At this moment at least 2,796
separate languages are being
spoken on our planet –
according to a calculation by the
Academie Francaise, whose
decisions are the last word…
There may well be, in remote
forests and jungles, other
languages that have not yet
been discovered.
The German language has three genders for their
nouns – masculine, feminine, and neuter (der, die, and
‘Child’ is understandably neuter in German, but the
word for ‘girl’ – “Maedchen” – is paradoxically neuter,
and so is ‘wife’ – “Weib” – a word also used for ‘female’
or ‘woman.’
As Mark Twain said: “In German, a young lady has no
sex, but a turnip has (die Ruebe)
In French, the word for the female organ is
masculine – “le vagin”
In Mexico, the Mazateco have developed a
private male language of long and short
whistles which correspond to the syllables of
certain words. Mazateco women are therefore
unable to understand what the men are talking
about and, so far, no male has apparently
betrayed the secret!
German almost became the official language of the
United States of America. The Continental Congress,
convened in Philadelphia during the Revolution, at
one time considered adopting a new language for the
future of the United States, with the aim of cutting off
all ties with England. Among the languages
suggested were German, Hebrew and French.
When it finally came to a vote, English narrowly one –
by one vote!
Verdampt! (damned) and Donnerwetter! (thunder
weather) are German examples of mild swear words
which can be intensified to earthshaking proportions
when combined with other words. The following example
combines “Lord” “God” “the Cross” and intensifiers to
create an enormous explosion:
Sometimes an entire English sentence sounds like
a basic expression in another language. Americans
visiting Japan who would ordinarily experience
some difficulty in remembering the Japanese term
for ‘you’re welcome’ (doo itashimashite) have
solved the problem simply – by answering the
Japanese ‘thankyou’ (arigato) with ‘don’t touch my
mustache.’ Said quickly, this is close enough to be
an acceptable answer!
A single word in Chinese may have several
dozen different meanings, depending on the
tone used to say the word.
For example, the word chiang can mean: shall,
to command, a general, a river, soy sauce,
mechanic, to drop, to descend, or to surrender.
In Chinese, the repetition of ma four times with
different tones signifies ‘Mother scolds the
horse’ (ma-ma-ma-ma). If you add the
questioning ma at the end, you then have
ma-ma-ma-ma-ma, which means
‘Is mother scolding the horse?’
Tongue twisters in various languages tend to
emphasize letter combinations peculiar to the
language which are difficult for non-native speakers
to say quickly:
English ~ She sells seashells by the seashore
French ~ Combien de sous sont ces saucissons-ci?
Ces saucissons-ci sont six sous.
Spanish ~ Que rapido corren los carros, cargados
de azucar, del ferrocarril!
German ~ Zwei schwartze schleimige Schlangen
sitzen zwischen zwei spitzigen Steinen und zischen.
In most languages there are language tricks, perhaps
first developed as conversational scramblers in prisons
to confuse guards. Most are easy to understand.
English ~ the initial letter is changed to a position at the
end of the word and followed by ay ~ ‘Let’s go’ = ‘Etslay
French ~ an av is inserted before vowels ~ Paris =
German ~ repeats every syllable a second time but
changes the first letter of the repeated syllable to
b ~ Kindergarten = Kindbinderbergarbartenben
Submitted by :
Brady Sherard,
Floor Coordinator
Lister Centre
University of Alberta Campus
Resource: “Native Tongues” by Charles

Fun Facts About Language