One of the strangest things I am doing now is taking Japanese classes. Not because that in itself is strange, but because my teacher does not speak much English. This means I mostly use Chinese to communicate and ask questions (no-no #1 in learning an Asian language). It actually works out pretty well.
I routinely find strange phrases that make me wish I could just run off and get a Ph.D. in linguistics. (By the way, after reading this you will see why I am crap at languages. My wife can hear a phrase and repeat it like the world’s best Mynah. Me, I need to build all kinds of crazy mnemonics too have a clue. That said, once I know it, I know it.) I am starting to have a lot of crossovers and routinely find myself searching for English words on conference calls with the States due to the rewiring in my brain.
Here are some interesting observations and examples:
Tate Mono (pronounced: Taa Teah Mo No) means house or building. I find this one of the easiest words for me to remember because I love the Tate MOderN in London (pronounced T-eight). It is easy to remember Tate Mono as a building. A NICE building :)
Biiru, Kohii, Noto, Tepurekoda (Beer, Coffee, Notebook, Tape recorder) all sound very close to the English word, but drink to much Biiru…
Otearai (pronounced: Oh Teah Ah Ra EE) meaning toilet and you may have a hard time finding this if you can’t say it! The Brits got this one right with “Loo.” Side Note in China “Lu” means street, which often doubles as the toilet.
~ no ~ no ~ no when describing possessiveness (as in My wife or My book) you use “no.” The problem is there is no limit so you can get sentences that to an outsider sound like “No, No, No!” Interestingly enough the word for “No” in Japanese is “Iie” or what Mr. Miyagi says a lot (seriously go back and watch).
Leggo Eggo I swear this had a meaning, but I forgot to write it down I was laughing so hard.
Shite this actually means “give” as in “Mama cyu shite” (Mama give me a kiss) or “Mama ryori shitte” (Mama give me your cooking). Not to be confused with “Mama your cooking is shite”.
Now all that said, Chinese also has its funny phrases. We were at the flower market last weekend and B wanted to know if the flowers were suitable (he shi) for direct sun, so I told the lady:
“Zai Tai Tai de yang tai, tai yang tai da” or “On wifey’s porch the sun is quite strong”
The lady answered “no problem” in the blink of an eye. It didn’t phase me until we walked away how strange that (mostly) correct sentence was AND that someone else could even understand it! Gotta love Chinese.