More Manx

I spoke quite a lot of Manx yesterday and heard even more at a regular get-together of Manx speakers which happens on Tuesday afternoons in Douglas. About nine or ten people turned up and we spoke in Manx for an hour or so. I occasionally lapsed into English, Welsh or Irish when I couldn’t think of how to say things in Manx, but the others all stuck to Manx and were speaking it fluently. This was the first time I’d heard so many people speaking Manx so well, and I understood a lot of what they said, and managed to work out the meanings of some unfamiliar words from the context.

When I chat with people who are fluent in a language I’m learning my level of language tends to improve. This is partly because I can adapt the things they say for my own purposes, and also because I feel the need to speak the language as well as possible. When I speak to non-fluent learners in languages I know well I try to adjust and simplify what I say so they can understand me. This is a useful exercise because it forces you to explain things simply and clearly and to practise alternative ways of saying things.

Have you had similar experiences?

9 thoughts on “More Manx

  1. I don’t have any similar experiences but I was very interested to read this. I think its great that a reasonable sized group of people can get together like this and all speak fluent Manx to eachother.
    I think a big part of the success of the Manx revival efforts is the fact that the efforts started while some of the old native speakers were still living. That continuity must help a lot.

  2. When speaking with non-natives who are not fluent I somehow tend to be less fluent myself. For example, I have more pauses, somehow connect the words incorrectly more often and so on. I have no idea why.

    Maybe this is not correct but it’s the impression I have. And I’m mainly drawing this from my Portuguese speaking.

  3. I have noticed that when speaking on Skype with native Spanish speakers I tend to learn a lot more phrases and grammar naturally than when speaking with people who are still learning, because they use the most simple, grammatically correct form of the sentence, instead of what is used in common language.

  4. Language immersion has been for years one of the more effective tools for language learning. A couple of the local tribes here in Humboldt County, California are doing just that to ensure the survival of their already-critically-endangered languages, such as Wiyot and Yurok. Every year these tribes hold summer camps to encourage their languages’ survival.

    Looks like you’re getting somewhere with Manx- It’s an interesting language. 🙂


  5. Personally I like a mix of inputs. In my early days in Poland I spent a lot of time around monolinguals where I literally understood just two or three words a minute (for hours on end).

    Later I also knew a bunch of second language speakers.

    Both situations helped me a lot.

    The first (eventually) in learning more natural expressions, learning how to fill in the blanks (from mumbling or background sound or any of the other things that kept me from hearing every word).

    The second was helpful in confidence in that non-native speakers were more liable to give me time to finish when I was having trouble formulating something (instead of assuming what I was about to say and zooming on from there) and it gave me good models to critique (as in: “I understood that, but I would have said X instead.”)

    Finally … while I’m here. I’ve noticed that in languages I’ve become more fluent in, I have to go through a stage where (as I describe it) I can keep up my end of a conversation without understanding much (or anything) of what the other person is saying. Some other people I’ve talked to have reported similar experiences while others look at me as if I were crazy. Do other people here have the same experience?

    I think maybe that’s one of the reasons I never became as fluent in a sign language (American or Polish) as I would have liked – I was never able to fake comprehension well enough. Deaf people could always tell when I’d stopped understanding and simplify.

  6. I think one idea is to match output with audience and environment. We can do this with our words by adjusting the level of difficulty of our vocabulary, idiomatic expressions, pace. But we can also do this with the topic of conversation, body language, and other mannerisms and behavior.

    Personally I feel that speaking a foreign language with other non-native speakers is kind of strange. There is some bizarre role-playing element to it all, something artificial, unnatural, extracorporeal. Perhaps I am self-conscious, but I feel a challenge and competition unfelt with native speakers.

    I have also observed foreign exchange students living together in the US, and in general I do not think that speaking with other non-native speakers is the best environment to improve English, even if it is easier to understand. If you do pick up on anything, it’s probably some overused phrase, grammatically incorrect, out-of-context or just unnatural-sounding. Non-native speakers tend to latch on to a limited amount of vocabulary, like amateur soccer players with one or two “moves” that work only during practice.

    In my experience speaking with or listening to non-native speakers, I either learn a) new vocabulary (that the word or phrase exists; my use of it depends on verification thru native sources), b) how not to sound like a foreigner.

  7. Speaking to non-fluent learners in languages you know well is like speaking to children, in fact. You must assume that they know some word or don’t know some other one. When you speak one or more foreign languages, maybe you can feel better such probabilities, because you can imagine whether or not you would understand something in a language you are not fluent in.

  8. michael farris – I understand what you mean by being able to “keep up my end of a conversation without understanding much (or anything) of what the other person is saying.”

    On one hand, I see it as a problem, a lack of comprehension/experience and an strange attempt to mask that incomprehension, embrassament, etc.

    On the other hand, I see it as a characteristic of actual native speakers. That is, such one-sided conversations exist especially among native speakers who “do not really listen”, but rather prepare their words in their own minds while waiting for a chance to speak. “Good listeners” in any language (native or foreign) are people who understand, the direct meaning of words as well as the nuances, indirect meanings, and the unspoken. With time and experience, the question goes from “Can you understand (foreign language)?” to simply “Are you a good listener?”

    As a side note, there is an visual/neural phenomenon called “filling in” which has always interested me in relation to language learning. My idea is that if we put our brains into a certain “relaxed” mode, we can understand input without actually knowing specifically what has been said. A good example is listening to a technically complicated piece of music, and hearing the “whole sound” rather than the individual instruments. The skill is in switching in and out this “mode”, which may be a question of maturity and experience.

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