Have you ever wondered that how many languages are there in the world? Around 6,000. Maybe quite a few more or maybe a bit less than that. It’s difficult to be sure. One reason is that languages are rapidly dying out; in several parts of the world .We can say like; as fast as one every few weeks. Then there are still a few parts of the world where people are discovering new languages. It can happen like this. A group travels to a remote valley in the middle of the forests of Papua New Guinea and finds a small community living there. When they try to talk to the people, they realize that the language isn’t like any of the others in the area. The world total of languages goes up by one. Or this happens. Linguists finally get the chance to investigate the speech of a community living in a coastal village in Indonesia. They assume that the way the people of this village speak is going to be like the way other people speak who lives in villages further along the coast.
All the 6,000 or so languages of the world have certain things in common. They’ve all got sentences. They’ve all got nouns and verbs. They’ve all got vowels and consonants. They’ve all got rhythm and tone. But when we start to learn a foreign language, it’s the differences which cause problems. It’s natural to think that everyone else speaks their language in the same way that we do. Then we discover the reality is very different. We’ll probably notice the unfamiliar sounds first, and maybe have some difficulty getting our mouth to make them properly. However, with some languages, it can take a while before we realize what the speakers are doing. This is one of the reasons why mother-tongue English speakers find Chinese a tricky language at first.
Speakers of Chinese speak in a ‘sing-song’ way, to English ears. Why? Because Chinese uses the melody of the voice to distinguish between words and this isn’t something that happens in European languages. In English, if I say a word such as ‘mother’ high up in my voice or low down in my voice, it makes no difference to the meaning of the word. It’s still ‘mother’. But in Chinese – and also in many other languages spoken in the Far East – that difference in pitch height can change the meaning of the word completely. The word ‘ma’, said high up in the voice and on a level note, means ‘mother’.
But if you say ‘ma’ low in the voice with a dip downwards followed by a rise in pitch, it means ‘horse’. These differences in melody are called ‘tones’. Chinese, we say, is a ‘tone language’. It’s very important to get the tones right, otherwise we’ll end up calling mother a horse! The other thing we notice very quickly, when we begin to learn a language, is the unfamiliar grammar. Sometimes it’s the order of words in a sentence which is different. Another example. In some languages, adjectives go before the noun; in others, they go after. English and German are two languages that put most of their adjectives before the noun: English: A black cat German: ein schwarze Katze (pronounced ‘shvahrtsuh katsuh’) French (and also Welsh) puts most adjectives after the noun: French: un chat noir (pronounced ‘uhn sha nwahr’) English: A cat black Sometimes we find the opposite situation: a foreign word can be translated by two or more English words. Let’s stay with French. Most English-speaking people know that ‘je t’aime’ means ‘I love you’ in French. But ‘aime’ can also mean ‘like’. So we can say that we ‘aime’ chocolate or swimming or our pet. How do French people tell the difference? If someone says they ‘aime’ you, are they liking you or loving you? It’s usually obvious from the way other words are used in the sentence, or from the tone of voice or, of course, from the associated actions. Conversations themselves can cause problems.
In French the word for ‘thank you’ is ‘merci’ (pronounced ‘mare-see’). We say ‘please’ a lot when we speak English. Our parents beat it into us from a very early age. In many other languages, it’s not such an important word. We can be polite without saying their word for ‘please’. In Spanish, for instance, the word for ‘please’ is ‘por favor’ (pronounced ‘pawr favawr’), but you won’t hear Spanish people saying it routinely in shops when they’re asking for things. If you did hear someone say ‘por favor’, it would be because the speaker was feeling impatient or insistent – ‘hurry up, if you please’!
SPAIN vs PAPUA NEW GUINEA [HK 7’s 2017]
DAY 2 APRIL 8TH 2017
HONG KONG 7’s.