Friday, December 22, 2006

German is so much easier than French!

My friend Brendan sent me a link about how hard the French elite work at translating new English computer jargon into French.

Why can't they be more like Germans? Believe it or not, the following is written in German!

Weil diese Shareware meinen Personal-Computer mit einem Virus infizieren kann (obwohl sie Virusfrei garantiert ist), muss ich zuerst ein Backup auf Diskette machen und Antivirus-Software installieren. Das Diagnoseprogramm wird verifizieren, dass bei der Hardware (Keyboard, Monitor, Maus, Graphikkarte, Scanner, CD-ROM) alles OK ist, dann neu booten und ein neues Systempasswort eingeben. Bei Internetproblemen ist auch ein neues Netzwerkkabel nötig. Ich bin kein Hacker, aber Multimedia, Multitasking, und C++-Programmieren habe ich schon gelernt. Englisch leider noch nicht...

Remember when French was the international language?


bjkeefe said...

Yeah, but I still love nom de jeu, which we spoke about a while ago.

Back before we had these Internets, I used to have a German friend named Rieke, a lovely woman who was in the US going for her Ph.D. Rieke was the roommate of a woman whom I was seeing at the time, and I was often at their place on the weekends. (During the week, I was at college in another state.)

My Friday afternoon ritual included nipping over to the library, where I'd look up German words until I found a few that had very close English equivalents.

Then, when I'd arrive at gf and Rieke's apartment, I'd start on a rant about how German was an unoriginal language that was copying everything from English, and she'd always bite, and deny it, and I'd say, "Yeah? What's the German word for …?"

Got her every time.

Of course, Rieke quickly finished her studies and moved to another hemisphere, and I got dumped by the gf about four years later, so maybe it wasn't such a good joke.

Unknown said...

It's fun trying to get the French to admit they don't know French. Marty and I were at a fine restaurant in Banff and we each ordered a kir royal (champagne with creme de cassis) to enjoy while the wine "opened up". The sommelier was of course French (not Quebecois) and we asked where the word "kir" came from, since it didn't sound French.

He thought it was Arabic. I asked if it was "deux kirs royaux" (masc. pl.) or "deux kirs royales" (fem. pl.) He said it was "un kir" (masc.) but "kirs royaux" didn't sound right. He went back and forth and decided, there was no plural. "Nous prenons tous les deux un petit kir". We teased him about the no plural thing and he squirmed.

Turns out that Félix Kir was the député-maire de Dijon after WWII and the drink was named after him. Not Arabic at all! Explains the lack of plural. Still he didn't seem at all certain.

The Spanish fall for it too. I asked a college-educated native Spanish speaker why is it "la mano" (fem) since mano ends in -o? No idea. (HINT: the latin word "manus" ends in -us but is feminine). OK, how about this one: Is "aqua" masculine or feminine. He wouldn't be fooled twice! It's "el agua", so masculine. Oh yeah, then why do you say "el agua fresca"? Umm... (HINT: "el agua" for euphony, you could say "la fresca agua" but not "el fresca agua"!)

A linguistics grad student at Berkeley once told me there is a maxim in linguistics: believe anything a person says in his native language, but believe nothing a person says about his native language.

I guess she was right!

Anonymous said...

If that paragraph is meant to demonstrate how easy German is, it didn't. Half the words in that paragraph are technical terms and would be recognisable in any European language. I can't understand much of the rest

Unknown said...

Anonymous, thanks for reading my blog. I get so few comments. I guess I need to clarify the intended meaning of this blog entry:

If that paragraph is meant to demonstrate how easy German is, it didn't.

It wasn't. Please reread the first and last sentences.

Half the words in that paragraph are technical terms and would be recognisable in any European language.

Exactly. International languages exist to facilitate technical exchanges via a standardized jargon. English and German get this. French does not, which (along with the fall of their empire and a post-war economy that has not kept pace with the US) is steadily diminishing its influence in international communication.

Protectionism in commerce and language both lead to the same end: stagnation and isolation.

Unknown said...

I guess the Germans have had enough of this English pollution, at least the conservative ones. The HuffPost article Germans Campaign To Safeguard Language describes the move underway to enshrine German as the official language of Germany, as French is in France. Can the U.S. be far behind?

Anonymous said...

Hey Brendan, how can you say German is an unoriginal language when English originated from Western Germany and from German settlers. The only words we stole were certain Internet/Computer words from the USA . Your friend Rieke was right.

Unknown said...

There is one "fact" that seemingly every German knows and no American has heard of before: we should all now be speaking German in the US.

Behold this most improbable of urban legends of how German almost became the official language of the US.