Csíkszereda Musings

My life in and around Csíkszereda, also known as Miercurea Ciuc.

Archive for the ‘language’ Category

Bilingual Stirrings

Posted by Andy Hockley on 17 May, 2007

Paula is starting, slowly, one word at a time, to speak. She has had one or two words for a while now – one of her first words, for example, was to point very firmly at something which caught her eye and say “Né!”. This is the Hungarian word for “Look!” and sounds not unlike “Ni” – thus for a while she was very much the “baby who says ni”. But anyway, I digress.

So, post né! and a long drawn out, occasionally whiny A-ny-u-ka, she was being quite slow to utter things. This apparently is quite common in bilingual babies who are getting input in more than one language – they take longer to start using the words. She was up to speed with all the other developmental milestones which parenting websites offer up, but speaking was (and is) lagging a tad. But recently the words have started to come – there’s now a very definite “köszi” (thanks), and something which sounds like “this” but is very likely “tessek” (among other things, “here you are”), and a few others. But a couple of days ago we were standing (or I was standing, she was in my arms) at the kitchen window looking for dogs outside (She loves dogs. And pigeons. All animals probably, it’s just that in downtown Csikszereda, dogs and pigeons are broadly speaking the only obvious non human options). As we stood and looked, there round the corner came a dog. Quick as a flash, her arm extended, and her finger pointed quivering at this sight. “Look!” she cried excitedly. In English. Not only had she come up with her first recognisable English word, but she had correctly surmised that she needed to use it with me, and nobody else, and had managed to do that all in the split second of intense excitement at seeing yet another scruffy mongrel. The human brain is an amazing thing.

I’m not sure how long it will be before she learns that an English speaking cockerel goes “Cock-a-doodle-do”, since at present they very definitely say “Kukuriku”, which is what those odd magyar cocks say. (More animal noises in different languages can be found here).

Posted in language, paula | 1 Comment »

Bilingual stirrings

Posted by Andy Hockley on 17 May, 2007

Paula is starting, slowly, one word at a time, to speak. She has had one or two words for a while now – one of her first words, for example, was to point very firmly at something which caught her eye and say “Né!”. This is the Hungarian word for “Look!” and sounds not unlike “Ni” – thus for a while she was very much the “baby who says ni”. But anyway, I digress.

So, post né! and a long drawn out, occasionally whiny A-ny-u-ka, she was being quite slow to utter things. This apparently is quite common in bilingual babies who are getting input in more than one language – they take longer to start using the words. She was up to speed with all the other developmental milestones which parenting websites offer up, but speaking was (and is) lagging a tad. But recently the words have started to come – there’s now a very definite “köszi” (thanks), and something which sounds like “this” but is very likely “tessek” (among other things, “here you are”), and a few others. But a couple of days ago we were standing (or I was standing, she was in my arms) at the kitchen window looking for dogs outside (She loves dogs. And pigeons. All animals probably, it’s just that in downtown Csikszereda, dogs and pigeons are broadly speaking the only obvious non human options). As we stood and looked, there round the corner came a dog. Quick as a flash, her arm extended, and her finger pointed quivering at this sight. “Look!” she cried excitedly. In English. Not only had she come up with her first recognisable English word, but she had correctly surmised that she needed to use it with me, and nobody else, and had managed to do that all in the split second of intense excitement at seeing yet another scruffy mongrel. The human brain is an amazing thing.

I’m not sure how long it will be before she learns that an English speaking cockerel goes “Cock-a-doodle-do”, since at present they very definitely say “Kukuriku”, which is what those odd magyar cocks say. (More animal noises in different languages can be found here).

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Random links, tags, and swearing

Posted by Andy Hockley on 14 May, 2007

While I think about all the things I should write about (the Basescu suspension, more on Autonomy, the Rosia Montana gold mine, blah blah etc etc and so on and so forth), I instead will fill in the morning with a couple of unrelated and trivial observations and links

Firstly, from this weekend’s Guardian, a piece about tourism in the Saxon area of Transylvania, and more specifically the village of Viscri. It’s actually the second article in two years about Viscri (here’s the first) so someone in that small village must have some kind of hotline to the paper. It’s all a bit suspicious if you ask me.

Ages ago I was tagged to write something about a favourite computer game. Since I rarely have time for computer games – the other day I managed to spend the day watching a DVD in small bite sized pieces while Paula slep fitfully in my arms, the first DVD/video/film I’ve watched for ages, such is the lack of actual time to do these things – I can’t really comment on anything very modern, but I do remember playing Football Manager on the ZX Spectrum for hours and hours back in the day, and playing it on that link brought back one or two vague flashbacks of those far off days. You try telling kids today that computer games used to be issued on cassette and they won’t believe you. Before that I remember that magazines used to print the BASIC code for you to type in your own games. None of this DVD stuck to the front cover nonsense. (Thanks to 200 percent for the link)

Romania got creamed in this weekend’s Eurovision song contest, which I didn’t watch, and I haven’t heard the entry (of anyone I think) so god only knows if it was deserved or not.

And finally, for today, a great language resource – The Alternative Hungarian Dictionary, from which you, the non-Hungarian speaker, can learn useful expressions which will either endear you to Hungarians, or earn you a smack in the face. I am familiar with quite a few of them, including all of the ones which involve equine genitalia (a very popular swearing device in Hungarian, for some reason), and some which are not included at all, but quite a few were entirely new to me. My favourite, I think, being Paksi mogyoró, which literally means “hazelnut from the town of Paks”, but idiomatically would best be translated in English as “clingon”. The site suffers somewhat from not rendering accents well (the Romanian dictionary from the same site is almost unreadable, so poorly does it deal with diacritical marks).

Posted in language, links, transylvania, travel | 2 Comments »

Random links, tags, and swearing

Posted by Andy Hockley on 14 May, 2007

While I think about all the things I should write about (the Basescu suspension, more on Autonomy, the Rosia Montana gold mine, blah blah etc etc and so on and so forth), I instead will fill in the morning with a couple of unrelated and trivial observations and links

Firstly, from this weekend’s Guardian, a piece about tourism in the Saxon area of Transylvania, and more specifically the village of Viscri. It’s actually the second article in two years about Viscri (here’s the first) so someone in that small village must have some kind of hotline to the paper. It’s all a bit suspicious if you ask me.

Ages ago I was tagged to write something about a favourite computer game. Since I rarely have time for computer games – the other day I managed to spend the day watching a DVD in small bite sized pieces while Paula slep fitfully in my arms, the first DVD/video/film I’ve watched for ages, such is the lack of actual time to do these things – I can’t really comment on anything very modern, but I do remember playing Football Manager on the ZX Spectrum for hours and hours back in the day, and playing it on that link brought back one or two vague flashbacks of those far off days. You try telling kids today that computer games used to be issued on cassette and they won’t believe you. Before that I remember that magazines used to print the BASIC code for you to type in your own games. None of this DVD stuck to the front cover nonsense. (Thanks to 200 percent for the link)

Romania got creamed in this weekend’s Eurovision song contest, which I didn’t watch, and I haven’t heard the entry (of anyone I think) so god only knows if it was deserved or not.

And finally, for today, a great language resource – The Alternative Hungarian Dictionary, from which you, the non-Hungarian speaker, can learn useful expressions which will either endear you to Hungarians, or earn you a smack in the face. I am familiar with quite a few of them, including all of the ones which involve equine genitalia (a very popular swearing device in Hungarian, for some reason), and some which are not included at all, but quite a few were entirely new to me. My favourite, I think, being Paksi mogyoró, which literally means “hazelnut from the town of Paks”, but idiomatically would best be translated in English as “clingon”. The site suffers somewhat from not rendering accents well (the Romanian dictionary from the same site is almost unreadable, so poorly does it deal with diacritical marks).

Posted in language, links, transylvania, travel | 2 Comments »

Language by committee

Posted by Andy Hockley on 9 November, 2006

Romania, in common with many European countries, has some form of national academy which decides on how the Romanian language should develop. Spellings get changed, new words get certified as being acceptable for use, and I don’t know what else. I am told for example that the word “sunt” which is the first person singular and third person plural conjugation of the verb “to be” (As in “Eu sunt un blogger”) used to be spelled sînt. Now that sounds like a seriously big change. Just imagine if one day the word “am” changed to “om” or something. It’d throw everyone into confusion.

And in fact that confusion happens here, as I learned a couple of days ago. Now she is going to school, Bogi is learning Romanian, and comes home each day with lots of phrases to practice (which to her credit she does, walking round the house commenting on what she is doing at all moments in Romanian. It’s cool. She’ll be trilingual in about a year at this rate). So, anyway, a couple of days ago she comes home with the words she has to practice, one of which is the word for “scissors”. Her mother instantly corrects her pronunciation. Bogi, indignantly, tells her that this is the way she learned it today. A glance at her note book tells Erika that not only does she have the incorrect pronunciation but also the incorrect spelling. Patiently she sits down to help her with the correct pronunciation (the teachers, too, speak Romanian as a second language, and so are not necessarily to be trusted as to being entirely correct). However, before she does that, she just looks it up in a dictionary to be on the safe side. And, lo and behold, scissors is one of those words that has had its spelling (and hence pronunciation) changed by the Romanian Academy. I’ve just looked it up, myself, and can tell you that “foarfece” is the currently known spelling. The old one is something like foarfaca (though I’m doing that from roughly transcribing a version I’ve only heard, so it could be way off).

We learned the next day while waiting at the school gates for her to come out, that this scene repeated across the town as angry second language Romanian speaking parents worried about their childrens’ educations, reacted to their little ones coming home with patently wrong information, with tirades of extracurricular support, loudly voiced concern about the quality of the education their offspring were receiving, and then shamefaced climbdowns. It also spread beyond the parents, with Erika’s entire office agog at the news that the word for scissors had changed without them knowing.

I’m guessing that this kind of thing must go on all the time – native speakers presumably keep track of these changes and, while the transition must be difficult, at least are aware that things have moved on, but non-native speakers learn the language one way and unless they hear otherwise will assume it to have remained roughly as it was. Which brings me to the question – why is it necessary to have these bodies of people in dusty rooms pronouncing on what the language is, and what changes are necessary? Romanian has one, Hungarian (I think) has one, French definitely has one, German (I also think) has one. English doesn’t. Yet despite that dreadfully anarchic fact the language seems to survive and thrive. Why does there need to be this rigorous control of language in certain places rather than the laissez faire approach favoured by English? (Indeed, if there were such a thing as an English Academy they would probably not have allowed me to use the phrase “laissez faire” in that last sentence.) I really don’t get this need for a committee to ascertain what words or spellings or grammatical constructions people should be using. Could anyone help me understand?

Posted in language, romanian | 7 Comments »

Language by committee

Posted by Andy Hockley on 9 November, 2006

Romania, in common with many European countries, has some form of national academy which decides on how the Romanian language should develop. Spellings get changed, new words get certified as being acceptable for use, and I don’t know what else. I am told for example that the word “sunt” which is the first person singular and third person plural conjugation of the verb “to be” (As in “Eu sunt un blogger”) used to be spelled sînt. Now that sounds like a seriously big change. Just imagine if one day the word “am” changed to “om” or something. It’d throw everyone into confusion.

And in fact that confusion happens here, as I learned a couple of days ago. Now she is going to school, Bogi is learning Romanian, and comes home each day with lots of phrases to practice (which to her credit she does, walking round the house commenting on what she is doing at all moments in Romanian. It’s cool. She’ll be trilingual in about a year at this rate). So, anyway, a couple of days ago she comes home with the words she has to practice, one of which is the word for “scissors”. Her mother instantly corrects her pronunciation. Bogi, indignantly, tells her that this is the way she learned it today. A glance at her note book tells Erika that not only does she have the incorrect pronunciation but also the incorrect spelling. Patiently she sits down to help her with the correct pronunciation (the teachers, too, speak Romanian as a second language, and so are not necessarily to be trusted as to being entirely correct). However, before she does that, she just looks it up in a dictionary to be on the safe side. And, lo and behold, scissors is one of those words that has had its spelling (and hence pronunciation) changed by the Romanian Academy. I’ve just looked it up, myself, and can tell you that “foarfece” is the currently known spelling. The old one is something like foarfaca (though I’m doing that from roughly transcribing a version I’ve only heard, so it could be way off).

We learned the next day while waiting at the school gates for her to come out, that this scene repeated across the town as angry second language Romanian speaking parents worried about their childrens’ educations, reacted to their little ones coming home with patently wrong information, with tirades of extracurricular support, loudly voiced concern about the quality of the education their offspring were receiving, and then shamefaced climbdowns. It also spread beyond the parents, with Erika’s entire office agog at the news that the word for scissors had changed without them knowing.

I’m guessing that this kind of thing must go on all the time – native speakers presumably keep track of these changes and, while the transition must be difficult, at least are aware that things have moved on, but non-native speakers learn the language one way and unless they hear otherwise will assume it to have remained roughly as it was. Which brings me to the question – why is it necessary to have these bodies of people in dusty rooms pronouncing on what the language is, and what changes are necessary? Romanian has one, Hungarian (I think) has one, French definitely has one, German (I also think) has one. English doesn’t. Yet despite that dreadfully anarchic fact the language seems to survive and thrive. Why does there need to be this rigorous control of language in certain places rather than the laissez faire approach favoured by English? (Indeed, if there were such a thing as an English Academy they would probably not have allowed me to use the phrase “laissez faire” in that last sentence.) I really don’t get this need for a committee to ascertain what words or spellings or grammatical constructions people should be using. Could anyone help me understand?

Posted in language, romanian | 7 Comments »

Cruising

Posted by Andy Hockley on 9 October, 2006

Paula recently started cruising. No, no, that’s not what you’re thinking of, it’s something entirely different. It is the official term (I have learned) for that period when she (or any baby, to be honest) starts trying to pull herself to a standing position. She’s only actually been crawling properly for about a month, having spent some while attempting to crawl with her head on the floor as well as her four limbs (go on, try that, it’s dead tricky), and the teacher in me would like her to perfect that skill before moving onto something infinitely more complex, but you know, she won’t be told.

I have no idea why it’s called cruising though. It’s all very confusing. I had always assumed that the preferred holiday of blue-rinsed American over-70s was known as “Going on a cruise” rather than “Cruising” precisely to avoid the confusion around the activity described in the second, most commonly understood definition here. “What are you doing for your holidays this summer, Myrtle?” “O, Walt and I thought we’d do a spot of cruising”. I mean it would lead to endless confusion and suggestive double-entendres wouldn’t it? “I heard Walt and Myrtle are cruising this summer”, “Oh, I bet they are”. But, now, to my surprise, I learn that the word has been co-opted by the parent community to mean something entirely different. How I wish these words weren’t besmirched by their being used by these marginal societal groups, to mean something faintly unsavoury. Oh, for a simpler more innocent world, when cruising was picking people up in toilets and not something involving watching babies repeatedly fall on their arse.

Is nothing sacred? The next thing I’ll discover is that cottaging is a word also used to describe the infant practice of burping lightly and allowing a small pool of half digested milk to spill from the mouth and be deposited on ones (and ones parents’) clothes.

Posted in language, paula | Leave a Comment »

Cruising

Posted by Andy Hockley on 9 October, 2006

Paula recently started cruising. No, no, that’s not what you’re thinking of, it’s something entirely different. It is the official term (I have learned) for that period when she (or any baby, to be honest) starts trying to pull herself to a standing position. She’s only actually been crawling properly for about a month, having spent some while attempting to crawl with her head on the floor as well as her four limbs (go on, try that, it’s dead tricky), and the teacher in me would like her to perfect that skill before moving onto something infinitely more complex, but you know, she won’t be told.

I have no idea why it’s called cruising though. It’s all very confusing. I had always assumed that the preferred holiday of blue-rinsed American over-70s was known as “Going on a cruise” rather than “Cruising” precisely to avoid the confusion around the activity described in the second, most commonly understood definition here. “What are you doing for your holidays this summer, Myrtle?” “O, Walt and I thought we’d do a spot of cruising”. I mean it would lead to endless confusion and suggestive double-entendres wouldn’t it? “I heard Walt and Myrtle are cruising this summer”, “Oh, I bet they are”. But, now, to my surprise, I learn that the word has been co-opted by the parent community to mean something entirely different. How I wish these words weren’t besmirched by their being used by these marginal societal groups, to mean something faintly unsavoury. Oh, for a simpler more innocent world, when cruising was picking people up in toilets and not something involving watching babies repeatedly fall on their arse.

Is nothing sacred? The next thing I’ll discover is that cottaging is a word also used to describe the infant practice of burping lightly and allowing a small pool of half digested milk to spill from the mouth and be deposited on ones (and ones parents’) clothes.

Posted in language, paula | Leave a Comment »

A toast

Posted by Andy Hockley on 27 July, 2006

I was thinking about what I could post to mark this blog’s birthday (Csiki musings is two), and could think of nothing. So I thought to opt for an unusual sort of post about nothing in particular, but in an abnormal fashion. Your task, should you want to do so, is to work out what, in particular, is odd or unusual about this blog posting.

Two tours around our sun. A lot of words in that long pair of rotations. A lot of trash. A small amount of important or worthy posts, I trust. Mostly dross.

Anyway, what additional information can I impart, now that I am trying out this difficult task of inking an abnormal post in this way? Could I talk about Transylvania, again? About Romania or Hungary, or Romanians and Hungarians? Our holiday in Bulgaria? I think today I may shy away from such old topics and focus on an additional option.

And that topic, randomly, is flying. I am thinking of this topic today, as tomorrow I must fly, to Spain, to Catalunya in fact, and it will occupy most of my day. First driving to Coanda Airport (four hours), waiting for two hours, boarding, flying to Milan, waiting for two additional hours, boarding again, and finally flying to BCN (as it’s known in airport lingo). All in all a full day lost. But things start to look up – as 2007 looms (and all that that will bring about) so, too, do low cost flights. Wizz Air, to start with, in launching a flight from Hungary’s capital city to my in-laws’ town will significantly cut my to-airport-driving. In fact, in August our total family will fly to London Luton (round trip) from that handy Transylvanian town for an almost impossibly low sum. And things only look apt to pick up from this point.

OK, I’ll stop now, finish this painfully poor post, lift a glass to two anni of Csiki Musings, and toast to two additional such anni. Hasta manana.

Posted in language, travel | 2 Comments »

A toast

Posted by Andy Hockley on 27 July, 2006

I was thinking about what I could post to mark this blog’s birthday (Csiki musings is two), and could think of nothing. So I thought to opt for an unusual sort of post about nothing in particular, but in an abnormal fashion. Your task, should you want to do so, is to work out what, in particular, is odd or unusual about this blog posting.

Two tours around our sun. A lot of words in that long pair of rotations. A lot of trash. A small amount of important or worthy posts, I trust. Mostly dross.

Anyway, what additional information can I impart, now that I am trying out this difficult task of inking an abnormal post in this way? Could I talk about Transylvania, again? About Romania or Hungary, or Romanians and Hungarians? Our holiday in Bulgaria? I think today I may shy away from such old topics and focus on an additional option.

And that topic, randomly, is flying. I am thinking of this topic today, as tomorrow I must fly, to Spain, to Catalunya in fact, and it will occupy most of my day. First driving to Coanda Airport (four hours), waiting for two hours, boarding, flying to Milan, waiting for two additional hours, boarding again, and finally flying to BCN (as it’s known in airport lingo). All in all a full day lost. But things start to look up – as 2007 looms (and all that that will bring about) so, too, do low cost flights. Wizz Air, to start with, in launching a flight from Hungary’s capital city to my in-laws’ town will significantly cut my to-airport-driving. In fact, in August our total family will fly to London Luton (round trip) from that handy Transylvanian town for an almost impossibly low sum. And things only look apt to pick up from this point.

OK, I’ll stop now, finish this painfully poor post, lift a glass to two anni of Csiki Musings, and toast to two additional such anni. Hasta manana.

Posted in language, travel | 2 Comments »