Does Your Language Sound Weird?

Three years ago, I went to the US with a cultural exchange programme. I spent my whole summer there so it was my first time to stay abroad for such a long time. In the same house, we were eight people: four students from Russia, three students from China and me from Turkey 🙂 It was very awkward because I had no one to chat to in Turkish. One day, after a telephone call to my parents, one of my Russian friends said “I always hear many -s sounds when you speak Turkish”. Until that moment, I had not paid attention to this issue at all. I had not thought how Turkish sounded to a foreigner 🙂 Now, whenever I make a friend from a new country, I ask how my language sounds. They all answer differently though 🙂 Recently, I came across a short article highlighting a similar question: how a foreigner sees your language. The author says “You just speak” because it is your native language but you do not know how it sounds or how hard it is to learn. I want to thank Silvia for publishing this on lexiophiles.com. Here is the article. You can visit this website to read more:

Have you ever thought that your language could seem strange to a foreigner?
When you are in your own country you don’t really care about your language,you speak it and that’s it. The important thing is to communicate a message, in a plain or in a more refined way.

But imagine that a person is trying to learn your language and tells you what he thinks about it. The things he could say might be regarding these points:

– Pronunciation: is there a rule in your language to understand how to pronounce the words (e.g. accents)?

– Sentence structure: what about the position of subject, verb and object in a sentence?

– Gender: how can you understand if a word is a masculine or a feminine one?

– And most important, how about exception to rules?

It is much easier to pay attention to these “details” when you are learning a new language.

On the other hand when you were learning your language at the primary school you did and had to pay attention to grammar, pronunciation and so on. But years go by, and once you can speak correctly and without thinking – about the structure of the sentences, grammar etc. – in your language it is not a problem any more. So you never think again about how difficult it was to learn it.

On the contrary, your foreign friend who is learning your language does think about all this stuff, and you are surprised by the fact that it’s so natural for you to speak it without concentrating on it…while for him it is not! But if you see the thing from his point of view, is it really clear (without knowing it before) how to pronounce a word, or write a sentence in a correct way? Is there a precise rule for this?

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Great post – you really only start to notice what makes your own language strange once you start learning other languages.

    I was intimidated by learning gender in German, but once I formed a way to understand it in my own mind (I think the feminine things are more abstract, while the masculine things are more concrete, and the neuter things are generally non-organic), it made it more fun for me.

    How many languages have you learned? Did you find that learning a new language made you learn new things about your own language?

    Reply

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