When we speak to someone in any language, we desire to bring to the understanding of the other party certain desires to obtain something we need or have thenr do something for us. The vowels and consonants used in each language are more or Jess alike. There may be ten or more shadings of the a, the same as with the other vowels or diphtongs, while the consonants sound alike for all languages. The combination of vowels and consonants into words produce in each of the 400 languages about fifty to sixty thousand words. And yet, there are but 27 or 28 letters available to form words.
When we condense the number of languages spoken into sixty languages to mike explanations easier, we can compare them to the five scales* of the pianoforte. AH the music is played on these five octaves, be it Beihoven's 5th Symphony or the do, re, me, of the beginner (hereby I mean some of the undeveloped languages of the inferior of Africa). A simple song can be played in a certain key ot the middle octave; we may play the same song an octave lower or an octave higher. We may even undertake to transpose the song into the other eleven keys. If we do this, we can actually play one tune in twelve ways, in twelve different keys and it always will sound the same. The organist in church has to adjust his answer to the priest's voice, i.e. play in the same tone of voice as the priest does, else he plays wrong.
Therefore, we may ask on the piano for bread in sixty different languages, by simply playing our little tune "I want bread" on the five octaves each of which has 12 keys and we may start with anyone of these keys to begin the song, keeping, of course, the tune of our musk the same way. Let us see how the word "bread" looks (sounds) in a few European languages!
English: bread. Latin: panis,
Dutch: brood. French: pain.
German: Brot. Italian: pane.
In each of these words, representing the tune "I want bread", we find the letter b, which becomes in the Latin tongue a p. The lengjth of each such word is similar, only the vowels undergo a minor change, which we may call the modulation within the word (a little more fancy in one language, less fancy in others). The Dutch, for example, would express their demand for bread in "basj key", in the lower octaves, while the Italian uses a higher key, a sort of soprano voice, when he asks for bread: "pane, prego". But he does not get anything else instead compared to the Dutchman, who says: "Gevt U mij brood".
Getting back to a single language, English and trying to group all the people of the world as to how much English and what type of English they know, we find that only a small part does talk English, in spite of the fact that English is spoken the world over. Let us call English the C-sharp of the Middle Octave of the piano. Above and below which we find the other languages. A number of people who do not know English may know a word or two such as "alright". If we, from ottr point of view, go into other languages such as French and know a few common words, here and there: Pate de Fore gras, pronouncing it in an awful way besides, or in German: Fraulein, putting it in the plural form as Fraeuleins" which in itself is a monstrosity, since the German language never forms the plural of a word with an s, as we do. Or, in Spanish we may know: Chili can Came or caballero, etc.
There is a group of people which, on account of having a liking to some language, tries to study it or hy necessity to make certain grades in high school or college takes up a language, or, by necessity of living with or among people speaking another tongue, gradually learns words, makes sentences to join thoughts togethir. The graduation therein is immense. Most natives of foreign countries who emigrate to the United States, for example, should they even live forty or fifty years within their borders, can be told apart from actual natives, irrespective of their own imagination that they have become real Americans, forgetting all about their country of birth, even going as far as pretending to have lost their mother
* Pijno-forre hive from 5 to 7'/> octaves, depending upon (heir size.
language. The latter, of course, might be partly lost, though not wholly, through constant association with native born Americans ot with other nationalities, by marrying i Swedish ot a Dutch gicl and having such a liking to her language to learn it, too, and use it, aside of the everyday English tongue. The mother tongue can be just as little lost ns the foreigner, becoming an American, can ever Jose his accent. It is Nature tii.it "marks" him and he don't know it. Some people's physionomy bespeaks an Italian immediately, a German or a Frenchman. They don't have to open their mouth. They might be in this country for thirty yeats or longer, but their preference for certain occupations, for certain foods, bodi of which had been acquired in youth and in original surroundings mark him. Let us not forget their accent when they speak the acquired or adopted tongue, which reveals them immediately. 1 am not going as far as making a particular point of the manner of dress, the type of clothes preferred, the color schemes, etc. I do not mean such drastic differences as "all the Catholic priests are marked and can be recognized by wearing black clothes", be they Irish or German or Indian Catholic priests. Black in contrast to colors is representative of their profession. Like the farmer wears his overalls of blue, che painter his overalls of white, so many foreign born often times wear, especially on Sundays, clothes whose cut, color and quality resembles those which they used to wear in the old country.
Among those who live in certain countries, and have an inclination for some other nationality or language, but, through circumstances are not able to emigrate to countries where that language is spoken, you will find a tendency to imitate or ape their habits and customs.
All these details may tire you but we need them to judge people from common sense apart of astrological Jaws.
I am speaking from experience, not from hearsay In pointing out this specific condition. My great penchant during school days in Germany was by preference of the French language and that to the exclusion of all others, including German itself, wherein, incidentally, I always had mediocre marks, thanks to my Professor Srriessl! Other languages had been obligatory and required to pass certain tests. Starting as a youngster of twelve I carried for years constantly a German-French dictionary around with me, since anything, that came to view birds, animals, trees or other things, dead or alive, had to be known in French. I gradually gathered an enormous vocabulary, available at a moment's nocice. One day, on an excursion, from Geneva to E vi arts-les-Bains with a group of French -Swiss people who only knew French, we saw a white butterfly fluttering from flower to flower. In German this type of butterfly is called "Kohlweissling". I endeavored to learn the French word covering this specific butterfly. However hard I tried to obtain its name in French from the company, all I got was: "C'esc un papillon, e'est un papillon, rien d'autre" (that's a butterfly, a butterfly, nothing else). Their vocabulary did not reach any further than the specie butterfly, distinguished, probably, from a beetle or a worm. A similar case occurred once in Los Angeles, when visiting friends there. After initial greetings we went to the garden, admiring several kinds of palms. I asked, as I am prone to do, what do you call that pilm? All I got was a hearty Laugh from the lady of the house, saying, "Oh,! these a.te palms". Her vocabulary went only as far as the specie palrrr, distinguishing it from a violet or pansy.
Of course, millions of people get along in the world by knowing a palm or a butterfly, irrespective of the dozen or two species subordinated therein. In other matters such as bread we know how to differentiate between rye bread, white bread, viiamin-enriched Kilpatrick bread (obtainable on the Pacific Coast as a sort of local bread), corn bread, French btead, Russian tye bread, sweet eye, sour rye. A German priest who some years ago visited his brother at New York, a bakery owner, overheard a lady in the store order "one Sauerei" (sour rye), admonished his baker-brother on account of the awful language people use in New York, This man, used his ear but not his brains; he thought it was a matcer of "Sauerei", instead of sour rye, both words happen to sound alike in the two languages. Sauerei, by the way, means something unclean, acting like a P'g-
Wc have to -differentiate between general and particular use of a language which liaer belongs to the various branches of endeavor. A gardner may know of fifty varieties of palms, their individual habits, growth, bloom, transplantability, etc. True, to be laden with the terminology of a gardner and the thousands of species of plants, which again have dozens and more sub-varieties, besides all the special words used by electricians, mechanics, doctors, lawyers and that way through all trades and professions, would require an enormous study and concentration. and necessitating some practical use. Since we have in our life no ust for all these words, not even speaking of other languages, there is a golden middle way. It is claimed there are about four hundred odd languages in the world into which the Bible has been translated, aside of those languages into which the Bible has not been, as yet, translated.
Was this article helpful?