What's strange about *your* language?

SckizoBoy

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Admittedly, this is for native non-English speakers, but I just wanted to talk about peculiarities of the Chinese language, especially Cantonese.

I don't know much about other languages, but I'm fairly sure that it's unique insofar that in common parlance, almost half of what you say cannot be written down (in characters, that is). Hell, if you speak Cantonese as you're supposed to write it, people will look at you like you're a complete madman. Anyone who's been to Guangdong or Hong Kong for any amount of time or is from there will know what I'm talking about when I say 'mung-cha-cha' (which translates to 'confused'). It is an expression that is often used (to describe government, amongst other uses) but there are no characters that it can be written down with. The same goes with a lot of sentence endings, you'll hear Singaporeans and Malaysian Chinese say 'la' (while Cantonese will say 'a-maa'), even though: one, it can't be written down; and two, as one would imagine, it doesn't mean a damned thing.

And then there is the tonality of Cantonese that makes it one of the most difficult languages for people to learn. With four tones, one would've thought that Mandarin was bad enough, but Cantonese has eight. To go with 'ma', the example above would be 'ma3', 'ma4' would translate to 'horse', while 'a-ma2' is 'mother'. Another one would be 'yu', which, depending on tone, can translate to 'fish (3)', 'to meet (5 or 6 not sure which)' or 'rain (2)'. This is why, whenever English speakers try speaking Chinese without appreciating the tones, seriously, we don't know what the hell you're trying to say!

Your turn: what's weird about the language you speak? Or if you speak English only, what would you like to learn, and why?
 

Iron Mal

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Well for English I can say that one of the fascinating things about English is how it evolved over time from us taking bits and pieces from other languages and assimilating them into our own (English actually contains words taken straight from other languages too, including Arabic and various European languages), in short, English is quite literally a 'bastard language'.

Not only that but English is widely reputed to be amongst one of the hardest languages to learn to speak due to the wide amount of idiotmatic language we posess as well as the fact that English is one of the least consistant languages around (there are numerous exceptions to grammatical and puncuation related rules in English as well as several words that sound the same but can have completely different meanings).

Sure, it might not be exotic like Cantonese Chinese but you'd be suprised by the amount of intricacy and history behind English.
 

Heronblade

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What? Do you think there isn't weird shit going on with English? Our language is a bastardized combination of Old age German and Norse, with later additions from Latin, French, Spanish, Greek, and Scandinavian. The language structure underwent a radical shift not too long ago. Old English uses most of the same vocabulary, but is nevertheless utterly incomprehensible to the casual reader. That just applies to Britain's version of the language, I pity the fool that tries to trace the changes it has gone through in America.
 

TimeLord

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The English language is weird. Apparently we're fine with stealing French words and using them as our own.

What the hell was a café before it was named with a French word?
 

SckizoBoy

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Iron Mal said:
Sure, it might not be exotic like Cantonese Chinese but you'd be suprised by the amount of intricacy and history behind English.
True, a fair chunk of the English vocab is loan-words (including from Chinese...). Though just learning Cantonese is damned difficult (which has its own colloquialisms), while I agree, mastering English is one of the most difficult things to do.

Heronblade said:
What? Do you think there isn't weird shit going on with English? Our language is a bastardized combination of Old age German and Norse, with later additions from Latin, French, Spanish, Greek, and Scandinavian. The language structure underwent a radical shift not too long ago. Old English uses most of the same vocabulary, but is nevertheless utterly incomprehensible to the casual reader. That just applies to Britain's version of the language, I pity the fool that tries to trace the changes it has gone through in America.
Oh yeah... thinking about it, Chinese etymology pretty much stopped in the Han dynasty (two thousand years ago *hrk*) and only regional changes to pronunciations, and an almost insignificant number of new words have contributed to its evolution.

TimeLord said:
What the hell was a café before it was named with a French word?
A 'pub' presumably, before they infected us with their sissy! =P
 

SwimmingRock

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Not so sure I would call it *my* language, but I've always been baffled by Dutch expressions. They seem to make absolutely no goddamn logical sense. Like when you want to tell somebody they're being paranoid, you say (translated literally):"Stop looking for nails on low water." Seriously, what the fuck does that mean? Or "all silliness on a stick".

I can't remember many more off the top of my head, but it's happened to me quite a few times that I would have to turn to a Dutch friend to decipher what seemed to be complete gibberish, but was actually a commonly known Dutch expression.
 

Zaeseled

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Finnish. So far I haven't seen any other language or word (but then again, I haven't been looking either) that uses 3 same letters in a row.
Vaaka (base word) meaning "scale" (for weights, not reptile scales.)
Vaaan (possessive) meaning "the scale's".
 

varulfic

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In swedish, we don't have a "the" word. Instead, when mentioning a definitve article we ad an "et" or "en" to the end of it. Example:

Fish = Fisk
The fish = Fisken

Coffee = Kaffe
The coffee = Kaffet

Also, we have different words for different grandparents, depending on wether it's the parents of your father or your mother... why don't you have that english people? Seriously, get on this, your way is confusing.
 

Zantos

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TimeLord said:
The English language is weird. Apparently we're fine with stealing French words and using them as our own.

What the hell was a café before it was named with a French word?
They even steal from us the words they lack,
Le weekend, le camping and cul de sac,
That's why I hate the French, ooh oh oh.
 

SckizoBoy

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Zaeseled said:
Finnish. So far I haven't seen any other language or word (but then again, I haven't been looking either) that uses 3 same letters in a row.
Vaaka (base word) meaning "scale" (for weights, not reptile scales.)
Vaaan (possessive) meaning "the scale's".
Yeah, Wookie: Kashyyyk!

Sorry, couldn't help it...(!)
 

SwimmingRock

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Zantos said:
TimeLord said:
The English language is weird. Apparently we're fine with stealing French words and using them as our own.

What the hell was a café before it was named with a French word?
They even steal from us the words they lack,
Le weekend, le camping and cul de sac,
That's why I hate the French, ooh oh oh.
What? Wait. You think cul de sac is English? Hate to break it to you, but cul de sac is a French term. It literally means "bottom of the sack". Or were you joking? So hard to tell on the internet sometimes.
 

Hamish Durie

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general can mean both things in general and a high ranking army officer o_O.....how exactly?

fucked if I know
 

fbdbh

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Hungarian has no direct relations to other languages, and I don't know how it could sound to a foreign ear, but when I was in Germany, everybody asked: "what's that weird language that you're speaking?"

Introducing myself and then saying that I was born in Zalaegerszeg, was always rather embarrassing. Usual reaction was: "say't again?"
 

Lilani

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SckizoBoy said:
Your turn: what's weird about the language you speak? Or if you speak English only, what would you like to learn, and why?
The top three languages I'd like to learn are Irish, French, and Italian--in that order. Irish because it's just so beautiful and I'd love to understand a lot of my music better, French because it is beautiful and practical, and Italian because I'd love to visit Italy someday and actually be able to function and talk with people.
 

Creator002

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In German,[footnote]German is not my native language, English is. That would be the reason I find this weird.[/footnote]every noun has a gender.

Der Vater = The father.
Die Mutter = The mother.
Das Kind = The child.

The gender isn't linked to the meaning of the word either but rather the word itself.

Das Mädchen = The girl.
Das Auto/Der Wagen = The car.

Then there is the cases in which a word's article has to change (similar to how "he" changes to "him".

Accustive:
Der Vater - Den Vater
(Die and Das do not change)

Dative:
Der Vater - Dem Vater
Die Mutter - Der Mutter
Das Kind - Dem Kind

Gentive:
Der Vater - Des Vaters
Die Mutter - Der Mutter
Das Kind - Des Kinds

Due to this there are 3+ ways to say "a/an", "the", "your", "their" and "you".

During my first two years of learning, I was so frustrated, but I loved the language enough to keep going. :)
 

DaJoW

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Zaeseled said:
Finnish. So far I haven't seen any other language or word (but then again, I haven't been looking either) that uses 3 same letters in a row.
Vaaka (base word) meaning "scale" (for weights, not reptile scales.)
Vaaan (possessive) meaning "the scale's".
From what I understand, your written language was pretty much made up by a Bishop in the 16th century in order to translate the Bible, and he wasn't that good at it. Not saying there's anything wrong with your language, just that your spelling was made more complex than it needed to be.

OT: So, Swedish. Odd language, like all others. We used to have a native word for "window" (which itself is based on Norwegian "vindöye" - Wind Eye) but ditched it for the French word, slightly Swedish-ified, for instance. The Swedish Academy has said nobody has ever spoken perfect Swedish, and nobody ever will, which is just uplifting all around.

We have a lot of rules which are word-specific. Someone above mentioned -en and -et endings: These are paired with en and ett for saying "one" of the same thing - but there are no rules regarding which words use "en" and which use "ett". Each noun has such a pairing, but there are no general rules for it. "En" door, "ett" fönster, "ett" golv, "ett" roof/ceiling, "en" wall. Some words, like beer, can use either but mean different things depending on which is used: "En" beer means a glass of beer, "ett" beer means a type of beer. Most Swedes do this correctly without thinking about it, but it's usually very easy to spot people with Swedish as a second language through such mistakes, because using the wrong wound sounds horrible.

In general, Swedish grammatical rules are rough guidelines which most words ignore completely.

We also have a few bizarre words which completely follow their own rules, such as bookstore. The correct way to say "One bookstore, several bookstores" in Swedish is more accurately translated as "one bookstore, several bookboxes".

Swedish also allows for just tagging words together to create new ones with very spicific meanings - words that did not exist, but are perfectly valid, usually used for jobs or equipment. "Lokomotivingenjörslärling", for instance, means "Trainee to become a locomotive engineer". You could easily make it "lokomotivingenjörslärlingsutrustning", which means "Equipment for a trainee to become a locomotive engineer". Finnish also has this I believe, on QI one of the panelists mentioned one meaning something like "Travelling salesman who sells chalk to the soap industry".
 

Iron Mal

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SckizoBoy said:
True, a fair chunk of the English vocab is loan-words (including from Chinese...). Though just learning Cantonese is damned difficult (which has its own colloquialisms), while I agree, mastering English is one of the most difficult things to do.
Have you tried speaking to someone who is just learning English for the first time and has a very butchered rendition of it?

Learning to speak any language is damned difficult, whether that difficulty comes from it's continuous evolving nature and huge number of inconsistancies (like English, as I previously mentioned it's definately a bastad language) or whether it comes from the sheer complexity of pronounciation and the issue of dealing with what is a very antiquated language (like you say below, Cantonese is an ancient language and hasn't changed a whole lot).

Imagine that English was completely foreign to you and someone was trying to teach you the differences between 'there', 'they're' and 'their' (this is fairly simple stuff for native English speakers) and tried throwing you the sentence 'they're over there and waiting for their things'.

That would probably be one of the hardest things to understand that you could possably imagine, you have three words that sound exactly the same but have very different meanings, not to mention that they can be, and often are, thrown together in different contexts in the same sentence (not an easy thing to deal with in a language that already has a very loose approach to the rules surrounding the use of words, sentence structures and how tenses are used in a sentence).


Oh yeah... thinking about it, Chinese etymology pretty much stopped in the Han dynasty (two thousand years ago *hrk*) and only regional changes to pronunciations, and an almost insignificant number of new words have contributed to its evolution.
This is why Cantonese is complex but for a different reason, it's an antiquated language (like Latin, Egyptian hyroglyphics or ancient Greek) that I'm assuming is mostly kept around today for traditional reasons (correct me if I'm wrong on that).

It's complex, granted, but it would be just like trying to learn how to write and speak English from Chaucer's time (his stuff is famously hard to read, let alone understand fully) so it's a different kind of complexity.
 

CleverNickname

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I don't know anything weird about German. Articles, cases and its spelling conventions aren't weird, they make perfect sense, just as the rest of it.

I love a weird thing about Swedish though. The number 7. I always make my Swedish friends say it and they say once I got fairly close to how it's supposed to sound. Apparently, a lot of Swedish people "cheat" at 7, though. :D
 

Ghengis John

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What's weird about english? Too many contextual uses of words. Eat lead. I'll lead. Try interpreting the meaning of "They read." on it's own without any context. Is this to say they are capable of reading or that in they past they were reading? Other languages I know conjugate their verbs to make past tense, present tense, future tense and how many people less of a mystery.