French, Arabic, German, Hebrew, Portuguese, and Vietnamese

French, Arabic, German, Hebrew, Portuguese, and Vietnamese Rosetta StoneLanguage, in its simplest form, is music. Before you speak it and understand it, you hear its melody and can decide if the sounds are pleasant or not. The French may be a handful to deal with (and several have pretended that they did not understand me if I have very slightly mispronounced French words), but the language has a beauty to it.

I like the sound of a lot of Arabic too. I know this may be a minority opinion, but I appreciate the way it flows. Conversely, I don’t particularly resonate with the rhythm of German, Hebrew, or Portuguese. Please understand (if those are your mother tongues) that I am speaking, writing not of the people, but of the language. I am simply a linguist observing and listening to sounds and deciding whether I superficially like the music.

I am studying Japanese and find it pleasing. None of the vocalizations are too difficult. Rosetta Stone is excellent at “hearing” what you say and rating your pronunciation.

Call me a language nerd, but I like going on YouTube and finding clips of television shows in foreign tongues and listening to them.

French, Arabic, German, Hebrew, Portuguese, and Vietnamese Rosetta StoneA Vietnamese video called Hài kiều Oanh- Lừa Gạt (Kieu Oanh Comedy-fool) convinces me that I do not want to learn Vietnamese. It is too cat-like for my tastes. Yes, this is superficial, but trust me, learning a language is like getting a tattoo. You had better like that grim reaper on your forearm a lot. It’ll be with you the rest of your life.

And as far as Kieu Oanh’s video, I apologize for the creepy gender-insanity that occurs at the 2:30 minute mark. Big-time kudos to you if you made it that far. Even though I am not a Vietnam vet, I had flashbacks to the war I never served in just watching that video.

Hey GI, me love you…

Marine Females and Their Tattoos

When I flew, I had a patch which read Infidel that I wore on my flight suit. I picked it up in Baghdad at the airport once known as Saddam Hussein International Airport, but now referred to as BIAP. Or Baghdad International Airport. The problem with the patch is that they spelled out infidel in Arabic along with the English translation. But they did not use the Arabic word, kaffar, rather they phonetically spelled it out in Arabic script. Still, I liked the patch, messed-up Arabic and all. Plus it kept me out of trouble with the Arabs I used to work with. They had no clue why this American had a patch on his shoulder with gibberish. So I could look tough without having to answer for my toughness. (In all fairness to me, I did not realize this for months.)

At my current job, I have some of my flight patches up in my cubicle. And one day, a woman who was a prior Marine officer came by to chat with me about something. She looks at the patch and says: that is not right. I am giddy, because no one at work has noticed the jacked-up writing.

You speak Arabic? I ask.

No, but I have the real word, kaffar, tattooed on my body. So I know what it looks like.

Ah, Marine females. They are irreplaceable.

Speaking of patches, check out this spec-ops “Harley-Davidson” patch:

Operations in Mangrah Troy

It is in Afghanistan, Mangrah. Extra points if you know what country the door-kicker is from. Do check out his cool Taliban patch too, Jolly Roger and all. (While we are playing  name-dat-soldier, take a peek at this WWII warrior feeding a kitty. My guess would be Australia, considering the camo.)

Japanese in My Car

In an odd turn of events, I am studying Arabic in my bedroom, French in my bathroom, and Japanese in my car*. There is no inside joke about this situation. It is merely due to the materials I am studying.

I was at the airport today and chatted with the Rosetta Stone guy. I listened to the Japanese material and came away impressed with the program. I may get it, despite the fact that lessons 1-5 are $399. Does this sound like a lot of money? It does by itself, but I enjoy the process of learning a language and I would merely chalk it up to continuing education. Which, like my health fund, is well-padded. . .

My question for you: do you speak any languages? How did you learn them? Do you know anyone who has tried Rosetta Stone? How about the Pimsleur Approach?

I study Japanese podcasts in my car, read a vocab list the bathroom, and watch Arabic news in my room. . .

Google Translate Test

Alright linguists, let’s test Google Translate. We need a joke, something basic to run through the software to see how it performs in a comms check. Apologies to comedians everywhere:

1. A guy goes into the doctor’s office.
وقال الرجل يذهب الى مكتب الطبيب.

2. And tells the doctor: Doc, I think I am a dog.
ويقول الطبيب : DOC ، أعتقد أنني كلب.

3. The doctor says: hmm, how long have you had this problem?
الطبيب يقول : هم ، كم من الوقت هل كان لديك هذه المشكلة؟

4. The guy smiled and said: every since I was a puppy!?!
ابتسم الرجل وقال : منذ أن كنت في كل جرو؟!

After Action Report:
1. Google translated “goes” as the English slang for “said” rather than the action verb “to go.”

2. We lost sentence ordering here, but if read backwards, it still translates, somewhat.

3. Very close. With the exception of translating “hmm” as they. (Which in Arabic, the sound “hmm” does mean “they.” But in English, we use it to “think.” Or are they translating it as a sound?)

4. Punchline: So I learn a new word here: جرو. Does that mean “puppy?” Perhaps. (Whoops, I switched verb tense, but Google got it right.) Sometimes I feel like a جرو around Arabic. And jokes too.

PS If you do not already read the Egyptian blogger Sandmonkey, you should. I don’t agree with him on everything, but with posts like this, all is forgiven.

Update: So the wily proprietor of Bookworm Room has commented below about running the phrase back through the translator. Excellent idea. Let’s, shall we?

1. The man goes to the doctor’s office.

2. The doctor says: DOC, I think I have a dog.

3. The doctor says they are, how long have you had this problem?

4. The man smiled and said: Since you each a puppy?!

And there it is, complete gibberish. In 2 above, the inclusion of an English word messed up the ordering. In Arabic, we (Arabic speakers) read right to left. We don’t do this in English, unless you have a lot of time on your hands and no particular desire to understand what is written.

Beirut Jihad . . . . . . . . . الجهاد بيروتي

To my reader from Beirut: sorry, but my writing is not about that kind of jihad. . .

. . .إلى القارئ من بيروت، آسف ولكن كتاباتي ليس عن هذا النوع من الجهاد

But I do have a good post on the Air Force.

. . .ولكن لدي وظيفة جيدة في سلاح الجو

Apple pie perhaps?

كعكة التفاح ربما؟