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Other Languages

Published: 09.06.2010, Updated: 03.03.2017
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Globalism reigns and international borders are becoming more blurred than before. Knowing one more language besides English is an advantage. An added language can certainly make you more attractive on the job market. What international company wouldn’t want employees who can straddle cultures and communicate in a client’s native tongue?

Other LanguagesMultilingual welcome sign. Photo.Multilingual sign
Opphavsmann: Flatbush Gardener
  The importance of English cannot be disputed; as today’s lingua franca, it can hardly be avoided. Unless you plan to sit inside your house the next 30 years and never communicate with anyone but your closest neighbors, you will need to have knowledge of English – for studies, work, travel, even entertainment.

However, at a time when globalism reigns and international borders are becoming more blurred than before, knowing one more language besides English is an advantage (some say a must), and not only so that you can order food when on vacation in Spain or the south of France.

An added language can certainly make you more attractive on the job market. What international company wouldn’t want employees who can straddle cultures and communicate in a client’s native tongue? Doing business in Germany is easier if you know even a little German, and dealing with Frenchmen is easier when you also speak French. At least you will be able to understand what they are discussing between themselves, and just that is a plus in itself!

Without even knowing it, you probably have some knowledge of French, Spanish or German even if you have never had a lesson in that language.

Guess which Language

¿Como esta?
¡Hola!
pommes frites
pequeño
Blitzkrieg
tête à tête

Key

If you guessed:
¿Como esta? – Spanish (how are you)
¡Hola! – Spanish (hello)
pommes frites – French (French fries; chips)
pequeño – Spanish (small)
Blitzkrieg – German (lightning war)
tête à tête – French (head to head)

- congratulations! Either you know a lot of words in different languages, or you are good at using strategies with which to recognize them. The upside-down exclamation and question mark before a word (as in ¿Como esta? and ¡Hola!) reveal them as Spanish; the curl over the ñ as in pequeño does the same). Otherwise we use our knowledge or the sound of a word. Most of us would be able to tell that “Blitzkrieg” is a German word and not a French one, just by the way it looks and sounds.

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Now try this task on 'Other languages'.

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Other Languages - Drag and Drop
Opphavsmann: Celia Suzanna Sandor
   

But Beware!

One thing we need to be wary of, though, is thinking our knowledge of English will be a free ticket to picking up a third language (or L3; L2 stands for English since it’s a second language). For example, the French "je t’adore" may sound a lot like “shut the door”, which is anything but a declaration of love. Likewise, Norwegian “false friends” (words that are similar but mean different things) can also confuse an L3 student. Consider the following words, all of them similar:

garden (English), jardin (French), Garten (German), jardín (Spanish)

Yes, of course it translates into the Norwegian "hage", but the number of Norwegian French students who assume that “dans le jardin” means something like “dancing curtains” instead of “in the garden” is surprisingly high.

Interestingly, language also reflects the soul of a culture, the spirit of the people who form it. Notice the difference between these expressions, all of them with the same basic meaning:

  • English: Out of sight, out of mind.
  • Norwegian: Ute av syne, ute av sinn.
  • German: Aus den Augen, aus dem Sinn.

So far, so good. “Sinn” is just like L1, "sinn" and L2, "mind". However, the Romance languages (those with a Latin base) do away with the mind and replace it with the heart:

  • French: Loin des yeux, loin du coeur.
  • Spanish :Ojos que no ven, corazón que no siente.

Are our Latin cousins just more emotionally inclined and warmer than us, their cold, northern counterparts who prefer a colder, more scientific “mind”? We can only wonder, can’t we?

Tag Questions

A tag is a label that is stuck onto something else – like a price tag.

A tag question is something you stick onto a sentence for emphasis (to make sure your point gets across) or approval (to obtain agreement). Tag questions are used in all languages, aren’t they? In this last sentence, "aren’t they?" is the tag question.

Some examples of frequent tag questions in English are:

  • will you
  • won’t you
  • isn’t it
  • doesn’t it
  • can’t you/
  • couldn’t it … and loads more!

 

Tasks

Fill in with the right tag question:

  1. It’s supposed to be a warm day today, …..?
  2. You are coming with us,  …… ?
  3. You will check out the place for me before I get there, …………?
  4. The car has air conditioning, ………………?

*Do not forget that the tags refer to the subject and not the object – it’s "A horse has four legs, doesn’t it?" and not "A horse has four legs, don’t they?"

 

Key
  1. Fill in with the right tag question:
  2. It’s supposed to be a warm day today, isn’t it?
  3. You are coming with us, aren’t you?
  4. You will check out the place for me before I get there, won’t you?
  5. The car has air conditioning, doesn’t it?
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More on Tags

All of the tag questions below (in French, German and Spanish) correspond to the tag question “right?” as in: "I’m supposed to read this now, right?"

Using your knowledge of languages (plus your common sense), match the tag with its correct language and explain what it means if you translate it into English literally (word for word):

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Which Language Is It? Pair Off
Opphavsmann: Celia Suzanna Sandor
 

German Loan Words in American English

Most languages have loan words – words “borrowed” from another language (*). Often they are adopted because there is no word that covers exactly that meaning in the original language. The following words are German loan words that have become a part of the English language – at least in America. Can you guess what they mean? Your knowledge of Norwegian will help you.

zeitgeist, hausfrau, zaftig, doppelganger, angst, ersatz, kindergarten, gesundheit, kaput, wanderlust, uber, realpolitik, wunderkind, verboten, katzenjammer, kitsch

Key
  1. zeitgeist – the spirit of the times
  2. hausfrau – housewife
  3. zaftig – from “juicy” – curvy, fleshy
  4. doppelganger – a double, a totally similar person
  5. angst –anxiety
  6. ersatz – substitute, artificial
  7. kindergarten – nursery school, day nursery
  8. gesundheit – usually with a exclamation point after it – gesundheit! as a wish of good health when somebody sneezes
  9. kaput – broken, out of order
  10. wanderlust – the urge to roam/travel
  11. uber – over, as in uber-model for the most famous type of top model
  12. realpolitik – a ruthless type of politics
  13. wunderkind – a genius, especially an up-and-coming one
  14. verboten – forbidden, prohibited
  15. katzenjammer – uproar; a noisy, unpleasant racket
  16. kitsch – art or objects in gaudy, bad taste
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* Several German loan words came via Yiddish.
* Some spellings have been modified from the German:
Zeitgeist, Hausfrau, zaftig, Doppelgänger, Angst, ersatz, Kindergarten, Gesundheit, kaputt, Wanderlust, über, Realpolitik, Wunderkind, verboten, Katzenjammer, Kitsch

Tasks

General