Hopes and Dreams

I learnt this week that there are two words in Russian for dream – сон [son] and мечта (mɛtʃˈt̪a). The former refers to the dreams you have when asleep, while the latter refers to dreams as in hopes, wishes or visions.

If you’re asleep and dreaming, in Russian you ‘see dreams’, or видеть сны [ˈvʲidʲɪtʲ snɨ]. If you’re dreaming of becoming rich or famous, then you use the verb мечтать [mʲɪt͡ɕˈtatʲ]. If you have a bad dream or nightmare though, it’s a кошмар [koʃˈmar], from the French cauchemar (nightmare)

Сон means sleep or dream, and comes from the Proto-Slavic *sъnъ (sleep, dream), from the Proto-Balto-Slavic *supnas (sleep), from Proto-Indo-European *súpnos (dream). This is also the root of words for sleep in North Germanic languages such as Danish (søvn), Icelandic (svefn) and Swedish (sömn), and the archaic English word sweven (a dream, vision) [source].

Мечта comes from the Proto-Slavic *mьčьta (dream), possibly from Proto-Indo-European *meyk- (to shimmer), [source].

Some examples of how they’re used:

  • День и ночь меня преследует один и тот же сон = The same dream haunts me day and night
  • С тех пор, как ты уехал, мне снится один и тот же сон = I keep having this dream since you left
  • У меня есть мечта = I have a dream
  • Быть художником – это последняя мечта, которая у Джимми осталась = Being an artist is the last dream Jimmy has
  • Даже находиться в этом офисе – это та мечта, ставшая реальностью = Just being in this office is a dream come true

Source: Reverso

Do other languages make this distinction between different kinds of dreams?

Fields and Warriors

The expression “it takes two to tango” means that two people are needed for certain activities, or that both people involved in a particular activity or situation share equal responsiblity for it.

It apparently comes from the 1952 song Takes Two to Tango by Al Hoffman and Dick Manning [source].

In Russian an equivalent idiom is один в поле не воин (odin v pole ne boin), or “one in the field is not a warrior”. Perhaps this comes from the idea that a warrior with nobody to fight againt on a battle field is not really a warrior. Does anybody know the origins of this phrase?

This idiom is also translated as “one man is an island”, “safety in numbers”, “you don’t have to do this alone” or “you never get far on your own”. Some examples of how it’s used include:

Один в поле не воин, как бы кому-то этого не хотелось.
No man is an island however much they want to be.

Мне они тоже не нравятся, но один в поле не воин.
I don’t like them either, but this war is bigger than us.

Но ты же прекрасно понимаешь, что один в поле не воин.
But right about now, my army-of-one situation is not cutting it.

Source: Reverso.

Are there interesting equivalent idioms in other languages?

Ignorance and Sleep

An interesting Russian expression I learnt recently is меньше знаешь – лучше спишь (men’she znayesh’ – luchshe spish’), which means “the less you know, the better you sleep”, and is equivalent to the English expression ignorance is bliss.

Ignorance is bliss comes from Ode On A Distant Prospect Of Eton College, a 1742 poem by Thomas Gray, an Englsh poet, in which he wrote “where ignorance is bliss, ‘Tis folly to be wise.” [source]

While it might be true that you sleep better if you have less to worry about, I don’t agree with Thomas Gray about the value of ignorance and the folly of being wise.

Similar sayings include out of sight, out of mind, and what you don’t know can’t hurt you.

What about in other languages? Are there similar sayings?

Elephants & Camels

Elephants and camels

What do elephants and camels have in common?

Well, words for camel in Slavic languages like Czech and Russian possibly come from an Ancient Greek word meaning elephant.

In Czech the word for camel is velbloud [ˈvɛlblou̯t], which comes from the Proto-Slavic *velьb(l)ǫdъ / vъlьb(l)ǫdъ (camel), from the Gothic 𐌿𐌻𐌱𐌰𐌽𐌳𐌿𐍃 (ulbandus – camel), from the Latin elephantus (elephant), from the Ancient Greek ἐλέφας (eléphas – elephant) [source].

Words from camel in other Slavic languages come from the same root: верблюд (verbljúd) in Russian and Ukrainian, вярблюд (vjarbljúd) in Belarusian, wielbłąd in Polish, and so on [source].

These all come from the Gothic 𐌿𐌻𐌱𐌰𐌽𐌳𐌿𐍃 (ulbandus), but from there the etmological trial gets a bit hazy, as they quite often do. Traditionally this word is thought to derive from the Greek ἐλέφας, via the Latin elephantus.

Another theory is that the Gothic word comes from the Proto-Germanic *elpanduz (elephant, camel), which possibly comes from the Hittite word hu(wa)lpant (humpback), or from another ancient language of Anatolian such as Luwian [source].

The word for elephant in Czech (and also in Slovak, Serbian, Croatian and Slovenian) is slon [slon], which comes from the Proto-Slavic *slonъ (elephant) [source], which comes either from the Turkish aslan (lion), or from *sloniti (to lean against), relating to the medieval story of an elephant sleeping leaning on a tree [source].

So now we know where the name of the lion in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe probably comes from.

Grab it and run!

One of the Russian words I learnt this week is грабить [ˈɡrabʲɪtʲ], which sounds like ‘grab it’ and means to rob, burgle or pillage.

An example of how it’s used is: Нельзя же грабить банк в платье (You can’t rob a bank in a dress) – is this something that often comes up in Russian conversation? [source].

I wondered if this word is related to the English word grab, so decided to find out.

According to Wiktionary, грабить comes from the Proto-Slavic *gràbiti (to grab, seize). This comes either from the Proto-Balto-Slavic *grāˀb-, from Proto-Indo-European *gʰreb (to rake). Or from the Proto-Indo-European *gʰrebʰ- (to seize).

Grab comes from the Middle Dutch grabben (to grab), or from the Middle Low German grabben (to snap), from the Proto-Germanic *grab-, from Proto-Indo-European *gʰrebʰ-, which is one possible root of грабить, so they might be related [source].

Even if the two words are not related, their similar sound will help me remember the Russian one.

When is a gate not a gate?

In a Russian lesson I did yesterday, I learnt that a word for gate is ворота (vorota). Then it gave me a phrase using a different word for gate – Где гейт? (Gde gejt?), which means “Where is the gate?”, and refers to the kind of gate you get at an airport. Slightly confusing. So I wondered what kind of gate is a ворота.

Apparently a ворота is a (double) gate, gateway, portal, goal or sluicegate.

Other Russian words for gate include:

  • выход (vychod) = egress, exit, gate, orifice, outcome
  • вход (vchod) = embouchure, entrance, entry, gate, gateway, ingress, inlet
  • шлагбаум (shlagbaum) = gate (of lock, level crossing), tollbar
  • калитка (kalitka) = (single) gate, wicket
  • шлюз (shlyuz) = flood-gate, gate, lock, sluice
  • гейт (gejt) = gate (at an airport)

Below are some illustrations on different kinds of gates I found via Google:

Some different kinds of gates and the words for them in Russian

Searching for images of words like this seems is interesting, and may help me to remember them.

Sources: Reverso Dictionary & bab.la

Language Learning Update

Just finished the Spanish course on Duolingo

This week I finally completed the Spanish course on Duolingo. I’ve been using it to improve and refresh my Spanish, as I have studied the language with various courses before. I can now understand, read, write and speak a lot more Spanish than before, though need to practise speaking and writing it more.

I first took a placement test on Duolingo to see how much Spanish I already knew, and didn’t start from the beginning. Then I skipped through each level using the tests, rather than working through each lesson individually. Had I done that, it would take a lot longer. For now, I’m not studying Spanish actively anymore, but will use it whenever I get the chance.

Over the past two and a half years or so, I’ve studied languages every day with Duolingo (current streak = 767 days). I’ve completed courses in Spanish, Russian, Swedish, Danish and Esperanto. I also completed the Romanian course, then they added lots of extra levels, and I haven’t gone back to work on those. At the moment I’m focussing on Czech, and will continue to do so, working through every lesson, so it’s going to take quite a while. I don’t plan to start any other languages until I’ve finished the Czech course.

In the meantime, I’ve also been studying Czech, and Russian, on Mondly – Czech for 226 days and Russian for 153 days. I really like their courses and am learning a lot from them.

On Memrise I’m studying Russian, Danish and Swedish. When I started using Memrise nearly two years ago, I already knew some Russian and Swedish. and started Swedish from level 2. I started Danish last year from scratch, although my knowledge of Swedish, and German and English, certainly helps. I’m currently doing level 6 courses in Swedish and Danish, and level 5 in Russian.

By the way, if you sign up to Memrise by 16th September, you will get a 50% discount, and I’ll get a small commission.

I find these apps with the streak counters really encourage me to study every day. It has become a habit to do so, and one I plan to continue for as long as possible.

Apart from these studies, I keep my French and Welsh ticking over by speaking them regularly, and other languages by using them occasionally.

How are your language studies going?

Do you prefer to focus on one language at a time, or to learn two or more simultaneously?

What courses, apps and other resources do you use?

Time is pouring

This week I learnt the Russian expression до сих пор ― (do sikh por), which means still, hitherto, up to now, thus far, or literally “until this time”.

The пор comes from пора (pora – time, season, weather, period), which appears in such phrases as:

  • пора́ идти́ (pora idti) = it’s time to go
  • в са́мую по́ру (v samuju poru) = in the nick of time
  • до каки́х пор? (do kakikh por?) = how long?
  • с каки́х пор? (s kakikh por?) = since when?
  • до тех пор, пока́ (do tekh por, poka) = so long as
  • с тех пор, как (s tekh por, kak) = ever since
  • на пе́рвых пора́х (na pervykh porakh) = at first

Source: Wiktionary

It’s interesting that пора means both time and weather – some other languages also have one word for both: temps in French, amzer in Breton, aimsir in Irish. Do you know of others?

Bratislava

I’m currently in Bratislava in Slovakia for the 2019 Polyglot Gathering, which starts tomorrow, although there was an opening ceremony this evening.

The Polyglot Gathering 2019 begins

Today I went on a tour taking in three countries – Slovakia, Hungary and Austria. I had conversations in English, French, German, Mandarin, Spanish and Irish, and spoke odd bits of Czech, Slovak, Russian, Scots, Hungarian, Portuguese, Welsh, Esperanto and Swedish.

Hainburg Castle

I probably won’t have much time for blogging with all the intensive polylgotting that’s going on. Normal service will be resumed next week.

Cheeky faces

Face

In my Czech lessons this week I learnt two words that can mean face – obličej [ˈoblɪt͡ʃɛj] and tvář [tvaːr̝̊], which also means cheek. I couldn’t work out why one was used to mean face in some contexts, and the other in other contexts. Can any of you enlighten me?

Obličej comes from the Proto-Slavic ob + lice (face, cheek), which is also the root of the Czech líc (front, face, right side, face side) and líce (cheeks).

Cognates in other Slavic languages include: Polish oblicze (face, character), Russian обличье (image, character, look), and Ukrainian обли́ччя (face, character) [source].

Tvář comes from the Proto-Slavic *tvarь (creation, creature) [source]. Cognates in other Slavic languages include: Polish twarz (face), Russian тварь (creature, being, animal, beast, monster; mean, vile, worthless), and Croatian tvar (substance, material) [source].

Another Czech word for face is ksicht, from the German Gesicht (face).