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The pros and cons of being bilingual



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  #21  
Old November 18th, 2008, 8:53 am
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Re: The pros and cons of being bilingual

Interesting thread! I started to learn English very young (3) and then German when I was 14. So many years later I still sometimes mix both languages when I speak to my German uncle ! But I also studied Spanish and while it's quite similar to French I never mixed them.
Now my kids are bilingual and my elder son (the other one is still a baby, so I'll answer for him in a few years ) knows both languages and learns German at school, but he prefers to speak in French with his dad and never mixed both languages.


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Old November 18th, 2008, 12:46 pm
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Re: The pros and cons of being bilingual

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Originally Posted by CountWestwest View Post
Since I also speak German and have children who don't speak it, I swear mostly in German at home. My daughter usually calmly explains to her friends when she has them over... "don't worry, it's just my dad swearing in German". It's great having a Geheimsprache.
A girl in my school I used to always take the train with used the Geheimsprache the other way round: She always made comments about people on the train in English, and then a few times she realised that the people could actually understand everything she said
That was so embarassing


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  #23  
Old November 18th, 2008, 1:09 pm
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Re: The pros and cons of being bilingual

It is always fun, when other people gossip in a strange language in the hope that nobody can hear them and you sit there and understand every word.

My mum always says, that you shouldn't talk about people next to you in a strange language, you never know if they understand you.

A lot of language are similar and some words are easy to understand and you can figure out the conjunction. For example do I find it easy to understand a lot of Dutch, Flemish or even parts of Swedish.


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Old November 18th, 2008, 1:39 pm
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Re: The pros and cons of being bilingual

Yeah, it was a bit stupid of her, especcialy as almost everyone understands a bit of English. I was always like, "Shhh... keep it down!" and she said nobody can understand us anyway and kept going

I'm on an exchange programme in France at the moment and I always eavesdrop on the German tourists Well, I can't really help it, they don't exactly make an effort to lower their voices And because I've usually got my school bag and stuff with me they think I'm French and that I don't know what they're saying


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  #25  
Old November 18th, 2008, 1:44 pm
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Re: The pros and cons of being bilingual

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Originally Posted by Tenshi View Post
A lot of language are similar and some words are easy to understand and you can figure out the conjunction. For example do I find it easy to understand a lot of Dutch, Flemish or even parts of Swedish.
I agree. In France there are a lot a products where intructions are written in both Flemish and French and while I don't speak a word in Flemish I can understand because it's very similar to German.
Talking of which I found that German was quite easy to learn because a lot of words were similar to English. Latin helped me too for declensions which are not so easy.


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  #26  
Old November 18th, 2008, 2:26 pm
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Re: The pros and cons of being bilingual

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Originally Posted by OooooohDementor View Post
A girl in my school I used to always take the train with used the Geheimsprache the other way round: She always made comments about people on the train in English, and then a few times she realised that the people could actually understand everything she said
That was so embarassing
When I was in the US two and a half years ago (when I was around twelve) with about 30 others from my class/parallell classes , we talked about strange people we saw pretty loud in Norwegian. We worried much; what if they could understand us? What if some of them actually understands Norwegian? How embarrasing wouldn't that be? We were participating in a huge festival (Lego League festival Atlanta, Georgia), with people coming from all over the world. For all we knew the man sitting at the table next to us was from Sweden, and when we commented and discussed his clothes in a not so nice way (just to give an example, this didn't really happen but similar things did, just so you get the idea), what if he got hurt if he understood us? We did, and most of us still do, care about others feelings, so it would really have hurt us if he became sad because of us. That is not a good feeling.

A few weeks ago, there was some guys from the US on the bus I took to get home from school. They talked much about things that had happpened at home (I didn't listen to hard at this, private stuff I'm not interested in), but sometimes they commented the other people on the buss. It was mostly nice comments, like "You see that girl over there? She's pretty!" and stuff like that. Obviously they didn't know most Norwegians understand English very well...


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  #27  
Old February 9th, 2009, 5:17 pm
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Re: The pros and cons of being bilingual

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Originally Posted by FGG View Post
Do you feel all limited when you have to write a paper in a single language?
I speak English and Spanish (mostly Spanglish) but English has played a much bigger role in my life because of school, TV, music, etc. I guess you could say I'm stronger in English grammer and I consider myself very good at writing papers in English. I feel more limited writing in Spanish. If I decide on getting another college degree I'll probably enroll in a Spanish for Spanish/Heritage Speakers class.

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Did you read Harry Potter in more than one language, just to see what the translation was like?
I've only read HP in English but I'm starting to try and learn Hindi and if I ever get good enough to read it then I would love to read HP in Hindi.


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  #28  
Old February 18th, 2009, 5:35 pm
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Re: The pros and cons of being bilingual

I speak (counting English) five languages. Sometimes I'll use words from one of the other languages when I speak English. I find that certain words communicate certain ideas better than ones in my native language. Between my borrowing of words and throwing in pop culture references I think I've created my own pidgin.


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  #29  
Old February 18th, 2009, 7:21 pm
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Re: The pros and cons of being bilingual

I'm bilingual. Lithuanian is my first language, English my best language (I have lived all of my life in the US). I'm trying to pass this on to my kids, who at 4 and 6 also know both these languages. We'll see how well Lithuanian survives school...

I think being bilingual, especially with Lithuanian, has helped me develop language/ grammar skills. It is a highly inflected language in which nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and verbs all possess a variety of different endings to reflect different cases and tenses and genders. This has made learning foreign languages (I learned French, German, and Russian is school) relatively easy, because none of them has grammar quite as convoluted as Lithuanian (though Russian comes close).


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  #30  
Old February 18th, 2009, 8:52 pm
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Re: The pros and cons of being bilingual

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Originally Posted by Tenshi View Post
Sometimes I speak 3 languages at the same time. German, English and a Transylvanian dialect.
I hope it isn't insensitive to ask what dialect this is. Your sample later on suggests it might be transsylvanian German (which I adore), but as far as I know, there are three other languages spoken in Transsylvania, all of them fascinating and much less like German....

What an amazing place to come from! It's beautiful!


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Originally Posted by Pox Voldius View Post
I had a friend in high school who wasn't bilingual, but she was taking both Spanish & German in the same year (and where I went to school in Iowa, they don't start you on any foreign languages until 8th or 9th grade)... and she kept getting everything mixed up so that her homework for her Spanish & German classes ended up coming out as something between Spanglish and Alemañol!

LOL, I remember how hard it was in school to learn Frech and italian at the same time! I constantly mixed them up - they are, after all, quite similar, too!

And the other problem is that my brain seems to have three language compartments: 'German', 'English', 'other live language', 'dead languages' .

The problem is the 'other live languages' one. I don't use any of these regularly, so whenever I go to Greece I find myself with bits of Italian, in France there are bits of Greek tumbling out and so forth. Not good.

One of my biggest aims is to learn at least one other language well enough so it gets its own compartment and actually stays fully functional even if I don't use it for a few weeks.


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Originally Posted by CountWestwest View Post
I mentioned this on the German language thread. I also found the reverse to be true, that speaking Spanish helped me with the German pronunciation. I don't know if they are just being nice, but native German speakers always complement me on my German pronunciation ...

I think that's true. English has many sounds but, alas, has a very distinct way of handling vowels. The non-phonetic writing ststem which completely misleads people when reading other languages doesn't help at all!

Speaking any language with 'clear' vowel sounds such as in german or Spanish will be extremely useful. Extra consonants (such as German ch/Spanish j) will also help. I find that people are reasonably satisfied with my pronunciation of Italian and Greek, and I guess that thinking about different languages for so long probably helps, together with a background in German AND an Austrian German dialect with an much expanded sound system, which helps a lot when trying to pronounce other languages.


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Originally Posted by zgirnius View Post
I think being bilingual, especially with Lithuanian, has helped me develop language/ grammar skills. It is a highly inflected language in which nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and verbs all possess a variety of different endings to reflect different cases and tenses and genders. This has made learning foreign languages (I learned French, German, and Russian is school) relatively easy, because none of them has grammar quite as convoluted as Lithuanian (though Russian comes close).
Wow. Lithuanian. Isn't that the one living language which has most of the old Indo-European system still intact, huge numbers of verb forms and all? I can imagine that this would be extremely useful!!!


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  #31  
Old February 18th, 2009, 9:16 pm
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Re: The pros and cons of being bilingual

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Originally Posted by Klio View Post
The problem is the 'other live languages' one. I don't use any of these regularly, so whenever I go to Greece I find myself with bits of Italian, in France there are bits of Greek tumbling out and so forth. Not good.
But this can be such fun! On the strength of my French, which is pretty good, I picked up a smattering of Italian from numerous trips there with my ex, who has research collaborations with mathematicians in Milan and Pisa. On my last such trip we spent a week in Madrid first, and I bought some laguage CDs in andavce in order to try and understand really basic stuff (like getting directions from strangers).

Once in Pisa, I needed to do our laundry, and as in Italy there are, oddly, few laundromats, I needed to do this at a place that does this for you. The lady did not speak English, so we communicated in (very bad, on my part) Italian. But I absolutely could NOT get Spanish numbers out of my head, they are SOOO similar. (Sette/siete, sei/seis, etc.) And of course numbers were all over the conevrsation. How many kilos of laundry, what is the price, what date and time to pick it up, etc. So as we wrapped up our business, she asked me in a friendly manner whether I was Spanish. I responded that I am American, and she had this really baffled look. My Italian, however, was not adequate for producing an explanation.

Quote:
Wow. Lithuanian. Isn't that the one living language which has most of the old Indo-European system still intact, huge numbers of verb forms and all? I can imagine that this would be extremely useful!!!
Probably. But I only know what they are all called in ...Lithuanian. Though the weirdest thing I can think of, the different conjugation of verbs when referring to precisely two subjects, fell out of wide use in the 19th century. (So, there is a singular, I , you, he/she, a plural, We, you, they, and this other thing we (two) you (two) they (two)). My grandfather, who speaks a regional dialect of Lithuianian, still uses this when he speaks of himself and my grandmother, which is too cool.


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  #32  
Old February 18th, 2009, 9:47 pm
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Re: The pros and cons of being bilingual

Wow.... so I guess Slovenian is now really the last (major??) Indo-European language left which has the dual. (I am adding the cautious 'major' because I am not sure about any dialects elsewhere). It's a nice concept, I think. There are some remains of it in Ancient greek - that's where I first came across it.

Does Lithuanian have the middle between active and passive?

'I wash' - active; 'I am being washed' - passive; 'I wash myself' - medium? think that's pretty cool, and some languages still have that.


Eveything I have ever read about Lithuanian I find fascinating. It's got these beautiful inflecting endings.....

How many cases are there?


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Old February 18th, 2009, 9:53 pm
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Re: The pros and cons of being bilingual

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Originally Posted by Tenshi View Post
It is always fun, when other people gossip in a strange language in the hope that nobody can hear them and you sit there and understand every word.

My mum always says, that you shouldn't talk about people next to you in a strange language, you never know if they understand you.

A lot of language are similar and some words are easy to understand and you can figure out the conjunction. For example do I find it easy to understand a lot of Dutch, Flemish or even parts of Swedish.
Your mom is a wise woman. You should never say anything that you don't want other people to hear. In any language.

I am now bilingual, speaking both English and Hebrew on an academic level, but when I was in third grade I started learning both Spanish and Hebrew and I couldn't keep them straight in their respective classes. I could only remember Spanish in Hebrew class, and Hebrew in Spanish class. This gave me the idea that I'm no good at languages. To this day I can't learn a language in a classroom setting. On the other hand, anybody can learn a language by the "immersion" method.



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  #34  
Old February 18th, 2009, 10:00 pm
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Re: The pros and cons of being bilingual

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Your mom is a wise woman. You should never say anything that you don't want other people to hear. In any language.
LOL... this reminds me of a friend of mine who is half-Estonian. Her father once sat in a train compartment - somewhere in Germany, when two women came in and discussed pretty intimate matters in loud Estonian. Till, after some time, he made it known to them that he understood Estonian.

I guess it's tempting to do this, especially if you speak a fairly rare language, but still! I know I have overheard conversations in various languages in buses and trains in London - and it's astonishing what people think they can discuss in their own language - and that in a city that's SO international!

One time a guy actually was starting to pass on his credit card details down a phoneline in Italian.... and somehow changed his mind halfway through. Astonishing.


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  #35  
Old February 18th, 2009, 10:13 pm
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Re: The pros and cons of being bilingual

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Originally Posted by Klio View Post
Does Lithuanian have the middle between active and passive?

'I wash' - active; 'I am being washed' - passive; 'I wash myself' - medium? think that's pretty cool, and some languages still have that.
Hmm. The first, definitely. The second, is hard to express in English how it works. It is sort of like "I am beingwashed(all one word)", except it would be correct to also leave out the "am", which is optional, and the "beingwashed" word would agree with "I" in number and gender, the way an adjective does. What you describe as "medium" sounds like a reflexive verb in French, German, or Russian to me, in Lithuanian this is achieved by tacking the particle s or si onto a regular active verb. "Maudau"-I bathe, "Maudausi" I bathe (myself).

Quote:
How many cases are there?
Seven.
  • Nominative
  • one that can indicate possession, absence, and probably other things, and also goes with certain prepositions. Perhaps called genitive...
  • one that is used for indirect objects
  • one that is used for direct objects
  • one that goes with the preposition "with"
  • Locative (I believe this is the English name). Namas - house, Name-in the house, all one word
  • Vocative, used when addressing a person/thing.

What makes it hairier than, say, Russian, which has six, is that in Russian, there are three genders and one plural, so there are 4 sets of 6 endings, or 24 total endings to learn. And the gender is easily identified from the nominative form - with the exception of very few irregular feminine nouns, feminine nouns end in "a", masculine nouns in a consonant, neuter ones in "o", and plurals in "i". (Cyrillic versions, obviously).

In Lithuanian, there are 5 groupings. Nouns of any gender can belong to most groupings, and nouns with identical nominative singular endings can belong to different groupings (the endings in other cases demonstrate that the nouns belong to different groups). And, each group forms plurals, and different cases in the plural, in its own unique way. 5 groupings times 2 for singular vs. plural times 7 cases = 70 endings to memorize. Not to mention that there are three groupings of adjectives, which alse decline, and have different forms when modifying masculine and feminine nouns. I'd hate to have to learn a language like Lithuanian. My sister's husband is atually learning...it must be love.


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  #36  
Old February 19th, 2009, 12:34 am
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Re: The pros and cons of being bilingual

LOL..... yes, that must be the most complete Indo-european system this side of Sanskrit, at least with the nouns.

I think Ancient Greek probably has a slight edge on the numbeer of verb forms (I think what you describe doesn't qualify as separate 'medium' verb forms).



What a cool language to grow up with, and to be able to speak, too.

Sorry, I have a geekish weakness for languages with that sort of set-up.


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Old February 19th, 2009, 1:13 am
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Re: The pros and cons of being bilingual

My college roommate of two years was a Classics major. We concluded after some discussion that Greek verbs were a bit hairier, yes, but I no longer remember the details. I am fascinated by languages and the ways in which they are different.


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  #38  
Old February 19th, 2009, 1:25 am
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Re: The pros and cons of being bilingual

(Wellllll, I guess I can be bilingual... I have never lived in any foreign country so my english is just learned.)

Being bilingual makes me speaks (and write) funny in both languages sometimes, yes, even in my native

Some people may say I can´t speak properly, or maybe that I have 8 years old... but thats only becoz my mind is thinking in english XD and grammar is different.
That´s basically my proble with language, my mind have two quite different languages.

Quote:
Have you ever accidentally used words in another language during a normal conversation, because you can't remember how to say them in your mother tongue?
Yes, some times I want to say the english word/phrases, but my pronuntiation in english is not that good, I guess I must have a strong accent XD so it is not confortable to me to speak it.
But I do it when I write.

I use english words , and phrases A LOT cuz they are so much shorter to write.

Quote:
Do you feel all limited when you have to write a paper in a single language?
Only english only cus it´s not my language.

But in the other hand I can express myself so much better in english some times XD

Quote:
Did you read Harry Potter in more than one language, just to see what the translation was like?
Yes I did read HP 7 in english the whole book.
I have the last book only in english (so far) but it was only becoz I was not able to wait the translation one year for reading it.

Pros of being bilingual:

Being blilingual is always fantastic, for many reasons. To know more than 2 languages is even better!!

Contras of being bilingual:

Weeeell, contras...
I may say confused mind XD like mine.

But at least I am proud I am an educated speaker in my language

A second language doesn´t makes me to speak my native language HORRIBLE as it usually happens to many people.

Nop, I can speak and write perfectly one language, mine LOL, but at the same time I understand and defend mysefl in english



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Old February 19th, 2009, 1:34 am
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Re: The pros and cons of being bilingual

Ohhh.... there is something else that's intriguing to me....

Are there any specific things you do in one specific language?



People always say that praying, counting and swearing are the things that most people continue to do in their own language.

I find that I tend to pray in English, even when I am back home in Austria (except in Church, of course, although it's easy to fall into the wrong language during mass and continue the set prayers and responses in the wrong language. I have done that on both sides of the channel.

I swear little, but mostly in English. I guess I never really swore in German, and in English (where I didn't I grow up with the taboos which parents impose on language) I guess I am actually a bit more free with strong language. I know *rationally* what isn't right for a situation, but it isn't as difficult to use even the very worst words in English, because there isn't quite the same sense of transgression, I find.

I count in English, mostly, but I have to do mental arithmetic (something I have always been good at and like doing) in Austrian dialect, which is how I always did it when i was at school. By now I can add up in English - but everything that's more complicated has to be done in German. I find that's the very last thing I don't do in English, usually.


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Old February 19th, 2009, 2:03 am
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Re: The pros and cons of being bilingual

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Originally Posted by Klio View Post
I swear little, but mostly in English. I guess I never really swore in German, and in English (where I didn't I grow up with the taboos which parents impose on language) I guess I am actually a bit more free with strong language. I know *rationally* what isn't right for a situation, but it isn't as difficult to use even the very worst words in English, because there isn't quite the same sense of transgression, I find.
An oddity of growing up in the US speaking a different language. I know very few swear words in Lithuanian, because my parents never used them around me, and I had no other sources. So I swear in English, definitely. My ex (who was an immigrant from the Soviet Union, but young enough to get really good at English) sometimes prefers to swear in Russian, because he claims there is a greater wealth of invective in that language.

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I count in English,
I can count in either language, and recent practice with teaching the kiddos their numbers has made this even easier. But if I am memorizing or copying strings of numbers, I have to do it in English, which is weird. But I am far more likely to forget a digit in Lithuanian. I have things like multiplication tables so well memorized in both languages, I can perform basic operations in either language automatically. More advanced mental arthmetic is for me a non-verbal process. I tend to visualize the way I would perform the same calculation on paper.

I write in English. I am very conscious of the poverty of expression in my writing in Lithuanian, and prefer not to do any for that reason. It's not that I can't. I can spell, have good grammar and syntax, and all that. Just that I know that if I were writing the same thing in English, it would be polished - I would be using the exact right word to create the mood or meaning I want, my sentence structure would be more varied, and it would just be better. I attribute this primarily to a good-quality university education in English (vs. 10 or so grades of home-schooling in Lithuanian...) and secondarily to having done far more reading in English (Lithuanian books are hard to come by over here, especially in the quantities I used to devour books in as a kid). I did read a lot in Lithuanian, but had to keep rereading a lot of the same books.

But speaking Lithuanian to my kids feels much more natural than English.

I have had dreams in both languages.


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