Polyglotting in Ljubljana

After arriving in Ljubljana yesterday I found a bus into the city centre, then walked to the AirBnB I’m staying in, which is more or less in the centre of the old town. It doesn’t look like much from outside – the door is covered in graffiti, and the outside of the building is rather plain, but inside the flat I’m in is very nicely decorated.

Ljubljana

Last night I had dinner at a restaurant by the Ljubljanica, the river that flows through Ljubljana. I saw quite a few people I know from previous polyglot events going past, and met some of them afterwards in a tapas restaurant.

So far I’ve spoken a little Slovenian, quite a bit of German, French and Welsh, and odd bits of other languages.

We spent today talking about the best ways to learn languages. This was interesting and there was some useful advice that I might try.

I haven’t had a lot of time to explore the city yet. The centre is quite compact and mostly pedestranised, with lots of interesting and colourful buildings.

This evening there was a concert with songs in many languages, then I went for dinner with quite a few other polyglots.

Slovenian (slovenščina)

I’ve been learning Slovenian for nearly three months now, and will have chances to use it when I go to Slovenia in a few days. I’ll be there for the Polyglot Conference.

While I can’t say a lot in Slovenian yet, I have at least learnt the basics. I’ve been using a Memrise course based on Slovenian for Travelers, another version of which is available here.

As I’ve studied other Slavic languages to varying degrees – Russian, Czech, Slovak and Serbian – I can recognise quite a few words in Slovenian, and the grammar seems similar. I like the sound of Slovenian, and may continue learning it after the conference.

My favourite Slovenian words are currently: predvčerajšnjim (the day before yesterday) and pojutrišnjem (the day after tomorrow).

I plan to record an episode of the Radio Omniglot Podcast at the conference. It will be about the conference, and the people there, and will hopefully include recordings of participants speaking as many different languages as possible. Looking forward to it!

Pronunciation is fun

The other day I realised that one reason I like languages is because I enjoy just saying foreign words and phrases, especially ones that contain sounds and combinations of sounds not used in English. I imitate native speakers as best I can – not just the sounds of the words, but the intonation, and even pitch of their voices as well.

At the moment I’m learning Swedish, Danish, Russian and Slovenian. I started learning Swedish out of interest in the language, and because I like the sound of it, and have fun pronouncing it. I started learning Danish and Slovenian in preparation for trips to Denmark and Slovenia, but also enjoy pronouncing them. I’ve been learning Russian on and off for years for various reasons, and enjoy pronouncing it.

Maybe I’ll learn some other languages just to have fun pronouncing them. Languages with clicks, like Zulu and Xhosa, or with ejectives, like Georgian. I already know some songs in these languages, so it would be quite useful to know a bit more about them. It would also be interesting to visit places where they’re spoken, and to use them, but that would not be a priority.

If I do this, I would search for the most interesting-sounding words and phrases, and also tongue twisters, rather than focusing on the most common words and grammatical patterns. I probably wouldn’t learn to speak and understand the languages, but would have fun anyway.

Here are some tongue twisters to play with:

And here’s a tongue twister in Xhosa:

Have you learnt, or are you learning, any languages because you like the sound of them and enjoy pronouncing them?

Mr Gospod

The Slovenian gospod [ɡɔˈspóːt] came up in my Slovenian lesson today. It means mister, sir, gentleman or lord. It comes from the Proto-Slavic *gospodь (lord, master).

Some examples of how it’s used include:

  • gospod župnik = Reverend
  • spoštovani gospod = Dear Sir
  • grajski gospod = Lord of the castle
  • biti sam svoj gospod = to be one’s own master
  • Gospod Bog = the Lord God

The last example appears in a song we sing in the Bangor Community Choir, Vsy Tya Hori (Вси Тя хори) (All your choirs), which is in Church Slavonic, I think.

You can see and hear us sing it in Penrhyn castle, near Bangor, here:

Related words include:

  • gospoda = lords, gentlemen
  • gospodar = landowner, master
  • gospodar posestva = lord of the manor
  • gospodarica = mistress
  • gospodična = miss
  • gaspa = mrs, lady
  • gospe in gospodje = ladies and gentlemen

Other Slavic languages have a similar words:

  • Russian & Ukrainian: господь = the Lord, God
  • Bulgarian, Macedonian & Serbian: господ = Lord, Jesus
  • Croatian: gospod = Mr, Lord, Jesus

Source: PONS, Wiktionary

Famous outside words

beseda (word in Slovenian)

In Slovenian beseda [bɛˈséːda] is the word for word or term.

Some expressions featuring beseda include:

– besedna igra = wordplay, pun, play on words
– brez besed = speechless (with shock etc.)
– častna beseda = word of honour
– dati častno besedo = to give one’s word
– držal te bom za besedo = I am going to take you at your word
– mož beseda = man of hono(u)r
– z besedo na dan! = spit it out! let the cat out (of the bag)!

This comes from the Proto-Slavic *besěda, which originally meant sitting outdoors (at night), then an outdoor gathering, or a conversation or speech at such a gathering.

*besěda comes from *bez (outside) and *sěděti (to sit).

In other Slavic languages the same root became:

– Belarusian: бяседа (bjasjeda) = banquet
– Russian: беседа (beséda) = conversation, talk, discussion
– Ukrainian: бесіда (besida) = talk, conversation, discussion
– Bulgarian: беседа (beséda) = talk, conversation
– Macedonian: беседа (beseda) = speech, oration, sermon
– Serbo-Croatian: бесједа / besjeda = speech, word (archaic)
– Czech: beseda = discussion
– Slovak: beseda = discussion
– Polish: biesiada = feast, banquet

Words for word in other Slavic languages include:

– Belarusian: слова (slova)
– Russian: слово (slovo)
– Ukrainian: слово (slovo)
– Bulgarian: дума (duma); слово (slovo)
– Macedonian: збор (zbor)
– Serbian: реч (reč)
– Croatian: rije
– Czech: slovo
– Slovak: slovo
– Polish: słowo

Slovo, and variations, comes from the Proto-Slavic *slovo (word), from the Proto-Indo-European *ḱléwos (fame), which is also the root of the Welsh clyw (hearing), the Irish clú (honour, praise, fame), the Latvian slava (rumor, reputation, fame), and the Greek κλέος (kléos – renown, fame, honour).

Sources: Wiktionary, PONS, dict.com

Bread, loaves and circles

Language quiz image

In most Slavic languages the word for bread is chleb or something similar: Czech & Polish: chleb, Slovak: chlieb, Russian & Belarusian: хлеб, Ukrainian: хліб, Bulgarian: хляб, Macedonian: леб.

These words all comes from the Proto-Slavic *xlěbъ (bread), from the Proto-Germanic *hlaibaz (bread). [source]. *hlaibaz is also the root of the English word loaf, the German Laib (loaf), and words for loaf in other Germanic languages [source].

However, in Slovenian the word for bread is kruh, which means circle or ring in Czech, although the Czech word probably comes from a different root [source]. It comes from the Proto-Slavic *kruxъ (chunk, bread), which comes from *krews (crush, break) [source].

The bread in the photo is a type of Slovenian potato bread known as krompirjev kruh. You can find recipes here (in Slovenian) and here (in English).

Učenje slovenščine (Learning Slovenian)

Slovenia

Yesterday I started learning Slovenian (slovenščina) in preparation for the Polyglot Conference in Ljubljana in Slovenia in October. I always try to learn at least a little of any languages I’m likely to encounter on my travels – it’s only polite.

I’m using a Memrise course, and may use other resources – if you have any suggestions, do let me know.

A few years ago I went to a polyglot conference in Novi Sad in Serbia, and learnt some Serbian before going there. Slovenian seems to have a lot in common with Serbian, so far.

There was a lass from Ljubljana learning Irish in Ireland last week, and she taught me a few useful Slovenian phrases.

Cows, beef and shepherds

Cows among the heather in Cregneash, Isle of Man

Yesterday I learnt the Russian word for beef, говядина [ɡɐˈvʲædʲɪnə], and the promotely forgot it. So I thought I’d investigate its etymology to help me remember it.

говядина comes from говядо [ɡɐˈvʲadə] and old word for cattle. This comes from the Proto-Slavic *govędo (head of cattle, bull, ox), from the Proto-Indo-European *gʷew-n̥d-, from *gʷṓws (cattle) [source].

The usual Russian word for cow is корова [source], which comes from the Proto-Slavic *kőrva (cow), from the Proto-Indo-European *ḱerh₂- (horn) [source].

*gʷṓws is also the root of:

  • gak = boar (Albanian)
  • govs = cattle, cow (Latvian)
  • говядо = beef (Ukrainian)
  • говедо = cattle (Bulgarian, Macedonian & Serbian)
  • govedo = cattle (Croatian & Slovenian)
  • hovado = brute (Czech & Slovak)
  • gowjedo = cow (Lower Sorbian)
  • *kūz = cow (Proto-Germanic)
  • Kuh = cow (German)
  • koe = cow (Dutch)
  • ku = cow (Norwegian)
  • ko = cow (Swedish, Danish, North Frisian)
  • coo, kye = cow (Scots)
  • βοῦς = cow (Ancient Greek)
  • bōs = cow, bull, ox (Latin)
  • bou = ox (Catalan)
  • bue = ox, beef (Italian)
  • bife = steak (Portuguese)
  • bou= ox, idiot (Romanian)
  • buey= ox. steer (Spanish)
  • bœuf = cow, ox, beef, jam session (French)
  • *bāus = cow (Proto-Celtic)
  • *bōws = ox (Proto-Celtic)
  • bu, buw = cow, bullock, head of cattle (Middle Welsh)
  • buwch = cow (Welsh)
  • bugh = cow (Cornish)
  • bu, buoc’h = cow (Breton)
  • bó = cow (Irish)
  • booa = cow (Manx)
  • bò = cow (Scottish Gaelic)

The English words beef and bovine come ultimately from the same root. Beef comes from the Middle English beef, bef, beof, from the Anglo-Norman beof, from the Old French buef, boef (ox). from Latin bōs (“ox”)

The Proto-Indo-European word *gʷowkólos, from *gʷṓws (cow) & *kʷel- (to revolve, move around, sojourn) gives us the following words in the Celtic languages [Source].

  • *boukolyos = herdsman (Proto-Celtic)
  • *bʉgöl = herdsman (Proto-Brythonic
  • bugail = shepherd, pastor (Welsh)
  • bugel = child, shepherd (Cornish)
  • bugel = child (Breton)
  • búachaill = cowherd (Old Irish)
  • buachaill = boy, herdsman, servant, boyfriend (Irish)
  • bochilley = shepherd, herdsman (Manx)
  • buachaill, buachaille = cowherd, herdsman, shepherd, youth (Scottish Gaelic)

Gloopy!

An interesting Russian word I learnt this week is глупый (glupyj) [ˈɡlupɨj], which means silly, stupid, foolish or inane, but sounds like one of the seven dwarfs.

The Russian name for the dwarf dopey is actually Простак (Prostak), which means simpleton.

Глупый comes from the Proto-Slavic *glupъ (stupid, foolish), which possibly comes from a Germanic source. Cognates in Germanic languages include glópr (idiot) in Old Norse, and glópur (fool, idiot) in Icelandic.

Cognates in Slavic languages include:

– Bulgarian глупав (glupav) = stupid, silly, foolish, fool, unwise, sappy
– Croatian glup = stupid, dumb, silly, dull, brainless, dense
– Serbian глуп = stupid, dumb, silly, dull, dense, obtuse
– Slovene glúp = dumb, stupid, moronic
– Slovak hlúpy = stupid, silly, foolish
– Czech hloupý = stupid, silly, foolish

A related word in Russian is тупой (typoj) [tʊˈpoj], which means ‘dull, blunt; obtuse; dull, stupid’. It comes from the Old East Slavic тупъ (tupŭ), from Proto-Slavic *tǫpъ, and sounds like the Welsh word twp [tʊp], which means stupid. Is there any connection?

The word stupid comes from the Middle French stupide (stupid), from the Latin stupidus (struck senseless, amazed), from stupeō (to be amazed or confounded, to be struck senseless), from the Proto-Indo-European *(s)tup- / *(s)tewp- (to wonder), from *(s)tu- (to stand, stay).

I thought I’d made up the word gloopy, but it does exist, and means ‘Having a glutinous, sloppy consistency’.

Portugal oranges and Chinese apples

An orange

In Romanian the word for orange (the fruit) is portocală [portoˈkalə]. This comes from the Greek πορτοκάλι (portokáli – orange), from the Venetian portogallo (orange), from the Italian Portogallo (Portugal).

An number of other languages get their word for orange from the same root:

– Albanian: portokall
– Amharic: ብርቱካናማ (biritukanama)
– Arabic: برتقال (burtuqaal)
– Azerbaijani: portağal
– Bulgarian: портокал (portokal)
– Georgian: ფორთოხალი (p’ort’okhali)
– Macedonian: портокал (portokal)
– Persian (Farsi): پرتقال (porteghâl)
– Turkish: portakal

Portuguese merchants were probably the first to introduce oranges to Europe, hence the link between oranges and Portugal.

In some languages oranges are known as “Chinese apples”: Apfelsine (German), appelsien / sinaasappel (Dutch), apelsin (Swedish), etc. This makes sense as oranges were first cultivated in China in about 2,500 BC.

Words for oranges in some Slavic languages come from the Old French pomme d’orenge: pomeranč (Czech), pomaranča (Slovene), pomarańcza (Polish).

The word orange derives from नारङ्ग (nāraṅga) – “orange tree” in Sanskrit, which is probably of Dravidian origin. The word for orange in Portuguese, laranja, comes from this root.

The colour orange was named after the fruit. In Old English the colour orange was referred to as ġeolurēad (yellow-red), or ġeolucrog (yellow-saffron) [source].

Souces: Wiktionary, WordReference.com, Google Translate, Wikipedia, Flickr