December 14th, 2010


(no subject)

Hypothetical situation:

Monolingual speaker of modern US English in stuck in a time machine without a translator. How far back would they be able to go in time, to both the present day US, and UK, and still be able to communicate in and understand the spoken language? Read the written language?

Other side of the coin, English speakers from throughout history are being transported to the 21st century, how far back would one have to go before the person would be unable to read the language? Unable to understand the spoken language?

Agatha Christie's English

I've come across a phrase I don't understand in Christie's 'The Body in the Library'. Here's the phrase and setup:

"What happened to Mrs. Chetty's Edie?"
"She's just gone into her second place and doing very well, I believe," said Miss Marple.

'Second place' is giving me trouble, and the phrase just isn't specific enough that it's getting good results on Google. I got an article about dogs in heat on my first page of results, and when I accidentally read spoilers for the story, I decided to stop looking and ask y'all.

If anyone has tips on how to parse Christie's English, or do a decent Google search on it for any future questions I may have, I would also appreciate that.

Thanks in advance!
Chief Mouser

Which language should I learn?

First of all, thanks so much to everyone who helped with my last post.

Now I have a very broad question. My mom says she is willing to buy me one of the Very Expensive Language Learning Tools for Christmas this year, which would be awesome, except I don't know which language to pick (or which software). Spanish I am fluent enough in not to need it, and I think my French is good enough not to spend the money. Italian and Welsh are also taken care of.

I'm wondering if I should get something to boost my German (which is at a level of "I can sort of understand it but vocab sucks and I create sentences with great pain") or Japanese (which is about at "I know the grammar, vocab sucks, reading level of a first grader"). OR should since it is expensive, I could learn from scratch one of the languages I've wanted to for a while: Arabic (useful possibly, interesting history, hard writing system, except it'd be MSA which is not communication-useful), Hebrew (basically the same thing), Hindi (easier for me, but most Hindi speakers know English). Or a "useful" language, like Mandarin, which I find very tricky and I don't even know how "useful" it really is. Russian seems like a big one, but again on the usefulness I don't know, and I don't really like it as a language. And then there are the other less widespread European languages, most enticing being Dutch, Czech, Swedish, or Icelandic.

I'm looking for something with a combination of "this language might actually be of use to me in life," "this language will unlock interesting history and literature and current events (especially online)," and "I can learn this language to a good degree of fluency with an available program and might not be able to easily with other free resources." Any recommendations, either for the language or the software?