All 4 entries tagged Languages

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May 11, 2007

A very European weekend

Spent a fantastic four days visiting German friends last weekend, hopping over the border on Sunday to visit Strasburg.



sunset over Mainz

More photos in the gallery on the left.

Strasburg has some beautiful buildings – the old timber framed houses near the river, for example, or the Art Nouveau ones… I would gladly move over there (added attraction of speaking French and proximity to Germany…). It felt v European to just drive over there – only 2 hours from Mannheim.


It was great to use my German and French again… if somewhat painful! I have a theory that they only go passive (ie you can still recognise and understand the other language, but it becomes more difficult to use it actively), but it felt dreadful not to remember some pretty basic words which I KNOW I know. There again I sometimes can’t think of English words (that tip of the tongue feeling) so I don’t know why I’m that worried!

So I’ve resolved to improve my German:
1) I joined the Deutsch fuer Fortgeschrittene course here this week in order to speak German regularly (even if it’s only once a week) and
2) I’ve bought Patrick Sueskind’s Parfum in German, English (it saves looking up words in the dictionary! Yes I am lazy!) and German audiobook! I’ve downloaded the audiobook onto my SwimP3 as well, so I can listen as I swim. Fantastisch!

February 22, 2007

Lost for words

Writing about web page

Have you seen the section of the BBC language website “Lost for words” with people’s language blunders? Just seen that one I sent in has been posted:

Film Trailers

I was wanting to find out whether there was a trailer for the film I was going to see, and as I didn’t know what the German word for trailer was, I decided to make it up: Vorspiel. I reasoned that it would mean something like “before the performance”. However, it was clear from the surprised/amused look on the ticket seller’s face that I’d got it wrong. It turns out I asked whether there’d be any foreplay… oops! Trouble is, I still don’t know what I should have said – I just know I won’t be asking that again!

Helpfully there’s an editors note:

Editor’s note: You were on the right path. The German word for trailer is Vorschau.

February 07, 2007

Spanish Test

A Mexican visiting the United States goes into a store to buy a pair of socks. He speaks no English and the clerk doesn’t know a word of Spanish.

Through pantomime, the Mexican tries to explain what he needs, without much success.

The clerk brings out shoes, then tries sneakers, then slippers, then laces, all to no avail.

Finally, he brings out a pair of socks and the Mexican exclaims, “Eso si que es!” [=that is it]

Says the exasperated clerk, “Well, for crying out loud. If you could spell it, why didn’t you say so in the first place”?

May 25, 2006

multilingual animals

Writing about web page

I've always been fascinated by the way speakers of different languages "hear" different sounds of animals. How come the English hear "cockadoodledoo" and the Germans hear "Kikiriki"??

And can you say one is more accurate (one is 5 syllables and one is just 4)?


There's a brilliant website that I've just discovered where by clicking on animals and flags you can hear demonstrations of all sorts of animal noises.
animal talk

I love the fact that cows in most languages say moo (or something similar) – but in the Netherlands they say boo!! Are they scarier over there? I can imagine them hiding behind hedges and jumping out to boo at unwitting passers–by…

And to give you an idea of the variety around the world– compare the humble croaking frog.
The following are approximations of what the different nationalities seem to be saying

  • ra–ka–ka–keh in Hungary
  • va–va in Israel
  • coca coca in the Philippines
  • graba graba in Brazil
  • kwa kwa kwa in China
  • co co con in Poland

There's another interesting website with more languages and more animals, but only in transcriptions and not with demonstrations:

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