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Calling all language lovers!

(243 Posts)
Gauchita Thu 25-Jul-13 21:25:02

I'll shamelessly plug a friend's blog here because it's great!

If you're interested in language, etymology, linguistics, etc, head this way.

She's an etymology addict (and doesn't mind me saying so grin) and is teaching the rest of us a lot, so thank you Alex wink

AuntieStella Wed 29-Jan-14 20:56:03

Thank you!


KateSMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 29-Jan-14 19:01:31

Hullo everyone,

We've had a suggestion to move this to the shiney new linguistics topic, and it seems like a good fit, so we've going to move it now.

alexpolistigers Fri 06-Sep-13 12:33:57

Thanks, Cote I've bookmarked that for a proper look later. It does look interesting. Sorry to take so long to come back to you - I've been away on holiday and only just come back.

According to my reference sources, Turkish is now viewed as a member of the Altaic family, they don't use the Ural bit any more. Subject to the next major theory, of course!

CoteDAzur Tue 27-Aug-13 09:28:20

I saw this today:

The Weirdest Languages

... And thought alexpoli in particular would be interested in the World Atlas Of Language Structures

Gauchita Tue 20-Aug-13 19:34:39

GoodToBetter and Alex, thanks for your replies (and sorry for a very late one from me!)

I mainly just wonder whether this is something that should worry me or whether it's normal.

She also learns French at school, I forgot to mention, and oddly enough she seems to pronounce FR much better and more easily than SP hmm

People who listen to us talking (in a shop for example) always look - and generally smile - as she speaks EN to me and I reply in SP. It must sound a bit strange to those 'outside'.

She 'interprets' everything, though. If I ask her to tell something to DH, for example, she says exactly the same thing I told her but in EN. It's fascinating.

LRDPomogiMnyeSRabotoi Mon 19-Aug-13 21:46:34

That is fascinating.

I was reading a book recently about which sounds are most likely to turn into which other sounds (like vinum to wine, or pater to father), so I wonder how far back people could reconstruct to find the ultimate common roots.

'Amma' means mother in some languages (I forget which), and sounds almost like halfway between the Turkish and the IE versions, but I expect that is just far too simplistic a comment.

CoteDAzur Mon 19-Aug-13 21:41:39

For example, proto-Indo-European mehter has led to mother (English), mutter (German), mat (Russian), madar (Persian), and matka (Polish).

In Turkish, mother is anne (un-neh).

This comparison between Finnish, Estonian, Hungarian, Turkish, and Mongolian is interesting.

LRDPomogiMnyeSRabotoi Mon 19-Aug-13 21:33:26

Ah, I was thinking of Anatolian.

LRDPomogiMnyeSRabotoi Mon 19-Aug-13 21:29:53

It might well just be the people I know, that's true.

Usually people don't get much chance to see DH speaking Russian, because his family aren't over her. SIL has had the same experience with German, though she is actually much better at translating than DH is, because she does it a lot in her day-to-day life.

Thanks for the info about Turkish - really interesting.

CoteDAzur Mon 19-Aug-13 21:23:57

I can't imagine British people in general confusing translation skills with fluency, either.

Surely, when they see your DH speak in Russian they realise that he is fluent? Especially if your DH is Russian, I can't see how anyone can doubt his fluency in Russian, regardless of whether or not he can translate well to English.

CoteDAzur Mon 19-Aug-13 21:20:31

No, Turkish is not an Indo-European language, either.

It was considered within the Ural-Altaic languages, but that language family is disputed these days. I'm not sure about the most recent classification. It might be Altaic.

Take a look at that page that Alexpoli linked to.

LRDPomogiMnyeSRabotoi Mon 19-Aug-13 20:59:45

I'm sure I'm not being terribly coherent, btw, cos I was excited finding this thread.

LRDPomogiMnyeSRabotoi Mon 19-Aug-13 20:58:55


Did you read my posts?

I think you're saying what I'm saying about why translating is difficult, but as I said, I'm not fluent. Not even close.

I said that I think British people have a tendency to think bilingualism (trilingualism, etc.) are difficult because they look at someone like my DH (who is fluent) struggling to translate between English and Russian, and they confuse this with a lack of fluency.

How are we not agreeing?

CoteDAzur Mon 19-Aug-13 20:56:23

Interpretation doesn't make sense. When you are truly fluent in a language, you think in it. So, by definition, you don't translate from another language.

This is more marked the more different the languages are. You might get away with translating some things in your head between French & English, for example, but you can't possibly translate between languages as different as Turkish & English and Japanese & English as you speak.

You learn these languages without translating them in your mind and you become fluent in them without ever translating between them. As you learn new words in them from context, you don't find out which words they correspond to in the other language because you are not translating and many of the words/concepts can't even be easily translated.

So when you are asked to translate years down the line, you struggle.

LRDPomogiMnyeSRabotoi Mon 19-Aug-13 20:33:56

You mean, you don't have that experience, or you don't think the interpretation makes sense? Or something else?

Turkish is fascinating, btw. Is it right that it's part of the earliest branch that split off from Indo-European? I think I heard that - if it is, maybe that is why it's remained relatively unchanged over time (if it's somehow very stable, perhaps)?

CoteDAzur Mon 19-Aug-13 20:28:04

I don't agree with any of that, LRD.

CoteDAzur Mon 19-Aug-13 20:26:49

Some of my Turkish letters work (ö, ü, ç) because they are also in other languages like German and French, I suppose.

Some others don't (i without dot, g with a bar, s with a tail) which is why I had to write Tanri. If that letter was indeed 'i', it wouldn't conform to vowel harmony.

LRDPomogiMnyeSRabotoi Mon 19-Aug-13 20:25:56

Well, I should have it bookmarked, but I'm not that organized! grin

I was trying to find what you said about colours, but it came up on here too.

I think I do languages the same way as you, though I'm not fluent at all. 'Sometimes, when asked by English speaking friends for an explanation, I struggle to find the right words for some things that I understand precisely and clearly in Greek.' - I definitely do that. Though all my languages are school languages, and obviously the concepts I understand in them are quite simple.

I think that is definitely part of why translating is so difficult - it's conceptual as well as syntactic.

But what I was thinking was, maybe the reason people in the UK get so jumpy about bilingualism is that they're seeing people struggle when asked to translate between languages, and interpreting that as a lack of fluency, when it's a separate skill.

alexpolistigers Mon 19-Aug-13 20:05:59

No, I meant I heard the languages being spoken and used as living languages and means of communication, not the school environment! I did both of those at GCSE too, though!

GoodtoBetter Mon 19-Aug-13 20:02:18

I didn't. I don't think GCSE French and German count smile

alexpolistigers Mon 19-Aug-13 19:56:26

For a minute there GoodtoBetter I thought I had accidentally written Spanish instead of Greek! And then the penny dropped!

I also learnt Greek as an adult. But I had other languages around me besides English whilst growing up.

alexpolistigers Mon 19-Aug-13 19:54:15

(and how come your Turkish letters work fine on MN, but mine don't??)

GoodtoBetter Mon 19-Aug-13 19:54:14

This applies to me too:

I genuinely don't translate to English all the time, I just go straight into the appropriate language, without thinking through what I am going to say in English first, if you get what I mean. Sometimes, when asked by English speaking friends for an explanation, I struggle to find the right words for some things that I understand precisely and clearly in Spanish.

I grew up monolingual and learnt Spanish when I came here as an adult.

alexpolistigers Mon 19-Aug-13 19:52:28

I have bookmarked the site, Cote! I thought it was fascinating!

I'm intrigued by how little Turkish has changed. Most people can't read Chaucer from 1340+ or so in English without some special help!

alexpolistigers Mon 19-Aug-13 19:48:28

You were searching for my blog, LRD? I am touched!

Having thought about it, I really don't know whether I keep my languages separate, or what exactly I do. They're just there in my mind! Helpful, I know! But I genuinely don't translate to English all the time, I just go straight into the appropriate language, without thinking through what I am going to say in English first, if you get what I mean. Sometimes, when asked by English speaking friends for an explanation, I struggle to find the right words for some things that I understand precisely and clearly in Greek.

I don't know if this is to do with growing up hearing other languages and taking it for granted. Perhaps people growing up in a wholly monolingual environment deal with multiple languages later on in an entirely different way.

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