Languages of the world: 8. Mandarin Chinese

Languages of the world:

Mandarin is a group of related dialects or varieties spoken the Northern and Southwestern of China. It has more native speakers than any other language in the world (nearly one billion speakers). The term “Mandarin” is borrowed from Portuguese (“mandarim”), this word means counselor or minister.

In the early 20th century the “Standard Chinese” was adopted as the national language. It was based on the Beijing (phonology) and other Mandarin dialects (vocabulary), thus this “Standard Chinese” is also known as Mandarin (Pǔtōnghuà).It is the official language of the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of China (Taiwan) and Singapore.

The phonology of Mandarin Chinese consists of two dozen consonants and about half a dozen vowels, some of which form diphthongs and four tones.

The writing system for almost all the varieties of Chinese is based on a set of written logograms that has been passed down with little change for more than two thousand years. While it is possible to invent new characters, Chinese usually borrows old ones that have fallen into disuse. Chinese characters were traditionally read from top to bottom, right to left but in modern usage it is more common to read from left to right.

Although Standard Chinese is the lingua franca of China, it differs from dialects, even in the Mandarin group, to the point of being to some extent unintelligible. The linguistic diversity is so large that neighboring city dwellers may have difficulties communicating with each other without a lingua franca.

Chinese facts:

  • Chinese grammar is surprisingly straightforward, with none of the tenses, plurals, cases or genders that can make learning European languages difficult.
  • The hard part about Chinese is mastering the tones. Mandarin Chinese is a tonal language, which means the pitch or intonation in which a sound is spoken affects the meaning.
  • For reading Chinese without using Latin alphabet it is necessary to memorize a large quantity of Chinese characters. If you want to read a newspaper you will have to learn around 2.000 Chinese Characters.
  • Intonation is very important in Chinese. For example xiǎng wèn nǐ, means I want to ask you. But if you say it with a different intonation you may end up saying I want to kiss you.
  • Chinese people place great emphasis on titles. If the name of your teacher is for example Mrs Wang, you should call her Wang Lǎoshī, meaning Teacher Wang. For doctors it is used Yīshēng. Xiānsheng for Mr. and  Nǚshì for Ms.
  • Keep in mind that in China there are different dialects, and they are hardly understood among them, so you could end up listening to two Chinese people talking in English because their dialects are completely different from one to another and they find it easier to talk in English language if they both know it.
  • Knowing how to read and write Chinese characters will help you pick up Writtern Japanese quicker, because Japanese langue uses a large amount of characters with exactly the same meaning than in Chinese but pronunciation and grammar is completely different between these two languages.

Here, at the University of Almería, you can find Chinese courses in our “centro de lenguas”.

china

 

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5. Languages of the world: Polish

Languages of the world:

Polish is a language of the Lechitic subgroup of West Slavic languages, used throughout Poland and by Polish minorities in other countries.

The Polish alphabet consists of the basic latin scripts and certain letters with diacritics (ć, ń, ó, ś, ź, ż, ą, ę, ł) and the letters q, v and x, which are used only in foreign words, are not considered part of the Polish alphabet.

Apart from Poland, other countries with important Polish communities are The United States, Germany, UK, Brazil, Argentina, Belarus, Canada Lithuania and Russia.

The Polish language became far more homogeneous in the second half of the 20th century, in part due to the mass migration of several million Polish citizens from the eastern to the western part of the country and population transfers that followed World War II.

Polish grammar is similar in most respects to that of Russian, and those who have studied Russian will find its grammar much easier to grasp. Polish is a highly inflected language, with relatively free word order. There are no articles, and subject pronouns are often dropped. Nouns may belong to three genders: masculine, feminine and neuter. Adjectives agree with nouns in terms of gender, case and number.

It is said that Polish is one of the more difficult languages to learn because of its tongue-bending pronunciation, complex gender system, seven cases, aspect as a grammatical category of the verb and a tendency to avoid internationalism for “real” Polish words. At least consonants sound almost like they do in English and the stress of a word is always in the penultimate syllable.

If you learn Polish, you are half way closer to learn other languages such as Czech, Slovak, and Sorbian. Belarusian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Croatian, Macedonian, Russian, Slovene, Serbianand Ukrainian would be also easier to learn.

Facts:

  • There are around 600.000 Native Polish speakers in The USA.
  • Polish is made up of a few dialects including Little Polish & Silesian.
  • Polish is the 29th most spoken language in the world, and is one of the most widely spoken Slavic languages.
  • In 1475, the first Polish language book to be printed in Poland was issued in Wroclaw.

Some false friends in Polish are:

  • Komunikacja could sound like Communication, but it means public transport in Polish.
  • Aktualny refers to something valid or topical, while actual is said faktyczny.
  • A knot in Polish is a kid or wick. If you actually want to say knot you shoud use the word węzeł.
  • The English word complement is said uzupełnienie in Polish and komplement means compliment.
  • Lot can mean in Polish either dużo (many) or parcela (piece of land). If you actually say lot, then you are referring to a flight.
  • Something eventual in Polish is ostateczny and ewentualny is possible or potential.

Here, at the University of Almería, you can find Polish courses in our “centro de lenguas”.

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Languages of the world: 3. German

Languages of the world:

German is a West Germanic language related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 100 million native speakers, German is one of the world’s major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union.

Some of it its words come from Latin and Greek and fewer from English and French.

As Germany was divided into many different states in the 8th century AD, the only force working for a unification or standardization of German for several hundred years was the general wish of writers to be understood by as many readers as possible.

The 2nd Orthographical Conference ended in 1901 with a complete standardisation of the German language in its written form and three years earlier the Deutsche Bühnensprache had established rules for German.

If we have a look in Europe, German is natively spoken in Germany, Liechtenstein, Austria, Switzerland, and Luxembourg, but its use is shared with other different languages in Switzerland and Luxembourg. In the rest of the world, German is spoken by communities having the largest ones in The USA, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, Mexico, Australia and South Africa.

Facts:

  • The first printed book in the world was in German. Johannes Gutenberg invented book printing and printed the first book in the world – a 42-page bible – in 1455.
  • The oldest existing book written in the German language is probably Abrogans, an 8th century manuscript dictionary of translations from Latin into Old High German
  • German belongs to the three most learned languages in the world and is the tenth most widely spoken language in the world and fifth on the Internet.
  • German is among the top five most widely used languages on the Internet. German has 3 genders, ‘masculine’, ‘feminine’ and also ‘neuter’.

der – masculine
die – feminine
das – neuter

  • The German language is exceptionally famous for forming long words. Some examples are:

Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz
A 63-letter long word meaning: Beef labeling regulation & delegation of supervision law.

Donaudampfschifffahrtselektrizitätenhauptbetriebswerkbauunterbeamtengesellschaft for Association for subordinate officials of the head office management of the Danube steamboat electrical services.

Some words which come from German and you may already know are:

  • You perhaps went to a Kindergarten as a child.
  • Zeitgeist, meaning ‘the spirit of the times’.

Here are some false friends:

  • The German word Gift means poison.
  • Mist is the translation of “bird droppings”.
  • An advice in German is a Rat. The animal rat is written Ratte.
  • Gymnasium in German is not a gymnasium in English. It actually means Grammar School.
  • Sympathisch means nice in English and if you want to say sympathetic the correct word is mitfuehlend.

Here, at the University of Almería, you can find German courses in our “centro de lenguas”.

bis bald !

Languages of the World: 1.Spanish

Languages of the world:

In this section we are going to talk about clichés, topics and other interesting information related to languages throughout the world.

We are starting this trip with the Spanish language.

Spanish (also called Castilian) is a Romance language that originated in Spain. It is estimated that there are more than 420 million people all around the world with Spanish as mother tongue, making it the second most widely spoken language in terms of native speakers (after Chinese). Spanish is one of the six official languages of the United Nations and is used as an official language by the European Union and Mercosur.

It is spoken officially in 21 countries:

Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, SADR, Spain and Venezuela. Being “de facto” in: Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Nicaragua and Uruguay.

Spanish is also a very important language in the United States, where more than 50 million people use it every day.

Facts:

  • From year 1252 to 1284, King Alfonso X standardized the official language in Castile and Leon.  He was known also as Alfonso the Wise, or Learned, because of his ardent study of Roman philosophy of law and social mores.
  • The Royal Spanish Academy (Real Academia Española) is the accepted authority of correct, standard Spanish. Beginning in the 18th century.
  • Spanish is one of the world’s most phonetic languages. If you know how a word is spelled, you can almost always know how it is pronounced.
  • The first Spanish grammar was created by Elio Antonio de Nebrija and published in 1492, the same year Columbus discovered America.
  • Spanish is expected to be the first language of 50% of the population of the United States within 50 years.
  • If you learn Spanish, you will have a head start in learning other languages such as French, Portuguese, Italian, Catalan or Romanian
  • The demand for Spanish courses has doubled worldwide in ten years.
  • The most difficult words for foreigners are probably the rolled r (-rr) sound such as in jarra, ferrocarril, carretera or zorro and the dr sound which we can find in the words dromedario or cocodrilo.
  • Some false friends that we can find in Spanish are as follows:
    • Asistir meansto attend; to say assist, the word ayuda is used.
    • Carpeta is not acarpet, it is a folder.
    • Constiparse is tocatch a cold.
    • decepciónis a disappointment, not a deception (engaño).
    • Embarazada is apregnant woman, if someone is embarrassed, he or she is avergonzado/a.
    • Éxito is asuccess, not an exit.
    • Recordar means to rememberor to remind.
    • Sensible is the Spanish word for sensitive and not sensible (sensato)
    • Tuna is a college musical club, if you want to order the fish tuna you had better ask for atún.

Here, at the University of Almería, you can find Spanish courses in our “centro de lenguas”.

¡ Hasta la próxima !

 

Lingua Show 2012, Prague

Would you like to work or study abroad? Are you interested in language courses, language exams or International Exchange programmes?

From the 15th to 16th of March 2012, Lingua Show will take place inPrague parallel with Jobs Expo.

There, you will have the opportunity to participate in seminars on funding opportunities, teaching methods and language learning. You will be also able to discuss about job opportunities with EU translators and interpreters as well as to get involved in many interactive animations, quizzes and live performances.

Presentations, workshops and small language courses will provide the visitor with the opportunity to know the variety of learning programmes, languages and cultures.

The European Commission will also take part in the event to inform the participants about the importance of achieving foreign language skills and how they can find jo opportunities in other European countries.

Visit the event website to know more about exhibitors, programmes and practical information:   http://www.linguashow.cz/en/veletrh/lingua-show.html