Thursday, June 08, 2006

Grammar Faux Pas

Since learning a new language isn’t easy, i.e., you always have bad grammar day, constantly bombarded with sentence construction harassment, your pronunciation sucks, you are vocabulary challenged - you seem to know the word but it stays dangling on the tip of your tongue, and people think you’re a 4 year old little girl trying to communicate, complete with hand movements [picture this: charades game or pantomime act], thus... there are times, in fact many times, that I just want to scream --- Argh, F@%$ you Holland!

The Dutchman has, unfortunately, heard enough of this passionate phrase to merit me a supply of endless jokes on bitching about Holland.

Anyway, moving on to the grammar story...

As many of you may have already read, I was in Paris with MadamE last month.

We spent quite some time in Montmartre and while we were exploring the western part of it, towards the direction of the community cemetery, we bumped into this small, gated and nicely tucked away lover’s park.

We peeked, saw and got intrigued with this massive blue ceramic tiled wall covering one side of the secluded little hideaway place. The wall in fact stood out, like a focal point of an interior perspective. From afar it looked like a mural painting with white streaks but it appears that the white streaks were actually writings on the wall.

A closer look proved that the writings were scribbles of -I love you- translations into different languages and forms around the world. We quickly searched for the translations in Visayan (Bisaya/Cebuano), Tagalog and Dutch.

First Foto: The Visayan translation, “Gihigugma ko ikaw.”

Second Foto: The Tagalog translation, “Iniibig kita.”

See how both languages are so different from each other? Visayan is my mother tongue and Tagalog, our national language, I learned in school.

Here is the Dutch translation: “Ik hou van je.” – Did you notice the misspelling in the picture; the hou is spelled as how, wrong!

The strange thing with the word hou is its meaning. It is supposed to represent love in this phrase (love is liefde in Dutch) but in literal terms it means keep in Dutch. It’s like saying --- I keep you instead of I love you. Demanding, eh? The correct love phrase in Dutch is houden van or liefhebben, all action phrases, while its noun is liefde.

Yeah, a bit complicated isn’t it?

Since our topic is grammar, I spotted some more interesting language and spelling faux pas:

First Foto: “Ek het jou lief.” – This is Dutch but the sentence doesn’t make sense really. Perhaps what the artist wanted to write is this, “Ik vind je lief.” [I find you sweet] or “Ik ben verliefd.” [I am in love].

(Someone that goes by the name H, posted in the shoutbox that this phrase is Afrikaans, the language of South Africa which is closely related to Dutch. Could be the case!)

Second Foto: “Gihugma kita.” – In Visayan which is supposed to be, “Gihigugma ko ikaw.” The root word is gugma = love, so this definitely did not make any sense at all.

Well, my Dutch is not that really great anyway, my Visayan too (more so my Tagalog!) and even my English, I still commit lots of mistakes from time to time, but sometimes it’s just funny to see these little blunders (language xenophobe maybe?), especially in the art form.

I’d like to share something that my Dutch language teacher once told me, about 3+ years ago...

She said that the common problems older and educated people encounter when learning a new language (not willful learning) is speaking, rather than writing and reading.

The reason to this is: Older and educated people tend to have a high self-esteem and are afraid to commit trivial grammar mistakes that make them look stupid. Instead of daring to speak, they hesitate because they first need to think. With writing, as well as reading, it’s much easier as there is no direct interaction involved; the person in fact has ample time to use his or her brain processors.

Isn’t that so true?

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