I was lucky enough to talk to a teacher of Mandarin Chinese at lunch one day. She said:
The biggest difference between Chinese and Japanese is that, with Chinese you cry and then you laugh, and with Japanese, you laugh and then you cry.
She explained that Chinese has a lot of little parts that you need to learn at the beginning to make even the most basic sentence. But, as you learn more and more, you see that there are patterns and you start to be able to guess (correctly!) which little part you need, until you find that Chinese isn't as hard as you thought. You cry, and then you laugh.
With Japanese, she said, it's the opposite. You can learn basic Japanese very quickly. Learners almost fly through the first levels. But, as you learn more and more, many details and exceptions start to appear and learning slows down dramatically. Learners often quit Japanese at this point, because an easy language has suddenly become far too difficult and progress far too slow. You laugh, and then you cry.
It occurred to me that I know of 2 "laugh then cry" languages (English and Spanish) and 1 "cry then laugh" language (German). It is a shame that nobody warns us about this phenomenon when we start a language. They leave us in the assumption that what starts hard or easy will stay hard or easy.
What are your experiences? Have you ever been fooled by a language, or do you recognize the language you are learning as a "cry, then laugh" or a "laugh, then cry" language?
English is definitely a laugh-then-cry language.
It's a piece of cake to start with. Throw together a few wannas and gonnas with some familiar-looking nouns and Latin cognates and away you go. You can communicate ( after a fashion) and travel the world. Articles? Nah, who needs 'em?
It's only later, when you realise how irregular, capricious and idiomatic real English is, that the problems start. When you hear a native English speaker utter a sentence composed entirely of tiny little words like got put set off on up and down..... you recognise every single word but still don't understand a damned thing of what they're saying. That's when the trouble kicks in.
Spangola, maybe that's just me, but to me it looks like the English language is a "make a weak chuckle and then cry, and then cry even harder" language. I do like it but there's something almost masochistic about it. I wonder if this cry part ever ends. I don't even quite remember the laugh part, who stole it from me..?
I never had a "laugh" moment with russian, it's always been "cries". Even with the alphabet, because for me learning the alphabet has to come along with the fluency at reading (quick recognition of the letters when reading at a reasonable speed).
With german "laugh and cry", when I started learning german, it wasn't that complicated as people like to say about german, but then the more you explore, the more lost you get (that's my case)
Now I am trying to learn Turkish and so far I've only had "cries", my tutors say it'll get better and more logical as I go, I'm hoping to start laughing real soon.