Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Rave on Languages


We're in Macau— it used to be a Portuguese colony, and people still speak Portuguese. It's lovely to see a language other than English on the signs, and it's amazing how much you can comprehend from the signs if you know a smattering of French and a tad of Spanish. If you don't, usually there is enough English to be able to piece through things.

I love the language. It looks lyrical. It sounds like something between Spanish and French, by virtue of the j. And it has its own sounds as well.

And what language would ever think of using an 'm' where every other romance language uses an 'n' or nothing at all?

(I speak of 'in' — in, en, în, dans, em …  in order: Italian, Spanish, Romanian, French, and Portuguese).

And yet it sounds somewhat Slavic… but I'll stop there before I say something hard-to-explain.


Ileana found Romanian translations of Disney songs… and as I listen to the Tarzan soundtrack in my native language, I get shivers.

Somehow the good translations are better than the original English.

Like Ileana said, "My kids will watch Snow White in Romanian and be surprised when they find out it's an American movie."


Most people think Chinese and Japanese sound the same. I know I did.

But the difference between them is tangible. You can tell almost immediately which is which. Chinese in all its diverse dialects is a tonal, monosyllabic language. 

Ma, má, mâ, etc, each mean a different thing and are pronounced differently.

In Japanese, however, there is no rising or falling of the voice. Everything is said 'normally.' And it's a more open language— as if there are more vowels. 

When we came back to China I was struck by how many 'sh,' 'ch,' and 'tz' sounds there were. There are not such sounds in Japanese.


And again it's getting too late to be able to completely say I finished everything on time. It's the third night it's passed over 12am. I don't mind at all— I haven't gone to sleep, have I, so it's definitely the same day. It's still the twenty sixth.


Sometimes I look at all the languages there are (Italian, Latin, French, Spanish, Hindi, etc), and I think… I want to learn these all!

Things are going well with French, but I need someone to converse with, and I don't have that. Ileana may be learning 'alongside' me, but she's currently preoccupied with FAWM — February Album Writing Month (the song-writing equivalent of NaNoWriMo), and besides, I don't think she's serious about it.


Seriously. Go find a Romanian version of Tarzan or Snow White or Tangled or Aristocats and listen to it.

It sounds heavenly. Even if you don't know Romanian and you can't understand a word, it's melodic. Even if the voices don't match up to the original perfectly, the words are translated with precision, amazingness, and… well, there aren't proper adjectives.

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