The Devil’s Details: I Can Tell Where You’re From

GERMANY88888Whenever reading in your native language (be it English, French or Bengali), you rarely take heed of the specific grammatical and syntactical idiosyncrasies of your mother tongue. However, once you start learning another language, it becomes immediately obvious that there is a plethora of linguistic subtleties that are extremely difficult to master.

What often happens (especially early on) is that you attempt to apply your native tongue’s sentence structure to this new language, often resulting in amusing results:

Kann ich ein Plätzchen haben, bitte?

Can I a cookie have, please?

Even more interesting, however, are the figures of speech and idioms that are simply unique to your language:

J’ai une pêche d’enfer.

I have a peach from hell.

Where this really gets interesting, however, is that when you read text written by a non-native, not only do you pick up on the phrases that just don’t quite translate, but given the syntax and specific choice of wording you can actually start to identify what their native language actually is. I was reading an article the other day written in English, with no reference at all to who wrote it or where they were from. However, as I continued to read, I became convinced that this was someone from Eastern Europe – possible the Czech Republic or Hungary.

Of course, I haven’t been able to substantiate this, but it’s funny how certain things show through, no matter how hard you try to homogenize yourself.

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