October 26th, 2008



Just for curiosity's sake, I've been wondering what languages out there people have been having trouble finding reliable online dictionaries for. I've lucked out in that Japanese has several amazing resources (thanks in large part to Jim Breen's EDICT project), and I've found some good resources for Korean if you feel comfortable navigating a site in the target language, but I've had less luck with finding good resources for German, Spanish, and Russian (though this has proven adequate for Russian for the most part).

Are there any languages out there that you find particularly difficult to find resources for? What are some of the best online resources you've found for the languages you use most frequently?

Identifying unknown languages

The recent posting about the obscure text on the whiteboard kind of got me wondering, what features do you look for when trying to whittle down what language something is when you can't put your finger on it exactly? In broad ways I guess writing systems can be a good indication, but when it comes to trying to narrow things down within a subset (say, languages that use Arabic script), I imagine it's quite a task.

Likewise, what strategies do you employ in identifying languages when hearing people speak? I'll admit that even though I know enough Vietnamese, Mandarin, and Cantonese to pick out words in them now and then, when I'm out and about San Jose and hear people chatting away I often have trouble telling them apart (though if I suspect it's Vietnamese I'll usually try to pick out "roi" or "không" as a definite way to ID it). When it comes to Romance languages I'm dead stuck, can't tell Italian from French from Portuguese, etc.

Sorry if this post seems unfocused; had a clear idea in my head when I started writing it, but for some reason it's not communicating as smoothly typed up as I had it initially thought out.

VOUS: How weird is it to use it for someone your own age?

I recently started speaking French (my second language) with a French guy I know, and he brought up the possibility of his calling me vous, or vice versa, as a sort of shocking thing, I guess. I jokingly fell into calling him vous for the rest of the night.

I've taken French for several years now, but I want to understand the full connotations/ramifications of this, if we choose to keep it up. I think this is especially important because it's in the context of a relationship.

So what system, if any, of power/dominance does using vous set up? Like I said, he's French, so he's well aware of the full meaning the word carries, and specifically what it would mean for me to call him that, but I want to make sure I have it totally straight.

I know the basics: that it's a formal form of address, and that because we're the same age and are in the same place in life, it's weird for me to be using it.

But to what extent? Is this like calling him sir? I don't want my ignorance to get taken advantage of - is using vous in this situation something that no native speaker would ever agree to take part in? Or might it happen in some context? (What, if any?)
happy tea
  • bobdole

English word order?

I'm a native speaker of English, and I'm trying to put together an ESL lesson on word order. However, I've found myself perplexed by the word order rules of my own language. I am under the impression that the basic rule for English word order is:

Subject + Verb + Object + How? + Where? + When?

For example, She sang beautifully in the play last night or I eat eggs with a spork in my kitchen every morning seem to conform to the How?/Where?/When? format. But then we have sentences like:

I usually go home by bike or He travelled across India on foot. Here the order seems to be Where?/How? (home/by bike) or (across India/on foot). Why the switch? Am I missing something completely, or is there another rule at work here?
jun | recline

Japanese or Korean?

Hi, I'm wondering what you guys would recommend for me to learn first? I want to learn both Japanese or Korean, but I'm not sure which one will help me in learning the second one. I have rather strong interests in both cultures, so choosing to learn which one first based on which culture I would like to learn does not exactly help.

I'm fluent in English, Cantonese, and Mandarin while I know how to read both traditional and simplified Chinese. I've learned Italian up to the early intermediate level, and I'm planning on continuing to learn Italian.


A quick Spanish question!

Hey everybody :). I'm an opera-linguistics double major, putting together a recital of Spanish classical song. At the moment I'm trying to write up a decent translation of all the pieces I'll be singing, so that I can give a full translation to the audience. I speak enough Spanish to be able to manage it on my own for the most part, but in the first piece I'm a little stuck.

The song is called Preludios; It's from a Manuel de Falla set, Obras Desconocidas.
Madre, todas las noches junto a mis rejas
Canta un joven llorando indiferencia:
"Quiéreme, niña, y al pie de los altares serás bendita."
I'm not really sure how indiferencia works in this line? What exactly does it mean in this context?
Hija, lo que las niñas como tú sienten
Cuando junto a sus rejas a cantar vienen
Es el preludio del poema más
Grande que hay en el mundo.
Tornada en Santa Madre la Virgen pura
Tristezas y alegrías en ella turnan,
Y este poema es, niña, el que ha empezado junto a tus rejas.

Again, I don't understand what tornada and turnan mean exactly here.

Thanks very much! This community is really wonderful to watch; I'm just starting down the road of Linguistics and I feel as if I learn something new every time I check here.