Saturday, 27 July 2013

Mind your language

I love words, even some of the ridiculous joined-up ones, and language (not just the bad stuff). Sadly, despite my admiration for linguistics, I'm ridiculously bad at languages. I'm attempting to learn Swedish at the moment and it's a slow process. Very slow indeed. When I say 'at the moment' I mean on and off for the past two years, which is, co-incidentally, about the age range of my Swedish conversation. 'Titta på pojken! Pojken har en röd boll.'  Which roughly (very roughly) translates as; 'Look at the boy! The boy has a red ball.' You can see how I'd be the toast of the Swedish social scene with fascinating conversation points like this.
I thank my lucky stars I'm not trying to learn English as a second language though. Putting aside the nonsensical grammar rules, how on earth would you get to grips with all the slang? Not to mention the aforementioned ridiculous joined-up words. That said, it seems Germany fancies some of these English gems for their own, recently adding 'shitstorm' to their dictionary. Bravo Deutschland. Bravo.
We should follow their lead and grab some more foreign morsels for ourselves. I vote for the Dutch word for unbelievable: ongelooflijk (un-guh-lof-i-lick). Not official onomatopoeia, but it feels like it, and I like it.
Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.
There are some expressions that just don’t translate and should be shared in their mother tongue for full effect, complete with all the gestures. Italian curses are obviously a good example. Dio cane literally translates as 'god dog'. See? It loses all its gusto in English. Some translate brilliantly though, and when traditional potty-mouth is becoming a bit repetitive, it's nice to have a few exotic expressions in your arsenal to keep people on their toes. Try 'may the fleas of a thousand camels infest your armpits' next time you're having an argument. It makes a nice change from 'no YOU feck off!'
Having met a Dutch man with a Cork accent (which was bizarre to say the least) and a few Italians with a fine Ayrshire brogue, courtesy of my friend and their teacher, I wonder what kind of Swedish accent I'll end up with. Popular consensus seems to have me talking like the Swedish chef from the Muppets, but at the moment I'm told I'm quite posh (there's a first for everything). ApparentIy I tend towards the equivalent of 'How delightful to make your acquaintance', 'I hail from Ireland' and 'I do hope this finds you well'.
'hurdy gurdy gurdy'
I'm sure I won’t stay posh for long, we all know it's not my natural state after all. I'm just waiting for my first major faux-pas, and something tells me I'm not going to have to wait very long. All I can hope for is an understanding 'victim'. My better half once asked some older German ladies in a pharmacy for a creamy breast. Luckily, just as they were about to start throwing things, they realised, thanks to some desperate miming on his part, that he had meant to ask for a toothbrush and they dissolved into puddles of laughter. Let's hope they got a work discount on Tena Lady.
Speaking of growing older, it has just struck me that I must be maturing. A whole post about languages and I haven't mentioned being a cunning linguist once.
Until now. Damn it! So close.


  1. Love it - It is like me trying to learn Spanish - Kev N