Today is the day we celebrate ‘Mother’s day’ or ‘Mothering Sunday’ here in the UK.
Mum is one of those words we start to use from a young age; perhaps you used ‘mumma’, ‘mother’, ‘mam’ or ‘mummy’ instead; there are many ways to say it! Some languages offer a similar word to English, like ‘la madre’ in Spanish and in Italian. Typically the word for mother does start with an ‘m’ or a ‘b’ as these are soft and easy sounds when you’re a child, creating the ‘m’ noise is one of the easiest ones to make. In Afrikaans the word for mother is just ‘ma’ and in Swahili it’s ‘mama’.
However, that’s not always the case: in Fijian the word for mother is ‘tina’, in Kurdish (Sorani) it is ‘daik’ and in Swiss it is ‘d’Mueter’. In other languages the m or b is replaced with a ‘h’ sound – in Japanese mother is ‘haha’ and in Somalia it is ‘hooyo’. Would you expect ‘Whaea’ to translate into the English word ‘Mother’? This is perhaps one of the more unusual ways of saying mother in another language (Maori). Interestingly in Georgian, it is completely different to English, with ‘mama’ meaning father and ‘deda’ for mother.
When it comes to the Romance and Germanic languages, there are a lot of similarities between both ‘mother’ and ‘father’ translations. Father tends to start with a ‘p’ or a ‘b’ sound, which are also easy noises for children to make.
Here are some other words for ‘mother’ in different languages:
Slovak – matka
Scots Gaelic – a’ mhàthair
Hungarian – anya
Albanian – nënë
Tagalog – nanay
How do you say ‘mother’ in the language you’re learning?
Happy Mother’s Day to all the mums, tinas, madres and nanays – we hope you have a lovely day!
Happy World Egg Day!
English is quite a boring language when it comes to eggs. We boil them, scramble them, poach them, fry them. All very ordinary.
Which is why we were delighted to discover that other languages are more dramatic in their approach to eggs!
Over to Italy:
For Italians, poached eggs are literally ‘eggs in a shirt’ – ‘le uova in camicia’ – possibly because the frilly poached egg white looks like the sleeves of a loose blouse.
Alternatively (but still quite theatrically), you can call them ‘le uova affogate’ (literally ‘drowned eggs’). Poor old eggs!
And now to Germany:
Maybe it’s the same idea of drowning that makes Germans call their poached eggs ‘verlorene Eier’ – ‘lost eggs’. The eggs, like sailors lost at sea, drown quietly in the saucepan.
Or, if it’s a fried egg you’re after, the Germans have a pretty expression for that too: ‘Speigeleier’, literally ‘mirror eggs’. Can anyone tell us why..?
In Italian, Slovak and Czech (to name but a few), the fried egg is the ‘bullseye egg’- because, of course, it resembles a bullseye (or a porthole, which is the same word): ‘le uova all’occhio di bue’ (Italian), ‘volské oko’ (Slovak), ‘volská oka’ (Czech).
Eyes in a pan?
A similar idea, though slightly more graphic, applies in Bulgarian and Slovenian where the fried eggs (‘яйца на очи’ and ‘jajce na oko’ respectively) translate as ‘eggs eye-style’! So next time you fry an egg, you may choose to remember this vocabulary by imagining a big eyeball staring up at your from the plate… OR you may choose to stick to the safe, if rather boring, English equivalent.
Got any other interesting egg-related vocabulary? Let us know!
Today we’ve got a guest post from Charlotte Donnelly, who’s taking part in the uTalk challenge this January, on why she chose to learn Slovak. Charlotte also has a fantastic blog of her own, all about her language adventures.
When I decided I wanted to do this challenge, I went through the uTalk app and looked at all of the languages that are on offer – but I didn’t spend a long time deciding. I’ve studied a few languages before, so I didn’t want to pick any of those; and there are some languages on the app that look really exciting, but I didn’t want to learn anything I wouldn’t be able to use soon, either.
So, why Slovak? Well, at the end of October I visited Bratislava for the first time with my friends and absolutely fell in love with the place, the people, the food… However, it was one of the few trips I’ve made where I knew nothing of the language. Obviously, a lot of people in Bratislava speak good English, but it felt a little odd to me, to not understand what was going on or to be able to explain myself.
Conveniently, I’m living in Vienna at the moment, so I’m lucky enough to have Bratislava (and the rest of Slovakia) more or less right on my doorstep – the capital is an hour away by train, so I can visit when I like. Plus, I’m excited to learn a Slavic language for the very first time! If this challenge ends up setting me off on a 2015 quest to learn Slovak, then so much the better – I’m really looking forward to it.
Who else is doing the challenge?
If you’d like to share your own reasons for choosing a particular language, we’d love to hear from you, so please drop us an email!
Everyone’s always talking about how useful it is to speak another language – and they’re right, for so many reasons. There’s lots of advice too on how to get started and how to stay motivated when it gets tough. But the first question any aspiring language learner should ask themselves is, ‘Which language do I want to learn?’
Sometimes this is easy, because you’re moving to another country, or you’ve met a new partner who speaks a particular language. Even if this means you end up learning a language most people would consider unusual, to you it has a purpose and that makes it anything but obscure.
But what if you’ve just decided you want to learn a language, because you’ve heard that people with a second language earn more, or that learning a language makes you cleverer, and don’t have a particular one in mind?
At EuroTalk, we offer nearly 140 different world languages. It’s a pretty daunting selection to be greeted with when you’ve just Googled ‘I want to learn a language’ and stumbled on to our homepage, or downloaded the uTalk app. And that doesn’t even come close to the total number of languages spoken in the world. So how is anyone meant to choose one to learn? Do you just close your eyes and point at one?
Well no, we don’t recommend that approach; you could end up with something really fun that way, but at the same time, learning a random language just for the sake of it, when there’s very little chance you’ll ever get a chance to speak it, seems a shame. Half the fun of learning a language is getting to share it with other people.
So here are our recommended criteria for choosing a language:
Number of speakers
Generally, a language with more speakers is going to be more useful to you, because you’re going to have more opportunities to speak it. According to Ethnologue, the top five most spoken languages in the world are Chinese, Spanish, English, Hindi and Arabic, with a total of 2.4 billion speakers between them, so knowing one of these languages is going to guarantee you lots of people to talk to.
On the other hand, it depends on your reasons for wanting to learn a language. If it’s to make friends all over the world, one of these five languages will stand you in good stead. But if it’s to improve your employment prospects, bear in mind that you might face more competition if you’ve chosen a popular language. I studied Spanish at university, which is in great demand with employers. But so did lots of other students. We’ve got five people who speak Spanish at EuroTalk – two of them are native speakers (there are less than twenty of us in total, to put that in context) so it’s rare for me to be called on to use my language skills. Something like Portuguese or Japanese, which are still in the top ten in Ethnologue’s list, might offer fewer opportunities but when one comes along, you’re probably not going to face as many rivals for the job.
Where it’s spoken
Another important factor. Firstly, you don’t want to learn a language that’s spoken in a country you never intend to go to, or in which you’ve no interest. Secondly, some languages, like French, Arabic or English, are spoken in many different countries. So if you’re going travelling and want a language you’ll be able to use in more than one place, one of these will be more useful to you. But if travel’s not top of your agenda, this might not be such a big consideration.
Similarity to other languages
Most world languages are organised in families, which means they come from the same root as the other languages in that family. This means often, although you may only speak one language, you can probably at least make yourself understood in another. Hindi and Urdu, for example, are mutually intelligible, as are Czech and Slovak. If you know Spanish, you can make a reasonably decent attempt at Portuguese or Italian, and although you might make a few mistakes, chances are you’ll be understood. I’m not suggesting you should go around speaking the wrong language at people, but if you do make an honest slip-up, or just can’t think of the right word, you’ll probably be ok. I’m fairly sure I spoke quite a bit of Spanish when I was in Italy earlier this year, but everyone seemed to understand what I was getting at.
Some languages, though, don’t have any close neighbours, or indeed any neighbours at all. Basque, for example, is what’s known as a language isolate, as is Korean. This means they don’t belong to a family, but stand alone, so if you’ve chosen one of these languages, it’s worth remembering that it won’t help you with any others.
Partly, this is to do with your travel interests. If you’ve a particular interest in Russia, for example, we’d recommend you learn Russian. But even if you’re not particularly interested in travelling, there are other things to consider. Are you a fan of opera? Maybe give Italian a go. Anime? Japanese. Star Trek? Klingon.
Or maybe you’ve got a particular interest in endangered languages, in which case you might want to learn Cornish or Sardinian, not necessarily for the wealth of communication opportunities it offers, but to help save a valuable world language from extinction.
You know yourself better than anyone. How motivated do you feel? Is this just a passing whim that you’re likely to give up the moment it gets difficult, or are you prepared to stick at it? The fact is, some languages are harder than others, and this is different for everyone, depending on your native language. For Europeans, Dutch is considered quite an easy language to learn, while Mandarin Chinese is very difficult. But someone living in Japan may find Chinese much easier to learn than any European language.
So if you’re living in Europe and intending to learn Mandarin, you’ll need to be pretty dedicated. And if you know you don’t have it in you, it might be better to try something else rather than face disappointment when it doesn’t work out. Nobody’s bad at all languages – you just need to find the right one for you.
If you’re still undecided, and in need of some inspiration, take our quiz – it’s not at all scientific, but might give you some ideas!
If you have any other tips or suggestions for readers trying to choose a language, please share them in the comments.