Wednesday, December 15, 2010

How My French Interferes with Swedish

Last night I tried to write a few more sentences in Swedish. I wanted to write about what people drink, such as wine, water and milk. I also wanted to use some new vocabulary words that I learned from someone else's flashcard set on Live Mocha. 

ibland - sometimes
alltid - always
aldrig -never
och - and
eller - or
ofta - often
oftast - usually
nu - now
men - but
mycket - very
redan - already
båda - both
kanske - perphas
många - a lot
brukade - usually
all, allt, alla - all
nästan – almost
varje – each, every
varandra – each other

Here is my original writing. Note that it is completely wrong! Without having a Swedish grammar book to assist me, I made many mistakes.

Hur många vin dricker du?

Nu jag dricker inte vin. Ibland jag dricker vin rött men jag dricker inte ofta.
Ibland jag dricker vin rått men jag dricker altig vatten.
Pojken dricker inte vin rött och vin vitt. Pojken dricker båda mjölk och vatten. Flickan dricker hela vatten men nu, hon dricker inte.

Mistake Number One - in Swedish adjectives come before the noun. You would think that being an English speaker this would have been something that I would have thought about naturally. In English we say ' greeen house' 'big man' 'scary dog' etc...etc...In the languages that I have been learning for most of my life - all Romance languages - the adjectives usually go after the noun. In French we would say, ' une table ronde' ' un livre rouge' 'une femme italienne' . Only certain adjectives go before the noun. These adjectives describe goodness, badness, beauty, age and size. Sometimes, the location of a French adjective determines whether or not it its meaning is literal or figurative. 

Here is an example of this from

Figurative: mes vertes années my green (fruitful) years
Literal: des légumes verts green vegetables

Figurative: un grand homme a great man
Literal: un homme grand a tall man

Figurative: un triste individu a sad (mean or bad) person
Literal: un individu triste a sad (crying) person

Figurative: mon ancienne école my old (former) school
Literal: mon école ancienne my old (aged) school

Figurative: un certain regard a certain (type of) look
Literal: une victoire certaine a certain (assured) victory

Okay, so lets go back to the point of this blog. In my little blurb, I wrote vin rött and vin vitt. The obvious problem is that the words for RED and WHITE are adjectives which modify the noun, WINE. Just as in English, they should be written as Rött Vin and Vitt Vin. The reason I wrote it the other way around, and English speaker who should have known better? I have only studied Romance Languages. When I wrote the sentences, I naturally applied French grammar rules to Swedish. 

This is one of the most common problems that polyglots make. The other languages we know interfere with the languages we are learning. It is not a big problem. Nor is it a reason to quit. If you think about it, everyone has some kind of interference from another language. Typically it is from their native language. These mistakes are easily fixed. It is easy to learn from them. 

All in all, knowing more than one language still makes language learning easier. The advantages polyglots have still outnumber the disadvantages. 

The next mistake I made was basic syntax. This is a major mistake. I wrote, “ Ibland jag dricker”. This means, “Sometimes I drink” In Swedish, the correct syntax is, “ Sometimes, drink I.” I also wrote, “ Hon dricker inte.” This is also incorrect. It goes Verb and then the pronoun. The correct syntax is, “ Drink she not,” or “ Dricker hon inte.”
I wrote, “ Hur många dricker du?” When, I should have written, “ Hur mycket dricker du?” What is the difference between mycket and många? I really have no idea. I have been looking online and have not found an answer yet. If anyone could post the answer on this blog, that would be fantastic.

After the corrections, here is how the text should look. 

Hur mycket vin dricker du? Nu dricker jag inte vin. Ibland dricker jag rött vin, men jag dricker inte ofta. Ibland dricker jag rött vin men jag dricker aldrig vatten. Pojken dricker inte rött vin och inte vitt vin. Pojken dricker både mjölk och vatten. Flickan dricker helst vatten, men nu dricker inte.

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