View Full Version : "Rain rains" continued.

16th Apr 2012, 19:35
There's an urban legend about a simultaneous multilingual interpreter (or conference interpreter) who spoke and interpreted between several languages and claimed he/she wondered which language he/she was speaking sometimes when tired. I sometimes end up wondering if it's any language at all I'm translating into, when tired and the text is an absolute killer (what's the use of knowing your mother tongue when it's some contract or whatever in the legalese?).
As we've got people who speak 'multi' here - how does it feel? Like it's quite hard to explain why the English have to be so specific about what they're doing when (I'm reading, I was reading, I have been reading etc) or why there's no sense at all about the German articles (der, die, das - who cares?). Or why Latin is still fascinating, despite being as dead as someone's Latin teacher (RJM?). Or why some watch the paint drying, some are just bored...

16th Apr 2012, 19:48
Petty preoccupations that give away the race? Much like the eskimos having forty words for snow, or the Icelanders and their thirty different ways of saying 'skint'.

16th Apr 2012, 20:01
Much like the eskimos having forty words for snow,

I'm afraid that's an urban myth Sprogget. I'm sure, though, the Icelander one is true!:rolleyes:

The Great Inuit Vocabulary Hoax is anthropology's contribution to urban
legends. It apparently started in 1911 when anthropologist Franz Boaz casually
mentioned that the Inuit—he called them "Eskimos," using the derogatory term of
a tribe to the south of them for eaters of raw meat—had four different words
for snow. With each succeeding reference in textbooks and the popular press the
number grew to sometimes as many as 400 words.
In fact, "Contrary to popular belief, the Eskimos do not have more words for
snow than do speakers of English," according to linguist Steven Pinker in his
book The Language Instinct. "Counting generously, experts can come up
with about a dozen."

16th Apr 2012, 20:04
probes- Interesting post. I don't translate professionally, but often on an "ad-hoc" basis, ie "Maxbert please translate this procedure..."

I am trilingual more or less from birth (English father, Italian mother, born in London but moved to Luxembourg when I was 5)- Attended the European school where I was taught French as a first foreign language from first grade primary, picked up some German and Dutch along the way.

I think in different languages according to where I am / whom I am with / my mood (I can swear very well in Italian, but then lightning bolts start to fall :uhoh: )

"Live" interpreting? I think I would probably get muddled very quickly, especially as in your example of say, legalese or contractual language which is not innate, even in one's mother tongue (unless you are a lawyer). It's hard enough translating written procedures where you have time to think / look words up (I am currently employed in the KYC / AML department of a bank :yuk: ).

Nope- I can switch more or less effortlessly between three languages in conversation mode, and even in "thinking" mode when abroad, but I am not surprised that interpreters have difficulties...




16th Apr 2012, 20:11
When I could speak Afrikaans and German I used to mix the two. In later years I forgot my German to a large degree but improved my Dutch and they are even closer. Now when I try to speak any of those languages it comes out as a mixture of all three.

16th Apr 2012, 20:28
I sometimes dream in what I think is fluent German (I did it to O- level), but when I wake I'm aware it was almost total gibberish. Weird.

Re mixing up languages I have found myself speaking Russian and using German nouns with Russian endings - much to the confusion of the listener.

16th Apr 2012, 20:31
At one time I worked alongside a chap who was employed as a simultaneous translator in a technical environment. In addition to his own native language he was fully fluent in at least five others (including the technical vocabularies), and it was un-nerving to sit alongside him when he was uttering the presentation that I could hear in a different language.

He was also a wow at social gatherings where there were several different nationalities conversing in their own languages and he would flit among them conversing 'naturally' which each of them.

I learned German in Denmark, so the base language was Danish, even though my native language is English and I had only learned Danish from scratch eighteen months earlier. I subsequently 'confused' the two and sometimes used German words when speaking Danish.

16th Apr 2012, 20:56
Having had the benefit of an education at a good university in the United States, I find that I can, and at the same time, both think and speak in old American English. It is a source of considerable amazement that, on my infrequent visits to Britain, this ability to achieve simultaneous techniques in a fashion both lucid and concurrent appears to be an unknown phenomenon among the islanders. I can of course converse in rudimentary German, Spanish and French and have been known to speak passably fluent Russian in the bazaars of Cairo and Istanbul.

16th Apr 2012, 21:37
Is the term "Rain rains" the interpreters polite way of saying, "Shit happens" Probes?;)

17th Apr 2012, 02:01
English is my native language but I am fluent in Canadian, American and Australian. Also, on a recent visit to New Zealand I found that I had little difficulty with their language (with the exception of one sub-set).

17th Apr 2012, 02:47
On a somewhat related subject, another Colonial pilot and I were on a London layover downtown, at a large bar full of yuppie 20-30 something types. Buddie starts talking to two ladies, asks what they do and one is some sort of linguist type.

Her friend says she can pick where we were from in the States in just a few words. Not saying a word at this point, I said a couple short statements, with a smart arse disguised accent. I was expecting a "Midwest" "Northeast" "South" response, but the freaky chick nailed my cheap accent to within 100 miles from my hometown.

17th Apr 2012, 03:08
People with that ability, as were those completely colour blind, were in high demand during WWII. The former to root out fluent English speaking spy implants and the latter as reconnaissance spotters who were not fooled by camouflage on the ground, being able to determine the shapes beneath the netting.

17th Apr 2012, 04:50
About a thousand years ago I hitched from London to the toe of Italy where I taught English for four months. I shared a flat with an Australian, Mike, who was also teaching English. Mike had never been to the UK.

One day my first week sitting at dinner in a cafe (tavola calda) with a couple of local friends Mike said that he had studied accents and language and he could place my accent, which would have been miraculous since I had spent my early life in London, primary at boarding school in Surrey, elementary at boarding school near Hastings, secondary at boarding school in Oxford and only four or five years of school holidays at a new home.

"North Nottingham or South Yorkshire, very near the border." He nailed it within two miles.

Worrals in the wilds
17th Apr 2012, 05:58
Not saying a word at this point, I said a couple short statements, with a smart arse disguised accent. I was expecting a "Midwest" "Northeast" "South" response, but the freaky chick nailed my cheap accent to within 100 miles from my hometown.I'm certainly no expert, but I've always found US accents to be very area specific. It may be more noticeable to non-Americans.

I once worked with a guy who sounded exactly like Jack Nicholson, he even had the same speech patterns and 'rise and fall'. A lot of people used to comment on it. It turns out they come from pretty much the same suburb in New Jersey. I know the NJ accent is very distinctive, but I've met other people from different parts of NJ and they don't sound like either of them. :suspect:

17th Apr 2012, 06:48
Is the term "Rain rains" the interpreters polite way of saying, "Shit happens"
not really :p - the interpreters generally have to 'watch their words', you know. 'Rain rains' is because of the thread that discussed the construction "It's raining" a few weeks ago (and made someone think of paint drying, why could that have been?)
"Shit happens" could be translated as "youknowwhat happens" :ouch:, I guess - or maybe IT happens. :E

Actually that is the most interesting thing about the way of thinking in a certain language - in English you have to have made up your mind about what's coming from the cloudy skies (raining or snowing), but in Russian, as mentioned in the thread, you can say "goes... and then decide if it's snow, rain or sleet". The same way the English have to be specific - I'm working (and if you aren't, the boss will know right away), but in some languages you can say "I work" and then add some word or phrase about if you're working, were working in the morning or have been working the whole weekend. And only then the boss can decide if that's what he was expecting.

18th Apr 2012, 09:56
Am mostly far out of the groove now, except perhaps during semi-thoughtful readings off a screen, but one thing that has always been a source of curiosity (and occasional awkwardness in the follow-on) is the situation where one is genuinely unclear regarding which language(s) may have been in use during a particular conversation. Lubrication with spirits or genuine absorption in the subject matter or the interesting personage/decolletage of some one(s) of the participants tend to amplify the puckish effects of this prospectively awkward confusion.

Switzerland is the worst place one knows, on the social competitiveness scale, for this sort of thing. At moderately upscale multicultural gatherings in Geneve or Berne, Klosters, or Zuerich, the norm is for someone present in a circle of co-locutors to switch language every few sentences, just to show they can do it. Rather like some of the nursery-rhyme things on Pprune, where evrybody chases after the last bone thrown in view.

The linguistic effect of speed-rotation in lingua gemischt is rather like a competition in show-off dancing -- where those with the skills and urge to flaunt them tend to go off in oddly entertaining fandangos of up-personship.

Eventually someone who is not quite up to the standard falls on their linguistic butt, and then the less-glottic ones visibly relax, sip more confidently on their drinks, and mutter something conciliatory like: "so, how's the weather now in Nieder Brinevachecouscous?"

18th Apr 2012, 10:02
arcniz: know what you mean. Fell on my metaphorical butt a couple of times in Paris last week, as I hadn't spoken French for years. Particularly in the evening and after a few glasses of Brouilly I found myself responding in Italian. Got some funny looks, especially from MrsP. :rolleyes:

18th Apr 2012, 10:04
My Ffrench and Dutch aren't as good as they used to be.

But my Gibberish improves every day.

18th Apr 2012, 10:06
Ah, now I'm fluent in that one, Norm. Years of practice, I'm assured by SWMBO.

18th Apr 2012, 10:18
My MT is English, 25 years in Germany forced that language into my brain, school-learned French is needed when I go to France, Italian (learned as necessary with an Italian girlfriend) has been exorcised and now Catalan sits on top of it.

All except English are spoken with massive errors in tense, gender, grammar, etc., but having a musical background I can catch the accent and flow and get away with a lot.

A way I remember words is to tag them to English, for example in Catalan the meteorologist in saying "it looks as if..." says "sembla" which to me tags onto the English word for "resembles".

False friends are dangerous: The English for bekommen in German isn't become: I have heard a German youth say "If I pass my language exam I will become a Volkswagen at the end of the term." Maybe he did.

Finally, for all potential stroke victims: languages you learn later in life are stored in a different part of the brain from your childhood mother-tongue, and I have known a Catalan who completely lost his "fluent" English after a stroke but had no trouble speaking Catalan.

Languages ? Great fun !

18th Apr 2012, 10:52
(learned as necessary with an Italian girlfriend)

So many things may be necessary and desirable in the salad season of chance to be with an Italian ventimiglia at her quintessential moment. Just remember to pay the stamp tax first, eh?

History on the Boot comes at every turning. When young and eager, one may chance to exercise la lingua, with R&R hid behind a handy stump nearby, in consort with a comely Etruscan-ette paving the way-o on to Torque-wherever -- and then, well... you find there's such glory in the nostalgia and passion of it that the only proper choice is re-enlist. With another stamp, of course.

19th Apr 2012, 07:14
False friends are dangerous: The English for bekommen in German isn't become: I have heard a German youth say "If I pass my language exam I will become a Volkswagen at the end of the term." Maybe he did.

There was the story of a Dutch lady at a rather formal dinner party who was asked what she did for a living, to which she replied : "I f*ck rotweilers." Amidst the embarrassed silence someone explained that the Dutch word 'ficken' means to breed.

Worrals in the wilds
19th Apr 2012, 08:09
Tableview; if I can't get the shiraz out of the keyboard, you owe me. :D

19th Apr 2012, 09:23
Tableview :D:D:D

I speak three languages, English (Mother tongue), French (Where I have lived for the past 18 years) and Afrikaans (My second language as a child).

I find that I can flip between English and French without thinking about it, Afrikaans is slightly harder because I hardly use it anymore. Most of the time I still think in English, although it does happen in French (esp in work situations).

For some reason ( is French is far more articulate in expressing feelings??) when I'm really annoyed it is French that erupts... :}

19th Apr 2012, 09:38
My first language was English and I mostly think and work in that language. When I'm angry I tend to react in Afrikaans, and having grown up in the Cape it tends to be of the fairly colourful variety.

I spent some time working in a multinational where the working language was English but many employees were French, a language which I can speak quite well, as I lived in Switzerland (Romande) for a couple of years, but avoid as I prefer not to engage with the French when it can be avoided, and if I do so it's on my terms not theirs.

Other than that, we sometimes speak Spanish at home, and my opportunities for speaking German, Dutch and Afrikaans are limited and my abiltiy in those languages is fading.

19th Apr 2012, 12:32
....of the fairly colourful variety

One of the pleasant things about carrying a lot of linguistic cobwebs in the noggin, especially from locally obscure tongues, is the satisfaction of turning the air blue and purple every now and again, without anyone nearby being much the wiser.

And the occasional resulting surprise encounters with covert linguists in ear-reach can be quite interesting, as well.

19th Apr 2012, 13:52
I was recently in Mulhouse with my wife (who speaks little French) and a business contact who used to live in England, so we were conversing in English. She admitted she now slipped in the language having been back in Alsace for so long, and would liberally smatter her talk with French and German words, even phrases. I found after a while that as long as I understood that phrase I had to positively think which language she was speaking, and I was occasionally dropping in a little French inadvertantly.