Fun with English

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    Nov 06, 2011 6:41 PM GMT
    I love languages. Even though I'm interested mainly in foreign languages, I can't help but find English interesting as well. I learn new things about the language all the time. For example, I found out today that a common English expression -"dead as a doornail"- dates as far back as the 1300s! Who would've thought? Pretty impressive that the idiom has remained quite stable after all these centuries.

    I know we have many users on here who speak English as a foreign language. Is there anything about English you like, dislike, or are confused about? Perhaps you want to ask some questions about things in English you don't understand?
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    Nov 06, 2011 8:50 PM GMT
    I work with a lot of people whose native language is not English. It's always amusing/interesting trying to explain slang, idioms, American cultural references, and even those weird grammar rules that we have. icon_lol.gif
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    Nov 06, 2011 9:07 PM GMT
    English lacks a lot of expressive nuances. For instance, "I am a man" and "I am fine". Am is the only thing you have to express a state of being as well as a self-defining concept, as opposed to, for example in Spanish, "Yo soy un hombre" and "You estoy bien".

    Another interesting one English completely lacks is an equivalent to the form "Te me" as in "Te me moriste", which expresses that you died but you did it to ME. The only thing that comes close in English is the expression doctors use "Don't die on me", which doesn't quite express it.
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    Nov 06, 2011 9:13 PM GMT
    Ariodante saidEnglish lacks a lot of expressive nuances. For instance, "I am a man" and "I am fine". Am is the only thing you have to express a state of being as well as a self-defining concept, as opposed to, for example in Spanish, "Yo soy un hombre" and "You estoy bien".

    Another interesting one English completely lacks is an equivalent to the form "Te me" as in "Te me moriste", which expresses that you died but you did it to ME. The only thing that comes close in English is the expression doctors use "Don't die on me", which doesn't quite express it.


    For a native English speaker, learning reflexive verbs in a foreign language is extremely difficult.
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    Nov 06, 2011 9:31 PM GMT
    Reflexive verbs in other languages certainly can be tricky, because many times the reflexive morpheme does not necessary indicate a true reflexive action.Russian has a lot of reflexive verbs that don't have a reflexive meaning. Spanish does, too. Although a lot of verbs in Spanish come in reflexive pairs with different meanings or to suggest a generalization.

    LOL the use of "se" in Spanish is incredibly broad and often ambiguous because it highly depends on your attitude towards what you're saying and what you want to convey. Even though there are "guidelines" for its use, there seem to be plenty of creative exceptions.
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    Nov 06, 2011 9:35 PM GMT
    I used to teach ESL a couple of years back. I have been thinking of doing it again. It was so fun.

    There are some very fun English nuances, like trying to explain to students:

    "A rule of thumb"

    "parking a car in a driveway, but driving a car on a parkway"

    The conditional tense can also be extremely difficult for foreigners, and our progressive tense evades even some of the most advanced students.

    Explain the difference between "could" and "would."

    Get a class to understand the difference between: "Do you drink soda?" and "are you drinking soda?"

    What is assumed, and distinguishes the two questions: "Where do you go for vacation?" vs "where are you going for vacation?"

    The last funny thing about English is the ubiquitous and unruly presence of "to do," "to have" and "to get" in all the mess of forming questions, expressing obligation, and composing the past tense. These three questions have nothing in common except their ability to confuse non-native speakers:

    "Did you get to do your laundry yesterday, or did you have to do your homework?"
    "What do you have to do today?"
    "Haven't you gotten to do that yet?"
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    Nov 06, 2011 9:37 PM GMT
    pocketnico saidReflexive verbs in other languages certainly can be tricky, because many times the reflexive morpheme does not necessary indicate a true reflexive action.Russian has a lot of reflexive verbs that don't have a reflexive meaning. Spanish does, too. Although a lot of verbs in Spanish come in reflexive pairs with different meanings or to suggest a generalization.

    LOL the use of "se" in Spanish is incredibly broad and often ambiguous because it highly depends on your attitude towards what you're saying and what you want to convey. Even though there are "guidelines" for its use, there seem to be plenty of creative exceptions.


    But sometimes it is very critical!

    Je me sens... Means "I feel...."

    Je sens... Means "I stink!"
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    Nov 06, 2011 9:42 PM GMT
    I think the most interesting use of "se" in Spanish is in situations where the subject is trying to express an accident and doesn't wish to claim responsibility for it.

    For example, to say something like "I dropped my wallet", you can't translate it literally. The usual way to say it would be, "Se me cayó la billetera" (The wallet fell from me).

    Or something like, "I forgot to turn on the coffee maker" (Se me olvidó encender la cafetera).
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    Nov 06, 2011 9:44 PM GMT
    One thing of interest to me, maybe no one else, is double negatives handled differently in different languages. In English, you would say "I do not know anything." An English speaker would look at a double negative as one negative canceling out the other. If some did say "I do not know nothing," we would logically assume that they must know something. In Russian, double negatives are correct. You would say in Russian,, "I do not know nothing." Instead of looking at it as a double negative, the negative verb would be appropriate to be consistent with nothing.
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    Nov 06, 2011 9:47 PM GMT
    socalfitness saidOne thing of interest to me, maybe no one else, is double negatives handled differently in different languages. In English, you would say "I do not know anything." An English speaker would look at a double negative as one negative canceling out the other. If some did say "I do not know nothing," we would logically assume that they must know something. In Russian, double negatives are correct. You would say in Russian,, "I do not know nothing." Instead of looking it as a double negative, the negative verb would be appropriate to be consistent with nothing.


    As far as I know, it's because other Germanic languages don't use double negatives in many situations. I remember reading that Dutch has similar rules to English regarding that. I don't remember the German take. However, it seems to be a common feature of Germanic languages not to use double negatives.

    If you draw tree structures of sentences with and without double negatives, you will see that neither is more logical than the other syntactically speaking.
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    Nov 06, 2011 9:52 PM GMT
    socalfitness saidOne thing of interest to me, maybe no one else, is double negatives handled differently in different languages. In English, you would say "I do not know anything." An English speaker would look at a double negative as one negative canceling out the other. If some did say "I do not know nothing," we would logically assume that they must know something. In Russian, double negatives are correct. You would say in Russian,, "I do not know nothing." Instead of looking at it as a double negative, the negative verb would be appropriate to be consistent with nothing.


    Unless you want to look like a retard or a punk rocker: icon_smile.gif

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    Nov 06, 2011 9:54 PM GMT
    pocketnico saidI think the most interesting use of "se" in Spanish is in situations where the subject is trying to express an accident and doesn't wish to claim responsibility for it.

    For example, to say something like "I dropped my wallet", you can't translate it literally. The usual way to say it would be, "Se me cayó la billetera" (The wallet fell from me).

    Or something like, "I forgot to turn on the coffee maker" (Se me olvidó encender la cafetera).


    You could say Tire mi cartera to turn it into an active (or billetera, but we don't use that word icon_razz.gif )
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    Nov 06, 2011 9:55 PM GMT
    There is a really awesome book called Language Myths, which is a collection of 21 very short essays on various misconceptions of the English language regarding its usage and influence. A lot of popular questions are addressed throughout the book and even takes aim at some of the stupid positions prescriptivists hold. It's a short book and totally worth a read.

    http://www.amazon.com/Language-Myths-Laurie-Bauer/dp/0140260234/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1320616318&sr=8-1
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    Nov 06, 2011 9:55 PM GMT
    Ariodante said
    pocketnico saidI think the most interesting use of "se" in Spanish is in situations where the subject is trying to express an accident and doesn't wish to claim responsibility for it.

    For example, to say something like "I dropped my wallet", you can't translate it literally. The usual way to say it would be, "Se me cayó la billetera" (The wallet fell from me).

    Or something like, "I forgot to turn on the coffee maker" (Se me olvidó encender la cafetera).


    You could say Tire mi cartera to turn it into an active (or billetera, but we don't use that word icon_razz.gif )


    LOL! I can't imagine myself saying that unless I were chucking my wallet out of anger.
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    Nov 06, 2011 10:05 PM GMT
    What about the fact that in english there objects and animals don't have feminine and masculine name. The cofee maker-la cafetera (feminine) the dog-el perro masculine la perra (feminin) or maybe that's just something weird in spanish icon_confused.gif
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    Nov 06, 2011 10:09 PM GMT
    peter_cottontail saidWhat about the fact that in english there objects and animals don't have feminine and masculine name. The cofee maker-la cafetera (feminine) the dog-el perro masculine la perra (feminin) or maybe that's just something weird in spanish icon_confused.gif


    English used to have grammatical gender when it was Old English. German and other Germanic languages still have grammatical gender. However, over time it was simply dropped from English.

    Many languages don't have grammatical gender: Finnish, Chinese languages, Hungarian, Korean, Persian, Estonian, Japanese, and others.
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    Nov 06, 2011 10:09 PM GMT
    I love that Spanish has the word "el reloj" for "clock" and "watch". I understand the difference in English, but it would be more practical to have one word in English.

    I also like that you can say something without a pronoun in Spanish since the conjugation implies "who is doing it". Por ejemplo, "Estoy bien". You can't say "Am well" in English even though "am" is only used with the first person singular.
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    Nov 06, 2011 10:12 PM GMT
    Balljunkie saidI also like that you can say something without a pronoun in Spanish since the conjugation implies "who is doing it". Por ejemplo, "Estoy bien". You can't say "Am well" in English even though "am" is only used with the first person singular.


    Another reason to poke fun at French. You have to use personal pronouns in French, otherwise there would be all sorts of confusion. However, personal pronouns are optional in all the other Romance languages.
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    Nov 06, 2011 10:15 PM GMT
    pocketnico said
    Balljunkie saidI also like that you can say something without a pronoun in Spanish since the conjugation implies "who is doing it". Por ejemplo, "Estoy bien". You can't say "Am well" in English even though "am" is only used with the first person singular.


    Another reason to poke fun at French. You have to use personal pronouns in French, otherwise there would be all sorts of confusion. However, personal pronouns are optional in all the other Romance languages.


    And that is what I love. At the same time, it is hella confusing for non-native speakers since there is no equivalent of "it" in Spanish.
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    Nov 06, 2011 10:26 PM GMT
    Something I've always enjoyed reading - "When did Americans stop talking British?"

    http://dialectblog.com/2011/06/13/americans-talking-britis/

    It's funny how the post-vocalic-r has gone in opposite directions on both sides of the pond. In America, there used to be more non-rhotic accents, but many of those have shifted since World War II in favor of rhotic accents. The opposite happened in the UK where rhotic accents are thought of as rural (although the norm in Scotland and Ireland), so non-rhotic accents have become more widespread.
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    Nov 07, 2011 2:18 AM GMT
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZkjoXyexKk
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    Nov 07, 2011 2:28 AM GMT
    Ariodante saidEnglish lacks a lot of expressive nuances. For instance, "I am a man" and "I am fine". Am is the only thing you have to express a state of being as well as a self-defining concept, as opposed to, for example in Spanish, "Yo soy un hombre" and "You estoy bien".

    Another interesting one English completely lacks is an equivalent to the form "Te me" as in "Te me moriste", which expresses that you died but you did it to ME. The only thing that comes close in English is the expression doctors use "Don't die on me", which doesn't quite express it.


    Please, Jewish mothers have that one covered. Schadenfreude, you know. Anything that happens, happens to her. Anything you do, you do it to her.

    But only if it's something bad.

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    Nov 07, 2011 2:30 AM GMT
    pocketnico saidSomething I've always enjoyed reading - "When did Americans stop talking British?"

    http://dialectblog.com/2011/06/13/americans-talking-britis/

    It's funny how the post-vocalic-r has gone in opposite directions on both sides of the pond. In America, there used to be more non-rhotic accents, but many of those have shifted since World War II in favor of rhotic accents. The opposite happened in the UK where rhotic accents are thought of as rural (although the norm in Scotland and Ireland), so non-rhotic accents have become more widespread.


    Do you mean the way Brits say Chiner, Ugander, Jamaicer?
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    Nov 07, 2011 6:27 AM GMT
    JackNWNJ said
    pocketnico saidSomething I've always enjoyed reading - "When did Americans stop talking British?"

    http://dialectblog.com/2011/06/13/americans-talking-britis/

    It's funny how the post-vocalic-r has gone in opposite directions on both sides of the pond. In America, there used to be more non-rhotic accents, but many of those have shifted since World War II in favor of rhotic accents. The opposite happened in the UK where rhotic accents are thought of as rural (although the norm in Scotland and Ireland), so non-rhotic accents have become more widespread.


    Do you mean the way Brits say Chiner, Ugander, Jamaicer?


    That's called intrusive-r, where an r is pronounced in positions where an r is not written. Post-vocalic-r is in words like "park", "never", "car", and such.

    However, intrusive-r happens in American English too, although definitely more frequently in many varieties of British English. I have definitely heard some Americans say things like spatuler for spatula or worsh/warsh for wash.
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    Nov 07, 2011 6:30 AM GMT
    yourname2000 said"I need to take a shit" ....I'll bet that one throws a few new English speakers for a loop. icon_eek.gif
    Can you imagine "I need to take a dump".. what that would do?