The girl who saw the wolf: 10 bizarre language facts

The girl who saw the wolf: 10 bizarre language facts

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

2016.01.29.

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.

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Bogotá. No words needed.

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. 😉

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“You´re so sweet that the salt tastes like sugar with you.” (Polish; Krakow, Poland)

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:

russian(source)

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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Stray story seeker. Hungry hitchhiker. Wannabe polyglot. Aspiring travel writer. Currently bumming around in Turkey.
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27 thoughts on “The girl who saw the wolf: 10 bizarre language facts

  1. Okay, as a Romanian, I’ve never heard the thing with Ceausescu and his reform on our vocabulary. And I think I would’ve learnt that in school, cause it’s quite a big deal… I might be wrong though…

        1. I am the sister. Remember learning about it but can´t find any information anymore and also don´t know how it exactly went. Unfortunately I live in Germany now and have all my university stuff back in Bratislava so I can´t take a quick look in my old notes…

  2. Love it! I am German and there are some words in English, which are based in german or in this language area: Wanderlust, Dopplgänger, Zeitgeist, Yacht…
    When I read this about the neighbor countries, Spain and Portugal came into my head. A Portuguese guy told me once, that Portuguese can understand Spanish, but it’s much harder the other way.
    I love to learn new languages when I travel. Sometimes words are similar and then it is totally different.
    Easy example for that: English word “sensitive” is in German “sensibel”. But “sensible” in English is something else like wise (cannot find a better word). That’s why I never use this word in English 😀

    1. I live in Germany and always notice when Germans make mistakes in English and speak the German way. First I used to laugh and then I realized that I do the same! 😀 Like putting this “…or?” in the end of the sentences, haha. It´s just much easier than the English way where you have to change it every time!

  3. In Vietnamese they dont say or write DNA (genetic code) but they use ADN. Yeah, its because a noun have to be always before an adjective in this language, but anyway, whole world is using DNA. And the most weird: for I, you or he/she, you can use the same word sometimes- depends on your social status. So for example: Anh thích gà could mean- He likes chicken or I like chicken as well 🙂 (literary it means: My older brother (or my older friend) likes chicken, or: I like chicken. (if that one to whom I tell it is younger than me).

      1. Karin you better stop using me as a resource because as it seems it might not be accurate hahaha. You know that I sometimes missed oput classes, don´t you? 😀 Anyway I´ll try to find out how exactly it was!

    1. Thank you! Colombia is where I learned most of my spanish, so it sounds as the most natural one to me 😉 However, I often get told that my accent is mexican (I am slovak, so it´s a mystery). What is your favourite accent, then?

  4. Ah I love this! I laughed throughout the entire article and keep finding myself repeating ‘elle a vu le loup’ over and over again. Thank you so much for sharing! Made my day

  5. I think ‘elle a vu le loup’ is very, very old, as in, pre-1800s; I’ve never heard it either, and I’m a French teacher! and ‘mon loup’ is more like ‘my friend/buddy/mate’ more than mon cheri.

    1. Yes, elle a vu le loup is quite archaic but still funny 😀 As for the mon loup, I heard they used to use it as mon cheri but also some time ago; thanks for adding your knowledge, I´m always happy to learn new stuff and I didn´t know they used it to address friends! 🙂

  6. I wouldn´t say czech people don´t understand slovak but slovak people understand czech… of course we understand czech better, since we have access to books in czech, czech tv stations, films and tv series and everything… it is normal for us, but they don´t have the same access to slovak… but they understand if they want…
    But I can only speak for west of our country anyway, where lot of czech words are used in everyday language, but I think this is not how it works in eastern Slovakia, is it? I think there´s a big difference in language in eastern Slovakia which is quite funny for such a small country 🙂

    But back to czech… The funniest difference between czech and slovak language is this, I think:

    Words Kel, Kapusta, Zelí (Cole, Cabbage, kraut-or sauerkraut)

    slovak Kel (Cole) in czech is called Kapusta(Cabbage) while slovak Kapusta is Zelí
    (this probably doesn´t even make sense in english actually but there´s always so much mess about this words really 😀
    Kapusta

    1. I think people in the east do understand czech 🙂 Also, the Czech people do have access to this stuff- but they choose to translate even slovak books to czech, so…that is really weird!

      1. Well, ok the access is not restricted, but the thing is, people from Bohemia (west of CzRep) get in to contact with Slovak language very rarely. As you say, there’re almost no slovak translations of foreign literature there to be seen, and you cannot tune in Slovak TV or Radio broadcast, unless you have a satelite or cable TV. Plus, most of the Slovaks living in CZ assimilate after a while and “give up” speaking they’re language. All in all it’s rather seldom to hear Slovak.

        Fun fact: Czech and Slovak languages are very similar, so similar that it’s rather impossible to find a proper equivalent/comparison of other two languages.. But, I’ve heard from a German who speaks Slovak on like B2/C1 level that it’s very difficult for him to understand Czech :))

        1. Yeah, it is rather uncommon to find Slovaks in the west. Still I think that those who want can find a way to be in touch with the language – it is a pity that the mutual understanding is getting lost!

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