Friday, November 20, 2009

bricks, smoke, faux amis

Posted by Picasa Fitting in.
Over the trees at the top of The Common, low clouds drift across a strip of blue sky as though someone is puffing away at a cigarette up there.
More thoughts on false friends in translation. Like Barrett Bonden, who commented on them here the other day, I dwell very much on the fringe of the German language, and though I understand a little of it, I do not venture to express myself in it. As for false friends in English and German, they work both ways. It seems to me that the English word "when" can be a problem for German speakers because the German word "wenn" often signifies "if", while the implications of "if" and "when" in English are often a few shades apart. Alternative German words for "if" falls, and for "when" wann, apparently solve the problem.


Roderick Robinson said...

While wo, so close it seems to "who?", actually means "where?" Actually I'm beginning to wonder about faux ami. Given that it's in French and yet it seems to be applicable to problems Anglophones have with French, what's its function for the people who invented the phrase? (Yes, they're the French, but all of a sudden I had too many Frenchs too close together. And here's more.)

CC said...

Trying to follow this linguistic conversation
in English (my second language being some Italian, not German), I am reminded of the famous American Vaudeville Abbot and Costello routine, "Who's On First?" ;-)

Lucy said...

My Dutch friend frequently says 'when' for 'if' in English, as I think it's the same in Dutch. It doesn't bother anyone, since the context is usually evident, and it interests me because I can identify the source of the error from German.

A French difference that still catches me out is following 'when' - 'quand' or 'lorsque' with the future tense, so in effect they say 'I'll tell him when I'll see him'. This leads them sometimes to make the mistake of mis-constructing their own 1st and 2nd conditionals, so they say 'Je le dirai(s) si je le verrai(s)'. Which is odd really, since one assumes the ability to use verbs correctly, or at least consistently, in one's own language is automatic. Youngsters on hearing these errors taunt the speaker with the chant 'les 'si's n'aime pas les 'rai's!'

Unknown said...

Just listen to the English young and old misusing English verbs!