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Fun/Wierd Language Quirks(Strange facts)

I just thought we could share some language quirks non-natives may not understand but that also seems odd to even us in our native language.

This is a great way to know what to avoid if we ever find ourselves in a foreign country and don't want to sound wierd or insult the people who live there.

1. One quirk per comment (choose your favorite one)
2. Follow the format


Language: Portuguese
Quirk: Ronaldinho é bonito
Translation: little Ronaldo (name) is cute
Explanation: In portuguese you can make fun little names of practically any noun by adding "inho /inha" at the end even if some don't make sense. It is either used as nickname for a child or to denote something "cute".

Edit: It can be in any language, not only current duolingo languages.

October 4, 2013



Language: Hungarian

Quirk: Piros (pee-rosh)/Vörös (Voo-roosh, oo said as in 'foot')

Translation: Red (both!)

Explanation: In Hungarian, there are two words for red, shown above. While in English we use the words light/dark to show the strength of a colour, while you can say világos/sötét for colours in Hungarian, there are actually two set words for two tones of red, but you don't translate them as light/dark red. Piros means a light red, like that of a traffic light, or in the Italian flag, and Vörös means a dark red, like the red of a red wine or blood.


Oh, and "vörös" is not pronounced as "voo-roosh", but rather like "vu-rush" with both of the "u" said as in "burn". For French and/or German learners, "ö" is like French "oe", and is the same as German "ö".


Same in Hebrew for blue! :)


Language: Spanish Quirk: el pobre hombre / el hombre pobre Translation: the poor (unfortunate) man / the poor (without money) man Explanation: some adjectives in Spanish change meaning when placed before the noun. They become "non-literal" translations


Language: Italian

Quirk: il braccio (m.sing.) / le braccie (f.pl.)

Translation: the arm / the arms

Explanation: Some masculine nouns in Italian (such as "il braccio") become feminine when they turn plural ("le braccie"). Other examples include "il dito" ("the finger" m.sing.) / "le dita" ("the fingers" f.pl.), "l'uovo" ("the egg" m.sing.) / "le uova" ("the eggs" f.pl.).


(This isn't my native language, but this is the best I know of this to my knowledge)

Language: Mandarin Chinese

Quirk: ...不... ?(BUT: 有没有... ?) / ... 吗?

Translation: Two ways to impose a question

Explanation: In Chinese, there are two ways to ask a question:

Repeating the verb separated by the negative 'not' (不 "" for every noun except "to have", 有 "yǒu", which uses 没 "méi").


Using the question indicative word 吗 "ma" at the end of the sentence. You end up with something like this:

您说不说英文? "nín shuō bùshuō Yīngwén?" = Do you (formal) speak English?

Which can also be said:

您说英文吗? "nín shuō Yīngwén ma?"

And then for 有:

他有没有二个姐姐? "tā yǒu méiyǒu èr gè jiějie?" = Does he have two sisters?

Which can also be said:

他有二个姐姐吗? "tā yǒu èr gè jiějie ma?"

Although they are interchangeable, I'm guessing, to whichever feels more natural, I think for past tense (simply adding 了 "le" after the verb) it would be easier to simply use the ... 吗? form:

你写了你的名吗? "nǐ xiěle nǐde míng ma?" = Did you write your name?

Whew, that was a lot! I'll be grateful for any tips, by natives or speakers of Mandarin :)


Sure, most of you heard about this poem - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=509ad4eCL40 . But literaly every mention about Mandarin Chinese reminds me of it. More details on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lion-Eating_Poet_in_the_Stone_Den , http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_syllable_article


Language: Mandarin Chinese

Quirk #1: 高兴 [hǎo gāoxìng] = Very happy / 高兴 [bù gāoxìng] = Not happy / 好不高兴 [hǎo bù gāoxìng] = Really happy

Explanation #1: In Mandarin Chinese, one can emphasize an adjective by putting "好" [hǎo] in front of it (equivalent to "very" in English), and negate an adjective by putting "不" [bù] in front of it (equivalent to "not" in English). But for a lot of adjectives, putting "好不" [hǎo bù] in front of them does not result in a strong negation ("very not"), but surprisingly a strong emphasis ("really"). Other examples include "好不热闹" [hǎo bù rènào] ("really lively"), "好不尴尬" [hǎo bù gāngà] ("really embarrassed").

Quirk #2: 好不容易 [hǎo bù róngyì] = Really not easy

Explanation #2: For certain adjectives such as "容易" [róngyì] ("easy"), the above odd rule does not work, and "好不" [hǎo bù] is a strong negation. Other examples include "好不公平" [hǎo bù gōngpíng] ("really not fair"), "好不值得" ("really not worthwhile")

There is no absolute rule as to which adjectives would take "好不" [hǎo bù] as a strong emphasis and which ones would take it as a strong negation. Some adjectives could even take the same "好不" [hǎo bù] for both a strong emphasis and a strong negation, depending on context!


Language: Hungarian

Quirk: Eszem az almát/Almát eszek

Translation: I eat the apple/I am eating (an) apple(s)

Explanation: Eszem means "I eat". Eszek also means "I eat". They are correct at different times. Eszem is correct when the object has a definite article. Eszek is used when there is an indefinite article. I think :) I just use whichever sounds right :)


I read something similar (http://www.duolingo.com/#/comment/579) about the word eat in German.


Not my native tongue, but I'll give it a go:

Language: Hindi Quirk: Ricksha / Ricksha-wallah Translation: Rickshaw / The man who drives the rickshaw Explanation: Adding the suffix "-wallah" (often pronounced as "vallah"), will denote "the man of-". For instance, "paper-wallah" - the newspaper guy, "chai-wallah" - the man who serves tea, etc. You can practically add this suffix to any object, as long as there's actually a man who works with it.


Very interesting! This quirk definitely reminded me of the band Dishwalla from the 1990's -- enough to make me look them up on Wikipedia! It turns out the band name is the Hindi term for a guy who provides cable television to the neighborhood.


This is interesting, I would have a lot of fun with that word. But it seems the words are mainly for informal work. What about a librarian, is he a "book"-wallah, or a "metal" -wallah/ hammer-wallah( blacksmith), "wood"-wallah (carpenter)?


I can definitely say that a "book-wallah" does exist - but it's the guy that sells photocopied books on the corner of the street. I think it's also a matter of class; only the lower classes can be referred to as "wallahs" as far as I know.


Language: Portuguese(Mozambican Informal)
Quirk: Eu vou comer o mata-bicho
Translation: I am going to eat breakfast
Explanation: In Portuguese( mozambican informal) speech, the individuals use the term mata-bicho to refer breakfast. However, if one literally translates the mata-bicho, it means kill-beast, or it can informally mean kill male private part.


Language: Polish

Quirk: byłem / byłam

Translation: I was (male) / I was (female)

Explanation: Polish has different verb conjugations in the past tense for the gender of the speaker. In this example, -em denotes a male saying the word and -am a woman, there's also a third person conjugation for neuter nouns.


Interesting, my guess is many languages have something similar. In Portuguese for example, a woman says thank you(obrigada) in a different way to a man(Obrigado). From what I could hear in Japanese media, a woman and a man have different ways of saying "I" or "me" .

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