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

 

再见 (Zàijiàn) and visit us on Facebook !!

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: 7. Arabic

Languages of the world:

Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD.  It includes the literary language and the spoken Arabic varieties.

The literary language is called Modern Standard Arabic. It is the only official form of Arabic.The spoken Arabic varieties are spoken in a wide territory stretching across the Middle East and North Africa.Arabic languages are Central Semitic languages, most closely related to Hebrew, Aramaic, Ugaritic and Phoenician.

It is official in 26 states and it is also the liturgical language of Islam. Despite of its different dialects, the modern standard Arabic is widely taught in schools, universities, and used to varying degrees in workplaces, government and the media.

This language is the only surviving member of the Old North Arabian dialect group. It is written with the Arabic alphabet, which is an abjad script and is written from right to left, although some spoken varieties use Latin alphabet.

Arabic has lent many words to other languages of the Islamic world, like Persian, Turkish, Bosnian, Kazakh, Bengali, Urdu, Hindi, Malay and Hausa. We can appreciate Arabic influence in languages such as Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan and Sicilian. Arabic language has also borrowed words from languages, for example Hebrew, Greek, Persian, Syriac, Turkish and English and French in recent times.

The major dialects groups are:

Egyptian (Spoken by 80 million people), Maghrebi (75 million people speak this dialect), Mesopotamian (Spoken by 36 million), Levantine (35 million speakers), Sudanese (30 million people), Yemeni (25 million speakers) and Najdi (10 million people).

The Arabic alphabet can be divided into two groups order.

  • The original ’abjadī order (أَبْجَدِي):
غ ظ ض ذ خ ث ت ش ر ق ص ف ع س ن م ل ك ي ط ح ز و ه د ج ب أ
gh dh kh th t sh r q f s n m l k y z w h d j b
  • the newer hijā’ī order (with letters partially grouped together by similarity of shape, used where lists of names and words are sorted):
ي و ه ن م ل ك ق ف غ ع ظ ط ض ص ش س ز ر ذ د خ ح ج ث ت ب أ
y w h n m l k q f gh sh s z r dh d kh zh th t b

Arabic is a language which lies far from English but still you may find some false friends such as:

  • If you hear the word “when”(وين) in Arabic they are talking about where something is.
  • If your name is Anna, you would be saying in Arabic “I” (أنا).

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

مع السلامة. (Ma’a salama) and do not forget to like us on Facebook !!!

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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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: Italy

We have travelled to Italy to know how the language learning is developed in the country of the pizza 🙂

In our last “Plurilingualism in another way”, we discovered the Hungarian Language System with our colleague Réka Marincsak. This week, we have interviewed two Italian girls, Chiara and Giulia, who are spending one semester at the University of Almería as Erasmus students.

They have explained to us the Language System in Italy as well as their relationship with foreign languages at their home Universities.

Foreign language learning is compulsory in Italy from the first year of Primary School. “But as far as I know, they want to introduce language teaching earlier, in the kindergarten”- says Giulia.

Both girls are studying Languages and Literature at the University of Modena, so for them it is essential to learn the subjects in other languages. “We study Linguistic, Translation, Literature and Culture of the foreign language we are specialized in (English and Spanish). And of course, we study them in these languages, not in Italian language. However, in other faculties, only English is compulsory” explains Chiara.

In order to get their degree, they need a Language Certificate. “Our degree has a length of 5 years. During the first 3 years, we have to achieve C1 level of our specific language and C2 level during the following 2 years. So, at the end of our Languages and Literature degree, we should be almost bilingual”

“In the future, I would like to learn German and French”- says Giulia. However, at the moment, both girls want to concentrate on learning English and Spanish and enjoy their Erasmus Semester.

Learn foreign languages in the Language Centre at the University of Almería!

Are you looking for private language classes? At the University of Almería, everyone, both Students and Professors, have the possibility to learn a foreign language.

On the official homepage of El Centro de Lenguas (The Language Centre), all the necessary information can be found about the language courses,  different activities which they carry out: cultural and linguistic services, translation and interpretation, academic preparation and processing fees for official language certificates and accreditations.

The Language Centre at the University of Almería offers the chance to learn a language and prepare for official examinations of different institutions to prove your language skills. The official examinations: Cambridge, Institut Goethe Società Dante Alighieri (PLIDA) and the Instituto Cervantes official examination of Spanish as a Foreign Language.

They offer intensive courses, and one term or full academic year courses. You can choose among English, French, Spanish, Italian, German, Arabic, Russian, Chinese or more than one language! They prepare for many different levels: A1, A2, B1, B2, C1 y C2.

For teachers who would like to participate in the Plurilingualism Promotion Plan, it is essential to improve their language knowledge. So, where else could it be easier than at their home university?

The opportunities are here, you only have to take advantage of them!