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Old 06-24-2010, 06:29 AM   #1
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International Party! (a thread for lovers of languages)

MR is an international forum. With its membership constantly growing, I'm hoping more and more languages are represented here. Speaking for myself, I would love to learn each and every language of the world if I had the time and energy. As I don't, I think it would be fun to present our languages in this thread. Our native languages, or others we speak or try to learn. Anything language-related, anything at all, is welcome.

Want to show off your alphabet?

Does your language have a word that has no equivalent in (most) other languages?

Does your language have a word, or words, that the whole world is using?

Want to share common blunders learners of your language are making?

Do you have an expression in your language that you find unique, or maybe surprisingly common?

Do you have words that sound the same as in other languages, but mean something completely different?

Anything at all is welcome! Maybe we can't learn all available languages, but at least we can share some interesting tidbits and celebrate our uniqueness!
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Old 06-24-2010, 06:33 AM   #2
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I'll start with a joke. I've heard it in Greek, but it works in English too.

A linguist is making a speech about languages.
There are languages, he says, where a double negative produces an affirmative.
In others, a double negative still produces a negative.
However there seems to be no language where two affirmatives produce a negative.
And someone from the audience shouts: "Yeah, right!"


--------------------
I would think all languages have a word for yes and no (though in Japanese you learn about them rather late, as they are not to be overused).
A very common little word that I find fascinating is the German "doch". Doch means yes, even though you were expecting a no. What a nice, practical concept!
A dialog would go like this.
-There is nothing interesting on the internet.
-Doch, check out MR for example.

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Old 06-24-2010, 06:45 AM   #3
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Ohh, nice idea!


Out of the top of my head...

Quote:
Originally Posted by omk3 View Post
Do you have words that sound the same as in other languages, but mean something completely different?
Yes. You even write it exactly the same:

Bellen and Bellen.

In Dutch it means to make a phone call.
In German it means to bark (you know, what a dog does...)

Every year there are comical situation when German market sales persons are here for our local flower market every year. And people are saying "Ich bellen Sie"... (Ik zal u bellen)


Another funny tidbit.

You know the animal wildebeest? It's a Dutch word. But we always call the same animal "gnoe"...

(wild = wild, beest = beast).


Another word from all the way down south: Apartheid (being seperated from each other). Not a word to be proud off. But it's Dutch as well. It would be the opposite of "Eenheid" (belonging together).
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Old 06-24-2010, 07:06 AM   #4
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I loved the bellen misunderstanding.

I learned German before I learned English, long time ago. In an English oral exam, I wanted to say something about going to the islands in a boat. I could not for the life of me remember the English word, but I could remember the German Boot, and it sounded almost right, so I ended up saying that I go to the islands in a boot . As I got very high marks, I guess the examiner thought I was just using a mancunian accent or something!

Another word that must cause humorous misunderstandings is embarazada, in Spanish. It is the same word as embarrassed, but it seems in Spanish it is mainly used to mean 'pregnant'. I imagine there are many situations where someone innocently wants to proclaim her embarrassment and ends up getting congratulations or weird looks.
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Old 06-24-2010, 07:09 AM   #5
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Yes, I agree. You don't say you are "embarazada" (although it's correct) unless you mean you're pregnant.
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Old 06-24-2010, 07:46 AM   #6
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Excellent idea

Well it's not really my language, but my adopted language has 28 or 29 letters, it adds three extra letters to the standard Roman "English" alphabet - Š ° ň. In a dictionary the come in that order after -z-. The reason that it's uncertain whether there are 28 or 29 letters in the alphabet - according to my Danish teacher - is that there are no Danish words with -w- so although you will see -w- written in Denmark all the words featuring a -w- are imported words. So Danish itself doesn't have a -w- therefore, the argument goes -w- is not part of the Danish alphabet.

You think that's complicated, you want to try pronouncing it!
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Old 06-24-2010, 08:11 AM   #7
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brilliant thread ! thanks for starting it, omk !

Quote:
Originally Posted by omk3 View Post
I'll start with a joke. I've heard it in Greek, but it works in English too.

A linguist is making a speech about languages.
There are languages, he says, where a double negative produces an affirmative.
In others, a double negative still produces a negative.
However there seems to be no language where two affirmatives produce a negative.
And someone from the audience shouts: "Yeah, right!"
haha !!! it could work in french too, as often we say "c'est cela oui" or "c'est ša, oui" ("that's it, yes") in a sarcastic way to mean that something is false or absurd ("Alex is going to buy me ten ipads !" "c'est cela oui...") i have to remember this joke.

Quote:
I would think all languages have a word for yes and no (though in Japanese you learn about them rather late, as they are not to be overused).
A very common little word that I find fascinating is the German "doch". Doch means yes, even though you were expecting a no. What a nice, practical concept!
A dialog would go like this.
-There is nothing interesting on the internet.
-Doch, check out MR for example.

we have something similar in french as well : "si". instead of "oui" (yes) or "non" (no) it means yes in reply to a negative question. for instance "Alex is never going to give away that ipad, is he ?" "si si !" (it means, "yes he is !") or "you aren't going to the bookshop ?" "si, but i won't buy anything" "yes i am, but..."

Quote:
Originally Posted by omk3 View Post
I learned German before I learned English, long time ago. In an English oral exam, I wanted to say something about going to the islands in a boat. I could not for the life of me remember the English word, but I could remember the German Boot, and it sounded almost right, so I ended up saying that I go to the islands in a boot . As I got very high marks, I guess the examiner thought I was just using a mancunian accent or something!
tihi ! a friend once told me that in her english exam she managed to say something like she would cross the ocean on a "sheep" and she writes on a "sh*t" of paper.

Quote:
Another word that must cause humorous misunderstandings is embarazada, in Spanish. It is the same word as embarrassed, but it seems in Spanish it is mainly used to mean 'pregnant'. I imagine there are many situations where someone innocently wants to proclaim her embarrassment and ends up getting congratulations or weird looks.
how embarassing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TGS View Post
Excellent idea

Well it's not really my language, but my adopted language has 28 or 29 letters, it adds three extra letters to the standard Roman "English" alphabet - Š ° ň. In a dictionary the come in that order after -z-. The reason that it's uncertain whether there are 28 or 29 letters in the alphabet - according to my Danish teacher - is that there are no Danish words with -w- so although you will see -w- written in Denmark all the words featuring a -w- are imported words. So Danish itself doesn't have a -w- therefore, the argument goes -w- is not part of the Danish alphabet.

You think that's complicated, you want to try pronouncing it!
we have a similar situation in french, the only uses of w are in imported words, but i'm pretty sure no-one has ever claimed that the letter isn't part of the french alphabet nonetheless !

here is my contribution. i think the czech language (which i don't actually speak...) is very elegant. one reason why :

to make certain sounds, most languages must use more than one letter. for instance,
english : ch sh
french : tch ch
polish : cz sz
german : tsch sch

but in czech they simply add a little crown to the letter :
czech : č š
what a lovely solution.

Last edited by zelda_pinwheel; 06-24-2010 at 08:23 AM.
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Old 06-24-2010, 08:17 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by omk3 View Post
I learned German before I learned English, long time ago. In an English oral exam, I wanted to say something about going to the islands in a boat. I could not for the life of me remember the English word, but I could remember the German Boot, and it sounded almost right, so I ended up saying that I go to the islands in a boot . As I got very high marks, I guess the examiner thought I was just using a mancunian accent or something!
I thinjk that it would be more likely that your examiner learnt English from a native of Newcastle.

The Geordie accent wouod indeed say "boot" for "boat".
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Old 06-24-2010, 08:19 AM   #9
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Let me just applaud!
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Old 06-24-2010, 08:30 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TGS View Post
You think that's complicated, you want to try pronouncing it!
What's with the whining? Just because we have around 30 different vocal sounds that contribute to the meaning of the word as opposed to the 8 that most languages have?

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Old 06-24-2010, 08:31 AM   #11
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W seems to be a special little letter indeed.
I'm quoting from Wikipedia:
Quote:
In Europe, there are only a few languages that use W in native words and all are located in a central-western European zone between Cornwall and Poland. English, German, Low German, Dutch, Frisian, Welsh, Cornish, Breton, Walloon, Polish, Kashubian, Sorbian and Resian use W in native words. English uses W to represent /w/, German, Polish and Kashubian use it for the voiced labiodental fricative /v/ (with Polish and related Kashubian using Ł for /w/), and Dutch uses it for /w/ or /ʋ/. Unlike its use in other languages, the letter is used in Welsh to represent the vowel /u/ as well as the related approximant consonant /w/. English also contains a number of words beginning with a W that is silent in most dialects before a (pronounced) R, remaining from usage in Anglo-Saxon in which the W was pronounced: wreak, wrap, wreck, wrench, wroth, wrinkle, etc. (Certain dialects of Scottish English still distinguish this digraph.)

In the International Phonetic Alphabet, /w/ is used for the voiced labial-velar approximant, probably based on English.

In the Finnish alphabet, "W" is seen as a variant of "V" and not a separate letter. It is however recognised and maintained in the spelling of some old names, reflecting an earlier German spelling standard, and in some modern loan words. In all cases it is pronounced /v/. In the alphabets of most modern Romance languages (excepting far northern French and Walloon), W is little used, it can be found mostly in foreign names and words recently borrowed (le week-end, il watt, el kiwi). When a spelling for /w/ in a native word is needed, a spelling from the native alphabet, such as V, U, or OU, can be used instead. The same was true in the Danish alphabet and Swedish until 1980 and 2006, respectively, when the letter was officially acknowledged as an individual letter.

The Japanese language uses "W", pronounced /daburu/, as an ideogram meaning "double".
(bold mine)

Zelda I didn't know about the si, thanks! I only knew about si meaning if.

The Turkish alphabet seems to have the same elegance as the Czech, using ă and Ş for the ch and sh sounds. They also follow vowel harmony, where the suffices of words take a different vowel according to the last vowel of the stem. So the suffix for plural can be either -ler or -lar of example.

Many words are common in Turkish and Greek, and both have borrowed words from the other. We lived together for 400 years after all (). So sometimes you encounter funny things like tomates and patates. That's the plural for tomatoes and potatoes in Greek, but the singular for tomatoes and potatoes in Turkish. It felt very strange to have to add the -ler to patates when ordering fries.
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Old 06-24-2010, 08:31 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Laz116 View Post
What's with the whining? Just because we have around 30 different vocal sounds that contribute to the meaning of the word as opposed to the 8 that most languages have?

you are right, i can't think why that would bother *anyone* ! especially not someone learning danish as a second (third / fourth...) language !
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Old 06-24-2010, 08:38 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bilbo1967 View Post
I thinjk that it would be more likely that your examiner learnt English from a native of Newcastle.

The Geordie accent wouod indeed say "boot" for "boat".
I always confuse the millions of English accents
They merit a thread of their very own, I reckon!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Laz116 View Post
What's with the whining? Just because we have around 30 different vocal sounds that contribute to the meaning of the word as opposed to the 8 that most languages have?

Sounds interesting.

Still can't be harder than Chinese. Chinese has a relatively small number of syllables to convey all possible meanings, so intonation is extremely important. You can pronounce the same syllable with a rising, falling, falling then rising (I think) or flat voice, to produce four different meanings. Makes for a very musical language, and a very hard one to get right as a foreigner.
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Old 06-24-2010, 08:40 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by omk3 View Post
W seems to be a special little letter indeed.
I'm quoting from Wikipedia:

(bold mine)
ha very interesting ! thanks for that. and yes, in french, those are all examples of words using W. probably the most common is "wagon" (it's an individual car on a train), but we pronounce it "vagon" with a long o and the n barely pronounced at all. brilliant french author Raymon Queneau used to make up hilarious phonetic spellings of those imported words, so for instance "ou´quende" for "weekend".

Quote:
Zelda I didn't know about the si, thanks! I only knew about si meaning if.
yep, it's really useful !

Quote:
The Turkish alphabet seems to have the same elegance as the Czech, using ă and Ş for the ch and sh sounds. They also follow vowel harmony, where the suffices of words take a different vowel according to the last vowel of the stem. So the suffix for plural can be either -ler or -lar of example.

Many words are common in Turkish and Greek, and both have borrowed words from the other. We lived together for 400 years after all (). So sometimes you encounter funny things like tomates and patates. That's the plural for tomatoes and potatoes in Greek, but the singular for tomatoes and potatoes in Turkish. It felt very strange to have to add the -ler to patates when ordering fries.
ha nice, i didn't know about the turkish accented letters ! thanks ! there are a lot of words which sound similar / identical between french and english but have different meanings (we call them "false friends") but i can't think of any quite like tomates / tomates just now... ("tomates" is the french plural of tomatoes and "patates" = "potatoes" also, though, so the same situation will occur between french and turk, except we don't order fries "patates" we just say "frites" ).
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Old 06-24-2010, 08:56 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zelda_pinwheel View Post
brilliant french author Raymon Queneau used to make up hilarious phonetic spellings of those imported words, so for instance "ou´quende" for "weekend".
Aahh, the things that get lost in translation!



Quote:
("tomates" is the french plural of tomatoes and "patates" = "potatoes" also, though, so the same situation will occur between french and turk, except we don't order fries "patates" we just say "frites" ).
It's not pronounced the same in French though, is it? Both Greeks and Turks pronounce all the letters: pah-tah-tes. (πατάτες, in case anyone was wondering. plural of πατάτα - patata. And instead of frites, we order tiganites patates -τηγανητές πατάτες- meaning fried potatoes. Yes, we could have chosen something a little smaller, but never mind )

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