Tuesday 12 April 2011

Getting tongue tied over dogs and cucumbers!

Speaking is always so much easier in one’s own mother tongue! Oh yeah? Even there one can make mistakes – English has its Spoonerisms  accidental or deliberate such as saying “A well-boiled icicle"  instead of “ A well-oiled bicycle” .  The deliberate form of this is much used in our humour and to write  such comical turns actually requires a considerable amount of linguistic knowledge.  The English comic Les Dawson had this character who played the piano atrociously: to pull this off as a comedic act actually takes true skill on the piano, hammering just any note in any sequence just doesn’t work, the tune has to be recognisable whilst being as far off key for it to not be – a delicate balancing act! And so it is with intentional word plays. But for us students of a new language it is the unintentional that can often be funny.

I always think that it is my responsibility to understand someone when they are trying to learn and trying to speak my language. In India there are some common mistakes people seem to make when learning English. It got me wondering what the common mistakes are for an English person learning Oriya, Hindi, French, Arabic, Chinese or any other language? Or for say a French native speaker learning Hindi?  Does a French person make the same mistakes as an English person? Does a Chinese? We have a number of Filipino volunteers in India for many English is at least a second language. Are their common mistakes in Hindi or Oriya  the same as mine?  I don’t know. So if there are any linguists and language teachers reading this, or if your mother tongue is something other than English,  how about providing some insight into this question?

Here are some that I have noticed

  • clothes and cloths – everybody wears cloths,  no one uses clothes!
  • the wind blows as if it were a winding path!
  • “How will we do this?” becomes “How we will do this?”

And my classic in Oriya is getting tongue tied on kukura and kakuri, and probably loads more besides that no one has yet corrected me on :)

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