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PostPosted: Thu Dec 17, 2015 5:40 am 
Lebom
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Found this funny story about language use that I thought i would share with you all:

An early missionnary in Canada who had only recently learned to speak Cree had apparently not picked up on the fact that Cree has a clusivity distinction. This meant that in his first sermon he said "We (exclusive) are all sinners!" which supposedly, caused the locals to burst out in laughter :-D

If you guys know any other anecdotes or small funny stories bout language use, please post them, so we can all get some cheap laughs.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 21, 2015 8:49 am 
Sumerul
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Belgium being a land of linguistic craziness I could go on and on about different stories about language use, but one which always stuck to me and caused me to almost burst out laughing was the following:

I was at a house in a small village in Wallonia and my friend, an older man about 50, was trying to buy a motorcycle from a guy in Flanders. He texts the guy in French and the guy writes back (in Dutch I assume) that he doesn't speak French nor English and the father didn't speak Dutch. So the father goes to his daughter who's in university and who studied for 6 months in Antwerp and says in French, here text him this, that, and this in Dutch. The daughter is reluctant because she doesn't speak much Dutch, just school Dutch. I helped them find words as well as she was going back and forth with the man. Finally the father says, ok let's meet up, and then I go, but you don't speak Dutch, how will you communicate? And the father goes oh don't worry all Flemish people speak French they just don't like to (meanwhile the Walloon guy spoke no Dutch).

Well guess what, the Flemish guy didn't speak French.

And that is Belgium, a country where its own citizens can't talk to each other and where one side, the Francophone side, just assumes the other side, the Dutchophone side, will be able to speak their language but don't bother to make an effort the other way around. Although I must preface that by saying it's changing among the country's youth. Still English is far more important as a second language here for Flemish and Walloons than French or Dutch, respectively. Most people I meet decide what language to study, English or Dutch (in Flanders they study both English and French regardless but not in Wallonia where one has to chose) based on whether they plan to stay in Belgium or leave. They say one only needs Dutch if one plans on staying in Belgium, and if one plans on working in Brussels especially. Otherwise its English all the way.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 21, 2015 10:19 am 
Smeric
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If Belgium wants to have any semblance of national unity, they need to encourage the Walloons and Flemish to learn each other's language. And German. Heck, it would be better if they would learn each others' languages anyway.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 21, 2015 10:48 am 
Sumerul
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jmcd wrote:
If Belgium wants to have any semblance of national unity, they need to encourage the Walloons and Flemish to learn each other's language. And German. Heck, it would be better if they would learn each others' languages anyway.


Belgium is a white marriage where neither party can or desires to bring themselves to divorce (especially since they'd never be able to decide on the custody of their child, Brussels). But what you have to understand isn't Belgium is really interested in any sort of national unity. The Flemish are happy being Flemish, the Walloons are happy being Francophones, etc. The Walloons identify more as Belgian than the Flemish, but neither have any sense of a strong national identity. When one lives in Wallonia, one lives in Wallonia, one uses French and one sees French everywhere. When one lives in Flanders, one lives in Flanders, one uses Dutch and one sees Dutch everywhere. Learning the others' language seems like it would be the most important thing to do to live in Belgium (it's learning the language of half your countrymen after all), but its just not. It's not a priority for Walloons to learn Dutch and even though the Flemish learn French, they prefer English (you'd be shocked how many times I'd ask a Fleming "Spreekt u Engels of Frans?" And get the response "Yes, English!," even 20 minutes across the border from Wallonia). The French see their language as more important, the Flemish all speak English, and when given the chance both Walloons and Flemings go for English. But in Brussels because of government policies Dutch speakers are needed, especially bilingual ones, so for some who wish to work there it can be advantageous. Otherwise it's of little importance and I doubt that'll ever change. There are ministers in this country who can barely speak Dutch. The last Prime Minister could barely speak Dutch.

And the Belgian Germans, forget about them. People don't even remember they exist. If you want to see a language even fewer people study then just look to German.* In fact I'd argue that in my experience, at least in Wallonia, the order of prominence of a second language is Dutch, English, Spanish, German (there's some huge adoration for Spanish in Belgium which I've never really understood). And it's rather funny since the giant country of Germany is a half hour away from me here (yet I know basically no one who even speaks some German). I don't know where German stands in Flanders. It being a fellow Germanic language more people might study it, but I don't know.

*During the height of the recent Brussels lock down the federal government press conferences (by a minister or by the Prime Minister) were given first in Dutch and then in French, with an occasional third option of English for very important notifications. German was never used. The only place you see German in Belgium besides the German-speaking region is the national airport.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 23, 2015 10:32 am 
Sumerul
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Probably because Spain is a common tourist destination and it's easy for French speakers?


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 23, 2015 10:53 am 
Avisaru
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finlay wrote:
Probably because Spain is a common tourist destination and it's easy for French speakers?


How come there isn't then any similar feeling in other countries where people like to escape grey winters in mass to the Spanish beaches?

I'd rather bet on a relic from the times of Spanish rule in the Low Countries. These kind of sentiments die slowly, whether they are positive or negative, unless you get new major changes in history.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 25, 2015 4:43 pm 
Smeric
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I don't know whether I told that story here already. I heard it from a Kazakh friend who used to work at the Kazakh ministry of telecommunications.
In the early nineties, when the former Soviet republics became independent, the ministry had some correspondence with their Estonian counterpart. They used to do that in Russian, which both sides understood, but soon after independence, the Estonians started to write to them in Estonian. The Kazakhs responded that this was all very well and that they understood that Estonia was independent now, but they didn't have anyone at the ministry who knew Estonian, so could they please go back to writing in Russian?
The Estonians continued to write in Estonian.
Then someone had the bright idea to send the next letter in Kazakh.
From that moment, the Estonians reverted to writing in Russian, and both sides were able to communicate again.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 25, 2015 11:52 pm 
Smeric
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The dude that would translate directly between Estonian and Kazakh would be well paid.


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 26, 2015 6:39 am 
Lebom
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I have an interesting one from the local grocery store, about what can happen if you are not careful about your punctuation.

There was a sign that was supposed to read: "Bedstemorboller" (lit. grandmother buns), supposedly with the meaning "buns as grandmother used to make them". The problem was that the word was split into two lines because it was written with a large font, and they had forgotten to put in a hyphen so the sign read: "bedstemor boller". The problem is that the verb "bolle" is a colloquial term for "to have sex".
This meant that instead of reading: "buns as grandmother used to make them", the sign read: "grandmother is having sex (3 pc. 27 kr.)".

This is just one of many cases in Danish where it makes a huge difference in meaning whether you use a coumpund word or two seperate words. Another examples of a similar error is this shop:
Image
I think they wanted to sell you stuff for animals, but because of the space in the middle they now apparently want to sell you expensive stuff instead.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 26, 2015 5:15 pm 
Smeric
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Quote:
Belgium is a white marriage where neither party can or desires to bring themselves to divorce (especially since they'd never be able to decide on the custody of their child, Brussels). But what you have to understand isn't Belgium is really interested in any sort of national unity. The Flemish are happy being Flemish, the Walloons are happy being Francophones, etc. The Walloons identify more as Belgian than the Flemish, but neither have any sense of a strong national identity. When one lives in Wallonia, one lives in Wallonia, one uses French and one sees French everywhere. When one lives in Flanders, one lives in Flanders, one uses Dutch and one sees Dutch everywhere.

So, they do not have compulsory education in both of their languages? It is the case in Finland (they have to learn both Finnish and Swedish), but it would make more sense in Belgium, don't you think?

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 26, 2015 5:49 pm 
Sumerul
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Pole, the wrote:
So, they do not have compulsory education in both of their languages? It is the case in Finland (they have to learn both Finnish and Swedish), but it would make more sense in Belgium, don't you think?


It boils down to language attitudes, 100%. In Flanders they do, FTMP, learn both French and English, but in Wallonia one usually choses between English and Dutch and English is more popular because it is quite frankly 10x more useful on the international stage (while Dutch is only useful for someone who wishes to work in Brussels, Flanders, or in the Netherlands). And the reason for this system is all language attitudes. Belgium's language history is complicated but briefly speaking Dutch wasn't even an official language in Flanders until 1873 and before and still after all aspects of Flemish civil and aristocratic life were in French. The economy was most powerful in Wallonia too until after WWII when the power shifted to Flanders who is now the economic engine of the country. But the belief in the superiority of French continues to this day. The Walloons might no longer view Flemish Dutch as a peasant language, but they consider French more important so why bother learning Dutch? And the Walloons still rely on the Flemish having a knowledge of French as they did in olden days. Most Walloons realize that the Flemish dislike speaking French (since it was imposed on them all those years ago), but ask any Fleming and they'll be able to speak some French, but don't ask a Walloon to speak Dutch, unless you want a good laugh (this is a popular subject of TV comedy in Belgium).

So should Belgians speak at least the 2 major official languages of their country? Yes, but language attitudes don't really let that sort of idealistic approach prevail.

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 27, 2015 3:38 pm 
Smeric
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jmcd wrote:
The dude that would translate directly between Estonian and Kazakh would be well paid.

:-) Although he may not have a lot to do...


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 01, 2016 5:02 pm 
Sumerul
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This is perhaps the most useless bilingual product labeling I've ever seen, and I've seen some doozies, like Aloe Vera/Aloë Vera.

Image

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 01, 2016 6:39 pm 
Avisaru
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Viktor77 wrote:
I've seen some doozies, like Aloe Vera/Aloë Vera.


Haha, yeah, we get a lot of shit like that in Canada.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 01, 2016 8:51 pm 
Smeric
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you have to give them credit for being economical though


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 01, 2016 9:34 pm 
Sumerul
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Yes, I'd bet with English and French it can get quite silly, especially when the words in English are French borrowings.

thetha wrote:
you have to give them credit for being economical though


Yea which is unusual. Usually even if there is just one letter difference they write the label twice. But you have to admit that this economy makes it even more ridiculous. It's not like any Dutch speaker isn't going to know Mayonnaise is Mayonaise and actually need that n. No one's going to go, Oh thank god they put that n there I had no idea this was Mayonaise.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 02, 2016 12:42 pm 
Avisaru
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I think you may have missed the point of bilingual signage.

Realistically in all probability no Welsh speaker is ever going to have trouble with an English sign, since everyone is functionally bilingual and the vast majority of people are native speakers of English alongside Welsh. But that doesn't stop people getting pissy when signs are only put up in English in Welsh-speaking areas. And it sounds to me like Belgium has (understandably) a similar or even more intense situation with regard to language pride.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 02, 2016 1:49 pm 
Sanci
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Yng wrote:
I think you may have missed the point of bilingual signage.

Realistically in all probability no Welsh speaker is ever going to have trouble with an English sign, since everyone is functionally bilingual and the vast majority of people are native speakers of English alongside Welsh. But that doesn't stop people getting pissy when signs are only put up in English in Welsh-speaking areas. And it sounds to me like Belgium has (understandably) a similar or even more intense situation with regard to language pride.


Not everyone is bilingual. My dad tried to buy a tractor from a bloke in Llanrwst, but he (the bloke, not my dad) was monolingual in Welsh. The bloke had to get his nephew round to translate.


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 02, 2016 2:52 pm 
Sumerul
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Sglod wrote:
Yng wrote:
I think you may have missed the point of bilingual signage.

Realistically in all probability no Welsh speaker is ever going to have trouble with an English sign, since everyone is functionally bilingual and the vast majority of people are native speakers of English alongside Welsh. But that doesn't stop people getting pissy when signs are only put up in English in Welsh-speaking areas. And it sounds to me like Belgium has (understandably) a similar or even more intense situation with regard to language pride.


Not everyone is bilingual. My dad tried to buy a tractor from a bloke in Llanrwst, but he (the bloke, not my dad) was monolingual in Welsh. The bloke had to get his nephew round to translate.


First, wow someone monolingual in Welsh! :o I need this guy's name because I need to send it to my professor of my previous regional and minority languages in Europe class because she'd be fascinated by that! :P Just joking of course, but that is fascinating.

But to Yng, I do understand what you're saying, that the use of bilingual signage is more a demonstration of power and relevance than of actually being useful to the people. That is most definitely true in Belgium where each language region follows the language labeling laws to a tee and where language labeling and rights are constantly at the root of problems. There are neighborhoods of Brussels where the majority of the inhabitants are French speaking but because the neighborhood lies outside of the official bilingual Brussels region the neighborhood is officially Flemish and people had and still have to fight to be served in their native language, even when they are the majority who live there and their language is an official state language.

But it has to be admitted that the bilingual labeling gets ridiculous. If the label had said Mayonnaise/Mayonaise I would've laughed and moved on like the Aloe Vera/Aloë Vera label. But it was how they tried to be economic that was positively ridiculous. I've used that mayo for weeks and I only noticed the "(n)" a few days ago. Even if you needed the extra n, and no one does, you'd likely read right over it anyway (which with two labels at least you would be less likely to). It's just ridiculous to the extreme.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 03, 2016 4:38 am 
Sanci
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http://www.southwalesargus.co.uk/news/10554997.Council_blunder_puts_wrong_Welsh_on_Newport_roadsign/

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/tesco-cash-machine-offers-free-erection-because-of-mistake-translating-sign-into-welsh-9824046.html

http://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2008/nov/01/5

These are all examples of why you should always check your work.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 03, 2016 6:15 am 
Smeric
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Yng wrote:
I think you may have missed the point of bilingual signage.

Realistically in all probability no Welsh speaker is ever going to have trouble with an English sign, since everyone is functionally bilingual and the vast majority of people are native speakers of English alongside Welsh. But that doesn't stop people getting pissy when signs are only put up in English in Welsh-speaking areas. And it sounds to me like Belgium has (understandably) a similar or even more intense situation with regard to language pride.
In addition to what Sglod said, at least that's getting pissy at a lack of something with a potential usefulness. Some people get pissy because they put Gaelic or Welsh on road signs, as if they can't just pay attention to another part of the sign.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 03, 2016 2:41 pm 
Avisaru
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Sglod wrote:
Not everyone is bilingual. My dad tried to buy a tractor from a bloke in Llanrwst, but he (the bloke, not my dad) was monolingual in Welsh. The bloke had to get his nephew round to translate.


How many years ago was this? I'd bet you any money he'll be dead now. In any case, monolinguals aren't generally the sort of people who make much use of public services - or, indeed, of motorways, in my experience.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 03, 2016 2:55 pm 
Sanno
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Viktor77 wrote:
But it was how they tried to be economic that was positively ridiculous. I've used that mayo for weeks and I only noticed the "(n)" a few days ago. Even if you needed the extra n, and no one does, you'd likely read right over it anyway (which with two labels at least you would be less likely to). It's just ridiculous to the extreme.

I drove through the east of Belgium about a week ago and came across a road sign with "Luxemb(o)urg" on it. Seems they're using those brackets systematically... ;-)

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 03, 2016 3:10 pm 
Sanci
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Yng wrote:
Sglod wrote:
Not everyone is bilingual. My dad tried to buy a tractor from a bloke in Llanrwst, but he (the bloke, not my dad) was monolingual in Welsh. The bloke had to get his nephew round to translate.


How many years ago was this? I'd bet you any money he'll be dead now. In any case, monolinguals aren't generally the sort of people who make much use of public services - or, indeed, of motorways, in my experience.


It was only a few years ago and the bloke was in his 60s so I'll be having your money. :-D


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 03, 2016 7:39 pm 
Sumerul
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Cedh wrote:
Viktor77 wrote:
But it was how they tried to be economic that was positively ridiculous. I've used that mayo for weeks and I only noticed the "(n)" a few days ago. Even if you needed the extra n, and no one does, you'd likely read right over it anyway (which with two labels at least you would be less likely to). It's just ridiculous to the extreme.

I drove through the east of Belgium about a week ago and came across a road sign with "Luxemb(o)urg" on it. Seems they're using those brackets systematically... ;-)


Should've taken a picture for me, I study that stuff. :P Just kidding but that is fascinating to know. Not to mention again entirely pointless. Can I guess you were near Eupen or Sankt Vith? Bilingual signs are only found in the Germanophone area, Brussels, and a handful of small border towns.

A comedian on TV last night said a lot of people from Lille get stuck in Flanders because they can't manage to find their way back to Rijsel. If you're lost don't feel bad, apparently so are the Ch'tis. :P

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