Speaking foreign languages

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  1. sannyasinman profile image60
    sannyasinmanposted 14 years ago

    What problems have you encountered learning to speak a foreign language?

    . . in French au-dessus and au-dessous are pronounced virtually identically, and are difficult for a foreigner to say, but the first means "above" and the second means "below"!

    . . "poul" means chicken and "pull" means sweater, and are both pronounced like "pool". French people laugh when I say I ate my sweater for lunch!

  2. Salty Tanned profile image60
    Salty Tannedposted 14 years ago

    Pronunciation is important in most languages. And with both examples you gave the words are really quite differently pronounced in French.

    For a non English for example sheet and shit can sound very similar but...

    "Une poule" is a chicken and is pronounced like the English pull

    "Un pull" is really the English word pullover wrongly shortened and mispronounced.

    French has sounds English does not have and vice versa.
    ‘U’ in English pronounces like the word you and equates in French to the syllable ‘ou’ but with without the y sound in at the beginning. The letter ‘u’ is quite difficult for you to pronounce.

    This is probably the most difficult to pronounce sound in French for English speaking persons.

    The syllable ‘eu’ is the other.

    Now try to imagine the difficulty the 'th' can represent to a non English person. The French often end up with a 'ze' sound for a 'the".

    Next difficulty will be determining if a noun is feminine or masculine.

    Good luck, learning another language can be fun and rewarding. And you will find it betters your knowledge of your own language.

    1. sannyasinman profile image60
      sannyasinmanposted 14 years agoin reply to this

      I was not asking for my French to be corrected. I have lived and worked in French speaking countries for many years. (yes, I did write "poul" rather hastily . .). The point of the thread was for people to relate their experiences (hopefully humorous) when learning a foreign language.
      I am also well aware of the particular problems French people have speaking English (my ex-wife is French).

      So, what languages have you learned, and do you have a humorous story to tell?

    2. Sue Adams profile image95
      Sue Adamsposted 14 years agoin reply to this

      Languages make you wonder

      In German the moon is masculine: der Mond
      In French the moon is feminine: la lune
      In German the sun is feminine: die Sonne
      In French the sun is masculine: le soleil

      now I ask you why?

      1. sannyasinman profile image60
        sannyasinmanposted 14 years agoin reply to this

        I never could get the hang of German genders
        der, die, den, dem, das . . . does any other language on earth have as many (or more)?

      2. Sue Adams profile image95
        Sue Adamsposted 14 years agoin reply to this
        1. Karina S. profile image59
          Karina S.posted 14 years agoin reply to this

          Don't know about German or French, but
          in Russian
          the moon is feminine:луна (luna)
          the sun is neuter: солнце (solntse)

  3. Himitsu Shugisha profile image70
    Himitsu Shugishaposted 14 years ago

    Sometimes as Americans we can get a little lazy with enunciating, but with English you can typically get away with it and still be understood. While living in Japan and learning Japanese I found that words have to be said exactly the way they are supposed to be said otherwise the native speaker will either not understand you or misinterpret what you're saying.

    1. tksensei profile image59
      tksenseiposted 14 years agoin reply to this

      Chinese is much more difficult in that sense. What with the tones and all. If you're not careful you could end up calling someone's mother a horse!

      1. Himitsu Shugisha profile image70
        Himitsu Shugishaposted 14 years agoin reply to this

        LOL, hilarious, I'll keep that in mind when I begin studying Chinese. smile

  4. megs78 profile image60
    megs78posted 14 years ago

    I actually wrote a hub about my experience learning a second language if you want to read it.  It's called the Benefits of Learning a Second Language.  It is rewarding, but difficult, but most of all, totally worth the frustration.

  5. sannyasinman profile image60
    sannyasinmanposted 14 years ago

    I have found that every language has its own particular challenges depending on what your mother tongue is, what languages you already know, and what you studied when young.

    For example, learning Spanish was made easier because I studied French and Latin at school, so I could construct sentences based on this knowledge. Also many words in Spanish are identical, or nearly to French.

  6. wavegirl22 profile image47
    wavegirl22posted 14 years ago

    I speak a little bit of Spanish and a little bit of Italian. . and sometimes I get mixed up with many of their words.. . as they can be very similar . . and when that happens  .. I go completely BLANK!

  7. Sue Adams profile image95
    Sue Adamsposted 14 years ago

    A neighbour walked up to me saying she was "Constipado". I told her to drink lots of warm milk before going to bed. She looked at me funny and said "Oh really?"
    In Spanish "Constipado" means "to have a cold"

  8. profile image0
    lyricsingrayposted 14 years ago

    I can only speak english and sign language big_smile

  9. sannyasinman profile image60
    sannyasinmanposted 14 years ago

    Another good one in Spanish is "embarazada", which English speakers might assume means "embarrassed", but actually it means "pregnant".

  10. Sue Adams profile image95
    Sue Adamsposted 14 years ago

    Once when I was in Norway, I wanted to tell a lady in the housing office that I'd put the papers in the letter box later, and because it works 80% of the time with norwegian, I used the german word "Kasten" (=box). The Lady shot me weird look, but didn't say anything, so I went home and looked it up in the dictionnary and realized that I had in fact informed her that I would put the papers in the coffin...

  11. mcbean profile image66
    mcbeanposted 14 years ago

    When in Brazil I had no idea how to ask for the tokens at the hotel Snooker table.

    I was asking for "Snooker" and included my best display of the action of a snooker player.

    I was ignored with confused looks.

    After repeated attempts, the kind gentleman returned and gave me a bowl of sugar...... or azucar as it is there. The closest to snooker he could come up with.

    I hate to think of what his impression was of the crazy traveller who was pestering him for sugar in the games room.

  12. arthriticknee profile image66
    arthritickneeposted 14 years ago

    When attempting to learn Spanish in Argentina, I thought I was doing well.

    When eating our lunch in the Plaza, it was common for locals to try and sell you all sorts of things to make a living.

    I would politely try and say:    No, sorry.

    Unfortunately, keeping the english syntax results in a negative so my attempt of "No lo siento" was essentially saying: "I'm not sorry" before turning back to my steak.

  13. megs78 profile image60
    megs78posted 14 years ago

    When I first moved to Quebec, I would often hear the phrase "Je suis celibat"   I was so taken aback and impressed by the openness to admit celibacy that I asked my husband why they were so ready to tell the world that they were celibate.  I found out that 'celibate' means 'single'.  NO relation to sex whatsoever.

    1. profile image0
      Pacal Votanposted 14 years agoin reply to this

      lol, lovely. smile

  14. koshechka profile image53
    koshechkaposted 14 years ago

    I know English and French. I can say that one language adds other. When I don't know the translation of one word in English, I know the approximately meaning of it in French as 80% of English words are French origin. Amazingly!!!

  15. tksensei profile image59
    tksenseiposted 14 years ago


  16. ddsurfsca profile image70
    ddsurfscaposted 14 years ago

    While in Guadalajara, Mexico, my mom did not learn the language.  We were in the grocery store, and she was having troubles finding the cheese and deli products...when I found her, she had a clerk firmly by the arm and was pointing into the deli case, repeating over and over while pointing and saying cheese.  The man was red in the face and was trying to remove her to the restrooms.....
    cheese, spelled chis in spanish is a slang for pee

  17. IzzyM profile image86
    IzzyMposted 14 years ago

    I used to run a bar in a nearby tourist resort here on the Costa Blanca, and every summer we took on young staff from the UK.
    It used to be fun to send them out to Mariano's, the local take-away shop, to ask for "medio polla y patatas fritas"
    We'd teach them to be word perfect, explaining that Mariano's staff don't speak English (they DO!)
    They think they are ordering a half chicken and chips, but they are actually ordering...hmmm..what is the polite name for a man's..em..thungy...!!
    Chicken is 'pollo'.
    We also once taught a guy to say 'soy mariquita'. He went around all day quite happily saying this thinking it meant 'You're gorgeous' when trying to chat up the Spanish girls!
    [It means 'I'm gay']

  18. profile image0
    loriamooreposted 14 years ago

    English is my native language, then I learned and became quite proficient in German in my teens.

    A month ago, I travelled to Cuba, so for a couple of months prior to the trip, I was teaching myself Spanish.  It's a fairly easy language to learn, but I kept catching myself substituting German words or articles whenever I couldn't think of the Spanish ones!


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