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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Ampliación Becas Naura II

Se informa a la comunidad Universitaria que se ha ampliado el plazo de presentación de solicitudes de las Becas NAURA II del ceiA3 hasta el 13 DE DICIEMBRE DE 2012 (incluído). Si todavía no la habéis pedido, aún estáis a tiempo! Más info: http://goo.gl/4aiDk

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Languages of the world: 6. Russian

Languages of the world:

Russian is a Slavic language spoken primarily in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. It is not an official language in Moldova, Latvia, Estonia but is widely spoken in these countries.

Russian belongs to the family of Indo-European languages and its closest relatives are Ukrainian and Belarusian.

The standard well-known form of Russian is generally called the “Modern Russian Literary Language”. It arose in the beginning of the 18th century with the modernization reforms of the Russian state by Peter the Great.

In the 20th century, Russian was widely taught in the schools of the members of the old Warsaw Pact and in other countries that used to be satellites of the USSR. In particular, these countries include Poland, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Albania, former East Germany and Cuba.

The language possesses five vowels, which are written with different letters depending on whether or not the preceding consonant is palatalized. The consonants typically come in plain vs. palatalized pairs, which are traditionally called hard and soft. The standard language, based on the Moscow dialect, possesses heavy stress and moderate variation in pitch. Stressed vowels are somewhat lengthened, while unstressed vowels tend to be reduced to near-close vowels or an unclear schwa. The Russian syllable structure can be quite complex with both initial and final consonant clusters of up to 4 consecutive sounds.

Russian is written using a modified version of the Cyrillic (кириллица) alphabet. It consists of 33 letters:

А
/a/
Б
/b/
В
/v/
Г
/ɡ/
Д
/d/
Е
/je/
Ё
/jo/
Ж
/ʐ/
З
/z/
И
/i/
Й
/j/
К
/k/
Л
/l/
М
/m/
Н
/n/
О
/o/
П
/p/
Р
/r/
С
/s/
Т
/t/
У
/u/
Ф
/f/
Х
/x/
Ц
/ts/
Ч
/tɕ/
Ш
/ʂ/
Щ
/ɕɕ/
Ъ
/-/
Ы
/ɨ/
Ь
/ʲ/
Э
/e/
Ю
/ju/
Я
/ja/

Russian Facts:

  • It is the most geographically widespread language of Eurasia and the most widely spoken of the Slavic languages.
  • There are around 155 million native speakers in the world, being the 8th most spoken language in the world by number of native speakers.
  • There are three genders: masculine, feminine and neutral
  • There is no article.
  • Russian distinguishes between consonant phonemes with palatal secondary articulation and those without.
  • TheNovgorod Codex is considered to be the most ancient Russian book which dates back to the beginning of the 11th century.
  • Russian is classified as a level III language in terms of learning difficulty for native English speakers, requiring approximately 780 hours of immersion instruction to achieve intermediate fluency.

False Friends:

  • In Russian language, the word магазин (magazin) does refer to a shop and not to a magazine, which is said журнал(zhurnal).
  • If you overhear the word  kабинет (kabinet) you need to know that they are referring to an office.
  • There are more words similar to English like лук(Luk) that sounds similar to the name Luke, but the meaning is actually onion.
  • Декорация, sounds like decoration but it is a setting, while to say decoration you need to use the word украшение.

Here, at the University of Almería, you can find Russian courses in our “Centro de Lenguas

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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 !

Plurilingualism in another way: Belgium

Chocolate smell is in the air, waffles shops surround you, fries in every corner and best beers in the world in every pub. Welcome to Belgium!

Greet and Sophie, 2 Belgian girls are studying one semester in Almería, as Erasmus students, but…how is language learning in Belgium?

Language learning is compulsory in Belgium.  “In the Flemish part of Belgium, children begin to learn French when they are in their 5th year of elementary school, or in their 3rd year when they live in specific cities around Brussels. In the French part, they have to start learning a second language (they can choose between English, German or Dutch) in their 5th year of elementary school. However, in the German part of Belgium, French Education begins in the kindergarten.” Greet tells us.

Greet is studying at the Catholic University of Leuven. She studies Clinical Psychology for children and adolescents.

“You can study some classes in English, as in the University of Almería, but very often the classes and courses are taught in Dutch and just the required books are in English.” Greet comments.

Sophie studies Applied Economics at the Ghent University and, in this case, she has almost all her subjects in English, such as Business planning and Entrepreneurship.

To obtain their degree, Belgian students don’t need any language certificate, as we analysed in other countries. “You don’t need a language certificate, since everybody in Belgium has a basic level of English, especially people, who go to University.” Sophie explains to us.

In the future the girls want to freshen up their French knowledge, but at the moment they are concentrating on learning Spanish.

Plurilingualism in another way: China

This week, we will fly a little bit further, out of the “borders” of Europe…We will discover languages in China.

We have spoken with 5 chinese girls: Rebeca, Elisa, Emilia, Nuria y Belén (These are their Spanish names, of course ;)). They are studying Spanish Philology at the University of Almería this academic year as Exchange Students.

They have explained to us the language teaching process in China, as well as their university studies, and their experiences with languages abroad.

Language learning is compulsory in China. “We started to learn English from the first year of primary school” says Rebeca.

The girls are studying International Business at the Beijing Language and Culture University. Due to the nature of this, they have to study most of the subjects in other languages. “I studied International Business in English and I have some compulsory courses in Spanish, like “Culture of Spain and Latin-America”, “Spanish listening, speaking and writing” and some others.” Rebeca tells us.

“My University in China is a Language University which offers more language courses and plurilingual subjects than other Universities. Normally, Universities in our country usually offer English, Japanese and Korean courses and subjects” Elisa says.

To get their degree, they need a Language Certificate, as required in Italy and Hungary. “Everyone in our campus needs a certificate of an English College to graduate” Elisa explains, “but as Spanish students, we also need to pass a Spanish level test during our second year” says Rebeca.

In the future, they want to improve their Spanish knowledge and learn other languages, such as German and Portuguese, as they are really interested in communication, cultures and people.