Friday, October 30, 2009

Speaking and understanding

Language is infinitely fascinating. I've been thinking of our ability to understand our own accent or dialect, filling in the bits that aren't actually said but just exist in our heads.

For example, one day recently in the supermarket I heard one assistant saying to another, "Nyoff?" and I knew immediately that she'd said, "When are you off?" meaning "What time do you finish this evening?"

And yesterday one student remarked to another, "Lay eeay i'." To translate: "I'll hae to hae it" or "I'll have to have it".

No wonder I didn't understand every word I heard in Berlin if the Germans were speaking like this.

Cat language is much simpler. Feed me, let me in, let me out, stroke me, put me down.


  1. If you ever come to the States and visit Mississippi you'll need to hire someone to translate for you.They may think they're speaking English, but it sounds like another language entirely! It's all very well learning High German in school. What they don't tell you is that in the real world, every district has their own dialect, so, once you're out of the classroom, you're back where you started!

    I'd have to agree that cat language is infinitely simpler to understand. Very direct and to the point!

  2. Cats certainly know how to look totally blissful! Every time I see photos of your cats, I yearn to have my own cat again. Alas, it just can't happen.
    Sometimes understanding language depends very much on the ability to replay the sounds in your mind.

  3. So relevant to our district! There are whole phrases, that are compeletly incomprehensibile to 'outsiders'.
    However, I think "Cat" & "Dog" are somehow universal.

  4. Living in North Carolina and visiting Scotland, I have experienced many an embarrassing moment due to my inability to really understand what people were saying in their respective dialects. My apologetic 'I am sorry, I am afraid I did not get that. I am German, you know' usually saves me - people give me a pitying look and sometimes even switch to High English for my benefit. Not so much in Scotland though, come to think of it...Going to shops in Edinburgh still scares me a bit.

    Most German dialects are quite terrible. Often we don't understand each other, really. I'll be happy to translate for you, should the need arise.

  5. And each cat has a particular dialect with it's own people.

    Had a friend overhear Bostonian women talking about "PSDS." She eventually asked what PSDS was. They tugged their lobes, pierced ears.

  6. There is also the famous sentence uttered in court in Glasgow once, in which there was not one consonant: in response to a question about what had happened to the remains of a fish supper, the witness replied "A' e' i' a'"
    And if you are Scottish, you will understand that response with no difficulty!

  7. Ha! So that was why I couldn't understand several Scotsmen when we were there! We have the same problem here though. As for the cats, TheSecondChild's Paul is the cutest little vocal cat. He makes all these funny throaty sounds like he's talking to you or asking you a question. I do believe I could have a whole conversation with him, only I'm pretty sure he's the only one who would understand.

  8. Chuckling over your comments about accents! You'd have no hope in Australia! Thanks for your comment about our dingos; glad you liked my Friday Walk post. Got the idea from you, so it has to be a winner, lol!

  9. Sometimes speaking and understanding even without accents is tricky. Every once in awhile my DH and I get talking about two different things but don't know it for a minute or two - then we laugh.