ratcreature: Like a spork between the eyes. (spork)
...but apparently I now know enough Russian to stumble over obvious automatic translation errors in fanfic in yet another language, even though I do not know enough to have even simple conversations.

But I can distinguish some verb forms, and the author in this particular case clearly wanted an imperative (it had an exclamation point and everything) but put in an infinitive form. Not that I knew that particular word (my vocabulary is still very pathetic). Of course in English both look the same (except for the 'to') but in Russian you conjugate more -- only google translate for example won't, even if you add the exclamation point.

They could label a language acquisition stage after this -- it comes way before even A1 proficiency (which in case you are not familiar with the European language reference framework means more or less the ability to understand and produce simple, formulaic conversations in familiar contexts).

I have no idea why authors feel the need to sprinkle other languages into their fiction without knowing the language very well or getting a beta who does. And even then, as a reader it annoys me unless I also read the language at least decently. I loathe not being able to follow all story parts. And yeah, there's hover text and what not, but that won't work on mobile devices or e-readers, so you are stuck with disruptive footnotes...
ratcreature: WTF!? (WTF!?)
I've been making Anki flashcards to learn vocabulary and grammar and such, and because visual cues help with memorization I do google image searches in the language I'm learning for stuff to put on the cards.

This mostly works fine with Spanish. You enter the Spanish word and you get pictures that work decently as cues, not just for plain objects but also verbs, adjectives and adverbs, and get a kind of visualization of actual word usage. However with Russian words image search results are more often than not completely overrun by internet memes.

That is not useful. (Also you frequently get gross image results for totally harmless words.) Though I guess it might say something about Russian internet culture.

Like if you image search e.g. "a little" in English you get a bunch of images with thumb and index finger a bit apart, which is the kind of thing you might put on a vocabulary flashcard. But if you google "немного" the first page is all internet memes, and you probably don't want to look at these at work or if you are easily disturbed (from nudity to animal harm to racism to execution pictures all kinds of stuff is featured). From what I can tell that is mostly because these come from sites that collect internet meme pictures or something, and the word just appears somewhere on the page.

It's like that with every other word. I mean, concrete nouns are frequently okay, like if you google "дверь" it results in images of doors, but even simple verbs get you a bunch of weird memes, when with other languages they get you pictures of people doing something. Whether you google to work, travailler, trabajar or arbeiten you get fairly similar images. Image searching "работать" meanwhile does not, but lands you in weird internet meme land again.
ratcreature: RatCreature blathers. (talk)
I've decided to make one of my occasional attempts to get better at Spanish again. rambling about my foray into language acquisition )
ratcreature: RatCreature is thinking: hmm...? (hmm...?)
In English with some verbs you can use their ing-form after go, i.e. sentences like "I go running often", "we are going shopping" etc., but with other verbs this is not allowed, i.e. you don't say "we are going eating"(*) but "we are going (out) to eat".

I think the rule is that the construction is only allowed with movement verbs, like go walking, swimming, dancing, etc. all work, but not with reading, knitting or painting. I'm actually unsure about playing, but I think not? OTOH working and hunting seem okay in the construction?

I tried finding the rule for this in grammar explanations but I'm not even sure whether the -ing is considered a gerund or a present participle here. So I was hoping that maybe the English language geeks on my f-list could point me.
ratcreature: RatCreature blathers. (talk)
[personal profile] lilacsigil prompted: "Fandom and language for you: what fandoms did you experience dubbed into German, are you in any German-language fandoms, how does English-speaking fandom feel to you, things like that."

Well, as far as dubbed tv shows go, pretty much all my fandoms before I had fast internet I first watched in German. So all the series I felt fannish about before finding online fandom, and the things I watched in the late 90s when I first found online fandom too. Some of those I have never actually bothered to rewatch in the original (I don't rewatch things very often in general), like most of original Star Trek episodes I only watched on tv here, same for TNG. But for example the X-Files I first watched haphazardly in German, but later on I got the episodes in the original and rewatched.

With Buffy the video tapes came out with not too much delay (about a season iirc), so that was the same as watching them here, so I bought those from the UK soon. With The Sentinel I first watched dubbed German episodes, but after I found the fandom I managed to get tape copies from another fan, and the later third and fourth season I only watched in the original.

The dubbing for Sentinel made some odd choices, in particular that Jim and Blair stuck with "Sie", presumably because they called each other Ellison and Sandburg in the original, but who would address a close work colleague who is also a roommate with the formal you? But it is a tricky issue, because obviously if they spoke German, they would start out with "Sie" and then at some point a "Du" would need to be offered, which is a significant marker for a relationship. And obviously that doesn't happen on screen, so they would have had to switch suddenly and that would also be odd.

With Due South I watched the RayV seasons in German first, but managed to get the RayK seasons through tape trade.

Tolkien I first read translated, but then later reread in English. Actually, iirc, LOTR was the first English book I read in English outside of English class assignments (which at that point were still mostly short stories). It was a tad ambitious as a choice for someone who at the time was not fluent. I think I was fourteen or fifteen or so, so I had only four or five years of English classes, because when I went to school they didn't yet start foreign languages in elementary school, but only in fifth grade. So that was quite slow going, even as I knew what was happening. Eventually I had the German edition open concurrently as I worked my way through LOTR in English the first time.

It turned out though that deciphering Tolkien was still a better choice for first reading material than reading French comics in the original, which I couldn't really manage after four years of French later on (even before I forgot most of it again). Being able to read French comics was my major aspirational motivation to drop Latin eventually (which my parents had wanted me to take as second language) and pick up French instead, because so many great comics aren't translated. But with so little text as context for guessing words you don't know, and the text not explaining the images but conveying separate things, and being spoken language with jokes and slang, comics are quite far from easy literature.

Speaking of comics, with Carl Barks' Donald Duck comics the classic German translation by Erika Fuchs is really good and sometimes funnier than the original. I have an English language edition of Carl Barks' complete works, but I really like the German translation as much, and many German fans prefer it. Because Erika Fuchs translated so many Disney comics with inventive language she had quite an impact on contemporary German language use, btw.

Actually Donaldism is the closest I come to having a German-language fandom, with German fanzines I have and such. And general comic fandom too to some extent, though that is more a multi-lingual thing. And mostly offline fandom engagement.

I don't watch a lot of German tv. These days I mostly watch tv shows on the computer, and I'm not in any online German fandom. Generally my online fandom engagement happens in English.

I find it even somewhat awkward to talk about fanfic fandom in German, because so many of the terms are English, so that when you talk with another German fan about something, you end up talking Denglisch with every second word (at best, sometimes seven out of ten) or so being a direct loan. Which okay, on the one hand, I won't start saying Schmerz/Trösten or whatever it would be instead of h/c, but otoh at some point it just gets ridiculous.

If you take a fairly normal fannish sentence you might to say to someone while talking about fanfic, like "XY wrote a great gen h/c ficlet for a Mundane AU prompt on the kink meme." you end up with very few German words, and maybe one of them a noun. I mean, even those that have translations are difficult, like say "prompt": Would I pick "Stichwort" or "Aufforderung" for "prompt" in a kink meme? Both sound odd. Maybe just stick with prompt, even though only the adjective meaning is the same in German (I don't think prompt as noun got loaned yet). And sure, you can translate "mundane" as "alltäglich" but "Mundane AUs" are a thing, saying "alltägliche alternative Universen" might as well mean "common AUs". Similarly you could say Geschichtenschnipsel for ficlet, or half-translate it as Fic-Schnipsel (though honestly, saying "fic" in German is, well, it sounds like you say fuck only in German that word is more obscene, because normal German swearwords all are more fecal-based than sexual, as I explained at length in my intro to that topic), but you'd probably end up saying sentences like "XY hat ein tolles gen ficlet für einen Mundane AU prompt im kink meme geschrieben." Awkward.

On the flip side, when fandom first shifted to the blogging/journaling format from mailing list, I hestitated starting one, because doing anything journal like in a foreign language felt weird to me, because I had kept paper diaries before, and those had obviously always been in German. And while thinking about fandom stuff in English was quite natural by then (after years of practicing with maililng list posts), for most other things it was not. The very first post in my blog in 2002 (reposted on DW here) which I started before getting an LJ was about that issue, and the odd feeling. Obviously more generalized nattering in English has started to feel more natural with years of practice.

Though in a way it is still weird, because I've gotten out of the habit of keeping a paper diary, and I post more often about non-fandom stuff, but still in English, so by now it feels more natural to narrate my own life in a foreign language. But that is not really fandom-related.

Otherwise English-speaking fandom doesn't feel like anything particular to me, that I could trace to the language. Sure, you can ponder the pervasiveness of English on the internet and the relative dominance of English language pop culture, and what it means for language diversity and power in international fandom, but in the end having a lingua franca is a practical thing, even if it is not a neutral thing. I like German, and I don't think English sounds cooler or some nonsense, but I'm pragmatic about reaching fannish audiences, English is more common than German, and I speak it well enough to make communicating in it not a hardship. So English it is.
ratcreature: RatCreature is thinking: hmm...? (hmm...?)
With the basic stitches, what is "rechts verschränkt" called in English? I know that "rechts" is "knit" and "links" is "purl" in knitting terminology, but how do you name that other difference, i.e. whether you sort of twist the stitch -- a "rechts verschränkt" stitch is one where (assuming right handed knitting) you have the yarn behind the needles and insert the right needle from the right into the stitch when you knit the next, whereas a plain "rechts" is when you insert the needle from the left. "Links verschränkt" meanwhile means that the yarn is in front of the needles and you insert the right needle from the right and behind the loop of yarn on the left needle, whereas plain "links" has you insert the needle from the right too but just through the loop (without that twist). I tried looking up the symbol in English language knitting charts, but it seems the knitting symbols aren't normed internationally. In German patterns usually "rechts" is a black square whereas "rechts verschränkt" is a black diamond shape.
ratcreature: RatCreature blathers. (talk)
Since a few people seemed interested, and I already wrote some of it in previous comments to other entries, I thought I'd post a guide to swearing and insults in German after all. However, please keep in mind that for fiction this can't replace language betas, and personally I think that in many cases actually the better choice is not to litter your story with foreign language fragments to begin with. It also ended up being somewhat rambly.

Still you might want to swear in German for one reason or another... )
ratcreature: headdesk (headdesk)
I've already ranted several times here how computer translation is not your friend if you want to litter your English story with German words (even disregarding the characterization issues or the likelihood of random language switches occurring in the first place). That includes swear words, because believe it or not, swearing works differently in different languages. For example you can't just translate "fuck" and use it like in English for a swear word. Argh.

Well, the story wasn't very good otherwise either, so I don't regret the back button use, but seriously. And now I have the urge to write an introduction to swearing in German to explain, but that probably would only encourage people to avoid using betas, and make things even worse.
ratcreature: RL? What RL? RatCreature is a net addict.  (what rl?)
Verschlimmbesserung, i.e. a portmanteau of Verbesserung (improvement) and Verschlimmerung (deterioration/worsening), to describe intended improvements or upgrades that end up making everything worse. Also used as a verb ("verschlimmbessern"), cousin to the equally useful "kaputtreparieren" (repair/tinker with a thing to the point that it becomes broken). Not entirely unrelated to this language observation, I'm still trying to decide whether I should opt to display everything on LJ in my style (which I find confusing, because I'm used to comms and journals all having their layout), or deal with the new comment pages on comms that have not disabled them, which unfortunately includes a number of fest comms I'd been browsing.
ratcreature: RatCreature is thinking: hmm...? (hmm...?)
I'm looking for the English word for "Kaffeeklappe", i.e. an establishment where workers can buy cheap meals (and as the name implies coffee) but which is not serving alcohol like pubs are. Traditionally they were located in or near the industrial areas, like in the harbor. These first opened in the 19th century as part of the anti-alcoholism movement. The official German term was "Volkskaffeehalle" (public coffee hall?) but the informal term is much more common. It comes from the food being served from the kitchen into the dining area through a serving hatch. They are not very common anymore, having been replaced by various fast food options, I guess. Is there an English equivalent? I thought maybe "greasy spoon" might fit, except that the dictionary tells me that term dates only to the 1920s, and I'm looking for the 19th century thing.
ratcreature: RatCreature is nitpicking. (nitpicking)
I don't understand how people who try to insert German endearments into their Charles/Erik fanfic end up with female endings. I get that English is deficient when it comes to the concept of grammatical gender, but the auto-translate bots tend to default to male (e.g. if you enter "my Beloved" into Google translate it gives you "mein Geliebter" as first choice not "meine Geliebte" though it gives you neuter if you don't capitalize, presumably because it assumes some noun ought to follow and is indecisive or something), and plenty of endearments authors could pick are the same for both genders anyway (e.g. "mein Schatz"). So how do authors arrive at the female endings? An additional question is of course whether Erik would choose German of all things as his love language to begin with.
ratcreature: RatCreature is thinking: hmm...? (hmm...?)
What is the proper English term for this slight whiteish coating that some fruit like plums, blueberries or grapes naturally have? In German I've heard it called "Duftfilm" or "Reifbelag" but neither of those gave me results in a dictionary. But surely it must have a name in English as well.
ratcreature: reading RatCreature (reading)
I'm reading Jean M. Auel's Earth's Children series, because I've seen it mentioned quite often, but never read it myself. I am currently in the middle of the second book, and still undecided whether I actually like the series, but it's at least interesting enough to keep me hooked.

Though I admittedly found the racial memory thing in the first book very weird and not appealing. I mean, I would have been okay with it if the book was situated a little more towards the fantasy end of the genre spectrum in other respects, but despite the extreme competence of the heroine, and the horse communication and stuff like that, that makes it fun fiction rather than some documentary reconstruction, this Lamarckian memory thing, with added telepathy and regression into past lives no less, seemed far more "out there" to me than the rest. That could be of course because I have no clue about pre-historic living beyond the vague memories of a couple of weeks when we covered it in history class in fifth grade before moving on to Mesopotamia, and a few museum trips where we looked at stuff from local excavations of old poles and pieces of broken stone stuck in some ex-swamp where local neolithic settlements were. Anyway, at least the mental superpowers seem to feature less in the second one.

Also, I am for sure learning a lot of English words I never encountered before, mostly tons of animal and plant species as well as tool names. Now I know that a "Stichel" is called "burin", and that's even a tool I have actually seen and used myself before (though I doubt the steel one I used in wood working class looked much like whatever stone thing they had). One thing that is strange is that I keep looking up the plant and animal names, even though especially with plants it's not as if I have much of an idea what the plant looks like after knowing its German name either. Still for some bizarre reason it is a much less nagging unknown once when I looked up for example that "elecampane" is "echter Alant", that "henbane" is "Bilsenkraut" or that an "dovekie" is a "Krabbentaucher", even though it's not as if I associate actual images or knowledge with either name. It is somewhat weird and ridiculous, but I can't seen to suppress the urge.
ratcreature: Eeew! (eeew)
Okay, sometimes words are incredibly gross. You know how in English when talking about penises there's the terms "grower" vs. "shower" to describe flaccid and erect penis sizes and their relation, yes? And not generally discussing penises, their sizes and behavior much outside of fandom I didn't know whether there were German terms to describe that difference, so I googled.

And apparently the words (or at least one option) are "Blutpenis" (i.e. literally "bloodpenis") for "grower" and "Fleischpenis" (literally "flesh-/meatpenis") for "shower" both of which I find really kind of gross. I mean seriously--eeew. In general I don't have problems with most of the German terms for genitalia. But this? Yikes.

And obviously I had to share my moment of "Eeew! WTF?!"... ;)
ratcreature: RatCreature is dead by anvil. (dead)
You see, I was in the process to write someone an e-mail about a (non-fannish) website update, only to stumble when I had barely written the subject line. The sentence in my subject line was innocent enough, i.e. "I've now updated the website." only I was writing in German.

German has actually incorporated the English word "to update", especially in computer an technical contexts, and personally I tend to use "updaten" over "aktualisieren" in particular in spoken or informal language. Now comes the somewhat tricky part in my explanation (at least if you don't speak German): In German prefixes are separated from the root under certain circumstances when you conjugate a verb, and also the prefix that's part of the regular past participle, i.e. "ge-", goes between the original prefix and the root.

Obviously you have to conjugate foreign words as well if you want to use them in German. And when words have prefixes that adds complications, you can either treat the foreign word as one unit, as if there was no prefix, or you treat the foreign prefix like you would a German prefix, and actually both strategies exist, sometimes for the same word, though usually after a while usage settles. Obviously I just use what sound right to me -- unless I'm angsting about language in my blog, that is. Strange as it is, when I talk I tend to treat English prefixes as separable in the perfect, but don't separate the them in other tenses that would demand an inverse position of root and prefix. A typical example for a German word with such a prefix would be "aufschreiben" (to write down), which demands an inverse position in the present tense, i.e. "ich schreibe auf" (I write down") and where the perfect would be "ich habe aufgeschrieben" (I have written down). So when I use update as a German word I say "ich habe upgedatet" not "ich habe geupdatet" (treating "up-" like "auf-") but "ich update" and not "ich date up", and it works like that for me with a number of English words with prefixes that are used in German. Not being a purist worried about imported words, it sounds perfectly acceptable to me.

Thus when talking I'd usually say for the sentence above "Ich habe jetzt die Webseite upgedatet." however written it looks really weird, probably because I'm so used to reading English where naturally "to update" isn't mangled this way. Written "ich habe geupdatet" looks slightly better to me, probably because it preserves the integrity of the English word, however it's not what I talk like, hence the brain-breakage. In the end I've decided to write like spoken, even if it looks peculiar.

BTW, I've googled both alternatives, and it seems I'm not alone in my preferences, there are 116.000 hits for "upgedatet" versus 71.000 for "geupdatet", not decisive but the former seems definitely favored in usage.
ratcreature: ROTFL (rotfl)
So I'm reading Daredevil #66, and rather contrary to the mood of the issue I find myself giggling constantly. You see, it has flashback sequences to the 1940s, and there's some villains talking "German", unfortunately too frequently for me to just overlook the dialog, i.e. it's not just one isolated speech balloon, but goes on for a few pages. And it's just... I don't have words. *still in giggles*

I mean, in some cases I can figure out what the speech balloon was supposed to say by translating it word for word back into English, and it becomes clear which words were meant, even if the German translation of the English term that was chosen doesn't have the meaning of the English word that was meant in the context as all, as of course both German and English words all have multiple meanings and not all of them match 1:1. And it's not just with figurative vocabulary either, though those examples are the funniest (like in German you just don't call a crazy person "Fruchtkuchen" no matter that it's a correct translation for the English "fruitcake"). Not to mention that the sentence structure is frequently wrong. And yet in some cases I can't figure out at all what the speech balloon was supposed to say. As a whole it's just totally hilarious, and not at all conducive to a gritty crime sequence feeling.
ratcreature: RatCreature begs, holding a sign, that says: Will work for food, with "food" crossed out and replaced with  "comics". (work)
A recent post by [livejournal.com profile] buggery reminded me that I still hadn't read Batman: Family #1-8 (written by John Francis Moore, art by Stefan Gaudiano and by Rick Hoberg). So today I remedied that.

It's a good story and I recommend it also. First, it has an interesting, complex crime plot that you can actually follow (though I think I would have appreciated the exposition recaps more had I read it in monthly installments, but even so they weren't tedious, and helped to stay on top of the developments). Second, it included *all* of the Batfamily in a (mostly) organic way into that plot, and it is always great to see all of them relate to each other. Third, all of the main members of the villain group had distinct personalities and there were glimpses of their motivations and backgrounds, while at the same time they remained scary, or very scary, with a dash of disturbing. Several of them were clearly psychopaths, and the rest wasn't exactly sane either, but they weren't costumes, unless it suited them for convenience, they were rational and had goals that weren't centered around battling with Batman. And that made them more dangerous, and scarier.

I mean, Mr. Fun? Made me shiver, how he had those bizarre motivational slogans for better job performance running through his head while he was killing people. And Celia Kazantkakis/Athena is a psychopath but scarily competent, and nearly perfect at passing for normal. I had varied reactions to all of the villains, they read as full personalities to me. There were little details that made them real to me, like that the Technician wasn't just into his techno-toys, but also into Gotham history, especially the history of crime in Gotham (and I liked the kid).

Actually all of the minor and supporting characters worked surprisingly well, they were vivid, without hogging too much attention or storytime, and that made Gotham seem populated with lots of real people besides the heroes and the villains.

I also read JLA: Year One (by Mark Waid, Brian Augustyn and Barry Kitson), and that was lots of fun. I liked seeing the early team together, and much to my surprise I even liked this Aquaman. It was also great to see Barry and Hal early in their career rather than as larger-than-life heroes (even if GL was somewhat of a chauvinist jerk, I still like him). Their fights were a bit on the bizarre side, but I suspect that is because the series might adapt/retell their early Silver Age exploits. I haven't read those, so I didn't recognize the stories, but somehow they had that logic-defying feel to them. Like that strange ray gun that took body parts and meshed them together to be controlled by the Brain, yet they didn't die (or were near death) even if half their body was missing, and it was easily reversible too. If their adventures aren't retellings, they certainly are in the same spirit. However those really only serve as backdrop for their personal lives, the developing team dynamic, and the conflicts that come from both, and those parts are very much *not* like Silver Age camp. I felt sometimes a bit lost, for example I have no clue about the Doom Patrol or the Blackhawks, but I could still follow the story.

And not related to any of the above: I looked at a preview for an upcoming Batman Elseworld The Order of Beasts, and can someone explain to me why, if the writer feels the need to have someone shout a German word, he can't look up the proper article? It can't be that hard to go to a dictionary website if you want someone shout "The Bat!" in German and find out that "Fledermaus" is feminine, and put the right article in front of the word. It's not like it's rocket science. It wouldn't aggravate me so, if this kind of thing didn't happen in a lot of cases where the authors feel the need to sprinkle some foreign language bits throughout their comic, instead of just indicating foreign languages with "< >" or similar markers. I've notice butchered French sometimes too (and my French is really bad, so it's not as if I'd even notice less than blatant mistakes), not just German. Often Spanish bits seem a better to me, which could be either because I know even less Spanish than French, or because Spanish is more widely spoken and read in the US, so that in the case of Spanish writers actually know what they're doing. But still it really throws me out of the story every time when the very thing that is supposedly there to make it look/sound more "authentic" just comes across as ridiculous.
ratcreature: RatCreature's toon avatar (Default)
Since this afternoon I've been looking for a word, not continuously, but the word's absence has been nagging at me. I just couldn't recall it. It has been very frustrating. The only word that would come to my mind was a colloquialism, an expression that roughly means the same, but in a broader sense, and I certainly couldn't write that one down in the context I wanted to use the word. I've never heard or seen it anywhere but in an informal context, and quite frankly it looks rather ridiculous when you write it down, but what I was looking for -- that much I knew -- was a foreign word, something with Greek or Latin roots.

I wanted an adjective describing expressions that have two parts/words saying the same thing, one of which would be redundant or used for rhetorical emphasis, i.e. I was looking for "tautologisch" (tautological in English). But for the life of me I couldn't remember that frelling word. All I could think was "that foreign word you can use for 'doppelt gemoppelt' when you're talking about rhetoric and word choice."

Eventually it occurred to me that English certainly would use the same foreign word, and it might just turn up when I put "doppelt gemoppelt" in an online dictionary. And indeed it did. I could have saved myself some annoyance, if I had had this simple idea earlier, not to mention that instead of tossing and turning I might have fallen asleep at a reasonable hour instead of thinking about Harry Potter questions and turning on the computer again to distract myself (see the previous entry). At least when I saw the translation I had a moment of fun when I imagined some hapless person using the rather highbrow "tautological" for some of the more everyday examples of "doppelt gemoppelt" as (strangely) "tautological" is the only translation given.
ratcreature: argh (argh)
You know, writing/reading in English so much has some odd (and rather embarrassing) side-effects. Like in English in German there are some fixed expressions, some quite similar to their English counterparts, but not exactly. And I have developed the odd tendency to take the English phrasing, with German words, instead of the German one. For example, today I caught myself with the phrasing "das Ding ist, dass..." (the English "the thing is, that...") instead of using "die Sache ist die, dass..." as I should have. I also catch myself rather frequently with using "hast du eine Idee, was..." (the English "do you have any idea what...") instead of using "hast du eine Ahnung, was..." and I'm sure there are more examples.

It gets really annoying when even after thinking for a moment I'm not sure whether you can use some phrasing in German. I mean, these transformations are always more or less grammatically correct, they could exist, they are just not the right phrasing, and it's really disconcerting to have lost hat feeling of certainty in some instances. Of course I'm not alone in doing this, and in some cases the process is so far along that the "English" wording is replacing the one previously used or becoming an alternative like it has happened with "das macht keinen Sinn" (the English "makes no sense") and the German "ergibt keinen Sinn", I googled both combinations, and "macht keinen Sinn" is now about six times as common as the other one. And it's not like I'm some kind of language purist and think that the process in itself is awful, but it still is sort of embarrassing if you are doing it with phrases for which it is not common yet.

I think that the embarrassment of this is only surpassed by using common fixed expressions that don't exist at all in German, but are useful in English, so I use them in German as well (notorious is "I get the idea" though I really watch myself with that one by now). Just they don't exist (yet), and of course people look at me funny. Or I barely stop myself in time, and then have to scramble to think of how to phrase in German. I'm really starting to see why bilingual people, when they talk with other bilingual people (that is when they share the same two languages) seem to switch between languages in mid-sentence fairly regularly for some words or expressions without missing a beat. It sounds sort of odd at first, but I see why that is fairly common.
ratcreature: RatCreature's toon avatar (Default)
As I was browsing a linguistic site I found an interesting article about how pejorative nouns in German are derived (the link is to the English abstract), and I had never really consciously noticed this mechanism, i. e. that you can make nouns out of verbs either regularly or pejoratively. Basically in German if you have a verb (it works for most, though not for all), like "tanzen" (to dance), there's a number of nouns connected to it, like "Tanz" (dance), and "Tanzen" (dancing), but also "Tanzerei" and "Getanze" and the latter two are pejoratives. The article looks at the slight usage differences between the two kinds of pejoratives (the one with Ge- and the one with -ei) and all sorts of specialized stuff, but what struck me is that I never really paid attention to this nifty feature, though it's rather common, especially in spoken language. And thinking about this I also noticed that English doesn't really offer a comparable mechanism for an ad hoc pejorative, or does it?
ratcreature: RatCreature's toon avatar (Default)
I got a mail from amazon.com that the delivery of the Nightwing TPBs I ordered is going to be delayed. When I ordered on February 1st their website said they'd be able to deliver them in one or two weeks, now they hope they can send them within the next two weeks. This sucks. Also I'm slightly envious of all the people who get to go to fun slash cons, like Escapade. Sigh.

Not really fandom related, but in keeping with my generally disgruntled mood, I'd also like to mention that my Spanish skills aren't really improving. Not least because my Spanish course fell victim to a cost-cutting measure, an all too common fate for these things it seems.

You know, once upon a time -- okay not quite that long ago, but when I started college anyway -- my university offered free language courses for students, even if they didn't have that language as a major or a minor, or as a requirement. The university just provided the opportunity for all its students to learn and practice useful language skills. Since here a physics major doesn't allow for a minor in a language (and I wouldn't have wanted to do one anyway), that was a great opportunity for me to practice my French once a week. But then the university implemented "cost-cutting measures", and wouldn't (or couldn't) offer language courses for free anymore, unless of course you study languages. But those are quite different courses from the ones aimed at students from other departments anyway.

Well, that ended my regular French practice, though reaching the sort of "frustration plateau" where you don't seem to be really getting better also had its part. I mean, I don't know if it's that way for everybody, but for me at first when starting with a new language progress seems quite fast, and okay you can't say a lot of interesting stuff, but you really notice how you understand more and more. Then after a while comes the point when you know all the major basic grammar stuff, understand quite a lot, know more or less how to talk in "standard situations" (like introducing yourself, buying or ordering food, asking for help and directions, naming your hobbies, expressing likes and dislikes,...) but you still can't really talk freely about interesting things, because your active vocabulary is just too small for that, and also your passive vocabulary isn't large enough enough yet to read real books without looking up every other word. And watching films and such is also a problem because your listening comprehension has huge gaps as soon as people start to talk really fast, mumbling or in dialects, so for tv and movies it sucks pretty much all the time. And then it seems like your skills are going to suck like that forever, like it doesn't get better at all. The only language where I really got past that point so far has been English, mostly I guess because you get so much more exposure to it without having to seek it out.

Uh, before this ramble derails completely, my point was that when I decided to learn Spanish the university courses weren't free anymore, so I found a great course in a women's culture center, which was with a small group and quite cheap, if your income was below a certain level. However the local government changed (to a right-wing one) and decided not to subsidize women's projects like the previous government did, resulting in much less money for the center offering the course. I mean, they now barely manage (mostly through fundraising) to keep the rooms, the library and to organize an occasional reading or event, but they couldn't keep their course program. The teacher offered to continue privately with the group, but since the group wasn't large that would have been more expensive even with splitting the costs and very moderate payment expectations by the teacher.

I tried to continue to practice, do exercises on my own, read in Spanish, but without the looming deadline of a course once a week I'm much less diligent in these matters. Also I'm definitely not at a point in my progress where I am an interesting conversational partner for any of the people I know who speak Spanish fluently (as first or as foreign language). My knowledge might be better than no means of communication in situations without any alternative and rather simple topics, but when German is there as an alternative both speak fluently, my feeble Spanish stands no chance. Also I'm somewhat shy and reluctant to talk (outside of class room situations) in a language I don't know well, so I won't open my mouth to say something even if other people have a conversation in Spanish (or mostly in Spanish, since as usual when two bilingual people talk, there tend to be these switches) next to me. I noticed this reluctance when I was in the UK for the first time as a teenager, and while my English was okay, I had never been to an English speaking country before or used English in everyday communication. I tend to have this (slightly irrational) fear that nobody will understand anything of what I'm trying to say, that I will embarrass myself horribly, etc. etc. I know that language learning only really works if you try to talk, and I know a lot of people who just jump in and use what they know, no matter the skill level, but -- I don't know. For me it's just not a very pleasant feeling to only have a minimal range of a language at my disposal, it somehow feels worse or more illiterate than not knowing the language at all. Which is sort of ridiculous, yet on the other hand, when you don't speak a language at all, others will just think that you don't speak the language, when you talk funny or wrong, people may think all kinds of things about you.

Anyway I'm not getting a lot of Spanish practice right now. At least I'm not wholly Babel Fish dependent anymore when I get Spanish e-mails on mailing lists.
ratcreature: RatCreature's toon avatar (Default)
Obviously I know a lot fewer arcane English words than some other people: I only scored 153 in this vocabulary test.
ratcreature: RatCreature's toon avatar (Default)
Not for the first time I'm thinking that it would be really cool if English had a non-awkward extra pronoun with the function of the "general you," something that can't be confused with the "you" addressing someone directly. Using "one" instead just doesn't always work. Just think of how much hassle, misunderstandings and clarification posts this would prevent. I don't think it would really prevent flamewars, but at least you could get rid of the awkward parentheses saying "with you I mean the general you." I mean other languages have these things, they are really practical. I don't really get why English "chose" that "one" would be uncommon and/or formal. (I see that it is very dubious to ascribe motivations and actions to languages, I mean whatever complicated process it is that leads to these things in languages, however it's shorter to anthropomorphize...<g>) Okay, so English likes to be somewhat sparse in its pronouns, and usually I don't mind that the singular and plural "you" aren't different and that there's no extra polite form, but I miss that impersonal pronoun.

Though maybe I just like more pronouns in general, I regularly miss that "we" (in German as well as in English) offers no distinction whether that "we" includes the person you address or just means you, i.e. the speaker, and a third person. I've heard other languages have this distinction, I think Chinese has, but I'm not sure. Anyway, the languages I learned miss this nifty feature (but then I've learned only quite closely related European languages, so it's not surprising they all miss it).
ratcreature: RatCreature's toon avatar (Default)
One of the most frustrating things about learning languages is that it takes like *forever* until you can talk about anything remotely interesting. Maybe not if you are really talented or have to talk the language all the time, but well -- *sigh* -- I just spent a ridiculous amount of time on writing an inane text about my apartment, about 120 words, in Spanish. I mean, it's no wonder I get so little practice talking: while I know several people whose native language is Spanish, there is simply no way I could have a remotely interesting conversation in that language (whereas almost all of them are fluent in German). With the little time I spend on learning Spanish each week, that is not likely to change for at least some years. I mean, I've been learning for almost a year now already, and only got to the point of writing boring texts about where my wardrobe is.
ratcreature: RatCreature's toon avatar (Default)
I just had to edit an email because I wrote a German sentence with partly English sentence structure without noticing that while writing it. I put the verb at the wrong place!

I somehow find that weirder than the semi-regular bleed over of very common English idioms I experience. I mean, word order is much more essential than accidentally transferring an idiom. And how embarrassing is it to need a second read-through to put verbs in the correct places in your native language? I either write too many English or too few German emails, it seems.

Though I'd probably need some linguistical or neurological theory or something to understand these weird glitches properly...
ratcreature: RatCreature's toon avatar (Default)
I know, I know, everybody else in fandom has gotten one way earlier, or at least that's what it seems like. Therefore I'll start my new blog with a short explanation of why it took me so long to get one.

It's not that I'm opposed to blogs and finally gave in grudgingly (though I still like mailing lists better for many types of fannish discussion), nor do I think that my blog will be exceptionally boring compared to other fans' blogs (though most likely it's not going to be very thrilling or of fabulous entertainment value either). No, the hesitation was all about language.

The common language of the fan communities I know is English, which is not my native language. Now generally I have no problem with that. My whole website is in English after all. However, it seems still sort of weird to write a journal-like text in a foreign language, even if it isn't about very personal stuff. All the journals I've ever kept were in German. Even though I intend this blog to be primarily a fannish one, I know that I tend to meander when talking about anything. Which is why I usually need to edit all my mailing list posts in order for them not to stray regularly into related, vaguely interesting topics, that are still definitely OT for the thread and/or list in question. A blog on the other hand, by it's very nature, doesn't necessarily demand such a disciplined focus. So while I expect this blog to be mostly fannish, I will probably be sidetracked from time to time. And I'm still worried that it might be awkward to write in such a way. With English as the language of choice, as the common fannish language, the one I'm accustomed to in fannish discussions, but balancing that with the ingrained habit of thinking in German when writing journal entries, with German as the language in my head when I sit down to express most things that are not fandom related in some way.

I know it works perfectly well for other people to have a blog that's not in their first language, still, I'm not sure about this. I guess I'll just have to wait, and see how it'll work out for me.

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