What is COMmon to many languages is the COMfortable starting point

Learning a new language often generates anxiety, fear of the unknown. Thus it is essential to instil a considerable degree of comfort into the experience. Since fear of the unknown is the instigator, then alleviate that by drawing on similarities between languages.

My 7 year old  son is learning French in a US private school but shies away anytime I ask him something in French. Recently I have started with asking him to spell English words ending with table, tion, sion then having him pronounce those very same words in French pointing out that both meaning and spelling are the same. Pronunciation v. Meaning and spelling, that is one unknown against two known: le tour est joué, comme on dit en Français!

Comfort also comes in other ways like when the word sounds very much like the act it descrribes. Arabic is replete of such instances and I will demonstrate a few that worked well with my 10 year old Joey.

جوي غطص في المغطص و عطص

(Joey ghatasa fi al maghtas wa зtasa) which means that Joey jumped into the bathtub and sneezed. Compare the Arabic and English sentences and how much more directly descriptive of the action down to the “splash” in the water and the AATCHOUM for зtasa the Arabic sentence is. Also bathtub and the action of jumping into it are practically the same word in Arabic. Another source of comfort: less memorization needed.

Another quick example: the cat attacks and the mouse flees under the bed (in Arabic: Al herr farra wara al fara taht al takht).

فرى الهر وراء الفارا تحت التخت

Clearly the Arabic sentence is much more descriptive and phonetically pleasing with herr/farra/fara and taht/takht. Again easier to memorize because of those characteristics.

Another phonetic Arabic classic اكل الكوسى موسى (Akala Al Koosa Moosa), meaning Moses ate the zucchini, sounds so much musical in arabic.

Russian has the “KH” in common with Arabic and the “J” in common with French.

Yet Russian is notorious for the use of too many letters (36 in their alphabet) especially consonants. A glaring example is the word half: In Arabic it is the shortest ) نصNos); in English (half), longer; in French moitié, even longer; in Russian половина (Polovinia), longest! Logically a word meaning half is expected to be short! No wonder the Arabs invented Algebra.

Cross-language calembours could be really comical. For example ХАРАЧО (Kharashow) could mean hot (chaud in French) shit (Khara in Arabic).



Author: fadi bejjani

physician, researcher, health care administrator and international project developer

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