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When you come across a new language, it may seem interesting as well as bizarre. The key to understanding and learning it, however, still lies in cracking the logic of its grammar and lexis. Some learners, though, believe that some language concepts are just innately ridiculous and they are not hesitant to share why.
- Reddit users shared their experiences with peculiar language concepts, such as the French counting system, Danish number naming, and German separable verbs.
- Asian languages, particularly Mandarin and Korean, have their unique challenges, like the use of tones in Mandarin and two different counting systems in Korean.
- Algonquin languages categorize nouns into ‘animate’ and ‘inanimate’, a system distinct from the traditional masculine/feminine classifications seen in many other languages.
Even though logic plays a great part in language learning process, sometimes it just goes out the window. Why, you may ask? Well, what makes sense for one culture may not necessarily seem reasonable for the ther. This occurrence opened up a wide discussion on Reddit about absurd concepts in different languages.
We read through the comments and analyzed what languages seem to have the most confusing structures, at least from the perspectives of those trying to learn it.
French, Danish, German
The dialogue started with the strangeness of French counting system, especially for the numbers between 80 and 90, as OP mentioned. Not everyone agreed with this statement, still, there were a few other people who noticed other peculiarities as well when learning French. It seems that many learners don’t see any reasoning behind the tendency of the French letters to not be fully pronounced in words.
“The fact that about half each French word is lucky enough to not be pronounced”
“The half that is pronounced has 6 other homophones with various meanings that all sound exactly the same when spoken but are spelled differently.”
Danish language came second with its peculiarities. There, the numerical system seems to have its own mathematical rules, since when counting, 50 suddensluy becomes half of 60:
“Wait until you hear the danish 50 and 60. 50 is halvtreds and 60 is tres, which literally translates to 50 being “half-sixty”.”
“70 isn’t even the same word as half 80! Is it halvfirs? No it’s halvfjerds. Probably some old reason why but still. Where she consistency?”
Redditors also seemed to have a few questions to German language and its logics as well. Here, they moved away from number and got into another topic of seperable verbs.
“The fact that umfahren is the opposite of umfahren is infuriating”
“To me though, these examples are still different because in German, the separable verb is still one word with no space when it’s in the infinitive (I think this is what I mean? Not sure. I’m new to this) while this English example, it’s still two separate words “hand” -space- “out.” And then you have the word “handout” which is different all over again and a noun 😆 And then I don’t think there are cases in English where it’s ever “out hand”, like when German does it: “Ich muss später eine Tasche einkaufen.” Are there?”
There also was a common bash of the definitive articles that are being constantly reused in German. An especial confusion seemed to strike most of the German learners when the time came to discuss the Dativ structure:
“…So there are 12 case-gender combinations, so far so good – there is utility to this I guess. But the fact that the Feminine Dativ (Der) is the same as the nominitiv masculine (der) is just so absurd. It’s like they were trying to make it hard.”
“I like the fact that masculine accusative “den” is the same as dative plural “den”. It can be really confusing if you’re still not familiar with the language. Just an example: the verb “folgen” (to follow) is always followed (no puns intended) by a dative object. If you don’t know that, you can misunderstand the sentence ich folge den Soldaten (I follow the soldiers) because you might interpret it as I follow the soldier. It’s very subtle.”
Mandarin Chinese & Korean
Asian languages are becoming more and more popuular among language lovers, They are, however, not less strange than any other language group, with their own intricacies and quirks.
Let’s start with Mandarin/Chinese. Here, even a Chinese speaker has said to find a few concepts confusing:
“As a Chinese speaker: plurals, articles, conjugations, grammatical genders and cases. But I’d imagine a non Chinese speaker would consider tones to be ridiculous.”
‘As an English speaker learning Mandarin, tones are relatively easy if you learn them thoroughly to begin with. Mistakes are inevitable, but the basic concept is fine once you get used to it. However: fuck 了。 The more I learn, the less I understand…. it usually designates changes in state or things that happened in the past, but it can also mean other stuff. Mostly, it’s notoriously unpredictable and fiddly to use.’
Korean language seems not be much clearer, having two different ways of counting to 100. ANd the trickiest part is that one of these ways is not Korean at all…but Chinese.
“How about in Korean having two different ways to count to 100.. one being the chinese way, one being the korean way. And then, if you are counting a chinese origin word, you have to use the chinese numering system and vice versa for a korean origin word. Thankfully, koreans still understand me when I mess them up haha”
Another tricky part was mentioned to be spelling which seems to be difficult in both Korean, because of consonants, and Chinese, because of tones:
“In Korean it’s probably the empty consonant. It’s just there to mess with my spelling. Dictation in Korean is unnecessarily hard and that’s one of the reasons”
Algonquin languages is a set of different languages that include Cree, Ojibwa, Blackfoot, Cheyenne, Mi’kmaq (Micmac), Arapaho, and Fox-Sauk-Kickapoo. These are different dialects to the Ojibwa indigenous language. Surprisingly or not, but this language groped interests quite a bunch of people who also shared some intricacies associated with the language structure.
Here, the topic of gendered language, especially nouns was brought up. These group of languages also has a similar approach, but instead of giving the objects either feminine or masculine distinction, they chose to define them as animate/inanimate:
“In Anishinaabemowin and Cree (and other Algonquin languages I’m sure) nouns are gendered but instead of masculine/feminine it’s animate/inanimate. Which I think is philosophically beautiful but sometimes it makes no sense to me. For example raspberries are animate but strawberries are inanimate”
“IIRC Michif, a mix of Cree and French, has both animate-inanimate and masculine-feminine distinctions, correct me if I’m wrong though.”
Languages are full of quirks and unique patterns, and a recent Reddit discussion brought many of these to light. From the oddities of counting in Danish to the different tones in Mandarin, each language has its own challenges. Even in Algonquin languages, objects can be ‘alive’ or ‘not alive’, a concept that can puzzle many. These differences show how rich and varied human communication is. Every language, with its unique characteristics, tells a story about its culture and history. It’s a reminder that what might seem strange to one person is completely normal to another.
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