Linguaference

Since I started studying the Celtic languages, I’ve sometimes found myself moving the things I want to emphasise to the beginning of sentences when speaking English. For example, “Welsh and Irish are the languages I’m concentrating on at the moment.” This kind of sentence structure is common to all the Celtic languages, but can sound a bit strange in English. I’ve also started using the Wenglish (Welsh English) style ‘isn’t it’ as a general tag at the ends of phrases.

At other times I might add ‘or not?’ or something similar to questions in a Chinese sort of style, though that was a more frequent occurrence when I was living in Taiwan. For example, “Do you want a drink or not?” is a normal question in Chinese, but sounds quite abrupt and even rude in English.

Do you find that the languages you’re learning affect the way you speak and/or write your native language?

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18 Responses to Linguaference

  1. Questioneer??? says:

    Interesting. I have the hardest time switching from language to language. For example, when I speak French and wish to return to speaking English I often am at a loss for even the most simple words like chair or door. I also get very panicky when the subjunctive mood doesn’t show up in English. I have some odd language quirks.

  2. David says:

    In Australia, we always say things like that and it never sounds very weird. We always use “isn’t it” and “or not”.

  3. Ben L. says:

    We drive our current language teachers a bit batty by providing hyper-literal Chinese-English translations. It’s bad enough in a language like German to give translations like “breast warts” (nipples); with Chinese it is possible (although almost never advisable) to provide a syllable-by-syllable translation, e.g. “create-manufacture-strength” for creativity.

  4. Jack says:

    I sometimes find when I’m in an Australian Korean environment I mix the two languages. “I’m going to uni” and “Uni-e gayo” become “I’m going to uni-e gayo”.
    Also, Korean seems to say “Because it’s hot, I’ll take my hat” whereas in English most people seem to say “I’ll take my hat because it’s hot”. I’ve started saying the first one whenever I talk to Japanese or Korean people – even though I speak to them in English.
    I agree with David, in Australia we always seem to end a sentence with “isn’t it” or “eh” (esp. for the country areas).

  5. BG says:

    Wenn reiting Englisch, German speling slips in somteims. This isn’t that weird, considering that the German spelling is generally simpler and definately more phonetic than English. Sometimes in Latin class (and rarely in Ancient Greek class) we translate things “Latin style”, holding the Latin word order. This helps to understand the sentence better if people are having problems with it.

    Here is an example:
    Latin – Domitiā haec dīcente, Myropnous, quī dominum comitābātur, ad iānuam contendit.
    Latin style – With Domitia saying this, Myropnous, who his master was accompanying, to the door hurried.
    Normal – While Domitia was saying this, Myropnous, who was accompanying his master, hurried to the door.

    Sometimes my friends and I use other language’s word orders in English for fun.

  6. Stuart says:

    I often find that as a result of my learning Welsh too, I especially put words at the beginning of a sentence to give them more stress which can sound a bit weird to English ears.

  7. Krithika says:

    I guess the languages I learn have affected my Hindi ( my second language) a bit ( I never was good at it ) When I have to write a Hindi essay at school,I tend to think in French and not in Hindi.So, my hindi writing is at times weird, with some occasional french words!

    My mother tongue, Tamil is OK though I sometimes express myself in a not-so Tamil way.

  8. rek says:

    “…, isn’t it?” always sounds rhetorical to me — yes, it is. Similar to “…, eh?”

    I think I’m too new to Korean for it to be having an impact on my English speaking.

  9. The sentence starting “Welsh and Irish…” sounds perfectly normal to me; I can’t see what’s unusual about it. Maybe some kind of quirk of American English?

    I’ve noticed definite effects from the languages I’ve studied on my writing–most especially German. It’s most pronounced when I’m writing fiction and taking the most liberties with my writing style; I’ve noticed a tendency to say things like “knew not” instead of “did not know” or to play with the word order of sentences. Spanish sometimes has an impact as well on the syntax as I write. It’s harder to put my finger on that when it happens, and right now I can’t even come up with an example, but I know it when I see it.

  10. Osian says:

    “The sentence starting “Welsh and Irish…” sounds perfectly normal to me”

    How about: “Welsh and Irish I’m concentrating on at the moment” or “Welsh and Irish you’re studying at the moment, isn’t it?” coz I say both of those, in English or Welsh.

  11. Harris says:

    I find that Yiddish has a big effect on my German: If there’s a word we haven’t learned yet, I’ll often use the Yiddish word, even if it’s obviously Hebraic or Slavic. Interestingly, German hasn’t affected my Yiddish too much.

  12. James says:

    Welsh and Irish you’re studying at the moment, isn’t it

    this is how Yoda´s nephews from Brixton speak.

    I used to use the German , or? at the end of a sentance: We´re going now, or? and my english spelling is falling to bits as I write a lot more in spanish than english nowadays. I also get stuck when there are better word plays in spanish than english and can´t work out how to translate them.

    james

  13. Colm says:

    I agree totally! My English spelling is bad enough to begin with but when I spend time speaking or writing French I end up spelling alot of English words in a French manner.

    Also I learn so many language and I expose myself to them through travel or listening to music and I speak to many people from around the world that my English goes to pot. I end up speaking like a person who has learned English as a second language, when in fact English is my first language. Perhaps it has something to do with by Irish. lol

    I love our Hiberno turns of phrases though that have been whole borrowed out of Irish Gaelic. Sentences like:

    The poor fella, his mother died on him last week. His heart is in smittereens.
    Yerra, don’t you be plaumausing me, you divil ya.
    Ah, sure, ’tisn’t too bad the day that is in it.

    Perhaps one of the funner tales I have been told was about an English girl who was living in France for a year studying there and she was on a skiing holiday with the family of her French boyfriend and she was asked over dinner what she thought of French food and she said something like:

    Il y a beaucoup de préservatifs…
    What she meant was: There are alot of preservatives…
    Which is Il y a beaucoup de conservateurs… in French.
    What she actually said was:
    There are alot of condoms…

  14. Polly says:

    Il y a beaucoup de préservatifs…
    What she meant was: There are alot of preservatives…
    Which is Il y a beaucoup de conservateurs… in French.
    What she actually said was:
    There are alot of condoms…

    This joke would make sense in Russian, too. In fact, a similar incident happened to a friend of mine who lived in Russia. “Preservatif” is most likely a loan-word from French, because it means the same thing.

  15. Josh says:

    The main way that french has affected my english is that now I hyphenate words in english that probably shouldn’t be hyphenated. I not only do this with compound words, but sometimes even with prefixes.

  16. BG says:

    @Polly: Same thing in German: Präservativ = condom, preservative = Konservierungsmittel. False friends can be very annoying, and amusing.

  17. Tolkien_Freak says:

    On the subject of writing:

    Since I learned Tengwar, my handwriting began to elongate downward and upward lines. Even though I rarely write in Tengwar anymore, I still kept that, and it has become more pronounced (h and R go below the line). (Personally, I think it looks cool, but it’s a bit illegible, with a good number of vertical lines everywhere).

  18. Adam says:

    When I studied Hebrew, I immediately lost all of my common, one-word English responses. I would use the Hebrew words for Yes, No, What?, etc., even when talking to my own family in English. I’m sure it annoyed them, but I didn’t even know I was doing it.