, until I realized that in English it means discontinuity in the mathematical sense. Duh.

    In this present world it is hard to find a place to speak German where the other person does not know English better than I know German, now. But, occasionally, the German word is recalled before the English.

  41. I have little opportunity to hear or speak French, but I think I haven’t entirely lost my ear. I read 19th century and older French Swiss frequently, with orthography very different from standard French, and often written by barely literate people anyway. It doesn’t make sense to the eye, but if I “listen” to what my eye is taking in, I have no trouble at all understanding it.

  42. I didn’t go proselyting, but I do speak and read French. My freshman year, I took 321, and did well: those who had been missionaries usually had quite good speech skills but grammar and writing issues; I needed to become stronger in conversation. The immersive experience of courses, study abroad, and working at a camp made me much, much better at speaking, and I keep up by reading game instructions and news articles, but I probably peaked in ’09 as far as my idiomatic fluency.

    Missionaries seem to pick up odd Mormonisms that nobody else uses. Seeing how so many people are going to be speaking a language essentially professionally, I am ashamed at how bad public foreign language education is in Utah. I was lucky enough to go to private school.

  43. andrewh says:

    U2 40 – sorry this is a few days behind. I served in the Oklahoma City Mission from 92-94 under Presidents Beazer and Patch.