What Does Your Language Suck At?

Last month, Linda of expateyeonlatvia wrote an impassioned piece about a number of vexatious statements put forth by her students, which had made her blood boil. One of her hapless tutees opined, for instance, that “English wasn’t a rich language”. [Click here if you want to see the post].

I commented on Linda’s post that a Spanish friend of mine had once said something very similar. The general consensus in expateye’s comments section was that if you didn’t speak a language very well, then, of course, you wouldn’t be able to express yourself eloquently. A vocab of a paltry 3,000 words may be enough to communicate your basic wants and needs and let you spout a few fusty opinions about the latest Matt Damon flick, but, well, it doesn’t compare to what a fairly well-educated native speaker can expound on with their 60,000 words. And then there is a wealth of expressions, colloquialisms and cultural references, which even an advanced learner, who’s never lived in the country of their target language, hasn’t got a cat in hell’s chance of mastering, no matter how many episodes of How I Met Your Mother he submits himself to.

All good and well… but then… after ruminating over this for several weeks, I’ve now come to a seemingly contrary conclusion: The “you just don’t know enough” rebuff is far too simplistic. In fact, I concede that you may not be able to express all of your sentiments in another language, no matter how proficient you are. And herein lies the crux of the gripe voiced by these pesky students, prompting them to vent infuriating pronouncements at their long suffering teachers about the woeful inadequacy of whatever language they happen to be grappling with.

Let me give you an example. Spanish (and this is also true for other romance languages) makes a huge great big deal of diminutives, and the opposite, namely augmentatives, are equally as important. Spanish diminutives are achieved by adding -ito, -cito or -illo suffixes to a noun, and the augmentative is formed by tacking on -azo, -ato or -orro, for instance. To illustrate: “Beso” means kiss, besito is a little kiss, and besazo a great big smacker.

English doesn’t really do diminutives (nor augmentatives). Instead, you’d have to opt for an entirely different word, employ an adjective like “little”, or turn “dog” into “doggy”. And that’s just not a good style. Ahem… 😉

German, on the other hand, does have proper diminutives, constructed by furnishing its nouns with -chen and -lein endings. However, these should be used very sparingly. They have the (intended) effect of infantilising the language, and overuse will make you sound like you’re talking to Forrest Gump.

Spanish, though, slots diminutives and augmentatives into sentences left, right and centre. And they don’t just work with nouns, you can even tag them onto adjectives, which is outright impossible in English or German.

Therefore, it is entirely understandable that a native Spanish speaker will feel somewhat bereft to find that a whole linguistic dimension of how he expresses himself on a day-to-day basis, how imbues his statements with humour, warmth, ridicule and exaggeration, amongst other nuances, is pretty much a no-go zone in English and German.

I suppose that each and every language has seams of glittering richness as well as areas that are a bit more on the threadbare side. English, for one, sports an inordinate amount of synonyms, which, more often than not, differ ever so slightly in their connotations. English also lets you have great fun with homonyms (words that sound the same, but differ in spelling and/or meaning), which introduces an entire universe of humour inconceivable in Spanish or German.

While both English and Spanish lend themselves fairly well to creating portmanteaus, in German, you can really go to town when it comes to fabricating entirely new words by merging any number of nouns into fancy compounds. You can make them stretch all the way to Mars and back, if you’re so inclined.

Compound noun mania does not only afflict German speakers with a sense of linguistic hilarity. A machine designed for producing a certain type of liquorice sweet is called a Lakritzschneckenaufrollmaschine (four nouns fused, not at all uncommon), and a (now defunct) law dealing with the supervision of beef labelling is termed Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz (seven nouns joined in holy matrimony!).

Lakritzschnecken (= liquorice snails)

Lakritzschnecken (= liquorice snails)

Returning to my original point, the upshot is this: Every language learner will, at some stage, make a frustrated attempt at using their target language in the very same way as their native language. If it can’t be done, then of course they end up feeling like they are being censored, and that the language is, therefore, “deficient”.

Chances are, when learners hit a language’s inherent limits, and then rail on about how “unexpressive” it is, they will not yet have discovered its richness.

Learning to express oneself in a new language, which features alien cultural and linguistic concepts as well as uncharted facets of expression that do not exist in one’s native tongue, requires a high degree of competency. You actually have to be able to “think” in the new language, rather than just translate from one to the other. It’s like going fishing in a new lake: By the time you realise that your familiar fish don’t live there, you’re still a very long way from discovering the oysters at the bottom, never mind getting at their pearls.

Language. Levels. Layers. Depth. Perspective. New Horizons. [Pic taken last week at Algeciras seafront]

Language. Levels. Layers. Depth. Perspective. New Horizons.
[Pic taken last week at Algeciras seafront]

Now, I’m very curious to hear from those of you who are competent in more than one language… which features do you really enjoy in one of your languages that are tricky to convey in another? Any thoughts, whether from a learner’s or a teacher’s perspective, are very welcome 🙂

[For a short post on German compound noun craziness, click here.]

Advertisements

88 thoughts on “What Does Your Language Suck At?

  1. Expat Eye

    Oh, I love this post! (And the plug) 😉 As one who is about to delve into the murky depths of the German language – or even skim the surface – it raises some great points. My ‘Complete German’ pack arrived today – complete… hmm. 🙂

    Like

    Reply
  2. Every Day Adventures in Asia

    Love both Expat Eye’s original post and your brilliant contemplation on the crazy confounding marvels of multilingual expression!

    I frankly don’t feel sufficiently competent in Hindi or French to have much to add… just that I can’t help laugh at what constitutes ‘bad language’ and its cultural connotations.

    Makes you wonder if the English are obsessed with sex and bodily functions, French with some of the same throw in a dose of religion and Hindi? Did you know “brother-in-law” is used as an expletive? Hmm….

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
      1. Myas

        You’ve made my day with this post!

        I wrote a big speech! I love teaching English as a foreign language and although am on sabbatical right now, look forward to a comeback…

        For the Spaniards it’s fascism in arrogant vanity coupled with the inability to transition. Then again, and I only have Madrid to go by, too many teachers teach for the cash to party at the clubs and drink the bar dry. That’s what too many students are used to. Preparing students for standardized testing I’ve used music, their favorite songs in English they listen to. We talk about them. If you can sing like that you can talk like that too. In all of that they’re self-conscious and don’t want to be laughed at.

        Italians will learn your language if you learn theirs – they believe in good relationships and exchanges. One of my adult students who fancied he’d finally figured out English was intrigued at a translation – literal Italian to English then how he puts it and how I put it – and the differences in how to transition language. It was a very big picture of thinking outside the box. My son was explaining an English construction to a well-educated Italian friend and she said, “I don’t like it.” Too bad, so sad: “To be fluent or not to be fluent” is the question.

        Turks are more complex seeing their culture is male dominated so that plays a hand. Even beginners are smarter than me because they’re men. They are an empire and that approach plays in. They respect someone who respects them and their language. I’ve had great success with aligning Turkish and English vocabulary, videos for listening was a hit, descriptive writing – they tell me, I write it on the board, they copy, we discuss, I slide vocabulary in on the side and hold competitions. They love sentence competitions. They feel like they’re speaking and we are all equal.

        It always pays to know how a language works to know how your students are processing. Yes there are differences, yes it’s hard but doesn’t change the fact that American English is the desired language for legal, medical, business and social communication. British English is a foreign language just like theirs that utilizes expressions that can’t be easily connected for translation. American English is rich from the many cultures that live in the US and add to it every day. It is constantly evolving and frustrating at times because Americans break their own language rules. Just when you think you’ve got it right, there’s one other thing…

        Sadly you can’t just tell your students to nut-up or shut-up. Suck it up, study, practice, read… Sing a song in English. It’ll make you feel better.

        _________________________________________
        I have a story about religion and expletives in Madrid… if I haven’t given you a big headache with this I’ll tell it… but not without your consent. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

      2. ladyofthecakes Post author

        Oh my, you’ve certainly got a lot of experience in this field, what a great read. Much more entertaining than my flacid post 😉

        And Carissa wants to hear the Madrid story! Spill…

        Like

      3. Myas

        Before I get going I want to say your post is better than beneficial. I don’t know everything and you may have picked up on something I missed. I’m forever taking notes… 🙂

        OK… here goes…

        It happened at the Atocha train station – One day, one of many, I’d taken the train. It rolled into the station, came to a stop and the doors opened but the people waiting on the platform were in the way not really standing back enough to give those disembarking space to step down. It was a tight squeeze to get off. I was toward the end of the line and when I tried to step off, the people on the platform began to push their way onto the train and I was literally pushed back into a seat. Surprised enough that it startled me and not being certain what to do exactly, I stepped out of the seat, pushed my way through again and almost at the door came to a standstill. I thought “I’m not getting pushed back again!” and invoked the name of the Lord quite loudly, “Jesus Christ!”

        What followed almost made me laugh out loud but I kept my poker face.

        The people stopped trying to enter the train and looked around confused. They looked up at me, looked at each other and for a moment I thought they were going to genuflect. They stood back and I was able to disembark. They looked at each other again and then slowly began continuing to board.

        The same thing happened a second time on another day. I don’t know if anything has changed but in Madrid, what struck me about the people was how they are unaware of each other. It’s the only place where two people will cross an empty street and manage to walk into each other as if there were no other way to pass.

        It’s unbelievable.

        Like

      4. ladyofthecakes Post author

        Ha! I’m so glad you wrote this, because I’ve been thinking about writing a post on my bafflement with Spanish social etiquette, and this “being unaware of each other” was on my list, though I wasn’t quite sure whether I’d been imagining it or not.

        Also good to know when to invoke the name of the Lord… this will come in handy 🙂

        Like

  3. suej

    Great post, and I wondered where the liquorice fitted in… I wish I could speak competently in more than one language (I can get by in French and German, but certainly not competent) at least I do insist on speaking the language when I’m in a foreign land, rather than expect people to speak mine.

    Like

    Reply
  4. Karolyn Cooper

    I misread your 4th paragraph and for several minutes I believed that Spanish had argumentative suffixes.

    Like

    Reply
  5. wannabe polyglot

    Great post! This is where code switching comes in so handy. Sis and I often speak a weird gibberish of Swiss German and English (often with deliberate god awful pronunciation for hilarity). Some things are just better expressed in one language than the other.

    Like

    Reply
  6. bevchen

    Great post! English is missing a word for doch, and also a single word that means “egal! (it takes forever to say I don’t mind or whatever). But German is missing a word for procrastinate. I had a great time trying to explain procrastination to a colleague who doesn’t speak much English (she works in our Verwaltung… all the translators know English!).

    Like

    Reply
      1. ladyofthecakes Post author

        We are far too efficient for that!

        Or rather, coining a word for it would be admitting (to ourselves!!) that we’re just as crap as getting things done as everyone else. And we can’t have that 😉

        Like

  7. narami

    A language professor once said that she refused to consider English a rich language when they use the same word to express how tender is a kiss and how tender is a piece of meat.
    I think its all about perspective.
    🙂

    Like

    Reply
  8. narami

    Reblogged this on de monte y mar and commented:
    One language professor once said during a conference that she refused to consider English a rich language when they used the same word to express the tenderness of a kiss and the tenderness of a piece of meat.
    Lady of cakes shares a bit of her perspective in this post, she studies languages, lives in Spain and likes cake.

    Like

    Reply
  9. Kim in Fiji

    In my opinion, my language (English) sucks most at
    – no differentiation between you singular and you plural. (hence “y’all” , that ends up being used as singular too! And folks have to say “all y’all”)
    – inadequate names for relationships – I use “co-suegra” for my kids’ mothers-in-law because there’s no such word in English. In Hindi and Fijian they have different words for aunts and uncles depending on how they are related. Also grandparents have different terms if father’s or mother’s parents.
    – (English is actually better than many at naming emotions – but I do wish I understood some of the extra ones named in Japanese)

    Like

    Reply
    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Hi Kim! Yes, the precise naming of family relationships occurs in many Asian languages, including Chinese and Japanese, even though they aren’t even related. European ones seem to lack that kind of vocab.

      Pronouns – Spanish does not distinguish between his and her, which I find confusing sometimes when I’m trying to follow a convoluted story.

      Thanks for sharing your take on things. I love to think about this kind of stuff, and it’s great to have such varied input from all over the place :0

      I’ll

      Like

      Reply
  10. pollyheath

    I love this post. A much better, more thought out response, to be sure. For me, I find that I love/hate the rigidity of English and the flexibility of Russian.

    English is great: “I went to the store.” No variations. But it lacks the poetry (and maddening insanity) of Russian. Я пошла в магазин. // пошла я в магазин. // в магазин я пошла… and so on. Every language has it’s strengths and weaknesses, and that’s why they’re still being used!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
      1. Oleg

        And each word order has its subtleties: Я пошла в магазин. – very straitforward // пошла я в магазин. – requires the continuation: when I went to the store, something happened // в магазин я пошла… – emphasizes the direction: it’s the store where I went.
        And the verb has the feminine ending -а, a man would say я пошел

        Like

  11. joannesisco

    What an excellent post! This was the most interesting and informative discussion I’ve ever read on the peculiarities of different languages. I am in awe of those with multiple language skills and now my esteem for their abilities has just increased exponentially!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  12. camparigirl

    You hit the nail in the head. I believe every language is just as rich in different ways. English might not “do” diminutives as well as some romanic languages but it can’t be beaten with onomatopoeic words. You really need to think in another language to be able to appreciate the nuances. I love how English can compound adjectives to describe situations – it’s an essential language, even at its most ornate. Italian, on the other hand, is endearing because it goes on at length, no matter the subject.

    Like

    Reply
    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      I’ve heard that about Italian being very ‘flowery’… I also find it fascinating when the written language differs significantly from the spoken word. Not so much an issue in English, but in German, that is the case to some extent. E.g. it makes heavy use of a past tense in writing that is barely ever used in conversation.

      Like

      Reply
  13. Eric

    Really legit post, Simone; I have always hated the fact that in Spanish you apparently can’t say “you/I/one would think that…” in the way that we do in English (as in “you’d think I’d have gotten used to the cold by now” or “I would think that’s how you would do it, but I’m not actually sure” ), though I guess our lack of “diminutives” to convey certain nuance or subjunctive to clear up certain ambiguities (along with phrases such as “por que sí” as a lazy response to somebody who asks “why?” or the innumerable amount of “refranes” that certain spaniards have handy to explain practically every situation) could be equally frustrating for a native spanish speaker. I am especially looking forward to your post on “rhythm” and stress, as Ismael and I have been discussing said topic for weeks (rhythm is such a huge part of how I talk and convey certain subtleties with whomever I’m talking to, and I was really shocked and frustrated to learn that an unnatural rhythm can be just as dead a giveaway of being foreign as a poor accent and that sentences like “there’s big and there’s BIG” and nuances such as “it seems SO” vs “it SEEMS so” are nonexistent in Spanish (the last couple weeks I’ve tried very hard to eliminate the “theatrical” rhythm–as Ismael calls it–of an english speaker when I speak Spanish, but so far the result is that I apparently either sound either very angry or very bored 😛 )

    Like

    Reply
    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      An excellent bunch of thoughts, Eric 🙂

      As to the “you/one” issue, I find English frustrating in that way. In German, we use “one” a lot, and it doesn’t as stilted as it does in English, where you have to be careful, for that reason, not to overuse it. The “you” quickly gets too personal, so you’re in danger of alienating your conversation partner with that. In The “man” in German is totally neutral, and I much prefer it.

      I also need to pay more attention to sorting out my accent, cadence and stress issues. I’ve not focused on this so far, but I am aware that Spanish, and especially Peninsular Spanish, is delivered machine-gun staccato style, and that native English speakers are all over the place, which makes it sound weird. That, and the diphthong pollution – they can’t seem to produce clean vowel sounds to save their lives – at least I don’t do that 😉

      How’s it going with the Chinese?

      Like

      Reply
  14. Fabian

    Living in Mexico, I’m always confronted with this kind of strange “nationalism”: People are soooo proud of their culture, and at the same time they “hate” everything with Spanish origins. This can be quite funny, because people will often ask you, which language you like more: Spanish or Mexican. Erm… No sé…

    But in fact, “Mexican” is a totally different thing. People here love to replace words with alternatives starting with the same letter. For example instead of “Sí” (“Yes”) they say “Simón”. “Jamás” (“never”) becomes “Jamaica”, etc.

    I really enjoy the term “no mames”, as it is totally universal: “Are you kidding?”, “Come on, be honest”, “Don’t be a wimp”, etc.

    It’s also interesting to observe the usage of “Spanish” words like “vale” (“ok”). Mexicans normally don’t use it, but since being Spanish (i.e. European) is still considered superior from some parts of the population (mainly the “fresas”, lit. “strawberries”; actually referring to the fancy-schmancy upper-class), you can distinguish yourself from the “common herd” by using these words which everybody uses in Spain.

    When it comes to Japanese, what I really like is the efficiency. You can transmit sooo much information in only a few words. For example “Ippai, omou” lit. means “Full, (let’s) drink” and can be understood as a casual form (remember the different levels of politeness used in Japanese) of saying “Everybody has something to drink, let’s chink glasses and have some fun”. I have the feeling that the spoken Japanese language is so rich in vocabulary that there is another word for every little nuance. And as you can put together new words by simply connecting the Chinese characters, you have some similarity with the German “let’s connect everything” system (ah, I mean the “Gesamtsatzreduktionsverbindungsmechanismus”).

    As German is my mothertongue, of course I enjoy to be able to grasp slight differences. I often wonder if there is any translation for such little “helpers” like “gar” and different pronounciations. It’s only 3 letters and different accents, but the meaning totally changes, although the word “gar” by itself doesn’t have a meaning:

    “Das geht nicht.” (That’s not possible)
    “DAS geht gar nicht.” (Don’t do that again)
    “Das GEHT gar nicht.” (it’s practically not possible; technically not viable)
    “Das geht GAR nicht.” (That’s an ethically totally not acceptable behaviour).

    Thank you for another entertaining and interesting post.

    Saludos from Mexico,
    Fabian

    Like

    Reply
    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Hi Fabian, and thanks very much for your fascinating insights and contribution 🙂

      I’d never thought about the “gar”… but I’ve had discussions about “doch”, the meaning of which is impossible to convey in English without a lengthy explanation… and even then, I fail 😉 I guess you have to really LIVE a language (and culture) to get the nuances.

      Good point about word stress, and how that changes the meaning. Very important in German and English, not so much in Spanish, it seems. Eric touched on that in a previous comment. I’m going to pay more attention to this, and maybe come up with a post in due course…

      Like

      Reply
      1. Andean

        They do have word stress in Spanish, often when used in slang. “¡Qué te pasa!” besides the obvious meaning, when spoken very slowly and loud 🙂 can mean, “Are YOU kidding me?!?”

        “Simón” is used frequently in Ecuador, amongst the younger generation, to mean “yes”. 🙂 Is it used in Spain that way?

        Like

      2. ladyofthecakes Post author

        Yes, there is definitely some use of word stress… but it’s different to English… still working that out.

        I’ve never heard “Simón” used in that way here, but, then again, I’m not around teenagers a lot 😉

        Like

  15. June

    Idioms are a good example of what you’re talking about. Most just don’t translate. They might have an equivalent, but literally translating from one language to another generally doesn’t work. Even within one country, from Irish to English, we have problems with this. In Irish we have an expression “Aithníonn ciaróg ciaróg eile” which literally translates as “One beetle recognises another”. In English we would say “It takes one to know one”. It gets even funnier when you cross cultural divides. Lithuanian has some humdingers that just don’t translate!
    Your mention of synonyms and their subtle differences reminds me of many of the spam comments I get on WordPress. These people seem to have gone a bit crazy with the thesaurus with hilarious consequences!

    Like

    Reply
    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Yes, the thesaurus is a dangerous weapon indeed, lol!

      I’m finding that there’s a bunch of sayings – and I mean a lot of them – that are literally the same in English, German and Spanish. And some which don’t make any sense at all if you try to translate them. Spanish seems to be particularly rich in sayings, which is the reason I often don’t get what’s being said even though I understand every word.

      And you only ever realise how much you rely on your language’s sayings and phrases when you’re suddenly stripped of them trying to communicate in another language.

      Like

      Reply
      1. Andean

        I would like to learn idioms in Spanish. Native speakers just throw them out there. By the time one tries to figure their meaning, the whole conversation is lost.
        That’s when I quietly say to myself: En bocas cerradas no entran moscas.

        Like

      2. Andean

        It depends what that means. I was born in Ecuador but moved here when I was five. At the time spoke Spanish only at home. And now only when I travel to a Spanish speaking country. So I would not consider myself “fluent”.

        Like

      3. Andean

        When I speak to my brothers and sisters we start out speaking in Spanish and at some point it’s turned to English. So, I don’t get much practice. But it is amazing when I am immersed in the language for a few weeks how much better my accent and vocabulary get, with the head start I had.

        Like

      4. ladyofthecakes Post author

        I’m not surprised. My German has been deteriorating over the past two decades due to lack of use, and I was, technically, still a teenager when I left. Maybe I should move to Vienna for a while… I quite like that city. I’ve started reading German books again, but with everything else I’m meant to be reading, it’s hard to keep it up!

        Like

  16. Wendy Kate

    Ah, if only I WERE competent in Spanish, how happy I would be. But I think I am not alone in knowing a lot of Spanish but unable to make that jump into speaking fluently. I feel there is a vital secret that I am unable to lock…..OR my brain is just too old to learn new tricks 😉

    Like

    Reply
      1. TBM

        I’m hoping you are. when I was in elementary school I had to cheat on every spelling test or I would still be in the fifth grade. So, this gives me a heart attack.

        and yes, I think you would lie, especially if cake was involved.

        Like

  17. Jenna

    This is a great post, and I hadn’t realized it till now, but you’re totally right. I routinely chat in Italian with several friends, and I find it difficult to express myself not because of a small vocabulary, but mostly because of the complexity of the subject. It’s difficult to speak about caliper pistons or differential ratios, or technological advancements in fluid dynamics – it’s difficult to express it in English! But when I’m speaking about day to day events, I seem to always find the right words.

    Like

    Reply
    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Hi there! I think this is a slightly different issue… if you have learnt specialist vocabulary, i.e. through work or academic study, then you’re probably only going to have it in the language in which you’ve acquired it. I’m a Nutritionist, and I can only really talk about the intricacies of nutritional biochemistry in English, because I don’t have the active vocab in German.

      Like

      Reply
      1. Jenna

        It’s a specialist vocabulary, but is the basis of so many of my friendships, so I’ve had to pick up basic words like “tires” (i pneumatici) and brakes (i freni). Sometimes though, I can’t really explain the feelings of doing XYZ in English either – most of the sentences end with “you know,” and a nod from the interested party.

        Like

  18. northern_star

    I do love how German nouns can just be strung together. Appeals to my lazy side. Also interesting how Spanish verbs can be added to. Why not?!

    Like

    Reply
    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Convenience rules 🙂 I find the whole “is it one word? Is it two? Does it need a hyphen?” malarkey in English very tedious indeed! I get it wrong all the time…

      Like

      Reply
  19. gkm2011

    I find the complete difference in formality in Chinese difficult to grasp. Written and spoken Chinese are very different – and I barely have spoken down!

    Like

    Reply
    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      German has this to a certain extent… the gap between Swiss German and the written standard language is formidable. I’m sure Chinese is different in a way that I can’t even begin to grasp…

      Like

      Reply
  20. Kim G

    This is a fantastic post. I wish I had more time to leave a real comment, but I really don’t. And the other commenters have also left really interesting thoughts.

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    DF, Mexico
    Where we need to get going.

    Like

    Reply
  21. Anna

    I get frustrated with both Russian and English precisely because I try to say in one what I think in the other. It’s hard for me to avoid – sometimes I need to do literally that for work. I love English for its pithiness; in certain kinds of technical writing you can drop articles, pronouns, make up entire words (or turn the same word into any part of speech you want) as needed. Not at all possible in Russian. On the other hand, Russian language’s love affair with suffixes and prefixes can make a noun or a verb into 50 different variations of that word. For example, here’s how you can refer to a ‘blin’ (a pancake) in Russian, singular – blin, blinchik, blinok, blinusik…. or ‘kot’ (cat) – kot, kotyara, kotik, koshechka, kisa, kiska, koshara….

    Like

    Reply
    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      It’ll give you grey hairs… I know what I’m talking about 😉

      German does the same with prefixes, it’s its answer to English phrasal verbs… I might write a post on this…

      Like

      Reply
      1. Anna

        YES! Exactly. When I was coming up w examples for this comment, I realized that the endings are tacked onto nouns a lot more and prefixes onto verbs to make single-word versions of ‘put up, put on, put out…’

        Like

  22. archecotech

    After reading this post along with the comments, gave me such an understanding the the richness each language has in it’s own different way. I’m so glad we don’t live in a homogenized world. Each other them bring such a wonderful cornucopia to the ear. Thanks for the post.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  23. Tim

    In German, I find constructions such as “die von Ihnen angehängte Datei” or “die zu analysierenden Daten” quite neat, especially for technical writing.

    Even though it can cause problems for learners, I have come to appreciate the value of the three grammatical genders (der die das). Firstly, being able to refer to inanimate objects with a masculine or feminine pronoun can make the language feel more vivid — I’m not sure if native speakers perceive it this way, though. Secondly, if for example I’m writing an email about a Druckertreiber and a Spooldatei (something I have to do surprisingly often ;-)), I can refer to them in the text as “er” and “sie” and it’s immediately clear which one is meant. In English I would have to use “it” for both, which can lead to ambiguity and/or having to repeat the original noun more often.

    Like

    Reply
    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Hi there! Yes, you’re right, the genders do help minimise ambiguity. One problem in Spanish, I find, is that the pronoun “su” can mean his/her/your/its, and this can be really confusing! Spanish speakers often use his and her interchangeably in English, because they are not used to differentiating, and this drives me absolutely nuts, lol.

      Like

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s