How many of you remember your parents or siblings drilling you for the upcoming spelling bee when you were in grade school? R-E-A-D spells “read.” I like to read. But wait, R-E-A-D also spells “read,” as in, “I read a good book yesterday.” English is a funny language when it comes to spelling and the correspondence between letters and sounds. This is partially because the English language has held on to much of its Old English orthography. This is a benefit when reading somewhat old historical texts. But, it’s not so great when it comes to teaching spelling, reading, and writing. I’m sure many ESL and elementary school students would agree. Indeed many native adult English speakers, including yours truly, still struggle with spelling. Isn’t that why they invented spell check?
So take a look at this: G-H-O-T-I spells “fish.” You may think I need to go back to the 1st grade, but what if told you the letters ‘gh’ make the [f] sound? Still think I’m crazy? What about the ‘gh’ in the words enough and rough? The –o in “women” makes the same sound as the letter –i in “fish.” And finally, “Nation” and “station” both have the ‘ti’ combo that sounds like /sh/. So, there you have it. G-H-O-T-I spells fish!
Do you know of any other examples of fun things like this?
Have you ever heard the sentence:
“Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.”
Did you know that it is considered grammatically correct? (Hint: it uses tons of homonyms and homophones!) Read more about the sentence here on Wikipedia.
1. In Hebrew the adjective follows the noun, e.g. “city big.” English speakers tend to put the noun after the adjective according to the English word order, e.g. “big city.”
2. Hebrew nouns, adjectives, and verbs have a designated gender (either female or male). For example, “television” is feminine while “radio” is masculine. English speakers tend to mix up the genders.
3. Hebrew nouns, adjective, and verbs have to match in number and gender. Let’s take, for example, “a good pizza.” Since “pizza” is feminine, the adjective “good” should be feminine as well. English speakers have the tendency to forget this rule and do not match adjective, nouns, and verbs in number and gender.
4. In Hebrew there are two sets of numbers, feminine and masculine, which are used based on the noun that is being counted. For example, in the phrase “10 boys” the number ten is pronounced and written differently than in the phrase “10 girls.” English speakers easily confuse the two sets of numbers.
5. In Hebrew, the definite article is used both before the noun and before the adjective, e.g. “the cake the sweet.” English speakers tend to use the definite article only once as it is in English, “the sweet cake.”
6. The right use of prepositions is a source of frustration for English speakers. For example, in Hebrew we say “I spoke in the phone” and not “I spoke on the phone” as in English.
7. In Hebrew there are several guttural letters that English speakers have a hard time pronouncing and usually pronounce incorrectly. These guttural letters are “Cheit,” “Chaf,” and “Reish.” “Cheit” sounds like the German or Scottish “ch” but more guttural. “Reish” is pronounced like the French or German “r” or the Italian or Spanish “r” but usually harder.
8. Hebrew does not use “is,” “are,” “do,” and “does,” which really confuses English speakers. English speakers tend to make grammatical mistakes as they try to find alternative expressions.
9. Hebrew verbs have different forms. Each verb is conjugated by gender, tense, and number, which means we have to learn 12 different forms of each verb. This is a hard concept for English speakers to master. In English verbs are conjugated by tense, not by gender or number.
10. A common pronunciation mistake is when English words are used in Hebrew. For example: “television” is pronounced “televizia,” “university” is pronounced “universita,” etc.
Morphology is the study of the structure of words.
Words can be broken into morphemes. Morphemes are the smallest unit of meaning.
Morphemes can be words; for example giraffe, jump, purple, and quick are all morphemes and also words. However, one word can consist of one or many morphemes. Giraffes, jumped, purplish and quickly are all words but each consists of two morphemes. And, antidisestablishmentarianism is only one word but contains seven morphemes!
A few morphemes like the past tense –ed and plural –s, in English must attach to another morpheme (usually the root word, i.e., jump-ed and giraffe-s). These morphemes are referred to as bound morphemes. Morphemes that are not under this restriction are called free morphemes.
Some languages have a one to one correspondence between word and morpheme. Languages of this type are called isolating languages. For example, Classical Chinese is considered a highly isolating language where each morpheme corresponds to a single syllable and a single character. In contrast to isolating languages, agglutinative languages can form entire sentences by “gluing” affixes to the root word. Turkish is a good example of an agglutinative language. In Turkish, “Cevaplayamadıklarımızdandır” translated, “It must be one of those which we couldn’t answer” has nine morphemes!
What is the word with the highest number of morphemes you can come up with in English?
Like many travelers, during trips to a foreign lands, I make it a point to pick up a new language., and usually, I return with a greater a understanding the spoken word. However, During a trip to Greece, my desire to pick up a new language was thwarted by my pre-existing proficiency. Thus I struggled with appeasing my language learning appetite….. Soon It occurred to me that, In Learning to speak a language, one usually strives to accomplish 2 goals.
1) To understand what is spoken
2) To orally communicate a thought to another.
However, a shortcoming of many language learners is that they tend to focus on what a fellow human being might say and disregard the language of many other inhabitants of that land.
Therefore, I focused on the communication of animals and thus both expanded and diversified my understanding of the Greek language.
I learned that in Greek a cat meow translates to “Niaow, and a dog ruff translates to “Gav”. But while a cat and dog from the states will be likely to successfully communicate, some animals may have more difficulty.
In Greece, a rooster says “Ko Ko Rico” when he wants to say cock-a-doodle doo. And a Pig that is used to saying oink oink, would have no idea how to translate “Gru Gru.”
Meanwhile a fish which is usually expressionless in the stated must cope with native fish could greet it with a “plats plats”.
So enriching was my new found vocabulary that as I was nearing the airport on my return, I didn’t hesitate when a bird said “Tsiou Tsiou” I knew he meant tweet tweet.
What other animal sounds do you know in another language?
1) “I have to go to a class to learn a language.”
Languages are mostly learned by practicing and using and so it is more effective to learn a language with individualized applications at one’s own pace.
2) “I have to learn a language through communication with people.”
This is too big an objective to start with. Somehow, non-native speakers would find it frustrating because few native speakers would be patient enough to communicate with them if their oral proficiency is minimum. Therefore, it’s better to start with more listening practice and gradually build up vocabulary and grammar, as well as confidence to speak in a second language.
There is a famous parable of six blind men and an elephant that originated from India. In one version of the story the six blind men were brought together and asked to determine what an elephant looked like by feeling different parts of the elephant’s body. The blind man who feels a leg says the elephant is like a pillar; the one who feels the tail says the elephant is like a rope; the one who feels the trunk says the elephant is like a snake; the one who feels the ear says the elephant is like a fan; the one who feels the belly says the elephant is like a wall; and the one who feels the tusk says the elephant is like a spear.
The field of Linguistics has its own elephant- human language. Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. Similar to the blind men, linguists examine different areas of language and therefore describe language in different ways.
1. Syntax (contrary to what it sounds like, it is not an increase in the price of beer or gambling) is a subfield of linguistics which focuses mainly on the grammar of language. Syntacticians study the structure of sentences and try to answer the question, “What are the underlying rules and principles that govern the construction of sentences?”
2. While syntax studies the structure of sentences, morphology focuses on the structure of words.
3. Phonology is another subfield of linguistics. Phonology analyses the way sounds function in languages.
4. Related to phonology is another subfield of linguistics, phonetics. However, phonetics does not concentrate on the combination or function of sounds but rather on the actual production or articulation and physical properties of all possible human speech sounds.
5. Another perspective of language is the relationship between words and meaning. This is the focus of semantics, another branch of linguistics. Yet other linguists examine language as it affects and is affected by social relations. This perspective is referred to as sociolinguistics. There are still even more branches of linguistics, i.e., psycholinguistics, historical linguistics, neurolinguistics, etc.
So you see, there are many different perspectives and ways to describe language. Many times we think of human language as simple and easy – pretty much everyone speaks their native tongue by around age three without having ever been read a grammar book or been explicitly taught the rules of sound production and function, or of word and sentence structure. However, the reality is that human language is a huge complex “elephant” and viewing its different parts and from different perspectives has been the direction taken in the field of linguistics. But, this does not mean that these branches are in complete disagreement about what language is or the principles that govern its creation, acquisition or usage. Rather, each subfield gives a different description because it focuses on a different part of the “elephant”. In order to best describe human language linguists analyze its different parts but must not forget the whole – that language isn’t just the long tusk, flat ear, or coiled trunk. It’s the whole elephant.
1. A great way to expend vocabulary is to watch American movies dubbed in Hebrew that you watched before. Knowing the plot makes it easier to concentrate on the Hebrew words and catch some repeating words and / or phrases. You might also want to watch Israeli movies with English subtitles. You will be surprised as how many words you can learn.
2. Listening to Israeli music while jogging or riding the train is another fun and great way to expend vocabulary and catch some slang.
3. Practice, practice, practice. Find a partner and take a Hebrew course together. Practice Hebrew with your partner.
4. Find a neighbor, a facebook and or a SKYPE friend that speaks Hebrew or knows Hebrew better than you and practice.
5. Take a flight and visit Israel. Expose yourself to the language and the people.
6. Write Hebrew words on sticky – notes and stick them around the house.
7. Learn 10 new Hebrew words each day Monday – Friday, review on Saturday and relax on Sunday.
8. Reach your target step by step. Do not set big and extravagant goals. It will be easier and will keep up your motivation.
9. Surround yourself with Hebrew; listen to radio broadcasts, watch Israeli youtube clips, listen to Israeli music, surf the net and look for sites in Hebrew. Just make Hebrew part of your daily life.
10. Record yourself speaking Hebrew. Repeat the recording as many times as possible.
Do you have any tips that we have missed?
2010 is going to bring some amazing things for Mango Languages and our customers – we are so looking forward to the new year.
We thought it might be fun to share with you a few foreign language phrases.
How to say “Happy New Year” around the world:
Arabic: Kul ‘aam u antum salimoun
Brazilian-Portuguese: Boas Festas e Feliz Ano Novo means “Good Parties and Happy New Year”
Chinese: Chu Shen Tan
Czech/Slovak: Scastny Novy Rok
Dutch: Gullukkig Niuw Jaar
Finnish: Onnellista Uutta Vuotta
French: Bonne Annee
German: Prosit Neujahr
Greek: Eftecheezmaenos o Kaenooryos hronos
Hebrew: L’Shannah Tovah Tikatevu
Hindi: Niya Saa Moobaarak
Irish (Gaelic): Bliain nua fe mhaise dhuit
Italian: Buon Capodanno
Khmer: Sua Sdei tfnam tmei
Laotian: Sabai dee pee mai
Polish: Szczesliwego Nowego Roku
Portuguese: Feliz Ano Novo
Russian: S Novim Godom
Serbo-Croatian: Scecna nova godina
Spanish: Feliz Ano Neuvo or Prospero Ano Felicidad or Prospero Ano Nuevo
Turkish: Yeni Yiliniz Kutlu Olsun
Vietnamese: Cung-Chuc Tan-Xuan
Information from http://www.fathertimes.net/hownewyearissaidaroundtheworld.htm