Learning languages is a crucial part of traveling if you want to understand the culture you are seeing. To connect with people (and perhaps also avoid getting scammed on a daily basis) you need to memorize at least some basic sentences – but hey, good news! Not only this is a great exercise for your brain, it will help you to experience the life in your chosen country from a different perspective! Read my “10 weird language facts” to get some fun and culture insight.
10 weird facts about languages
In Slovakia, we have this saying:
The number of languages you speak equals the number of personalities you have.
(Perhaps that makes schizophrenia a bit more understandable.)
Today let me teach you, but not preach you. I want to share some weird language facts I gathered during my travels:
10. Hungarians switch the order of the date
In Hungarian language, the date is not written as in other languages. Instead of day/month/year or month/day/year, Hungarian date writing goes like this:
Year, month, day
9. Romanian Language Reform…
When I was volunteering in Romania some years ago, a man from the town of Miercurea Ciuc told me an interesting story about their language. It goes like this: before, Romanian was very similar to Slavic languages. In order to emphasize the Romanian people´s Roman (Latin) roots, the dictator Ceaușescu ordered a vocabulary reform. In the newly codified version of the language, there were many words derived from Latin. This way, suddenly, many people realized from one day to the next that they couldn´t speak their own language! (However, I was not able to verify if this story of reform is true. I will let a Romanian reader to hopefully tell me because I am myself unsure.)
8. …had some practical results after all.
On the other hand, nowadays, Romanians say they understand about 80% of Italian which is insanely practical when it comes to watching Italian soap operas.
7. The Czechoslovakian language does not exist.
Many people think we speak some form of a Czechoslovak language in Czech and Slovak Republics. In spite of the “brotherhood of nations” and common past, it is becoming more and more usual that the Czech people do not understand the Slovak language while the Slovak people do understand the Czech. This results in a funny situation sometimes when you go to Prague as a Slovak, ask the receptionist about your reservation and receive confused looks and a “Please say it in English” answer. (For the record, I have never had to speak English with a Czech person before or after in my life.)
6. Learn Khmer, it is simple!
Khmer, the language spoken in Cambodia, has very simple grammar. The verbs are not being bent nor have past or future forms, there is no declension and unlike the neighboring Thai or Vietnamese, its pronunciation is not based on the tonal system. (That means you don´t have to sing! Yey! Let´s learn it!)
5. Wanderlust is a – wait, what? – German word!
The so much (ab)used word Wanderlust actually comes from German. It is a combination of the noun “Lust” – desire and the verb “wandern” – which
surprisingly doesn´t mean to wander, but to hike. In English, it was used in 1902 for the first time. Keep that in mind next time you say you don´t like the sound of German. 😉
4. Beware of the French wolf! It´s not what you think.
When it comes to wolves, there is a couple of interesting proverbs in French. For example, to walk à pas de loup means stealthily, carefully. To call someone mon loup is equivalent to mon chéri. (I don´t have to explain that one, do I?) On the other hand, to say elle a vu le loup – she has seen the wolf – equals to she has lost her virginity. I have to add that although I have lived in France I have never heard anyone using this awesome expression. What a pity.
3. In order to learn Spanish, you should travel to…
Almost everyone says (even among translators) that out of all the varieties of the Spanish language, Colombian is the most beautiful. While Colombian accent is soft, hot warming and calm, they also speak rather slowly and always use a plethora of polite phrases. Which absolutely makes Colombia the best place to learn Spanish. Especially the conditional forms, ouch.
2. Slavic languages are all kindda the same, but…
Be careful if you travel through different Slavic-languages speaking countries; as you know, the profanities are the first thing you learn. For example, if you have visited Slovakia, I bet you know how to use the omnipresent Ty si kokot! (“You are a dickhead!). Now; for instance, in Slovakia you can ask for a kurací rezeň (a chicken fillet) in a restaurant, but don´t do that in Croatia. Why? Let me elaborate:
slovak: kura = chicken; kokot = dick
croatian: kurac = dick; kokot = rooster
You can imagine how hard they will laugh at you if you ask for a kurací fillet in that cute family restaurant. If they don´t get offended, that is. Btw., fillet in Croatian is odrezak.
1. Russian cursive makes me curse.
I have started learning Russian recently. This picture says it all:
Do you know other weird language facts? What about your mother tongue? How many languages can you speak? Drop me a line in the comments!
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