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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Linguistic Musings

When teaching English, it can be really interesting to see how non-English-speakers hear and think about the language. When you don't know a language well, you become very creative in the way you use it. 

Here are some superb new words and phrases that I learned, for example, while grading final exams at the university: 

"Himselvely" = By himself 
"Talk the brag" = Brag
"Steal man" = Thief 

Is it just me, or would you also love to incorporate some of these words into your everyday vocabulary? You know, you have to know a thing or two about English grammar and conventions to develop these. Actually, it takes a lot of creativity to come up with this stuff!  

Now, on a somewhat related note, I have a fun little game for you: 

When tutoring the National Cycling Team of Rwanda in English, I asked them, in groups, to make a list of words that start with a particular letter. I was particularly entertained by the "P" group. This game is called, "What Did They Mean?" What do you think these words were meant to be? 

1. Poleche 
2. Porbureme
3. Pepo
4. Penebara
5. Porgeht 
6. Phalmoce
7. Pecha 

So that I can put a little space between the questions and answers, let me give some helpful advice. For speakers of Kinyarwanda, and many African languages for the matter, it's extremely common to mix up the R and the L. In fact, it is often acceptable to interchange these letters in Kinyarwanda (and Luganda, etc.) words. In  other words, both spellings can be acceptable. This is funny because in American English, R and L are totally distinct sounds. But for many Africans and others, they are more or less exactly the same. Evidence (from Uganda, not Rwanda): 

Now here are those answers: 

1. Porridge 
2. Problem 
3. People 
4. Peanut Butter 
5. Project 
6. Pharmacy 
7. Picture 

Didn't see "peanut butter" coming, did you? :D


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