The German Language 1, Sally 0

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Once upon a time, specifically back in 1962, I spoke German fluently enough to fool all native speakers some of the time and some native speakers all of the time into thinking I was a native speaker of German. That was then. This is now, and now I couldn't convince a two-year-old German toddler that I'm not just another weird, inarticulate, incompetent foreigner. I haven't been back to Germany often since the year I spent here in Freiburg way back when, and in all this time I've been busily losing the brain cells that contained my knowledge of the language. Now I'm at the end of a month spent at a research institute at the university, and because all my linguist acquaintances speak English so well, I haven't had much luck in reactivating any latent German skills — it'd be cruel to make people puzzle over my inept German when we could instead be chattering away productively in English.

Forty-seven years is a long time, and prominent in the long list of things I've forgotten are words and grammatical gender assignment. I could get away with some variation in noun gender, if only my problem were a bit more restricted. Take Schorle, for instance. I've been drinking a lot of Apfelschorle this month — it's very good, a mixture of apple juice and fizzy mineral water. (You can tell that I'm typing this on my own computer and not on the German computer in my office here, because I'm not putting z's where my y's belong and vice versa.) There's also Weinschorle, a mixture of wine and fizzy mineral water; that, I wouldn't particularly recommend. At lunch a couple of weeks ago, I asked a bunch of doctoral students and postdocs what the gender of Schorle is. Much inconclusive discussion resulted. For one postdoc they're both feminine (die Apfelschorle, die Weinschorle); for another, they're both neuter (das Apfelschorle, das Weinschorle); and still another has die Apfelschorle but das Weinschorle. The German Wikipedia, de.wikipedia.org, says that the term Schorle, in a different formation, dates back to the 18th century, and that the word is feminine, except in southern Germany — where Freiburg is — where occasionally, rarely, it is neuter. If only more words were like Apfelschorle, I could assign whatever gender I wanted to any given noun, and my German would sound a whole lot better than it does.

Meanwhile, Freiburg has changed a lot since 1962. Then, there was no McDonald's sign on the ancient city gate called the Martinstor. (Also I now have enough money to eat regularly; in 1962, after months of eating almost nothing but Eintopf in the university Mensa, I collapsed with a rather serious case of malnutrition.) And the presence of English is more striking now than it was back then, although even then I had to join the Russischer Chor der Universität Freiburg to find people whose English wasn't a great deal better than my then-incipient German. Take the wonderful research institute I'm visiting this month, for instance. It's called FRIAS, which stands for Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies. That's right: the name of the university's elegant new research institute is English. They tell me that it reflects the international outlook of the institute, and I appreciate that; but speaking as someone who finds English ultimately a bit boring, compared to other languages, I'm unenthusiastic about yet another instance of English encroachment.

And then there's the brewery and restaurant Martin's Bräu ("Martin's Brew"). It is spelled with that apostrophe, like an English possessive but unlike normal German (compare, for instance, the name of the Tor mentioned above: Martinstor). Don't take my word for it — look at the logo:

The Martin's Brau logo

I don't know that the apostrophe in the possessive Martin's has anything to do with English influence — for one thing, like the brewery-restaurant itself, it's old, and as far as I can discover it has always had the apostrophe. I've asked German friends to explain this. They say they have no idea why that apostrophe is there. Bernd Kortmann did tell me that apostrophes are creeping into borrowed nouns that are pluralized with -s (native German nouns tend to have different plural formations, not a suffix -s); but this new practice (though interesting) seems quite different from Martin's Bräu.

In spite of all the English-language advertising signs, the desecration of the old city gate by an American fast-food chain, and the occasional wayward apostrophe, Freiburg remains a beautiful and congenial city. We can walk from our university guest-house apartment in several directions and get up into the Schwarzwald, on paths that lead to pleasant cafes with gorgeous views. We can conform to local custom by sitting at outdoor cafe tables in near-freezing temperatures eating ice-cream. We can stroll around the Altstadt on tiny-smooth-cobblestone sidewalks and examine the latest scaffolding on the always-scaffolded Cathedral. But after we leave tomorrow, I'll continue to regret my inability to magically resuscitate my former German fluency this past month.

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81 Comments »

  1. Jan said,

    March 26, 2009 @ 4:51 am

    I don't think it's a new development. I am German and I have seen old shop signs and prints with apostrophes quite a number of times (like here). Actually it seems that the somewhat hypercritical ban of gratuitous apostrophes is the new development, rather than the apostrophe itself. Actually, the "Duden" licences its use in these cases (K 12) citing examples like "Willi's Würstchenbude" (Willi's sausage stand).

  2. Stefan said,

    March 26, 2009 @ 4:56 am

    In Germany, people tend to call this specific form of apostrophe the "Idioten-Apostroph". As you can tell from the list of examples at http://idiotenapostroph.piranho.de/ as well as the links at the end of that page, it has become quite common in Germany.

  3. David said,

    March 26, 2009 @ 5:09 am

    The genitive apostrophe in shop names is common in Sweden as well, and it annoys a lot of people (it is completely incorrect, the genitive in Swedish is written without an apostrophe, as in German).

  4. Simon Cauchi said,

    March 26, 2009 @ 5:21 am

    I was in Freiburg for a few weeks in the summer of 1957, attending a summer school (I was then an undergraduate studying French and German). I'm glad to know the city still has its charm, and presumably the bomb sites are long gone. My German got worse during the weeks I was there, because as I became more fluent I came to take a very cavalier attitude towards grammatical gender, and made all nouns neuter unless I happened to know they were masculine or feminine. I had a one-line role in the performance we foreign students did of scenes from Wilhelm Tell. The German producer got cross because I couldn't pronounce the Rs in "Herr Gessler, rührt Euch nicht des Kindes Unschuld?"

  5. Dave said,

    March 26, 2009 @ 6:47 am

    Might the apostrophe-s represent a contraction instead of a genitive? In swiss-german dialects, a standard possessive would be roughly equivalent to "der Martin seines Bräu"; as an english-speaker, I find it plausible that sign writers could prefer to collapse that to "Martin's Bräu" (cf headlinese — die Sprache der Schlagzeile?)

  6. David Eddyshaw said,

    March 26, 2009 @ 6:48 am

    I blame Lynn Truss …

  7. Anselm Lingnau said,

    March 26, 2009 @ 6:55 am

    The apostrophe-s is making inroads in German not just for possessives – where it is at least somewhat explainable – but also for plurals and other uses. In some places it is getting to a point where the apostrophe only means something like »the next letter will be 's'«; you get things like »Scampi's« (prawns – which is particularly silly as the Italian »scampi« is already plural) or even »Pomme's Frite's« (french-fried potatoes).

    This phenomenon is sometimes referred to as the »Deppenapostroph« (moron's apostrophe).

  8. Jan said,

    March 26, 2009 @ 7:08 am

    "Martin's Bräu" looks like a genitive, because of the line break, but in all likelihood the s represents an epenthetical "Fugen-s", which appears sometimes between German compound words. So correct spelling would be "Martinsbräu" (just like Martinstor, Schweinsbraten (porc-s-roast) etc.) or for that matter:
    Martins-
    bräu

    For typographical reasons it becomes
    Martins
    Bräu
    And who's Martins? It's Martin*forgetaboutthes*s

    The informal possessive Dave mentioned would be "Dem Martin sein Bräu" (To Martin his brew) – no contractable s involved in this case ;-)

  9. Faldone said,

    March 26, 2009 @ 7:19 am

    I think the apostrophe's gotten some loose DNA from rabbits; witness it's increased prevalence in English.

  10. Johan Anglemark said,

    March 26, 2009 @ 7:21 am

    The possessive apostrophe isn't new (I'm discussing Swedish here, but I'm convinced it holds true for German as well); before spelling was regulated it was one of the ortographical varieties also in our languages. English happened to regulate it for the possessive, German and Swedish didn't.

    The reason it's becoming so popular again isn't just the encroaching high-prestige English, but also the fact that it neatly separates the proper noun (often a trademark) from the inflective ending, a very desirable effect for many. I think if you were to carry out a study, you'd find that it is much more common after personal names than after common nouns.

  11. Philipp Angermeyer said,

    March 26, 2009 @ 7:52 am

    One thing I find particularly frustrating about second language attrition is that it is so hard to talk about one's personal experiences with it without coming across as bragging and self-important (in the absence of evidence of one's past language skills). Whenever I tell French speakers that I used to speak French really, really well, I feel quite silly and I expect them to respond "yeah, right", in English.

  12. jfruh said,

    March 26, 2009 @ 8:20 am

    I lived briefly in Germany a few years ago, and my German went from nonexistent to terrible before sliding back to nonexistent again after I left, but the discussion of grammatical gender got me thinking. Word gender was the one thing that I never got a handle on — I mean, I understand it in theory but I could never remember what the gender was for 90 percent of words and so I tended to just make them masculine while I was talking. My question is, for someone who is a native speaker, how does that come across? Surely it doesn't make the actual content of the sentence harder to understand — or does it?

  13. Panu said,

    March 26, 2009 @ 8:37 am

    The most idiotical apostrophe I can think of is the one used in the shop name "Jenkin's" I have seen in Varkaus, my ex-hometown.

    I am not sure if the name of the shop was an allusion to the surname "Jenkins", or if "Jenkin" was the genitive of the Finnish word "jenkki" (= Yankee, Yank, American) with the English genitive ending thrown in for good measure.

  14. Nigel Greenwood said,

    March 26, 2009 @ 8:51 am

    @ Philipp Angermeyer: One thing I find particularly frustrating about second language attrition is that it is so hard to talk about one's personal experiences with it without coming across as bragging and self-important (in the absence of evidence of one's past language skills). Whenever I tell French speakers that I used to speak French really, really well, I feel quite silly and I expect them to respond "yeah, right", in English.

    I think a certain amount of nostalgia comes into play as well. I wonder whether Sally's now more sophisticated linguistic self, if transported back to 1962, would really think that she "spoke German fluently enough to fool … some native speakers all of the time into thinking I was a native speaker of German." Perhaps it's the truth; but I'm a little sceptical about the claim. Skeptical, even.

  15. Rob Chametzky said,

    March 26, 2009 @ 8:58 am

    The McDonalds (no apostrophe–let's encourage some German to English influence here on LL) appeared on the Matinstor when I was in Freiburg in 1976-77, probably in the fall. Had anyone asked, I would have been against it.

    –RC

  16. language hat said,

    March 26, 2009 @ 9:46 am

    I think a certain amount of nostalgia comes into play as well. I wonder whether Sally's now more sophisticated linguistic self, if transported back to 1962, would really think that she "spoke German fluently enough to fool … some native speakers all of the time into thinking I was a native speaker of German."

    That's pretty insulting. Are you claiming no one ever speaks a foreign language well enough to sound like a native? If not, why would you cast doubt on Sally's statement? I was mistaken for a native Argentine 40 years ago, when I'd been living in Buenos Aires for a while, and I know other people who have been in similar situations. Of course, you could claim we're all being "nostalgic."

  17. John Cowan said,

    March 26, 2009 @ 9:50 am

    Panu: "Jenkin" is a known surname, rather Scottish than English. When I saw it in your comment, I immediately thought of Fleeming /ˈflɛmɪŋ/ Jenkin, a 19th-century Scottish engineer who would now be wholly forgotten (despite having invented both the aerial tramway and the demand curve) except for two things: Robert Louis Stevenson wrote a memoir of him, and he wrote a review of Darwin's Origin of Species that was not finally answered until the arrival of the modern synthesis.

  18. [ni:v] said,

    March 26, 2009 @ 10:14 am

    I agree with what you said about English being a bit boring compared to other languages; also, as a native speaker, I often find myself cringing at the fact that English is so dominant and that people feel obliged to learn it (exacerbated by the number of native English-speakers who don't bother learning even a few words of a different language when they visit another country).
    As an aside, I was in Freiburg last year and thought it was beautiful. I loved the Baechle!

  19. Tom Vinson said,

    March 26, 2009 @ 10:24 am

    Ah, Eintopf at the Mensa (Marburg, 1964 in my case).
    I think I remember the occasional sign with an apostrophe after a proper name, but I didn't have a camera with me, so there's no hard evidence. At any rate, your picture didn't look surprising, especially with that art deco typeface.

  20. Daniel von Brighoff said,

    March 26, 2009 @ 10:25 am

    '90-'91 was my year in Freiburg and, to my undying shame, I have actually been inside that McDonald's (I could plead extenuating circumstances–I was chaperoning a good friend with a craving for french fries that could not be satisfied at the mediocre Wienerwald across the street–but the damned spot will still never come out). "Das Schorle" was what first occurred to me and I was bamboozled to see "die Schorle", which gives you an idea of how thoroughly I've internalised the Alemannic affection for diminutives in -le.

    One of my fellow learners maintained that the way to avoid tripping up over grammatical gender was simply to put everything in the diminutive. [Note for non-speakers: Diminutives are uniformly neuter in German.] Cute idea, but I can't imagine putting together a single sentence like that which wouldn't have the locals in stitches or–more likely–frowning in disapproval.

  21. Sally Thomason said,

    March 26, 2009 @ 11:05 am

    About my claim that I used to be able to fool some native speakers all of the time, etc.: sorry, it was a lame attempt to invoke the old saying that goes something like "You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time." Abraham Lincoln is said to have said it. And of course by "some of the people all of the time" I meant all of the time I conversed with those people — mostly not in very extended conversations, admittedly. With more extended acquaintance, the gaps in my cultural knowledge, if not my linguistic knowledge, would trip me up, and with friends I never tried to hide my origins anyway. But I wasn't going by my own intuitions about my language skills; rather, the claim was based on the number of times chance-met strangers tried to guess what part of Germany I was from (since it obviously wasn't the same part they were from). The last time someone was fooled was in 1990, when a linguist I'd just met at a conference in Bad Homburg talked to me for five or ten minutes before realizing that I was American rather than German. Here, I'm judging by his surprise when we eventually introduced ourselves (I'm pretty sure the surprise wasn't politeness and/or just because no one in Europe expects Americans to know any language other than English well enough to carry on a conversation easily) — and by the fact that he said he'd thought I was German.

  22. George Amis said,

    March 26, 2009 @ 11:29 am

    @Sally Thomason [2]

    My ex-wife, who studied Classics in Munich in the late 1950's, had a similar experience. No one thought she was from Munich, many though she was from the north of Germany, some thought she was Scandinavian, usually Danish.

  23. Cameron said,

    March 26, 2009 @ 11:30 am

    The weirdest apostrophe use I know of is in the French word "le pin's". This is the borrowed English word "pin" plus an apostrophe and an s. The word in French (which invariably includes the apostrophe) has a meaning equivalent to the English "lapel pin" or "badge".

  24. Stephen Jones said,

    March 26, 2009 @ 11:42 am

    French speakers used to think I was Belgian. Walloons used to think I was French. And Catalan speakers in Spain who didn't know me thought I was a native Catalan speaker from French Catalonia.

    It's the 'you speak it too well to be a foreigner. but there's still something strange about it'.

    Even occurs in one's first language. I've met a few Mancunians who've said to me "You do talk posh; you must be from down South'.

  25. Sparadokos said,

    March 26, 2009 @ 11:57 am

    When I lived in Russia about 10 years ago (I'm a US citizen), the people I met would usually assume that I was Slovak, Lithuanian, or something similar…One woman even commented on my lovely Baltic accent.

    Needless to say, I found that flattering. At least I was close enough in my pronunciation that they thought I was from Eastern Europe. No one ever mistook me for a Russian, though, at least when I began speaking.

  26. John Lawler said,

    March 26, 2009 @ 12:12 pm

    This is a good place for a short quotation from David Crystal (from Chapter 1 of his autobiography Just a Phrase I'm Going Through, to appear, Routledge). The first chapter is not autobiographical, but rather is titled (and is about) 'Being a Linguist', because he found he really had to explain what that meant to be understood by non-linguist readers. Linguists, of course, will recognize everything perfectly. With regard to the job title linguist, Crystal says:"It’s not as if it’s the most obvious label for a way of earning a living, after all. Indeed, it’s a succulent irony that the very name of the profession which has come to be known as ‘the science of language’ is itself ambiguous.
    ‘What do you do?’
    ‘I’m a linguist.’
    ‘Ah. And how many languages do you speak?’
    ‘Do you mean really fluently?’
    ‘Of course.’
    ‘Just one.’
    ‘But you said you were a linguist!’"So I am, I am, but not in that sense. I would love to be fluent in many languages. As it happens, I can ‘get by’ in a number, but there’s a world of difference between ‘getting by’ and ‘being fluent’. Ordering a gin and tonic, or asking the way, is one thing. Carrying on a proper conversation about the local political scene is very much another. It’s the vocabulary that’s the killer. Getting a grasp of the basic grammar of a language, and learning to pronounce the sounds accurately, need not take too long.
    "But vocabulary is the Everest of language. Memorising the tens of thousands of words you need in order to hold your own in long conversations on variegated topics takes time, lots of it, and – unless you happen to have been brought up bilingual – a level of motivation and opportunity which is usually missing in Britain for all but a very lucky or very gifted few."How the multi-tongued record-holders of the past managed it, is beyond me. Take the great Harold Williams, who died in 1928. He was a journalist – the foreign editor of The Times – said to have spoken 58 languages fluently. He was apparently able to talk to all the delegates attending the League of Nations in their own language. Nobody else came anywhere near him. 58 languages! I wonder he ever managed to do anything else."

  27. Sparadokos said,

    March 26, 2009 @ 12:38 pm

    @ John Lawler:

    I run into this a lot (I'm not a linguist or polyglot, just a well-informed amateur). My family and friends assume I'm fluent in 20 languages. I say I'm only fluent in one – my native language. They think I'm being needlessly modest, I think I'm being realistic. To me, fluency is defined as the ability to function in the target language on the same level at which I can function in my native language (read a newspaper from cover-to-cover, read most scientific/historical/philosophical works with comprehension, converse about any ordinary topic with ease, etc.).

    I come closest in Russian, but am far from fluent, followed by German and, more distantly, by Croatian. As far as the other languages I study are concerned, I consider myself an advanced dabbler.

    You are right, it takes a great deal of time. If I were independently wealthy, I would study languages for fun, every day.

  28. Mossy said,

    March 26, 2009 @ 1:34 pm

    Many years ago I (an American) lived in Brooklyn. One day I went to the local post office and bought some stamps. After a nice chat with the postal worker (postman?), he said, with the thickest Brooklyn accent you can imagine, "So, where are you from — England?" I said in astonishment, "No, I'm an American!" He said, "Yeah? Well, you talk real good. Keep talkin' the way you're talkin'. It's real nice."

  29. marie-lucie said,

    March 26, 2009 @ 1:36 pm

    Growing up in France, I was taught British English. When I crossed the Atlantic, some Americans thought I was English (I would never have deceived any true English people). After a few months I lost all trace of British accent but the French underlay came to the fore. But nowadays, after decades in English Canada, people think I must be German, perhaps Dutch, perhaps a host of other nationalities – but rarely French.

    A friend of mine from rural (English) Canada spent years in South America. People form there regularly say to him: "Of course you are South American, I just can't place your accent".

  30. Rick said,

    March 26, 2009 @ 1:50 pm

    "It's the 'you speak it too well to be a foreigner. but there's still something strange about it'."

    It's interesting to read about other people's experiences of this sort. When I spent a summer in Italy, doing my best with my modest Italian, several people assumed I was from Spain (I'm American). The funniest time was when I got hung up on something during a conversation in a tourish information office; after many unsuccessful attempts to make the meaning clear, the clerk muttered aloud, "So, you speak Spanish…" "No, English!" I replied. The whole time this had been going on, there was an Irishman with her who was bilingual in Italian and English!

    Part of my "problem" is that linguistic training and a good ear make it relatively easy for me to learn grammar and acquire a tolerably good pronunciation. I spent a summer touring Turkey with my aunt, who has lived there for ten years. She understands the language fluently, but still speaks it with a strong accent and (by her own admission) shaky sense of grammar. In contrast, I had only a small vocabulary and could not comprehend spoken Turkish well, but my pronunciation was good and what I knew of the grammar, I was able to use correctly. Thus, whenever we both spoke to strangers, they would assume I was the more fluent speaker. It resulted in some comical situations where the other person would be talking to me, I'd have to turn to my aunt, and she would give the reply. :)

  31. Craig said,

    March 26, 2009 @ 3:03 pm

    It's interesting to hear the commonality of experiences.

    Myself, I used to have almost too good of an ear for accents. When I studied as an exchange student in Wolfsburg, most people thought I was a German but couldn't pinpoint the accent. On a train, I once met a professor in a multicountry MBA program who told me that he thought I might not be German because I held my "A" a bit too long, but otherwise, I had most people fooled.

    A year later, in college, I sat for placement tests in Russian, which I had taken in high school. I explained to the professors that I was rusty after spending the previous year speaking German. The professors were rude about how much my Russian had declined and even threw in sneeringly that I spoke "with a Polish accent". Little did they know that my high school Russian teacher had indeed been Polish and that I had retained my approximation of her accent despite my year abroad.

    Nowadays, it's much harder for me to mimic accents, but I think it's mostly because I'm too conscious of what I'm trying to do. After living in France for two years almost a decade and a half ago, my German remains tinged with a French accent, and my French has a German sound.

    I like Sparadokos' description above of being an "advanced dabbler" in languages. My bookshelves hold reference material for about 20 languages that have interested me at one time or another, but I only claim fluency in English and proficiency in German and French. That doesn't make sense to my family and friends, but it's nice to find people who can relate.

  32. Nathan Myers said,

    March 26, 2009 @ 3:29 pm

    Having been born in 1962, I prefer not to think of 47 years as being an especially long time.

    Does any other language preserve descendants of every proto-indo-european root?

  33. Nigel Greenwood said,

    March 26, 2009 @ 3:43 pm

    @ language hat: That's pretty insulting. Are you claiming no one ever speaks a foreign language well enough to sound like a native? If not, why would you cast doubt on Sally's statement? I was mistaken for a native Argentine 40 years ago, when I'd been living in Buenos Aires for a while, and I know other people who have been in similar situations. Of course, you could claim we're all being "nostalgic."

    I certainly didn't mean to be insulting! Maybe I took Sally's description of her currently "inept German" too much at face value — I'm sure it's really a lot better than that. If anything, I was questioning whether one could decline from native fluency (not "near-native", mind you) to "obviously foreign" through language attrition. I was also suggesting that Sally may be more critical (and by extension self-critical) now than she was then.

  34. Sparadokos said,

    March 26, 2009 @ 4:04 pm

    "Does any other language preserve descendants of every proto-indo-european root?"

    That seems like a non sequitur. When you ask what other language preserves the roots, which language are you using as a point of reference? I can't think of any language that does preserve them all, and I don't think we can say for certainty what all the roots are, anyway.

  35. vanya said,

    March 26, 2009 @ 4:17 pm

    Sparadakos,

    When I first lived in Russia in the early 90s people would often assume I was from Pribaltika. At the time I took that as a compliment on my Russian language ability. Then I went to Lithuania and Latvia and heard actual Balts trying to speak Russian – it's not a compliment.

  36. Sparadokos said,

    March 26, 2009 @ 4:19 pm

    Vanya,

    Another cherished myth smashed!

  37. vanya said,

    March 26, 2009 @ 4:24 pm

    I was questioning whether one could decline from native fluency (not "near-native", mind you) to "obviously foreign" through language attrition.

    Unfortunately it's apparently shockingly easy for language ability to decline steeply and quickly. 20 years ago I used to know enough Indonesian to read newspapers easily, now I can barely manage a "mau ke mana." I think an interesting question would be how quickly accent declines relative to vocabulary loss and syntax. My guess is that you might be able to manage a decent accent (assuming you had one initially) years after you've forgotten so much vocabulary that you can barely string a sentence together.

  38. Cameron said,

    March 26, 2009 @ 4:37 pm

    I get a lot of reactions to my accents, both in English and in French. I have lived in New York most of my adult life, but spent a few years in England and Iran in my childhood. So I code-switch like a chameleon between various American accents, and a very neutral accent that I tend to use when I'm abroad. English people I meet here in NY assume I'm American but when I'm overseas English people that I meet know I'm not English but can't place where I'm from, and they rarely guess New York, or the US in general. Non-English people that I meet overseas often assume I'm English. When I speak French, French people can of course tell that I'm not a native speaker, but they can't guess where I'm from and never guess that I'm American. I remember one Parisian cab driver asking me "Monsieur, vous êtes Italien?" after hearing me give him directions in French and then carry on a conversation in English in the back seat with a couple of people speaking heavily Slavic-accented English. He must have been curious indeed to interrupt our conversation with a random question about whether I was Italian.

  39. Terry Collmann said,

    March 26, 2009 @ 4:47 pm

    Talking of adopting foreign orthographic conventions, I recall seeing a retail "centre" so-spelled in San Francisco nearly 20 years ago, which was called that and not a "center", I was told, because the Anglo-French spelling was felt to be classier …

  40. Bob said,

    March 26, 2009 @ 5:15 pm

    What an interesting thread!

    I was a German linguist when I was in the U.S. Army, many years ago. ("Linguist" is the U.S. armed forces' term of art for someone who uses a language other than English while on duty — e.g., a translator, or, as in my case, a radio eavesdro … well, never mind.) After going through language school in Monterey I was sent to what was then called "West Berlin," where I spend the next 34 months. When I first arrived, in the autumn of 1967, I foolishly thought my training had taught me to actually speak and understand German; imagine my surprise when I had NO IDEA what people were saying, and people looked at me rather quizzically when I tried to do things like, say, order a Currywurst at a Schnellimbiss. But after a year or so of using it every day, my German got pretty good.

    Bringing this nostalgia back to the thread's topic, however: I recall that in the summer of 1970, shortly before my tour of duty ended, I got into a taxicab somewhere in the British sector and asked the driver (in German) to take me to Andrewskaserne in Lichterfelde — Andrews Barracks, where I lived. He expressed some curiosity as to why I wanted to go there, noting (in German) that Andrewskaserne was an American military base. I agreed that this was the case. "But why," he asked, "would you want to go there? Certainly you are not an American!" I asked him why he thought that, and he said, "Well, you don't talk like an American." I asked him what he thought my nationality might be, and he said, sounding sort of puzzled, "Well, I know you're not German. But maybe — hmm, Yugoslavian?" Strangely, I was immensely flattered that he thought so.

    On another topic discussed above — trying to internalize the gender of nouns — I tend to take the Berlinerdeutsch approach: If I can't remember whether to use der, die, das, den, or dem, I just fake my way through with the Berliner's universal "det." Thus, "Icke jebe det Mann det Buch," gell? Doch!

  41. marie-lucie said,

    March 26, 2009 @ 5:17 pm

    @Cameron: the French word "le pin's"

    This word applies to the very small badges worn not singly but sprinkled, often in great numbers, on coats, berets, etc. The reason for the apostrophe is to distinguish this English word (never mind the number), pronounced "pinnz", from the French word pins meaning "pine trees", where in represents a nasal vowel. Since the -s at the end of the French word is not normally pronounced, the English [z] sound does not indicate a plural to a monolingual French person, hence "le pin's". (Another reason to pronounce the English plural indicator is that "pin" in English sounds almost the same as one of the French slang words for 'penis').

  42. David said,

    March 26, 2009 @ 5:18 pm

    The best I've managed (after nearly four years as a scandi living in the UK) is to fool some English people into thinking I'm Irish, some of the time. Surely many of my countrymen do better.

    jfruh: Not using the correct gender for nouns sounds quite bad, at least in Swedish. I would imagine it's the same in German. I would say having a thick accent but getting the genders right makes your speech sound more "natural" than having a good accent but consistently getting the genders wrong.

    It wouldn't seriously impede communication, except in some exceptional cases, where two words differ _only_ in the gender and not in the pronunciation. However it probably means the listener has to concentrate harder to understand what is being said.

  43. Bob said,

    March 26, 2009 @ 5:19 pm

    By the way, I returned to Berlin in 2000 after not having been in Germany for 30 years. I was amazed to find that except for a little loss of vocabulary, my German appeared to be pretty much as it had been in 1970. Yep: STILL being mistaken for a Yugoslav!

  44. josephdietrich said,

    March 26, 2009 @ 5:35 pm

    Regarding the possessive apostrophe s in names, I've heard it referred to as "the McDonald's s" a few times here in Rheinland-Pfalz. Can't claim that I know it is in widespread use, but thought it an appropriate anecdote given the post.

    Regarding accents, for some reason Germans always seem to assume that I am from England. Since I grew up in southwestern Indiana, I have no idea why that is. I started learning the language late in life, so I know I have no hope of ever speaking Germany fluently … but an English accent? I don't even know what an English accent in German would sound like.

  45. Nigel Greenwood said,

    March 26, 2009 @ 6:20 pm

    @ Sally: speaking as someone who finds English ultimately a bit boring, compared to other languages

    Coming from a linguist, that's a rather surprising comment. Mind you, I'm with you in deploring excessive "English encroachment"..

  46. marie-lucie said,

    March 26, 2009 @ 6:28 pm

    When you are totally used to something, it stops being interesting. There is little challenge for anglophones in speaking English, but the least you know about other languages the more challenging they are to learn.

  47. Garrett Wollman said,

    March 26, 2009 @ 6:30 pm

    Interesting discussion. I, too, have been frustrated by language attrition. I used to be pretty decent in French (given that my mother's family are all Acadians, and I grew up in Vermont, it was expected). Then I spent nine months as an exchange student in Finland, during which time I had no contact with anyone who spoke or had even studied French. I was never particularly fluent in Finnish (although, like many here, I managed to absorb the nearly-bog-standard phonology and somewhat unusual morphology with little difficulty) but I could understand what the newscaster was talking about on the YLE 1 nightly news. Then I came back and, returning to studying French, found that I had lost much of the vocabulary and "linguistic self-confidence" (for lack of a better phrase) that I had had. Now, twenty years later, I can usually read French, but not speak it, to my great frustration when I visit a French-speaking place like Quebec. (My Finnish has deteriorated to almost nothing. I can explain the noun paradigm just fine, except that I don't remember any nouns beyond "talo".)

  48. language hat said,

    March 26, 2009 @ 8:48 pm

    I certainly didn't mean to be insulting! Maybe I took Sally's description of her currently "inept German" too much at face value — I'm sure it's really a lot better than that. If anything, I was questioning whether one could decline from native fluency (not "near-native", mind you) to "obviously foreign" through language attrition.

    Ah, sorry I misread you. As I can attest all too sadly, it is indeed possible to decline drastically in ability in a remarkably short period of time. Use those languages, folks!

  49. Noam said,

    March 26, 2009 @ 8:58 pm

    I managed to study English and Arabic for four years in elementary school, get similar grades, and in the process of becoming fluent in English, absolutely and completely lose the Arabic within a few years (5?) in the US. To add insult to injury, I now have an accent when speaking English and Hebrew (although I think the latter goes away within a few minutes).

  50. Dan Lufkin said,

    March 26, 2009 @ 10:52 pm

    This is an interesting chat. Does anyone else have a problem with languages being stored in layers? I first learned Spanish (B.A. Porteño version) from an excellent teacher in high school (6 years). Then I learned German in college and then worked in a German-speaking laboratory (in Boston). Then I spent four years in Germany courtesy of the USAF, speaking German every day. Then three years in grad school in Stockholm. My Swedish sounds pretty good because I've spent a lot of time in Dalarna over the years. As a practicing translator I work from all (well, most) of the Germanic languages every day, but almost never work from Spanish.

    When I have to get around in Spanish, it takes me several days to stop having to think of something in Swedish, then put it into German, then let it pop up in Spanish. I'm very conscious of the process at the time. It doesn't happen in the opposite direction. I can understand and read Spanish with no interference from later acquisitions. After a few days immersion, I can carry on a reasonable conversation in Spanish, but the transition is really difficult.

    I normally translate by dictating English (to Dragon) as I read the text. It works fine unless I think about it. I suppose this is how simultaneous interpreters operate. I've tried that a few times and I can't do it at all.

  51. Vicki Baker said,

    March 27, 2009 @ 12:50 am

    RE: die/das Apfelschorle- my guess it sounds like a dimunitive form down there in the Schwabenländle. As in "how about a glass of Apfleschorle with your Würstele?"

  52. Johan Anglemark said,

    March 27, 2009 @ 5:11 am

    Dan, yes, that's definitely the way it works. Translating an Irish phrase to English isn't a problem (given that I know what the Irish means, of course, my Irish has deteriorated pretty badly), but translating an Irish phrase to Swedish often requires me to do it via English.

  53. mollymooly said,

    March 27, 2009 @ 5:12 am

    I surmise that the spurious apostrophes appearing on Continental shopfronts are the same one being lost from genitives on shopfronts in the Anglosphere.
    There's a soccer club in Andorra called after "Rangers FC" of Glasgow: it's called "FC Ranger's".

    @Sparadokos:

    To me, fluency is defined as the ability to function in the target language on the same level at which I can function in my native language (read a newspaper from cover-to-cover, read most scientific/historical/philosophical works with comprehension, converse about any ordinary topic with ease, etc.).

    So the simplest way to become fluent in more languages is to become less fluent in your native language…

    @josephdietrich:

    I've heard it referred to as "the McDonald's s" a few times here in Rheinland-Pfalz.

    In Ireland, it's quite common to hear Stephen's Green and Stephen's Day called "Stephens's", presumably after Stephens rather than Stephen.

  54. saif said,

    March 27, 2009 @ 5:15 am

    Marie-Lucie: (…"pin" in English sounds almost the same as one of the French slang words for 'penis')

    Back in 1992, shortly after the pin's phenomenon was first noted in the English papers, a woman in a French bar offered me a promotional slurp of some aperitif and a pin's. She said she was puzzled at the spelling and I made the mistake of trying to explain what I'd read, using my best school French. It was not good enough. I fear I may have led her to believe that in English 'pine' was a four-letter word!

  55. Achim said,

    March 27, 2009 @ 6:40 am

    Many years ago, after leaving school, I hitch-hiked around the West of Ireland. Once I got a ride with an English couple, and after a while, I was asked whether I was a Canadian. They couldn't believe I was German. Well, flattering… Some years later, I went on holidays in Sweden. The holiday started with a few days in Stockholm I spent mostly with my cousin and her friends, all dyed-in-the-wool Stockholmstjejar ("Stockholmer girls"). By the end of that vacation, I had a conversation with a Swede who then told me "you're not Swedish, but you're living in Stockholm ".

    Seems I'm picking up accents quite easily.

  56. Dan Lufkin said,

    March 27, 2009 @ 10:10 am

    @Achim — Did you know that tjej is the Romany word for daughter? There are a number of Romany-based "secret" languages in Europe, like the Shelta used by Irish Travellers. Swedish slang has quite a few Romany words.

    We oughta get started on a discussion of varieties of Pig-Latin (Fikonspråk). Would that be epilinguistics?

  57. Cameron said,

    March 27, 2009 @ 11:59 am

    Dan Lufkin: "When I have to get around in Spanish, it takes me several days to stop having to think of something in Swedish, then put it into German, then let it pop up in Spanish. I'm very conscious of the process at the time. It doesn't happen in the opposite direction. I can understand and read Spanish with no interference from later acquisitions. After a few days immersion, I can carry on a reasonable conversation in Spanish, but the transition is really difficult."

    I have never studied Spanish, and really can't speak it, but I'm exposed to written and spoken Spanish pretty much every day here in New York. A couple of years ago I went to Santiago, Chile on business. There were a few occasions where I managed to carry on brief conversations with the locals where it took them some time to realize that I didn't really speak Spanish. I remember one conversation where I was asked if I'm a foreigner, and from what country (I think he was wondering at that point if I was from Argentina, Uruguay or Brazil – because I don't have the Andean features most people in Chile have) and when I said I was from New York my interlocutor switched to English. Strangely, in my memory, what he asked me was "Vous êtes étranger. De quel pays?" Which of course is not what he said at all. Apparently I understand Spanish to the degree that I can map it directly to French, and I store it in my memory as French.

  58. Adrian said,

    March 27, 2009 @ 2:38 pm

    quoth Cameron: "The weirdest apostrophe use I know of is in the French word "le pin's". This is the borrowed English word "pin" plus an apostrophe and an s. The word in French (which invariably includes the apostrophe) has a meaning equivalent to the English "lapel pin" or "badge"."

    I knew as soon as I read "invariably" that it wouldn't be true, and it isn't. :)

    As far as "Martin's" is concerned, there is also the more well known "Beck's" beer. I was led to believe that this is explained by the ?fact that German used to use apostrophe-s for possessives, before dropping the apostrophe.

    (Like English ought to.)

  59. Sparadokos said,

    March 27, 2009 @ 3:04 pm

    @mollymooly:

    "So the simplest way to become fluent in more languages is to become less fluent in your native language…"

    Pretty funny. It reminds me of a quote from Thoreau's Walden:

    "In the long run, men only hit what they aim at. Therefore, though they should fail immediately, they had better aim at something high."

    It also reminds me of the time, when I was tutoring Russian, a woman in the 2nd quarter of her first year of language instruction told me, "well, I only want to earn a C." I asked, "How many years of Russian do you plan to take?" "Two," she answered. I said, "well, since language instruction, like mathematics, builds on what has been learned before, you had better shoot for an A; otherwise, you'll be floundering at this time next year."

  60. Jim said,

    March 27, 2009 @ 4:43 pm

    "To me, fluency is defined as the ability to function in the target language on the same level at which I can function in my native language…"

    You are confusing fluency with accuracy. The world is full of people who can speak englsih for instance quite fluently but not very accuruately. They are acurate enough to get by.

    "So the simplest way to become fluent in more languages is to become less fluent in your native language…"

    Or maybe less accurate. Has anyone here had the expereince of saying something in your native language that some other speakers found strange, and then later you find the same construction you used, or semantic extension of a word, in some other fairly familar language?

  61. John Cowan said,

    March 27, 2009 @ 4:46 pm

    Scene: Somewhere in Europe. Two groups of obvious tourists are talking among themselves. The first group is speaking Spanish. One of the members of the second group goes up to the first group and begins to address them in Italian.

    A man from the first group says, "Perché parlate noi in italiano quando parliamo spagnolo?"

    "Non parlo spagnolo."

    "Ah. Parlez-vous français?"

    "Pas trés bien. Sprechen Sie Deutsch?"

    "Jawohl, sprech' ich Deutsch. Übrigens woher sind Sie?"

    "Wir kommen aus den Vereinigten Staaten."

    "We're from New York!"

  62. Sparadokos said,

    March 27, 2009 @ 5:48 pm

    @Jim,

    "You are confusing fluency with accuracy. The world is full of people who can speak englsih for instance quite fluently but not very accuruately. They are acurate enough to get by."

    Is this better?

    "To me, fluency is defined as the ability to *accurately* function in the target language on the same level at which I can *accurately* function in my native language…"

    I think you're missing my point, which is this: I subjectively define for myself, and for no one else (of any degree of accuracy or fluency), that I will not be "fluent" in a particular language, until I can function in the language at the same level which I enjoy in my native language, English. Since I am an omnivorous reader, that means that I should be able to comprehend books on a variety of topics.

    I am merely stating the level of achievement to which I aspire, for the languages I study. It is, sadly, a level I have not yet reached in any of them. As far as accuracy is concerned, I'm sure a careful reader can find numerous mistakes in this post, as well my previous posts, so I haven't even mastered my native tongue.

    Granted: I could theoretically express myself clearly, not with 100% accuracy (whatever that is – who speaks like a reference grammar?), but enough to be understood, say, on the same level as a fishwife or ironworker (no offense to fishwives or ironworkers). Should I aim for fluency at cabbie level? Do you?

    But I think we're far from the original topic, which was about apostrophes or German or something.

  63. Ellen K. said,

    March 27, 2009 @ 6:17 pm

    I've always understood fluency as being able to speak a language without having to pause to figure out how to say things. By that measure, I am fluent in Spanish in areas where my vocabulary is sufficient. And with my job, that's significant.

    From reading the comments on this thread, it seems like that's not how most folks understand fluency.

  64. marie-lucie said,

    March 27, 2009 @ 7:52 pm

    Sparadokos, Ellen: I agree that "fluency" does not have to mean "perfection". There are degrees of fluency, but if one speaks "flowingly", without stopping all the time to figure out how to say things, and if one can interject fillers (eg "you know" in english) in the same way as native speakers do, then one is fluent, although perhaps not "fully fluent". I think that I am fully fluent in English, but in Spanish I am fluent in conversation but conscious of making some mistakes, and lacking vocabularly in many areas.

  65. Aaron Davies said,

    March 28, 2009 @ 7:42 am

    regarding linguists, there's an old line that asking a linguist how many languages he speaks is like asking a doctor how many diseases he has.

  66. An Cainteoir Dóchais said,

    March 28, 2009 @ 8:54 am

    I think it certainly is possible to fool native speakers into thinking you're a fellow native speaker, but it is extremely rare. It's also extremely flattering when it does happen…

  67. Achim said,

    March 28, 2009 @ 1:55 pm

    @ Dan [on Romany sources of Swedish slang word]: Your posting rings a bell, but a very tiny one in a remote corner of my mind ;-)

    On fluency in general: Whether you're fluent in a language or not depends on what you want to achieve. I tend to say that some years ago I was fluent in Swedish although I got a good portion of the morphology and phonetics wrong. But I commanded the vocabulary I needed and even some stylistic variation. Same goes for French. (That I lack the practice by now, is another story.)

    @ Jim:

    Has anyone here had the expereince of saying something in your native language that some other speakers found strange, and then later you find the same construction you used, or semantic extension of a word, in some other fairly familar language?

    For Germans, Swedish is quite easy on the lexical level. Both being Germanic, ground floor. Loan words from the middle ages, first floor. Feels good, and as a beginner you make a lot of progress. But then the false friends start to cross the line – in both directions, and once you get into the habit to deliberately use the false friends for the fun of it, things get out of control. Example: To organize a party is ordna fest in Swedish, and the first time you said ein Fest ordnen in German, and it doesn't even sound too weird, you're prone to growing a habit…

  68. Barbara Partee said,

    March 28, 2009 @ 5:53 pm

    @ Dan Lufkin, about the 'layers' phenomenon. I experienced it with a shock in the summer of 1959. At that time, Spanish was my best foreign language (still is, I think), and I was on a Russian immersion summer program, Middlebury + trip to Russia, under oath to speak no English the whole 12 weeks. Near the end of our 6-week trip to Russia, we encountered a group of Cuban musicians in our hotel, and since access to Cuba was already restricted back then, I wanted to at least have a little conversation with them. I walked up to them and opened my mouth before realizing I couldn't conjure up the simplest Spanish words to begin the simplest conversation! I was really shocked and afraid that learning Russian had wiped out my Spanish. But a couple months after being back in the U.S. I realized one day that my access to Spanish and my access to Russian were about equal. The constant use of Russian had just somehow "buried" my Spanish where I couldn't reach it. I don't know whether there are psycholinguistic studies of this phenomenon; and it may well not just be about languages.

  69. Dan Lufkin said,

    March 29, 2009 @ 12:22 pm

    Just to add something about fluency.

    The vocabulary most learners find hardest to acquire is for everyday things like birds and flowers. These are words that are not used very often but native speakers know all of them (having licked them off the grass, so to speak). Another category is things that children say, snatches of nursery rhymes, playground calls, etc. Languages have a lot of set phrases, not exactly idioms but bits of poetry and famous speeches, that keep popping up. (Swedish calls them bevingade ord «wingéd words» and has an excellent book by that title by the late Pelle Holm.)

    @ An Cainteoir Dóchas — Is that hopeful speaker or hopeful satirist? The spelling seems to combine the best features of both. (I'm working from a 1945 Dinneen, so there may have been a spelling reform. God knows Irish could use one.)

  70. Sven Holmström said,

    March 29, 2009 @ 4:25 pm

    Dan:

    "This is an interesting chat. Does anyone else have a problem with languages being stored in layers?"

    I'm not a language head by any stretch. I'm intellectually curious, but seem to be unable to learn a third language enough for casual conversations. I have really suffered from a version of what Dan talks about.

    During my shool years (in my native Sweden) I studied German for five years, and while I wasn't even close to be fluent I was at leastable to read a few novels in German. My spoken German was always very bad and any native speaker would have had to be equipped with quite a patience. But I would still have been abel to communicate.

    Now. After several years in Turkey I still can't speak that language fluently, but in return Turkish now fully ruins my German. When trying to fish for a German word I think of the German word, but from my mouth comes the Turkish translation. And if I succeed in getting one German word out the remainder of the phrase will certainly be in Turkish. Like "Eine bira alirim".

    Or now, when I momentarily live in a French speaking city (and I know no French whatsoever) I constantly tell people "bir sey degil" (Turkish for You're welcome). I don't even really speak Turkish and all people around me here are rather fluent in English. But I guess my mind just thinks that this is what you say when you are in a non-Swedish environment.

  71. Sven Holmström said,

    March 29, 2009 @ 4:29 pm

    "I've always understood fluency as being able to speak a language without having to pause to figure out how to say things. By that measure, I am fluent in Spanish in areas where my vocabulary is sufficient. And with my job, that's significant.

    From reading the comments on this thread, it seems like that's not how most folks understand fluency."

    Well, this definition would render me far from being fluent in any language.

  72. marie-lucie said,

    March 29, 2009 @ 10:34 pm

    being able to speak a language without having to pause to figure out how to say things.

    This cannot be taken in an absolute sense, as it would mean that many people would not be fluent in their own language. Can we say "without having to pause significantly longer than in one's own language"?

  73. Sparadokos said,

    March 29, 2009 @ 11:34 pm

    Regarding fluency, I'm reminded of something one of my Russian professors told me in college, which helps quantify this in my own mind. He said there are four categories:

    1. Passive written: reading
    2. Active written: composition
    3. Passive oral: listening
    4. Active oral: speaking

    He said some of these are inherently easier (passive reading being the easiest in his view), and some are easier or harder for different people (#4 is hardest for me).

  74. lucais sewell said,

    March 30, 2009 @ 3:21 pm

    Deppenapostroph

  75. y said,

    March 31, 2009 @ 11:43 am

    On gender: I interact rather often with native Chinese speakers, for whom even the minimal gender left in English can be difficult. For example, some of them interchange "he" and "she" more or less at random when speaking English. It can be rather jarring for a native English speaker to hear this, but seldom interferes with comprehension. I imagine this must be something like the experience of a native German speaker listening to us foreigners merrily tossing around "der", "die", and "das" with abandon.

  76. Verena said,

    March 31, 2009 @ 2:39 pm

    @ y:
    I'm a native German speaker and wrongly used articles don't bother me. And to answers jfruh's question, no, it usually doesn't have any impact on comprehension. You'll occasionally find nouns that are homonyms but take a different article…being a linguist, the only example I can think of right now is "das Korpus" (corpus) versus "der Korpus" (body), and the Duden tells me that there even is "die Korpus" (a type-size). But even in cases such as this you'll probably don't have any trouble gathering which noun is meant from the context.

  77. speedwell said,

    March 31, 2009 @ 3:52 pm

    I am a help desk jockey from Texas, supporting an oilfield engineering database. I regularly answer e-mails sent to me in Portuguese, German, and French. I must answer them in English, though, because I don't actually speak/write any of those languages. I have a good feel for what I can only misdescribe as the "smell" of each language though; I can tailor my response using the English words and constructions most intelligible to the foreign speakers, each of whom do possess a little English. The French engineers tell me I speak English like an American brought up in France, which is far from true, but is interesting. In fact, my father is a Hungarian immigrant who speaks no languages other than Hungarian and English.

  78. Sven Holmström said,

    March 31, 2009 @ 6:45 pm

    @"On gender: I interact rather often with native Chinese speakers, for whom even the minimal gender left in English can be difficult. For example, some of them interchange "he" and "she" more or less at random when speaking English"

    This is also very true with Turkish natives. In Turkish 'he', 'she' and 'it' is all 'o'. Truly an efficient use of sound if there ever was one.

  79. [ni:v] said,

    April 2, 2009 @ 8:52 am

    "Has anyone here had the expereince of saying something in your native language that some other speakers found strange, and then later you find the same construction you used, or semantic extension of a word, in some other fairly familar language?"

    @Jim: Yes, I've had this experience! I'm a native speaker of Irish English, but have spent a lot of time studying and speaking Spanish, and sometimes find myself using constructions in English that would sound natural in Spanish, but which I would never have said in English before I spoke Spanish. Also, as I spend most of my time with English speakers from the UK or the US, I find myself speaking an unusual mixture of dialects, using phrases that family and friends back home respond to with raised eyebrows!

  80. Jaimie said,

    April 2, 2009 @ 3:44 pm

    This post caught my eye. I am an undergraduate student and studied in Freiburg from August 2007 – July 2008.

    I appreciate the issue of the gender of Schorle. I also noticed this ambiguity existed for brand names– many of you might be familiar with the article about nutella and nivea, etc.

    I agree that the English language has a heavy influence on the city of Freiburg, though many Germans seem to apraoch this subject negatively and say that English is ruining the German language.
    Freiburg is a very international city, making English, not German the most common language. While I lived there I had roommates from Nepal and Ethiopia who came to the University in Freiburg without knowing any German! This was quite shocking to me at first, until I realized how easily they could survive by speaking English. All of this made my goal of learning German much more difficult than I'd imagined.

    It will be interesting to see in the next ten to twenty years if English becomes even more prominent in Freiburg and Germany and the EU.

  81. Corcaighist said,

    July 6, 2009 @ 5:05 pm

    @ Dan Lufkin

    @ An Cainteoir Dóchas — Is that hopeful speaker or hopeful satirist? The spelling seems to combine the best features of both. (I'm working from a 1945 Dinneen, so there may have been a spelling reform. God knows Irish could use one.)

    According to Focal.ie satirist = lampooner = aorthóir/ cáinte

    An Cainteoir Dóchais refers to "The Hopeful Speaker" meaning that while he speaks fluent Irish he's not a cainteoir dúchais (native speaker).

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