what is your name?

problems arise when you try to directly translate a word, phrase, or even worse, a sentence.

one of the most fundamental questions we learn when we first become acquainted with a new language is "What is your name?". the Russian equivalent of that question would be "Как Вас зовут?". equivalent in sense, but not really when you try to do a direct translation.

i was teaching Dasha the 5W and 1H of question words when i realize that it's much harder than i have anticipated.

firstly, "Как" (pronounced 'kak') is not "What", but "How". so technically "Как Вас зовут?" pretty much means "How are you called?", rather than "What is your name?". but we don't go around asking people "How are you called?" do we?

oh my God where do i even start to explain?

after much exhalation on my part, and a series of frustrated "Я ничего не понила!" (i don't understand a thing!) from her part, i came up with a conclusion that "What is your name?" is actually "Какая ваша имя?". yea, why didn't i think of that?

now Dasha is a very opinionated girl. she still wanted to stick with her 'How', and wouldn't take my 'What'.

but then again i am after all the teacher. so i veto-ed my way out and we agreed (to disagree?) and she was like "fineeee. you win." LOL

and then the second problem arises.

as in German, French, Arabic and who knows what other languages (except English and Malay, that i know of), Russian nouns have genders. so the table is a 'he', and the lamp is a 'she'.

and it never occurred to me how difficult it is to explain to her that in English, all non-living things, and all animals (except maybe our pets) are "it".


seriously man. it's very challenging. God knows what tricks i have to pull out of my pocket the next time we meet.

wish me luck!


Anonymous said...

same case as in german right?

Wie hiesst du? = how are you called =what's ur name.

but oh wait.., there's also,was ist deine Name?

Hadi said...

In French, it's 'Comment tu t'appelle'. Something along the line of 'How do you call yourself'.

The answer would be 'Je m'appelle', I call myself.

Maybe to start with you should establish with her, somehow, that learning another language is more than a matter of translating.

A language signify how a group of people think. The fact that cats in French is le chat, masculine and dogs are la chien, feminine shows that they see this two animals differently than us. If Malaysians were to be asked to describe those two animals in genders, most would choose the dog as the masculine and the cat as feminine.

Kinda reminded me of that Moldavian guy we met in Koln, how he describe that to understand a group of he would first learn their language. And read the Quran. Haha.