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Tuesday, July 27, 2004

The Alphabet Game and Languages

I'm thoroughly enjoying the comments from my posting. (You don't have to be related to me to post them!) My sister Marcy is a linguist, and my brother Rick has studied Czech, so they have some interesting things to say about the Czech language.

I learned that a fun, very basic way to acquaint yourself with a language is to drive on its country's roads and play the Alphabet Game. (This was actually my 9-year-old's idea, and not because of the educational value.) I thought it was funny how instantaneously we found the letters "K" and "Z." The two letters that were nearly impossible were "Q" and "W." Steve and I finally found "Q" simultaneously--me on an Antiques store, and him on the ubiquitous ad for "Urquell" beer. Both are foreign words. As for "W," I found that in a name on a German truck just as I was about to give up.


Rick said...

Heh. Heh. "Studied Czech."
True, but humorous in the larger context of things. ;-)

Best thing about the Czech language: Extremely phonetic, so even if you have no clue what you're actually saying, you can quickly learn to "read" Czech and pronounce it correctly and well enough that natives are impressed. Except of course for that nasty letter which requires you to make the sounds of both an "R" and a "ZH" at the same time, and even Czech children can't pronounce until they're five or six years old!

Worst thing: Nouns have different endings depending on what part of speech they are. As if it isn't bad enough that, like English, verbs have different endings. Nouns are supposed to be "freebies"! :-)

Hmm... would also be interesting to play the Alphabet Game using the country's own alphabet.

Marcy said...

English, like German, used to have different noun endings depending on the part of speech -- you can still see the remains of that in "he," "him," "his," etc. Now that we've gotten rid of those endings our word order is stricter. Maybe someday Czech will lose theirs and buy a couple vowels, who knows? Languages change (except for when they're dead, like Latin).