Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

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D.A. Ridgely
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by D.A. Ridgely »

Well, there's two, too and to, too. Not to mention English probably has more contronyms than any other language, e.g., cleave, sanction, oversight, etc.

Gendered nouns *are* a pain in the ass. But be glad it's a Romance language and not German with nouns that take masculine (Der), feminine (Die) and neuter (Das), not to mention more cases. Well, fewer than Latin, proper, but still distinct nominative, genitive, accusative and dative cases. (Actually, I found German comparatively easier than Romance languages because German and English are very similar grammatically.) Plus, English has five distinct moods: conditional, imperative, indicative, interrogative, and subjunctive. True, the subjunctive mood isn't used or rather isn't used correctly very often. Would that it were!

Anyway, most languages have far too many irregular verbs, they're invariably the most important to get down thoroughly and and are therefore a major obstacle in learning the language.
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Jennifer
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Jennifer »

D.A. Ridgely wrote: 28 Jul 2020, 02:46 Well, there's two, too and to, too. Not to mention English probably has more contronyms than any other language, e.g., cleave, sanction, oversight, etc.

Gendered nouns *are* a pain in the ass. But be glad it's a Romance language and not German with nouns that take masculine (Der), feminine (Die) and neuter (Das), not to mention more cases. Well, fewer than Latin, proper, but still distinct nominative, genitive, accusative and dative cases. (Actually, I found German comparatively easier than Romance languages because German and English are very similar grammatically.) Plus, English has five distinct moods: conditional, imperative, indicative, interrogative, and subjunctive. True, the subjunctive mood isn't used or rather isn't used correctly very often. Would that it were!

Anyway, most languages have far too many irregular verbs, they're invariably the most important to get down thoroughly and and are therefore a major obstacle in learning the language.
We must've cross-posted, because at the end of my comment listing the Zodawful Spanish conjugation of "be" (link also leads to conjugations for "to have" and a couple other nightmare irregulars), I also mentioned that, grammatically speaking, while I understand how to use the subjunctive, I have never understood the necessity for it: "If I was a man, my life would be different. If I was a billionaire, here's what I'd do with the money: [pipe dream]. If I was living in a cold climate, I'd have different clothes." All three used the subjunctive improperly; nonetheless in all three it is obvious the speaker is neither a man, nor a billionaire, nor living in a cold climate, because each time the speaker modified the statement with "if."
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Jadagul
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Jadagul »

The formal answer is that the word "if" can do a few things. If you're following formal traditional grammar rules, "if I was" is a question about the past, but "if I were" is a counterfactual about the present.

So I'd say "If I was wrong about the number of boxes I needed that would be a big problem now", but "if I were completely packed already I'd be a lot less stressed".

And sometimes this is a useful distinction! "If I was wrong, that would be a problem" is concern that I made a mistake, but "If I were wrong, that would be a problem" is just bragging.

(And of course in other languages that have a more live subjunctive distinction, they put a lot more weight on this and use it for more things.)
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Jennifer
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Jennifer »

Hmm, good point.

I still wish Spanish weren't so complicated, though.
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Dangerman
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Dangerman »

The thing about Spanish verbs is that there are classes of verbs which all conjugate in the same way, so learning to recognize which class the verb belongs to, and other verbs in that class, is key to correctly memorizing them IMHO.
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Kolohe »

Plus, the subjunctive form is (almost?) always identical to the formal command (imperative) form. (And the negative imperative I.e don’t do that for both formal and informal.
when you wake up as the queen of the n=1 kingdom and mount your steed non sequiturius, do you look out upon all you survey and think “damn, it feels good to be a green idea sleeping furiously?" - dhex
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Jadagul
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Jadagul »

At least it's not Greek, which has both a subjunctive and an optative mood.

There are a _lot_ of verb forms in Greek.
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Jennifer
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Jennifer »

Whatever dubs Dailymotion uses for Dora are clearly VERY different from Nick Jr. Latino. Its not just the different pronunciations of mochila (FWIW, mk said the standard would be to emphasize the second rather than first syllable) -- I watched Dailymotion's "Big Red Chicken" episode (where I first got confused over red vs. rock); they actually call that fox character "Swiper" (same as in English) rather than Zorro, but during the "chicken dance" scene I could NOT hear her saying "danza del pollo" even though I knew perfectly well that she did, multiple times.

That said: re-watching the video Kolohe posted, I DO seem to be hearing "playa" more than "plata" or "plada" now. Not consistently, though.

I wish I knew the names of some original Spanish-language programming for super-young children (other than Plaza Sesamo). Everything on Nick Jr. was filmed in English and dubbed into Spanish later. Just little things like, every episode of Wonder Pets /Las Mascotas Maravilla [no "s" ending the second word, at least when NJL airs it] starts in a preschool classroom, and the alphabet strip is very obviously the English rather than Spanish alphabet -- I do know that in Spanish, the letter N is considered a separate letter than N with the sideways-S squiggle on top.
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Jennifer
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Jennifer »

Here's a thought about -- not Spanish in particular, but language in general -- the syntax rules of your primary language "imprint" themselves on your brain, in ways which the grammar rules of a language do not. (I first noticed this in grad school, when I was a tutor in the school's writing center -- since the only people I saw were those feeling some insecurity about their writing skills, it's no surprise my percentage of ESL clients was far, far greater than their percentage on campus as a whole.) A native English speaker and writer, even one with an absolutely terrible grasp of grammar and punctuation, will NEVER make a significant syntax error: they'll always say someone has "long red hair" rather than "hair red long," they'll NEVER confuse "Jack loves Jill" with "Jill loves Jack," and so forth. I only ever saw syntax errors from ESL people, and in every case, it was because they took their native syntax and applied it to English.

Another semi-related English-trivia bit I remember involves I vs. me: in fourth grade, the teacher gave a lesson on when to say "Jeff and I" versus "Jeff and me" in a sentence, and it was amazingly simple: if you'd say I, then you'd say Jeff and I; if you'd say me, then you'd say Jeff and me: I went to the store. Jeff and I went to the store. Please take me to the store. Please take Jeff and me to the store. E-Z. None of my classmates -- not even the ones who were bad at reading/writing/grammar lessons -- had any difficulty grasping that. And I remember much earlier, when I was still young enough to watch Sesame Street, some characters (definitely Cookie Monster, and I think sometimes maybe Grover too), said me instead of I: "Me love cookies! Nom nom nom nom nom!" Even as a very young preschool child who'd never had a formal grammar lesson in her life, I recognized that "Me love cookies" was wrong -- no doubt the child psychologists behind the show did that on purpose, so the preschool audience could enjoy feeling smarter than Cookie Monster.

Point is, I've always grasped the difference between when to say I and me -- presumably every native English speaker does, since Sesame Street uses it to make characters sound less advanced than the preschool audience -- and we all figured this out years if not DECADES before being formally taught about the difference between the subject and the object of a sentence, and which personal pronoun applies to which. But an adult trying to learn English for the first time would probably find the I vs. me distinction confusing. Technically, the I vs. me distinction is one of syntax rather than grammar: it depends on the word's location in a sentence. And, as I noted already, your native syntax imprints on your brain in ways your native grammar does not, which presumably explains why even preschool English speakers recognized that "Me love cookies!" is incorrect.

So -- as I attempt to learn enough oral Spanish to at least watch and understand Spanish-language programming for preschoolers -- I'm wondering what sort of "I vs. me" syntactical issues there are, things native Spanish-speaking kids grasp "instinctively," but my adult self will struggle with the difference.
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Jennifer
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Jennifer »

Jake wrote: 24 Jul 2020, 21:30 Sounds like Jennifer's experiencing the 13th Warrior method of learning languages!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aVVURiaVgG8
If I actually had to do it that way -- total hundred-percent immersion, but no books and no "my language/their language" and "their language/my language" translation aids -- it would be a HELL of a lot harder, especially if their verbs have as many conjugations as Spanish. Going through my "recognized words" vocabulary list -- those I picked up via hearing them enough to recognize them in shows -- no surprise there's a pretty good number of nouns and adjectives, which are NOT conjugated, so once you figure out the masculine and feminine endings, they're easy to recognize because there's, at most, two different ways to pronounce a given concept. But verbs or verb phrases on my list are much rarer, because there's SO many different ways to pronounce the same verb concept depending on the conjugation (muy more ways than English), and even then, most of my verb matches are "I recognized the sound AND I got a match when I typed it into the Spanish-to-English translator." However, if I were relying on sounds and context alone, without aid from translation devices, almost none of those verb phrases would be on my list yet. I'd definitely recognize "vamos" no matter what -- that word comes up a LOT, in every cartoon, and just from the context it obviously means something like "let's go" or "come on" or something along those lines. But I would not know the difference between ANY of the vamos phrases.

Today, thanks to recognizing them in cartoons and successfully spelling them in translation websites, I learned the difference between vamos ay ya -- let's go now -- and vamos todos -- let's go everyone. But without the translator I'd still be clueless: when the Wonder Pets sing "vamos ay ya" at the beginning of each adventure, based on the context of what they're actually doing -- yeah, "let's go now" works, but so would "let's go everyone," "let's go on our mission," "let's go save the day" or scads of other things. (And when that Muppet at the start of Plaza Sesamo said "let's go everyone," in context that could just as easily have been "let's go now.")

Plus, when the 13th warrior was listening to those guys talk, I doubt they were as helpful as Dora, Diego, and other TV personalities, thoughtfully saying the same nouns or noun-adjective combos over and over again while pointing to pictures of what they are. "River, bridge, grandma's house. River, bridge, grandma's house. Repeat after me: river, bridge, grandma's house! River, bridge, grandma's house! River, bridge, grandma's house! Very good!"
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Jennifer »

I'm really curious about how Nick Jr. does its Spanish dubbings now. I went looking for online episodes of Wonder Pets -- the ones on the Pluto stream are actually called "Wonder Pets" even in the Spanish dubbed version. I could only find a couple online videos, via Dailymotion -- all originally recorded off of Nick Jr., complete with the station-ID bug in the corner of the screen -- but this is dubbed by entirely different voice actors, and instead of "Wonder Pets" they actually translated to las mascotas maravilla. They even translated the original-English songs with entirely different words: the first line of another song on Pluto starts "The telephone, the telephone is ringing," but on Dailymotion the first line is "something, something, something the telephone." (ETA: At least for the one video I actually saw.)

If I ever do manage to pick up enough Spanish to have actual conversations with Spanish speakers, they'll think I speak with about fifteen different accents. "I say, old chap, that's a jolly good show, but Ah do declay-ah, youse guys ain't got no got-dang cotton-pickin' bidness pahkin ya cah at Hahvahd Yahd."
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Mo
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Mo »

It could be a localization thing. They’re Wonder Pets for Spanish dubbed Nick Jr. in the US and las mascotas maravilla for Nick Jr. in Latin America.
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Jennifer
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Jennifer »

I am starting -- maybe -- to pick up a LITTLE bit of an ear for certain Spanish-language sounds without direct English equivalents. A few days ago I had to ask for help distinguishing "roca" [rock] from "roja" [red, feminine form], because when Dora La Exploradora sang about visiting a "red hill" (colina roja) and "red chicken" (pollo rojo), I kept hearing "rock hill" and "rock chicken" -- in other words, I consistently heard a consonant-C sound anytime Dora, and sundry other characters and narrators from different shows, said a word spelled with a J.

But today, I caught part of a new-to-me Dora episode where the goal was to visit a red rock -- roca roja -- and somehow, I spent the whole time flip-flopping between "Yeah, I CAN hear the difference!" and "Nah, sounds like she's saying the same thing twice."

You know the optical illusion of the line drawing that looks like a rabbit and a duck, but you can only ever see one at a time? So the visual-processing part of your brain keeps flipping between "It's a rabbit! No, a duck! No, a rabbit! No, a duck!" I'm experiencing the oral-Spanish version of that -- "She's saying red rock! No, rock rock! No, red rock! No, rock rock!"

I'm far more consistent when people say pajaro (bird) -- at first I heard "pacaro" (actually more like "paccharo"), but for a couple days now, I can usually hear "pajaro" rather than "paccharo." Of course, that one's easier than roca/roja because "pacaro" is not an actual Spanish word, so there's no fear of hearing someone say that and confusing it with "pajaro."
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Jennifer
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Jennifer »

I wish I could visit certain of my favorite el cheapo secondhand bookstores to pick up some beginner-Spanish workbooks and K-3 level storybooks and non-fiction (basically, the Spanish equivalent of my books at that age). Of course, if I COULD visit such places that would mean I'm not stuck at home literally all day, in which case I doubt I'd have time to try learning Spanish in the first place. (I do have a hardcover Spanish translation of the Calvin and Hobbes book "There's Treasure Everywhere," which I found in a Goodwill a year or so ago and bought on a lark, but I'm "saving" that for when my vocabulary is good enough that I'm ready to test it on some relatively advanced material.)

In addition to TV, I've also started more textbooky stuff: currently trying to commit to memory the conjugations of standard verbs ending in -ar (including four specific ones that frequently come up in the shows I've been watching: ayudar, salvar, tratar and facilitar), but still, despite adding these to my vocabulary and KNOWING they were frequently being said, I could rarely if ever hear them.

Come to find out that in Spanish, sometimes (or maybe all the time, depending on your preferences; I don't know yet), you don't actually need personal pronouns with verb conjugations as you do in English, because the conjugated form already lets you know what the pronoun would be. "Nosotros" is the Spanish "we," "nosotros trataremos" is "we will try" -- but you can also just say "trataremos" WITHOUT "nosotros" and it still translates to "we will try."

Which I did not know until I asked a Spanish-fluent friend about it, which may help explain one reason why I've been having such difficulty detecting verbs in those shows -- I was keeping an ear open for the sounds of "I, you, he, she, it, they, we, them, you-all," etc., followed by the root of a verb, but they only say the pronouns SOME of the time.

That said: most of my difficulty is because I still can't hear sounds the way Spanish-speaking natives do. Had to ask for help on a couple of ridiculously common phrases -- "Could you please watch this song clip starting at the 1:58 mark, and tell me how to spell that three-syllable thing he keeps repeating from that point on" -- and my guesses were not even CLOSE to right. Even some of the vowels tripped me up, to say nothing of the consonants.

It's like trying to understand spoken English when you can't consistently hear any differences between "bale," "dale," "pale" and "tale" plus all their soundalike words and syllables -- sometimes you can hear the difference, but other times they may as well all be the same word, where your own ears are concerned. And sometimes, even hearing the vowel difference between "pale/peel" or "tale/teal" is beyond your comprehension. If I didn't already know that shows like Dora and Diego rely on heavy use of repetition for their young audiences, I wouldn't even know "Are they saying the same thing, or different things that rhyme?"
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Jennifer
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Jennifer »

I've posted enough Spanish words and Spanish-language video links on Facebook lately that their algorithms are now showing me Spanish-language ads.
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Kolohe
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Kolohe »

Third person pronouns are more commonly kept in than left out, tú is probably left out more than it’s put in, yo & nosotros are more a coin flip.

There’s also somewhat commonly used impersonal third person form, which is basically identical to reflexive (e.g se vende, se habla español) (for sale, we speak Spanish / Spanish is spoken (here) )

IMO, this form is a bit more loosy goosey & arbritary in its use than say, the French pronoun ‘on’
when you wake up as the queen of the n=1 kingdom and mount your steed non sequiturius, do you look out upon all you survey and think “damn, it feels good to be a green idea sleeping furiously?" - dhex
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Kolohe
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Kolohe »

The Spanglish I’m using in some of my census surveys, I’m finding quite a few people use ‘castellaño’ to say ‘Spanish (language)’ instead of ‘español’. The overwhelming majority of native Spanish speakers in the neighborhoods around DC are from Central America, not Mexico, though.
when you wake up as the queen of the n=1 kingdom and mount your steed non sequiturius, do you look out upon all you survey and think “damn, it feels good to be a green idea sleeping furiously?" - dhex
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Jennifer
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Jennifer »

On Facebook I started a little discussion about an English linguistic quirk, and wondered if other languages (did not mention Spanish by name, at least not in the initial post) had something similar: the following seven-word English sentence has seven different possible meanings, depending on which word you emphasize: "I never said he stole my money."

Seven meanings, depending on which word you stress when speaking (or italicize/bold/all-caps in writing). And here's a smaller example: the English phrase "we will try" can have three meanings, depending on which word you stress: WE will try (not those other guys over there), we WILL try (so don't worry that we won't), or we will TRY (but we might not succeed). But In Spanish, that entire three-word sentence can be said by a single word "trataremos" -- the verb "tratar," to try, conjugated for the future tense of "we." Though I gather "nosotros trataremos" also means "we will try."

But -- how would a Spanish speaker or writer distinguish between "WE will try," "we WILL try" and "we will TRY?" I'm guessing it would have to involve additional words, or at least additional prefixes and suffixes, because given Spanish pronunciation rules, I don't think you can just say (let alone write) the word "trataremos" with three different emphasis-meaning possibilities, the way you can with the English phrase "we will try."
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Kolohe
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Kolohe »

Since Spanish like English is not a tonal language, using tone as emphasis would be the primary indicator in both cases.

But also, like you just said, pronouns are often dropped, so saying Nosotros tratamos would more emphasize we. But also Spanish present tense is sometimes used instead of future tense* so to emphasize ‘will’ you could go ‘tratáramos’ (but probably vamos a tratar) (with the other oolie that first person plural present tense and past tense conjugation for ar form verbs are identical.

There’s also the connotation difference between ‘tratar’ ‘intentar’ (attempt connotation) and ‘probar’ (sample connotation)

Looking it up some more, intentar is possibly the better verb for your we will try example than tratar

* it’s also used in place often when in English we would say ‘we are trying’ - estamos tratando much more emphasizes ‘right now’ than English equivalent present progressive form. (In English, it’s practically the default present tense)
when you wake up as the queen of the n=1 kingdom and mount your steed non sequiturius, do you look out upon all you survey and think “damn, it feels good to be a green idea sleeping furiously?" - dhex
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by JD »

There's a store near me that has a sign in the window that says you must be wearing a mask and "hand gloves" to enter. I was mildly amused and curious, but I didn't think about it too much until I saw another store, in another part of town, with a sign using the same wording. Now I'm wondering if it results from a word-for-word translation from the owners' native language , in which "gloves" is expressed by a two-word phrase, like "XXXX YYYY" where when you look up "XXXX" you get "hand" and when you look up "YYYY" you get "glove", hence "hand glove".
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Ellie »

After some Googling (side note: the word "glove" starts to look SUPER WEIRD after you see it more than a few times at once) I have found that in Mandarin the word for glove literally translates as "hand cover" and in Japanese as "hand bag." Also in German and Dutch, "hand shoe."
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Jennifer »

I don't think I'll ever be able to distinguish certain sounds in spoken Spanish. I found an online learn-Spanish site and started from the very beginning, with the Spanish alphabet (apparently, my previous idea "they don't have the letter K" is not true), worked my way up to some Spanish children's songs, but even with the Spanish lyrics being on the screen while the singer sang, I STILL could not make out many of the words.

There's a word I keep hearing, especially on various Nick Jr. Latino episodes of Dora and Blue's Clues, that sounds like "judah" or maybe "judio," but I KNOW those shows are not discussing Intro to Judaism 101, and once again my attempts to guess the Spanish spelling and type it into the translation sites bring back nothing.
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Ellie
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Ellie »

Any chance they're talking about rain when they say it, based on context?
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Jennifer
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Jennifer »

No. I hear it especially often in Blue's Clues -- Steve says it a lot, pretty much always when he's in the house -- next time I hear it, I'll try to note the context of what happened on the screen.

I do know (from reading about the show in English) that much of the show's humor comes from Steve being "less smart" than the viewers -- like, in English, when the kids see a paw print and yell "A clue! A clue!" Steve will mishear and ask if they're talking about "a shoe" or something -- and there's definitely things where, when the kids yell "la pista!" he'll initially respond with something rhyming with "pista" -- but, I'm fairly certain "judah" is not one of those rhyming mistakes.

Oh, and here's an even MORE egregious example of "I can't hear properly": I know the word "barco" means "boat." I was pleased to have caught it during an episode of Ben y Holly last night (and I know I heard it right: the episode involved the pirate and his ship). But there have been several Dora episodes involving boats, often where the audience-participation part is things like, which of these three different-colored boats should we choose to cross the river (answer: the one containing oars and life jackets), but I have never yet actually been able to hear the word "barco" in a Dora episode. (Or Diego, or 10-year-old Dora in the city, either.)
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Ellie
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Re: Speaking in tongues (the "learning languages" thread)

Post by Ellie »

Listen for "bote" instead; barco is more like English "ship" (a big vessel) and bote is more like "boat" (something small like a canoe or sailboat).
"Ellie is the Warren of comedy." -Shem
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