Polyglottery

Novi Sad Catholic Cathedral

Yesterday morning I met up with other conference participants and after a bit of a wander around the city, we had lunch then went to the opening ceremony a reception. In the after we had a little guided tour of Novi Sad seeing some interesting buildings, including the Catholic or Orthodox Cathedrals, and the fortress. There are some rather attractive buildings here, wide, pedestrianised café-lined streets, some nice parks and generally a relaxed kind of atmosphere.

In the evening we all went to a restaurant about 4 or 5km from the city centre for dinner. I walked there with a few others, and the rest went by bus or taxi. We had a nice dinner with lots of polyglot chat, then some people started dancing, and others carried on chatting.

Novi Sad town hall

Today there were lectures and talks on a variety of topics including sound symbolism, the magic of metaphors, language coaching, and acting and humour in a foreign language.

So far I’ve had conversations in about 10 languages and spoken bits and pieces of maybe 10 others. In some cases this was only a few words (all I know), in others it was a bit more. There are even two guys here who are learning Scottish Gaelic, one of whom also speaks a bit of Manx, and another who is learning Irish.

Archerien

An interesting word that came up in my Breton lesson today is archerien, which means police. It caught my attention because it has no obvious connection to the word police, and because it is completely different to the equivalent words in other Celtic languages:

– Welsh: heddlu (“peace force”)
– Cornish: kreslu (“peace host”)
– Irish: gardaí (síochána) (“guards of peace”); póilíní
– Manx: meoiryn shee (“peace keepers/stewards”); poleenyn
– Scottish Gaelic: poileas

The English word police comes from the French police (public order, administration, government), from the Latin polītīa (state, government), from the Greek πολιτεία (politeia – citizenship, government, administration, constitution). It is shares the same root as policy, politics, politician and various other words [source].

Many languages use variants on the word police, e.g. Politsei (Estonian), პოლიცია (polits’ia – Georgian), Polizei (German), पुलिस (pulis – Hindi), پلیس (pulis – Persian), Booliis (Somalia), Policía (Spanish), Pulis (Tagalog), but some do their own thing:

– Bavarian: Kibara
– Chinese: 警察 (jǐngchá); 公安 (gōng’ān)
– Faroese: Løgregla
– Greek: Αστυνομία (Astynomía)
– Hungarian: Rendőrség
– Icelandic: Lögregla
– Japanese: 警察 (keisatsu)
– Korean: 警察 (gyeongchal)
– Thai: ตำรวจ (tảrwc)

Are there other examples of languages with a word unrelated to police for police?

Hangeul / Han’gŭl Day 한글날

Hangeul / Han'gŭl Day 한글날

Today is Hangeul Day (한글날) in South Korea, the day when they celebrate their alphabet. This year is the 563rd anniversary of the promulgation of Hangeul by King Sejong the Great in 1446.

According to The Korea Herald, the Korean government is keen to encourage people all over the world to learn Korean and plans to increase the number of Sejong Hakdang, centres teaching Korean, to 500 by 2015. At the moment there 16 Sejong Hakdang in China, Japan, Russia, USA and a couple of other countries, and there are plans to open a Korean language centre in Sri Lanka.

Korean is also apparently taught in hundreds of universities in some 60 countries, and increasing numbers of courses are offered in Asian countries such as China, Thailand, India and Japan. Also, some Korean companies with operations in China are offering incentives, such as promotions and business trips to Korea, to Chinese workers who become fluent Korean.

By the way, here’s a useful site that transliterates from Hangeul in Romanization and vice versa.

Globalizing the Korean alphabet

A group of linguists in Korea are looking into giving people with no written form of their language ways to write using the Korean alphabet (hangŭl), according to this article.

A number of communities they visited in Indonesia were keen on using hangŭl to write their languages and plan to send representatives to Korean to learn the alphabet, who will then to teach it to their communities.

The Korean alphabet is currently used only to write Korean, so it will be interesting to see how well it will work for other languages.

Korean in Mongolia

According to an article I came across today, increasing numbers of Mongolians are enrolling in Korean language classes in the hope that they will get jobs in Korea and save enough money to buy a house when they return to Mongolia. This is the so-called ‘Korean dream’. Such classes are available at all levels of education from primary schools to universities.

Already a quite a large number of Mongolians – around 33,000 – live and work in South Korea, and it seems many of the compatriots would like to follow in their footsteps. Many Mongolians also go to study in Korea, attracted in part by the relatively low study costs.

I wonder if the Mongolian find it easier to learn Korean, a language which has a similar structure to Mongolian, than other languages such as English, Russian or Chinese. I’ve heard anecdotal evidence that Japanese people find Turkish easier to learn than English because of its similar structure.