On Tue, 6 Feb 2001, E-Ching Ng wrote:

> Jörg (and Marcus),
> I think the reason you're reacting so violently to Brian Phillips compared
> to everyone else is that Brian didn't explain in detail how he's going to
> use his conlang with his kids.  I don't think anyone else understood it to
> mean what you meant.

And I didn't even see the original message, and I don't remember seeing
it in the reply-message I did read (possibly got snipped or I wasn't
paying attention).

> I grew up in a household where three languages were routinely spoken, and I
> was fluent in the two that were spoken to me before I turned five -
> Mandarin and Hokkien.  (As luck would have it, we then moved to England for
> a couple of years and so it was English, that third language, that I needed
> to survive outside the home - oh well - but now it's my best language, and
> it's the other two which I'm no longer fully fluent in.)

<wry g>
I grew up in a household where our father spoke English to us and Korean
to Mom, and our mom spoke Korean all the time (with occasional English
words thrown in for convenience, but very predominently Korean).  I went
through a phase of being reading-fluent in English (I was reading and
writing before kindergarten, thanks to Mom and Sesame Street) and
speaking fluent in Korean (with about as much reading proficiency as
could be expected for my age), then a brief period of English and Korean
fluency, and then (after moving back to the U.S.) English but only
limited Korean fluency, which is where I am right now.

All this to say, exposure to languages isn't all, as you point out--it's
also environment.  And motivation, too, I'm sure.  Unlike the vast
majority of Koreans-in-the-U.S. households, my parents *never* forced me
to learn Korean or go to Korean language school; they only made my sister
go to a summer course in Korean at Yonsei U. her last summer before
college.  And frankly, I spent most of my life assiduously picking up
snippets of every language *except* Korean, because I hated Korea.  Any
language I was forced to pick up, I detested (which led to a period of
really disliking French).  I was a pretty contrary kid.  :-p  So
depending on temperament I could see someone just refusing to learn
beyond a certain point.

> There's an American non-immigrant living downstairs from me who speaks only
> conlang to her elder sister; they invented it as children and its lexicon
> is fiercely guarded from everyone else, including their parents.  Her
> English certainly hasn't suffered - and they wouldn't give it up for
> anything.  Last I heard they were going to institute SOV word order, now
> that they've both learnt Latin.

That's really cool.  :-)

> I will agree that it sounds pretty much impossible to work, but what are
> auxlangs for but to attempt the impossible?  Either it works and the kids
> have a secret family language, whether or not they're good at learning
> other languages later on; or it doesn't work and Brian figures that out
> along the way and goes the practical path of the sleep-deprived young parent.
> Brian, I'm not trying to speak for you, I just couldn't concentrate on
> other things till I replied to this e-mail from my own experience - I'm
> keen to hear what you're going to say to Jörg and Marcus.

Yup--if I actually ever have kids, I would be delighted to *expose* them
to whatever languages I know, and I would try to give them a basic
foundation in Korean *if* they wanted it.  I am not big on Korean
heritage--I would die before living in Korea full-time--but I think it
should be available for them; and after all, half their relatives would
be mostly only fluent in Korean.  (Which is why  Korean is actually more
useful to me than Spanish: there's more people I'm in long-term c ontact
with, with whom I'm likely to use it.  But I don't learn languages for
usefulness.  :-p)  Some Korean, definitely English (my *best* language),
some French and German, Japanese and Latin and who knows what else if I
ever become proficient.  I think having children's books around in
various languages would be fun for me *and* any hypothetical kids!

But any sustained language experiment would definitely have problem.  My
boyfriend, frex, is great at physics/math but just doesn't pick up
languages well.  I've been watching anime for half a year less, playing
Legend of the Five Rings for half a year less, and I still know more
about Japanese and Japanese basic phrases than he does--because I'm
better at languages and (therefore?) more motivated.  Plus I bet then
kids would start develping their own language rules and creolizing or
whatever, which would be cool but might leave the parent who started it
all out of the loop.  But who knows.