View Full Version : Second Language in another Land

31st Dec 2008, 07:48
Was sent to France, once upon a time, to oversee seat production and delivery. Issoudun. Stayed at LA COGNETTE good hotel, predictable breakfast.
Had to use my French everywhere , no one in the town spoke English. Best at a boulangerie asking for food for a petit picnic. Very nice madame ran the place and was very tolerant of my haphazard french.

31st Dec 2008, 07:52
Very nice madame ran the place and was very tolerant of my haphazard french.Are you absolutely certain it was a boulangerie? :oh:

31st Dec 2008, 08:01
Hah! You wanna try Luxembourg. Requirement to be quadrilingual, at least!

French, German, Luxembourgish and English. Portuguese is a distinct advantage also :*

31st Dec 2008, 08:05
Anything beyond French....I just shout.

Although after sneezing I have begun to swear in German.

Standard Noise
31st Dec 2008, 10:17
Foreign alphabets, mm yes, always had a problem with french letters.:E

31st Dec 2008, 10:47
Especially split infinitives?

31st Dec 2008, 12:03
Just returned from a short break in Mallorca (pronounced Madge-orca, of course!) and German was very useful. It’s also a good language for dealing with street/beach itinerant traders of usually the Gypsy or African persuasion. They must think the Germans are so rude. :E

sled dog
31st Dec 2008, 13:42
The official language in Luxembourg is French, is it not ? The last time i went into the shops there all the assistants were either French or Belge, not a word of Luxembourgish to be heard :confused:

31st Dec 2008, 13:54
in my backpacking years, I tagged along with an Irish bloke in Morocco. His Gaelic was very handy in that even the most hardened hawker would give up after a while.

I still ended up with a 'carpet' that cost 20 dirham and a pack of Olympique Bleu though....:eek:

jetset lady
31st Dec 2008, 14:01
sled dog,

That because Luxembourgish is a little known, fairly pointless language that is spoken by only a few die hards and will soon disappear forever. Bit like Welsh.... :E

I know! Hat, coat... :(

sled dog
31st Dec 2008, 14:07
Jetset Lady, i recently met a Welshman who is actually fluent in........Luxembourgish :ok: He is now looking for another job since his Icelandic Bank in Lux collapsed :{

31st Dec 2008, 14:30
Sled Dog - Good Grief is the only thing that I can think of as a reply to your post. In Brussels we used to have a bit of Luxembourgish chat going on in our Friday afternoon internal communication gathering along with French, Flemish, German, Portuguese and English. This was helped by the wine and beer plus the nibbles.:ok::ok: But no Welsh though.

Blwyddyn Newydd Dda a chi

Happy New Year to you all

31st Dec 2008, 14:36
Don't all furriners speak Esperanto?

31st Dec 2008, 14:44
I have enough trouble on the few occasions I go north of border. It's said that they speak a sort of English in Scotland, and that's true in some places. Or does Glasgow not count as Scotland?

So how would you pronounce the name of a place spelt 'Milngavie'?

Romeo India Xray
31st Dec 2008, 14:45
I thought you were going to test us all on our Welsh (well I did live on the border for 3 years, so picked up a bit). :ok: Not a pointless thing to do (pretty essential come market day). Welsh is certainly not about to become a dead language either (at least not in mid and north).

My Latvian is pretty OK ;)

Russian I HATE except when I am in Russia, although I can hold my own with basics and can read it.

German is handy in some parts of the former Courland where the elderly do not understand my accented Latvian. Also comes in handy in quite a few other places.

My French will get me a beer, sandwich and maybe a $hag if I am lucky - oops, I am living in the past :O

Guess Spanish and Mandarin are the next on the list.


31st Dec 2008, 15:32

If you come here, you can practice Russian in our local pub, the landlady is originally from Stalingrad and was a prisoner of the Germans at that time. I go in and manage a couple of phrases in Welsh, then give up. Get ribbed for not knowing any more. Order my pint in Russian and get ribbed again for speaking in a language they don't understand:E:E About 70% of the locals have Welsh as their mother tongue. They don't mind me as I can speak, Flemish and French so I am not yer typical English chap. If I don't go for a couple of weeks I get told off for not mixing - good bunch:D:D

31st Dec 2008, 15:48
I'm really fed up that NO-ONE has even mentioned DUTCH!!!!!

31st Dec 2008, 15:54
Gelukkig NieuwJaar Storminnorm. Flemish and Dutch are almost the same rather like Queen's English and the quaint North of the Watford Gap lingo:E

31st Dec 2008, 18:09
I was advised in Poland recently to stop apologising for being tongue-tied.

"You have to choose among a dozen languages for your second language, so you'll usually be somewhere where it's useless and where English works fine.

The rest of the world needs only to choose English as a second language, and can forget about the rest. Most English people can speak at least two languages other than English. Americans, of course, only speak English."

El Grifo
31st Dec 2008, 18:14
So how would you pronounce the name of a place spelt 'Milngavie'?

Yeah, that one still gets me despite being a born and bred (now expat) Scot

Mulguy acshully :bored:

31st Dec 2008, 18:53

Americans, of course, only speak English

A bit of a gross generalization that deserves some pushback.

I live in Houston, Texas...at the fourth most populous city in the U.S. with a population of some 4 million people.

It is a polyglot city, nearly 40% Spanish-speaking; 5% Asian-Indian, 3% Vietnamese, etc.

You'll find similar data in other major U.S. cities such as Atlanta, Seattle, Miami, etc. Great swaths of the southwest are predominantly Spanish-speaking...and I'm talking about the U.S. citizens.

Any you'd probably be surprised at how many U.S. citizens in Michigan speak Arabic for example, and how many U.S. citizens in southern Lousiana speak French (although, to be fair, it is an 18th century version of Quebecois / Acadiana French almost unrecognizable by the French themselves).

31st Dec 2008, 19:30
Capot quote: "Americans, of course, only speak English",
No they don't, they speak American,
its English with spelling mistakes......:E

1st Jan 2009, 00:06

Americans, of course, only speak English
A bit of a gross generalization that deserves some pushback.

Absolutely it's a gross generalisation, I've been living here among the Colonists for some four years now, and I have yet to hear one of them speak English:)

I blame it on the school system, if only they could be taught to correctly spell I'm sure that the language would return to something approximating the mother tongue:rolleyes:

1st Jan 2009, 00:24
I live in Houston, Texas...at the fourth most populous city in the U.S. with a population of some 4 million people. It is a polyglot city, nearly 40% Spanish-speaking; 5% Asian-Indian, 3% Vietnamese, etc.

Spent alot of time in the US late 90s. Went back to Houston in 2002 after a few years break and were in the office and order takout Pizza....Guy arrives, say hi, hows things, attempt to shoot the shit (as they say in the US) and get ZERO response. He hands over Pizza and bill - still no response. We hand over cash and guy walks off - not a word from the bloke and hes been there nearly 5 minutes!!!

Turn to secretary and ask if Ive lost it or what was that guys problem!! She calmly points out that he probably doesnt speak any English, dont worry about it, its a growing problem now.....


1st Jan 2009, 01:40
The Scots* and the the Irish
drive me close to tears
There are even some places
where English completely disappears
While in America
They haven't used it for years!


*me memory tells me 'tis 'scotch' and not 'scot'... can't be bovvered to check...

Jolly Green
1st Jan 2009, 02:09
Capot quote: "Americans, of course, only speak English",

I used to believe this myself, but quickly learned better when the USAF sent me off to a foreign place, locally called East Anglia. I couldn't understand anything the natives said at first. My landlord explained my problem after I complained of the dialect, "You see, we speak English here. You obviously don't." He became a good friend, especially since he was always good for a pint.

henry crun
1st Jan 2009, 03:39
Jolly Green: You are not alone.

When I lived in England the RAF posted me to Suffolk, and the locals might as well have been speaking Serbo Croat for all that I could understand.

cockney steve
1st Jan 2009, 14:13
^^^^^ having lived "oop norf" since '75, I returned to my home county(Essex) for a funeral, about 10 years ago......had the greatest difficulty understanding the language, but OTOH, rediscovered the delights of the smoked saveloy sausage in the local "chippy"- not a good enough reason to go back, though!

1st Jan 2009, 14:22
Says a lot for Essex don't it Steve? A saveloy!!!!!!!

Romeo India Xray
1st Jan 2009, 14:44

If you come here, you can practice Russian in our local pub, the landlady is originally from Stalingrad and was a prisoner of the Germans at that time. I go in and manage a couple of phrases in Welsh, then give up. Get ribbed for not knowing any more. Order my pint in Russian and get ribbed again for speaking in a language they don't understandhttp://static.pprune.org/images/smilies/evil.gifhttp://static.pprune.org/images/smilies/evil.gif About 70% of the locals have Welsh as their mother tongue. They don't mind me as I can speak, Flemish and French so I am not yer typical English chap. If I don't go for a couple of weeks I get told off for not mixing - good bunch:D:D

I used to find in Wales that if I told them (in Welsh) that I was learning Welsh, I would be left alone and receive no further hounding. "Dwin Dysgu Cymraeg"??? It has been a long time and as I have stated in orther threads, I am starting to get Senior Moments. On quite a few occasions after using a few phrases, the lads would "splash the cash" as they put it, and get me right royally peest.

Landlady from Stalingrad (now Volgograd), reminds me of a Polish waitress I met in the USA. It was much more effective for us to communicate in Russian as my RP English accent was unfathomable to her. My Russian was not up to much more than ordering a meal, drink and telling her how beautiful she was, but that didn't seem to matter. :}:ok:

Now, wherever I am in the world I try to ensure I have enough of the local language to order a pint, meal and taxi back to the hotel.

Happy linguistics in 09 to one and all!


1st Jan 2009, 15:06
I have found myself at a disadvantage in certain "English-speaking" countries. The locals can understand my standard American English because of the American TV programs they watch. OTOH, I sometimes have significant trouble understanding the locals.

1st Jan 2009, 15:18
I'm really fed up that NO-ONE has even mentioned DUTCH!!!!!Well, as a Dutchman, I would say Dutch is singularly useless as a second language.

Apart from the Dutch themselves and the Flemish nobody else speaks it. So anytime we step outside our own borders we need another language. As a result nearly everybody in Holland and Flandres speaks at least some English.

My wife was English. Spoke six languages (as a professional interpreter) including some Dutch. Still remembering her coming home one day absolutely livid... "I've had it with your **** language!"
Turns out she went into the local greengrocer. Asked with her very best Dutch accent: "Een kilo aardappelen, alstubleft" and the greengrocer retorted in impeccable English: "Certainly, Madam. Do you want me to put them in your bag, Madam?" ......


PS: before anybody mentions Afrikaans.... Dutch and Afrikaans have been 'living apart' for so long, that they're on the borderline between dialect and separate language. I can just about understand and read it, but prefer to use English for communication.

1st Jan 2009, 15:20
Seacue, the Brits had the same problem when they had
a worldwide Empire.
Don't worry about it, it will pass in time!
Speak louder when having comms problems. :ok:

Cristiaan, ik had precis de selfde probleem met Nederlanders!

Ik fond het best om naar de radio te luisteren, en ook "cowboy"
filmpjes te kijken met subtitles in Nederlands.

1st Jan 2009, 15:43
I have the same problem here in Germany. Most Germans seem to speak better English than my German. I notice it most with the younger generations. As soon as they find out I am English they stop speaking German and want to practise their English.

1st Jan 2009, 15:59
A younger cousin here in the USA won all sorts of prizes for his German ability (his mother was German). Then he went for an extended visit with his cousins in Germany. Couldn't understand a word they said at the dinner table. Even though well-educated, they spoke the local dialect at home. Is this common?

1st Jan 2009, 16:03
That's why I gave up with German, everywhere you went
had a regional dialect. Worse than trying to talk to Geordies!

1st Jan 2009, 16:44
Likewise Danish - there's Kobenhavnsk, Jysk and Fynsk - though I have encountered native Danes across the World (from Wales to Hong Kong).

1st Jan 2009, 16:51
My Misses is Bayrisch, but speaks to me in proper German, when she and her mother speak, I can follow very little. But the best one is when you get a Bayerisch speaker and a Sächsisch (Dresden) speaker talking, nobody understands. :E

Did find in the local department store, DVD's from Asterix, languages, one one French, German, and Sächsisch. The other, French, German, and Bayerisch.

You've just gotta love em :ok:

1st Jan 2009, 17:04
Has any German-speaker listened to the speeches of Adolf Hitler? I find his dialect almost unintelligible (even though 'my' German is predominantly Southern). I guess it's because he was Austrian?

1st Jan 2009, 17:29
Oh well.....

Regional accents are one thing.
If you have a bit of an ear for them, you pick them up yourself pretty easily.
I remember a Scottish colleague when I worked in England : I had to consciously avoid using his accent when talking to him, in case he thought I was taking the mickey. One tends to do it very easily, just to match the other person's speech, and improve communication.

Regional dialects are quite another story, because it's a matter of vocabulary.
As a Dutchman, Bayerish is fairly easy, because a lot of it is ancient "platt-Deutsch" rather than "hoch-Deutsch", and a lot of the ancient vocabulary has survived in Dutch, which is after all mostly an old German dialect, which got cut off from the "mother-tongue" somewhere around the 14th or 15th century.
Another funny I remember is "piemontese", the dialect around Turin, which is mostly Italian, but has a lot of French in it. Since I speak both, I have little difficulty understanding it.
I still remember chipping in into a discussion mostly in piemontese, and somebody good-naturedly saying "you've got to watch this Dutchy, he unnderstands piemontese!" :)

As to regional languages, all you can do is learn them like any other language.
If you're lucky, they at least have roots in something you already know.
Frisian (in Holland) is Northern Germanic, and not totally unrelated to German, Dutch and suchlike. Also, I lived there... which is another kind of root.
Occitan (in southern France) is another Latin-derived language. If you know French, Italian and Spanish, you won't have too many problems at least reading it.
Breton, Welsh, Gaelic, Basque, and a few others, have me totally stumped... :ugh:


1st Jan 2009, 20:40
I lived in Italy for fourteen years and was amazed at the different variations to be found in the Italian language. Each region has its own variation, some of them almost incomprehensible. ChristiaanJ mentions "piemontese". I have a number of friends from Piemonte and they all speak different variations of "piemontese". People in one vally do not have the same dialect as the next valley. Blooming confusing it is. As far as I can see the only word they all have in common is "ne", which means nothing.

Here I do not have a problem with either HochDeutsch of the normal Bayerisch dialect, but I do have a problem with Schwabisch and the dialect spoken on the other side of the border in Austria (Lustenau area).

2nd Jan 2009, 06:40
I do German, French and even a few words of Burmese:rolleyes:

I'm married to a Frau from Niederbayern but she actually speaks with the awful Hessiche accent!

When I lived in Kiel, they even had the news in Platt once a week!

I've lived and worked all over Germany, and the worst accents by far are Ossi Deutsch and the bloody horrible Schwäbische dialect- I worked down near Ulm recladding a roof tile factory(lovely job:mad:) and if I understood one word in 10 I was doing well.
Did a stint down in the Alps too, and the Ober Bayerische ist something to behold- just like the Össies over the border:ok:
As to SchweeezerDeutsch:eek:, well that's really taking the p1ss. Did a season there last summer, and heading back there this summer...Thank god they all speak Hoch Deutsch as well.

Just to confuse things, I work for a French company in Switzerland, with a half Welsh/half Croatian as one of the directors, a Sherman as the MD, and a Brit as the 3rd partner:ugh:

As to Flemish, well it always sounds like a p1ssed German with Bronchitis, trying to speak English badly:}

2nd Jan 2009, 14:17
Christiaan, Don't worry about taking the piss out of a Scot!
The English have been doing it for years.
On the other hand, if the b*ggers get independence we may
all be climbing Hadrians Wall to go and join them!
( If they'll have us!).

2nd Jan 2009, 15:41
I can assure you, that even a 'a p1ssed German with bronchitis' can't get his throat round some of our 'g' consonants, especially the "sch" form, like in 'Scheveningen'.
I'm now talking about Dutch... in Flemish, or the Limburg dialect, the 'g's are softer.


2nd Jan 2009, 15:45
Aah Christiaanj - Scheveningen

The dreaded test of being Dutch to avoid the inevitable lump of lead.

2nd Jan 2009, 15:50
Scheveningen Scheepsvaart Maatschappij did you mean?

Once saw an Exhibition in Amsterdam.
Hottentottetententententoonstelling. Wonderful! Ask Christiaan!

Edited, too many"en"s.

Union Jack
2nd Jan 2009, 16:59
Americans, of course, only speak English
A bit of a gross generalization that deserves some pushback.

All very nicely highlighted in the "message" attributed to John Cleese at the time of GWB's "election" in 2000, namely, http://tinyurl.com/9fygat (http://tinyurl.com/9fygat) ! For those with a low boredom threshold, scroll to the foot of the page and read the last item, which I seem to recall was quoted verbatim in the Daily Telegraph .....:\

Matari - please note item 2 relative to "generalization"!:)


PS " So how would you pronounce the name of a place spelt 'Milngavie'? Correctly, just like Kilconquhar! :ok:

2nd Jan 2009, 17:14
ROFLMAO ! :ok:

Didn't expect anybody here would know those.....

CUNIM and Storminnorm,
The one I learned was "Scheveningse schijven-schurende schipper".

Oh and Stormin, still too many 'en's and 'ten's... sorry.
It's "Hottentottententententoonstelling"
The funny thing is, that a Dutchman, knowing what it meant, would have no problem pronouncing it, actually!
But thanks for reminding me that Dutch also strings words together without spaces, although not as badly as in German.

And for those not fluent in this 14th century bastard child of German....
Read it as:
"Hottentotten tenten tentoonstelling" which translates to
"Hottentot tent exhibition"

No wonder it was English that caught on as the 'universal' language.
Most words have fewer letters and most sentences have fewer words (just do a character and word count between a French text and a professional translation into English... 30% difference is about average).
And English and American are good at easily forming new words and expressions.


2nd Jan 2009, 17:31
I always thought that it was a wind up by the Flemish against the Walloons and it was Hottentottensoldatententententoonstelling
The Hottentot Soldiers Tent Exhibition:ok:

barry lloyd
2nd Jan 2009, 18:34
Many years ago, I was working in the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul. We had stopped for lunch in the Brazilian equivalent of a transport cafe, and I had been talking to the driver in Portuguese, (he did not speak any English), but during the intervals in the conversation, thinking through something in English.
We left the restaurant, and without speaking, went to the car and began to drive off. The inside of the car was like an oven (no a/c in those days!). I wound down the window, and said "Oh boy!"
The driver braked sharply, and pulled to the side of the road. The following conversation ensued:
Driver: "Onde e o boi?"
Me: "Que?"
Driver: (looking everywhere) "Onde e o boi?"
The penny suddenly dropped through my post-lunch dip. 'Oh Boy' to a Portuguese-speaker sounds like 'the bullock'. He explained that in this area of southern Brazil it was common for cattle to wander onto the road, with predictable results. We had a good laugh about it afterwards, but I suppose I can be excused for misusing a language where atum bom means nice tuna!

2nd Jan 2009, 18:54
barry lloyd,
Many thanks for that one!

With Latin, French, Italian and Spanish at hand (just now trying to bring the latter back up to scratch) I can decipher written portugese, but I'm staying well away from it otherwise, to avoid ending up trying to speak fritalospagnolese....


2nd Jan 2009, 19:08
Just found my "Technisches Wörtenbuch für die Luftfahrt" from Lufthansa
Deutsch - English (no idea where the English - Deutsch is)

Quote: "Ebene, eine senkrecht zum Hinterholm und horizontalsenkrecht zer V-Stellung des Höhenleitwerks".......Stabilizer station.

now they all use English, wonder why? :\

2nd Jan 2009, 19:25
Unless there is a unambiguous definition of "stabiliser station" elsewhere (which will also have taken up a few words), the German is clearer, actually :8