We’ve really been enjoying reading about everyone’s experiences of studying foreign languages and/or learning them through immersion abroad. But what about languages that we acquire as children? We realised that this is a topic that hasn’t been talked about much on the forum, and so this month we’d be curious to learn whether anyone grew up speaking additional languages through their family or community environment, and also whether anyone has raised bilingual (or multilingual) children and what that experience has been like.
We know that family and childhood are quite personal topics so it’s fine to just share general ideas if you don’t want to reveal too much about your own circumstances. Additionally, you don’t have to come from a multilingual family background to add to the discussion – we're really happy to hear what everyone has to say on the topic, and we’re looking forward to reading all of your thoughts. Keep them coming!
Six up-votes but no comments - what's happening!
Since this topic hasn't really set the forum alight, I'll just add a couple of quick comments to see whether anyone else wants to add their thoughts.
Part of the reason I was interested in this topic is that I'm currently learning Irish as a foreign language, whereas some of my Irish family members from previous generations were able to speak the language fluently. I've always been curious as to why some languages withstand the passage through the generations and others don't. In particular, I wondered whether people think times are different now and so-called 'immigrant' or 'minority' languages are more valued in the sense of being a part of a person (or family, or community)'s cultural heritage. I know that in the case of Irish, there is much more emphasis placed now on learning the language even as an adult, non-native speaker and I think it's great that the language is experiencing a revival, but I also think it's a little sad that it's become a language with a relatively high proportion of second-language, rather than native, speakers.
In the particular case of bringing up children to be bilingual or multilingual - I think there must surely be a lot more bilingual children in the world now, given that so many of us live in countries other than the one that we grew up in. I don't have any stories of my own in this sense, but I have friends that live abroad and are bringing up their children to speak multiple languages and I just think that's such a nice thing - that's what made me wonder whether anyone else had had similar experiences.
Alternatively, feel free to share other things, if you don't like these topics!
Speaking of Sámi, both Yle Radio and Sveriges Radio broadcast in Sámi languages as well.
Finnish also has a number of loanwords from Sámi.
There are also Kven and Meänkieli (both dialects of Finnish) minorities in Norway and Sweden, respectively.
To get back to the original topic, though. There is the writer Sana Valiulina, who was born into a Tatar family in Tallinn and spoke only Tatar until age 3 when she started kindergarten. It was an Estonian kindergarten, where no one spoke Tatar, and she had to catch up fast. As she says herself, her father kept a diary and wrote down that she didn't like going there at first because she didn't speak the language. But she learned Estonian and spoke only it until age 6, a year before she was to start school. Her mother didn't mind if she went to a school with Estonian as the language of instruction, but her father believed that proper education could be had only in Russian, and in Moscow to boot. (Her parents were from Moscow originally, and had had to flee to Tallinn under Stalin.) So she had to get to grips with Russian and did it on Pushkin's fairy tales! The school she went to had English as a major subject. After school, she went to Moscow to study the Norwegian language and literature because she was fascinated with sagas. In 1989, she moved to the Netherlands (I guess she married a Dutchman), where she taught and translated from Dutch into Russian for a government-sponsored magazine. Later, she decided to start writing—in Dutch, too!
Here she speaks about her life (in Russian), and here are videos of her (I hope there's some English spoken there…).
Very good question. Most non-Norwegian (or non-Swedish) persons, specially English speaking people, struggle with pronouncing 'Olsen' the right way, because they are so hung up in that an 'o' is pronounced like 'oh'. 'Olsen' is pronounced with a very short pure 'o'-sound, no 'ou', 'å', 'au' or 'oh'. (I tried to google 'how' to pronounce Olsen' on the net, but many of those sound files do not get it right.) 'Olsson', which is Swedish, has the same short, pure 'o' in the beginning, but the second 'o' is pronounced a bit differently, more like 'å'. 'Å' is more like the 'a' in conservative UK English for the word 'all'.
Hello all. Interesting that cinnamon rolls/kanelbullar should become such a hot topic! I can even add to that, because this is in fact the signature food of my home town, Bergen, and here we call it 'skillingsboller', because in the old days they cost 1 shilling! (Google it and choose images). Talking about new words, this is one of many examples of old words that remain as they were, even if the original meaning (1 shilling) is no longer valid.
Ooh, those skillingsboller look really tasty!
Gunnar, that reminds me of a similar story from England, where we call those ice cream cones with the chocolate flake stuck into the ice cream '99s'. I always assumed that it was due to the fact that, back in the day, they cost 99 pence apiece, though I guess that with inflation, they're probably a lot more expensive now. But, when I looked it up just now, I found that there are apparently a lot of different stories as to how the name emerged, one of which being that in the old days, most ice cream sellers were Italian, and they chose the number 99 in homage to the fact that the King of Italy would have 99 elite bodyguards, meaning that anything associated with the number 99 was good.
It sounds a bit fanciful, so I'm still slightly more inclined to believe the 99 pence story, but there's more on all of this here. We also used to talk about 'penny sweets' in the time of my childhood, but I guess that even loose sweets are probably more expensive than that, now.
Those are some fascinating words in the Le Monde article, blandine.baudot, and as with the YouTube video slides about Basque, I think we can all appreciate them even if we don't know French. Has 'mocktail' really joined the French lexicon? That's quite incredible. Following one of the links in your Le Monde article, I found this other one here which has a list of no less than 410 words that have appeared in French since 2017; very interesting indeed! I guess the coronavirus crisis has added a lot of new words to other languages, too, or given new meanings to existing words...
Thanks also for the explanation about bouchon/plug! :D
Semla, looks tasty! That's sad news about King Adolf Frederick indeed, but I guess that the lobster, caviar, sauerkraut, and smoked herring would probably have finished him off, even if the cake hadn't! What an unusual way to go, though.
Yes, I recognise the krone-is-type ice creams! There's actually an official 'branded' version which is known in the UK as 'Cornetto', so maybe there's some 'crown' etymology there, too. The company that makes the 'Cornetto' version of the ice cream is called Wall's in the UK, but it has other names elsewhere (like 'Algida' across much of the European continent, perhaps because a lot of countries don't commonly use the letter 'W'; who knows?)
Katrina, you wouldn't find any "mocktail" in everyday conversation. This is fancy magazines and net reviews vocabulary. Or else you would use it when you want to sound both ironic and "branché."
I would have some reservations on hetvägg for dessert, as History proves it. Probably best "en solo," in winter, around five, after a serious hike. Let's stick to our Zain Horia (for our Basque revision). Much healthier.
These sweet tales mingled with money reminds me of a grocery where you could buy tiny square fudge candies for 1 centime when I was a child. This coin seems as outdated as the rouelle (a coin your ancestors might have known Katrina) to me. We forget fast. Now centimes are for sale on eBay, with prices ranging from 20 to... 1200 euros!
PS. This flakes Cadbury thing makes me want to take the Eurostar. Back in the no-so-old days, we had a real big Marks & Spencer in Paris. Alas, they bid farewell. Sob.
I didn't know you were a Cadbury fan! Very nice! Marks and Spencer is waiting for you next time you make it over here : )
I'm intrigued by this one-centime thing, now! As someone from a non-Euro (and sadly now non-EU) country, I've always wondered whether one-centime Euro coins still exist, and if so, are they accepted? I remember trying to use them in the Netherlands in 2017, and they told me that apparently they weren't then accepting anything less than a five-cent coin. Around a similar time, though, I had also been in Malta, and I think that they did accept them there. Those were in the good old days of travel.
At the same time, I feel that even cash itself is becoming something of a rarity these days. I've been in Belfast since January 2021, and I have to admit that I'm still not 100% sure what the banknotes look like here. In Northern Ireland, they spend in pounds, as in my home country of England, but the notes have a different design, or so I'm told.
Also, for those who are interested in the Euro, I found an interesting article here which includes information on countries which are not in the EU but which do have the Euro, such as Montenegro and Kosovo.
For me, hetvägg would be a morning food! Interesting - but I like the idea of eating it after a hike; that sounds very tasty.
With the risk of turning this into a pastries discussion :-) In Norway we typically only eat fastelavensboller (hetvägg) once a year - at the celebration of fastelaven: Wikipedia explains it like this: "In Denmark and Norway a popular baked good associated with Fastelavn is the fastelavnsbolle (lit. "Fastelavn bun", also known in English as "Shrovetide bun" or "Lenten bun"), a round sweet roll of various sorts usually covered with icing and sometimes filled with a whipped cream mix or pastry cream. In most bakeries they are up for sale throughout the whole month of February. Similar buns are eaten in other Northern European countries, for example the Swedish Semla." See the whole article about fastelaven here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fastelavn
I can share two small stories.
Story #1: As a Norwegian, lived three years in Italy when I was about nine to twelve years old. I attended an English school, and we had one Italian lesson every day at school. All other lessons were in English, and we lived in a compund with many other foreign families and mostly played with other Norwegian, English and American children, using English as the common language. I don’t remember exactly, but in this environment I think I became quite proficient in English very quickly, probably within 6 months, and after three years quite fluent both spoken and in writing. Regarding Italian, I only interacted with Italians to a limited extent, but one hour of Italian lessons every day for three years combined with being in a local community environment where the language was spoken all the time, was enough to become quite proficient in spoken Italian in the course of three years. I remember that I even spoke with a hint of the accent of the local dialect 😊
Story #2: My grandmother was from pre-revolution Russian nobility and the family had two foreign governesses staying with them (I believe they were English) to care for and tutor her. She once told me that she had to learn multiple foreign languages (English, French, German(?)) even from very young age. Her parents were very strict about this, and the rule of the house was that on certain fixed weekdays she was only allowed to speak a certain language all day. E.g. every Tuesday only French, every Wednesday only English etc. If she forgot herself and asked or said something in Russian on one of those days, the grown-ups would simply ignore her! Seems strict, but maybe not such a bad idea after all?
Hi Gunnar, thanks for commenting! It's so nice to hear that you had the opportunity to immerse yourself in Italian as a child - and that's great that you picked up something of the local accent, too. I've always been fascinated when people describe all of the different dialects of Italian, and it seems remarkable that such a small country (relative to the whole size of the world) can have such language diversity.
That's also very interesting to hear that your grandmother was brought up speaking multiple languages. It put me in mind of those kindergartens that exist now where the staff speak to children in foreign languages so that they absorb these and learn them easily. Is that a 'thing'? I remember hearing of it in England in relation to kindergartens where the kids are spoken to in Chinese but I don't know whether that's common now, or just one of those things that you occasionally read about. I've always been amazed at the way that children soak up languages!
My parents—both Tatar, but from different dialect areas—tried to raise me speaking Tatar, which I did until I went to daycare at the age of two or thereabouts. The first day must have been a day of unmitigated horror since nobody could speak Tatar (it was in Uzbekistan and the children and staff were Russian speakers). I started speaking Russian pretty quickly, I guess, and started losing Tatar—I could speak only with parents and some other relatives. Still, I retain some knowledge of it and, compared with some relatives, speak it haltingly but without an accent.
I listen to a Tatar translation of the Bible from time to time and can follow it for the most part, although the dialect is not quite "right" (I'm not a religious person, BTW, it's just that the story is familiar).
As a parent raising a bilingual (Japanese-English) speaking child in Tokyo, I'd say that as with all issues surrounding parenting, there are plenty of opinions out there on the best way to go about it, many advocating never speaking to the child in the other language (i.e. I should speak only English, my wife only Japanese) or a range of other strategies/rules/etc. We've just spoken lots in both, to be honest, bombarded him with books/films/shows/etc in both languages (there are so many wonderful things to read/see in both languages, luckily!) and tried to encourage my son to compare the two languages (from a young age) and consider the differences between them. We've also just tried to enjoy ourselves and not stick to rules too much. It's not uncommon to hear a sentence like "Let's 自転車 to the 駅 today" or (my recent favourite) "I 決まったd to go there" (a marvelous combination of the two languages' past tense in a single word.
That said, the one thing I'm most conscious of as a parent is the tendency for spoken language to mask deficiencies in written language with kids who grow up speaking two languages from birth. I've seen it hundreds of times as a teacher -- parents just kind of assume their kid will be able to read and write (and speak using complex vocabulary) because they "sound fluent" in both languages. That's why you often hear the adage "kids pick up languages faster than adults" which is not actually true apart from grammar and pronunciation. That's why I (try to) read something to my son in English every day, make him read something to me in English every day, and do my best to get him to write in English at least a few times a week (or to do translations of stories he writes in Japanese, which he is really good at! Little kids make great translators as they tend not to be too literal...more focused on the situational usage...). It's a struggle sometimes, but I hope he'll thank me for it when he's older.
Katrina Paterson, re: Irish. That's really cool that you're learning the language as an adult. I worked in the UAE for two years which should be called the UIE because of all the Irish teachers there (virtually all my Western colleagues were young Irish folks). Quite a large number of my colleagues spoke Irish fluently, some having learned it from a very young age. Quite a few had actually taught Irish in school at home. It was a great secret weapon for them when they didn't want us English speakers to know what they were saying...sort of like Japanese is for me and my wife when abroad! As for your comments on how it's a bit sad that Irish is mostly spoken as a second language, I know what you mean, but in this case it seems quite an inspiring case of a language being brought back from the brink, with the revival of Irish tied to the rise of Irish nationalism leading to independence in the early 1900s. I always find it so depressing to hear of languages dying out (such as Ainu in Japan)...of course languages have always come and gone, but their loss is accelerating right now.
It also saddens me when I hear parents worldwide devalue their own language at the expense of their kids learning English as a second language...as if the only reason to learn language is cold hard utility for access to business or education. I'm not saying don't learn English, of course, but I just wish such parents would realize the value of their own languages (and the fact that their kids will do better with English if their mother tongue is stronger.
Hello! And thank you to everyone who has recently left comments - I'm happy to see this discussion gathering pace! (The other comments are also great.)
I suppose one thing that comes across from some of the things we've spoken about - and I guess this is a very pessimistic point of view, but still - is that it can be more difficult than we might imagine to keep a language going. It's easy to think of a language as being like a vibrant, organic thing but it seems that as with anything in life, it takes the right conditions for a language to flourish, and maybe more of a conscious effort than we realise, particularly with there apparently being so many obstacles to a language continuing through the generations. In particular, I think it's really sad when some languages, for whatever reason, are considered to be less worthy than others, and I suppose that ties in with kewtrevor and blandine.baudot's comments about some languages struggling to survive the process of migration, or being considered less significant in comparison with more 'global' languages (both of which I think have contributed to the current situation of Irish, but thankfully, as kewtrevor mentions, this process is to a certain extent being reversed now). One thing I've always been curious about is whether there is more of an emphasis now on trying to preserve languages from previous generations. I like to think that people are more aware of the importance of now, and more conscious of the relationship between language and heritage, but I guess it's difficult to say. (Though it would be interesting to know.)
pilvenhattara - Do you remember your first day at the daycare? I can imagine that it must be really strange to be thrown into a new language environment at a young age, and I think it's also weird to encounter people speaking in any foreign language for the first time, since I guess until that point we must assume that everyone is able to communicate with us in our language. I wonder if anyone else remembers the first time they heard someone speaking in a language that they weren't able to understand? pilvenhattara, I think it's great that you speak Tatar in your family environment and maintain a level of Tatar exposure, and I think it's fascinating that there seems to be so much language diversity in Central Asia.
kewtrevor - I think that what you say about the importance of reading and writing in a language, or being exposed to it in a structured way as well as conversationally, is really interesting, since it's true that we tend to just assume that children pick up a language effortlessly. I remember that one of my childhood friends was of Armenian origins and she spoke the language in her family environment, but she also went to a kind of school some weekends where they'd do reading and writing exercises and learn things that wouldn't come up in day-to-day conversation, like the names of birds and things. I always found that really impressive. I hadn't actually realised that there were so many Irish people in the U(I)E! It reminds me of a fascinating article that I read years ago about people from Ireland and other countries that went to teach in Georgia in 2012. I'll link to the article here, but it makes for slightly uneasy reading, with dark humour and swearing.
blandine.baudot - I was also struck by "I 決まったd to go there" and particularly by "Let's 自転車 to the 駅 today"! I recommend that you continue with this cliffhanger and see where it takes you! I also had to allow myself a chuckle at your description of your 'past their prime' fellow students going to classes in the ancestral language, since I'm also studying Irish here in Belfast, in my thirties (not that that's too old, I hope), as the second generation in my family not to speak Irish. I'm glad that despite the turmoil of history, your friends are having a crack at learning Italian again, and I guess that's inspiration for any of us who is learning a language of a previous generation. Also, that's a beautiful map of France - I'm very curious now since in my ignorance, I had assumed that the language would be spoken more or less the same way in every corner of the country. Are all of the dialects mutually intelligible, or are there any that have separate origins? (I ask because I see that the map shows 'Catalan' and 'Basque', which is very interesting!)
Thanks to everyone who's written on this thread so far - I think it's been nothing short of fascinating to read everyone's ideas and experiences, and I'm sure we'd all enjoy hearing more.
Some time ago I posted something in another languade related thread here in the forums. I will repeat a part of it here, beacuse it actually fits better in this thread. It went like this:
"Another point about 'passive' learning. We lived abroad a couple of years, but this was a long time ago, before children had such big exposure to English via films, games and youtube. My 5-year-old son went to an American school there and in the beginning he was very introvert and silent about English, to the extent that we and the teachers started worrying about his lack of picking up the English language. But then, suddenly, after just a couple of months, he started speaking very good english - just like that! Later I have heard similiar stories from others, confirming that some children just prefer to assimilate and process all of this new information internally, probably subconsciously, before they 'dare' to come out with it."
Anyone else had similar experience?
Good afternoon everyone!
Gunnarbu, it can happen with a mother tongue also, the child remaining silent until he is able to form a full sentence with subject, verb, and complement.
Katrina, I like this chuckle of yours. You have joined, without your knowledge, "The Circle", a game I play with one of my sisters. The game consists in gathering points when using or pointing to what we call "dowdy" wording. What do we mean by "dowdy"? Under the climate of this private joke, something between hackneyed, old-hat, and shop-soiled. Mastering this art in English is among my top priorities. Now more seriously, to come back to our core subject, Basque is an interesting case. This language is what linguists call an isolate. And it is totally incomprehensible to me. Another interesting detail for our discussion: people in their thirties or forties sometimes speak it with a French accent, which could testify to the revival you were alluding to. Catalan is a Romance language, but very very different from French, as you know. Lots of words to learn with patience, dedication, and motivation, especially for those of us who, unlike you, have "past their prime"!
Katrina, I guess I was too small at the time to have a clear recollection of it.
But I do remember that when I was in Tallinn I kept hearing something like ei ĭole and thought "If it doesn't mean 'no/not,' I give up." Sure enough, it did.
I've noticed that I'm likely to remember various written signs in new places provided they are written in a familiar script.
Happy I was able to be of service, blandine.baudot! That's very interesting to hear of people speaking Basque with a French accent, and yes, perhaps they are part of this 'language revival'. Even to my own not particularly learned ear, I can hear a kind of a difference between people who learned Irish as adults and people who learned it as children, and with adult learners, they tend to use a lot of tics in English like, 'Well...', 'you know?', and so on. It would be interesting to know if there's an equivalent accent different in some speakers of Basque over the border in Spain.
pilvenhattara - I'm always fascinated by the things that people remember from childhood, and the things that they don't. Without wanting to bore everyone too much with my own childhood anecdotes, I remember that when I first started at school in England, I spoke with a Scottish-sounding accent because of my parents, and other kids laughed at me and deliberately made me say things that sounded 'hilarious' with a Scottish accent, like 'grass'. Sometimes these things really stay with us! I always thought that 'As cruel as school children' was a fitting title for the Gym Class Heroes album.
I wonder if anyone else shares your experience of remembering signs in other countries? I remember seeing 'Let op' on road signs in the Netherlands and thinking that it would mean 'Give way', but I checked and it apparently means to be careful, or something similar. Also, has anyone learned a foreign language or alphabet by reading bilingual signs? I knew a guy that cycled across Georgia and learned their alphabet just by comparing city names against the English transliterations; very impressive.
Lastly, how did you know that ei ĭole meant 'no/not'? Was it a gut feeling, or from the context? Either way, that's really cool!
Ei ole was perhaps the most frequent phrase I could make out. Estonian is not that difficult phonologically, apart from its 3 degrees of length for vowels and consonants. That takes a bit of getting used to.
And it was Estonian that kicked off my interest in languages.
Speaking of different accents, I remember watching a video sent by relatives of a Sabantuy festival held in Adelaide, SA. There is a sizeable Tatar community there, mainly the descendants of people from Xinjiang. I noticed that the young people spoke with a heavily English-influenced accent, whereas the older ones spoke much better Tatar.
Very interesting to hear! I didn't know that there was a Sabantuy festival in Adelaide (in fact, I had not even known about Sabantuy until I read the very helpful Wikipedia article that you linked to, but it sounds like a lot of fun).
Estonian is an amazing language - but so complicated! Can you speak and understand it now?
Well, not exactly.
It all started waaay back, in pre-Web days. Although I could find textbooks and dictionaries, there were no audio materials available—and I've long realized that I'm an aural learner. Since figuring out short, long, and overlong sounds in Estonian is a bit akin to internalizing Mandarin or Cantonese tones, I decided to take up Finnish instead. It has only short and long sounds, which helps somewhat. Estonian and Finnish are related, and share a lot of vocabulary, but that doesn't mean they are mutually intelligible without some effort. I can read and listen to Finnish relatively easily, but I have to work much harder with Estonian.
Here is a comparison of both: https://langfocus.com/language-features/how-similar-finnish-and-estonian/
Good morning everyone!
I am not sure whether my untrained ear could detect a Spanish accent in a Basque speaker, but this is an interesting question. The real fight for the Basque language lies within the French revolution. "Obstacles to the propagation of light" (I quote from https://aboutbasquecountry.eus/en/2020/05/15/the-incredible-revival-of-the-basque-language-in-france/), "regional dialects" as well as other languages spoken in France were doomed to disappear, at least momentarily. This Basque affair and the article about the revival lead me to Breton and Celtic languages, with a question for you Katrina: is Irish Gaelic very different from Scottish Gaelic? Can you understand Irish as well as Scottish? What about Welsh, Cornish, and Manx? Just specific words and turns of phrases or entirely different languages?
Hello pilvenhattara and blandine.baudot - I apologise for not writing back sooner!
pilvenhattara - thanks for sharing this link about Finnish and Estonian! I have to admit, and I feel very ignorant for saying this, that I assumed that the degree of mutual intelligibility was higher, since to my uneducated eye the two languages look quite similar in writing. I also didn't know that the two languages varied in whether or not they included overlong vowels. A follow-on question to this is, according to the article that you linked to, Finnish uses vowel harmony, but Estonian doesn't. Do you think this makes Finnish easier, or more difficult? (I like vowel harmony because I used to study Turkish, and I do think that after a while it can become second nature, but I'm curious to know your thoughts.)
blandine.baudot - thanks also for your link! I'm reading the 'automatic translation' into English and finding the article about Basque very interesting, particularly when it refers to ikastolas (I read about this here, in what I think is a separate article on the same page that you linked to). I remember years ago reading, I think in the book 'Ghosts of Spain', about Basque-speaking schools in Spain and hearing that these are increasingly popular now. The same seems to be true of Irish-speaking schools here in Belfast and I think it's a really interesting topic.
I'd love to know the answer to the similarities and differences between Irish Gaelic, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, Cornish, and Manx. Sadly I'm still only on the 'Tá la brea ann inniu' ('It's a fine day today') stage of my Irish-learning journey so I don't think I'd have a good enough background to be able to say from my own perspective. However, I've been told by more accomplished Irish speakers that there are a lot of similarities between Irish Gaelic and Scottish Gaelic and that to an extent you can know one and understand the other. To my great sadness, I don't know anything at all about Welsh, Manx, or Cornish. I wish I did! Maybe somebody else can chip in with their knowledge about these languages...
South Estonian does have vowel harmony. I understand it belongs to another wave of migration of proto-Finnic peoples into the Baltic area.
Well, vowel harmony is something ingrained in me. The Tatar I know is mostly basic, everyday words that are Turkic in origin. Therefore, when I come across words such as kitap I have difficulty pronouncing it. It comes out either as qıtap or kitäp.
Basic/inherited vocabulary in Finnish and Estonian are almost identical, with small sound adjustments (Finnish is the first and Estonian the second; as a rule, Finnish is the more conservative):
kala : kala 'fish' (Hungarian, which is a very distant relative, has hal [ˈhɒl])
lumi : lumi 'snow'
puu : puu 'tree' (Hungarian fa [ˈfɒ])
kivi : kivi 'stone' (Hungarian kő, plural kövek)
uusi : uus 'new' (Hungarian új)
tuli : tuli 'fire'
tuuli : tuul 'wind'
ranta : rand 'shore, beach, bank' (either a Germanic loan <- strand, or a Baltic one <- krantas)
eilen : eile 'yesterday'
suo : soo 'swamp'
tie : tee 'road'
työ : töö 'work' (the last three show that it's Estonian that has preserved the original form; 'tea' is tee in both)
saari : saar 'island'
saarni : saar 'ash tree'
lehmä : lehm 'cow'
koira : koer 'dog'
aika : aeg 'time, period'
nainen : naine 'woman'
poika : poeg 'son; boy (in Finnish only)'
saar, poeg, aeg have overlong vowels in the nominative, shown in dictionaries as either 'saar or s'aar, etc.
You can hear Estonian sounds here. Pay attention to the pitch movement in the overlong sounds.
B, D, G in Estonian really stand for P, T, K, and are never used at the beginning of a word in native vocabulary; likewise, P, T, K stand for PP, TT, KK; and PP, TT, KK—you've guessed it—for PPP, TTT, KKK. (BTW, take a look at consonant gradation.)
The three most important grammatical cases in these are the nominative, genitive, and partitive.
Take kala. In Finnish, it's kala /kalan /kalaa, whereas in Estonian, it's kala /kala /kala, with nothing to distinguish them.
In a sentence: Söin kalaa vs Söin kalan 'I ate/was eating some fish' vs 'I ate all the fish'.
To indicate completion, Estonian has to add a particle such as ära or läbi: Ma sõin kala ära.
A living fish
For comparison purposes, here is an audio course in Finnish.
Hei and Kaixo!
Do you know Le Cat, by Philippe Geluck? He would probably say something like "Finnish looks a lot like English, except that the letters are in the wrong order." (I was glad to hear that they say "Hotel" and "Restaurant" just like the rest of us. Could be of use. These Uralic languages affairs are quite a voyage!)
Katarina, I did not know Franco had, among other dire effects, the one of banning the Basque language. Thank you for the reading tip.
On my long journey to mastering Italian (ahem, not there yet*), I discovered a bunch of happy people gathered under the "Authentic" banner. They all give classes on youtube and share the same credo, resumed in a single word: wrong. For yes, indeed, in Europe, we have it all wrong when it comes to teaching foreign languages. Take our lists of irregular verbs or boring lists of vocabulary, for instance: useless. The stiff dialogs found in our textbooks (for English learners, see the famous "My tailor is rich")? Useless also (but hilarious when humorists decide to turn them into a sketch). So, what is the right way? Alberto Arrighini has several secrets. One of them holds in four words: "Italiano per la vita." This sounds sweet to my ear; it means something like "take advantage of the impetus to improve your whole life, and you will get a better and faster grip on your new language." It makes sense when we think of it. New words and grammar will create new connections in our brains. But Alberto does not say anything about a problem I find somewhat embarrassing: new words and grammar have a euphoric effect on me (at school, I was asked to leave the room and have a sprint in the courtyard). So my question is: how do we stop laughing and playing the new musical record to start learning for real?
* Progress in slow motion as I begin to understand that things following the rule tend to be the exception in Italian.
Hello everyone! I hope you're all having a nice start to the week (assuming that you're all on time zones where it's still a Monday).
pilvenhattara - thank you for the Wikipedia link to South Estonian! I must say I continue to be impressed by the complexity of the Estonian language; I had no idea that it had such variation between places. I also didn't know that Tatar used vowel harmony, or even that it was a Turkic language. I suppose that in my ignorance I had assumed that it was Slavic, like Russian. I saw that Google Translate now has a Tatar feature (amazing!) It looks like a really amazing language, but it seems quite different to any language that I have seen before. (I can read Cyrillic characters because I once knew basic Russian, but that was a long time ago.)
Thanks for sharing the word lists - it's very interesting to look at the similarities and differences. 'poika' in Finnish seems very similar to 'pojka' in Swedish (which also means 'boy'). It makes me wonder whether there's much of a crossover between Finnish and Swedish in terms of vocabulary. At the same time, looking at the two countries on a map, they only border each other in the very north, so perhaps that has kept the languages separate. I just remembered today that for anyone who is a fan of Finland, there's a great Instagram account called @veryfinnishproblems
blandine.baudot - I laughed at your last line about the irregularities of Italian! Having studied Spanish and Portuguese as foreign languages, I think that what you say rings true of those languages too (perhaps with all of the Romance languages). I don't know 'Le Cat' but I checked the Instagram account of the French version and I have to say that Philippe Geluck seems very entertaining (and I see that his work is available in English now on Amazon; I must check it out.) I like the idea of Finnish being like differently-ordered English - apart from all of the umlauts!
I like Alberto Arrighini's holistic approach (from the way you describe it). That can only be a good thing when learning languages. I must admit that I'm curious now about 'my tailor is rich'. Is that really what English learners learn? The cliché that I always heard about in relation to English speakers learning French was 'the pen of my aunt'. I don't remember doing that at school, but it's one of those cultural clichés that we've all heard, at least in England.
Yes, I believe that the Basque language was repressed for a long time. The Basque country seems like a really fascinating corner of the world and it seems like it would be an amazing place to visit. I believe they have a lot of their own myths and legends but I don't know a lot about them, though for sure there must be plenty of information online. It would be interesting to know if anyone in our translator community speaks Basque.
Thanks for sharing all of your ideas, pilvenhattara and blandine.baudot!
Very interesting to follow all of this. I noted Katrinas question about Swedish and Finnish. The Poika/Pojke example is definitely an exception form the rule. Finnish and Swedish are totally different languages with very few similarities. I have been all over Europe, and in most western European countries you can always pick up something, and there are very many words with the same base. Finnish is not like that at all - listening to Finnish is normally completely gibberish for any western European. The reason is, as pointed out above, that Finnish is part of the very special Finno-Ugric language family, where Finnish and Hungarian are among the biggest languages today. In Norway, where I come from, the sámi language spoken by the lapps in North Norway (And North Sweden and North Finland) is also part of the Finno-Ugric languages. The sámi language is in fact an official language in Norway.