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Living in a country where the language is different from your native
Thread poster: Daniel Frisano

Daniel Frisano
Monaco
Local time: 09:54
Member (2008)
English to Italian
+ ...
Dec 8, 2016

Some think that a person living abroad for many years will gradually lose purity in their native language due to lack of practice or contamination from the adopted language, possibly affecting the accuracy of their work.

As an Italian who has lived for several years in Spain I was certainly aware of this issue.

Some time ago I started spending more and more time in Italy and I slowly realized, to my surprise, that the language has been changing quite a bit in recent years, and not for the better, heavily conditioned by TV and other media. People tend to repeat exactly what they hear on TV and emphasize everything they say like it will be something that will change your life forever. It sounds live everything everybody says is HUGE news.

High-level journalists (newspaper directors) seem not to be immune to this phenomenon. I can assume that good translators ARE immune, but such a constant pressure is hard to resist forever. Personally I am quite happy that my Italian stayed accidentally "frozen" in some recent past, pre-media-bombardment.

Did you notice the same in your own language? Should we just accept it as a natural (e)/(in)volution and move on?

[Edited at 2016-12-08 21:00 GMT]


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Kirsten Bodart  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:54
Dutch to English
+ ...
As Dutch Dec 9, 2016

is heavily controlled by a body that runs behind the times as it is, I've always got more time to adjust.
It also depends on what texts you translate, IMO. If they're not sensitive to newspeak, then you're quite safe, I'm sure.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 09:54
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
My theory Dec 9, 2016

Daniel Frisano wrote:
Some time ago I started spending more and more time in Italy and I slowly realized, to my surprise, that the language has been changing quite a bit in recent years, and not for the better...


I experience a similar same thing w.r.t. my native language's country. In particular when I read newspapers or watch television programs via streaming services from my native country.

However, I have a sneaky suspicion that that the language has always been changing at that speed, and that I simply did not notice the change when I lived in the country (i.e. it was so gradual that I almost changed with it), because I did not specifically focus on the language when I had lived in that country. Now that I specifically make more of an effort to keep up with the language from an outside point of view, the changes are more noticable.


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Tina Vonhof  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 01:54
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Lived in a country Dec 10, 2016

I have lived in Canada for so many years now that English has become my first language. I have gone to university here, my children have grown up here, this is where my life is. I still speak and write Dutch fluently but I don't translate into Dutch because it takes me longer and, more importantly, the language has indeed changed. The basic core of it is still the same but, there have been so many new developments in all areas of life, technology, politics, health care, education, immigration, you name it, that a host of new concepts and new words have worked their way into it and I have not been able to keep up with it all. In addition there have been several official spelling changes and when I visit Holland or talk to my family on the phone, I can clearly hear a change in pronunciation.

Fortunately, since I deal mostly with legal translations, where the language is still as old-fashioned and convoluted as ever, I am not affected much by the changes but I do have to turn down some job offers because of it.

So, Daniel, I think it is good that you are aware of this at an early stage and go back regularly. It will help you to stay in close contact with family and friends, read the newspapers, etc., so that you keep one foot firmly in Italy and one in Spain.

[Edited at 2016-12-10 17:58 GMT]


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 08:54
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
You may stagnate, but it's easily reversible Dec 11, 2016

I spent 15 years in France, in villages tucked away in the vines. I spoke English the whole time I was there, but mainly to my husband and students. It was only each time I spoke to my daughter on the phone that I was aware that her English was changing and mine wasn't. I started having to ask what words meant - 'anal' is one I remember laughing about. And I started confusing her with my attempts to talk of things that hadn't existed when I left, e.g. my pronunciation of Wi-Fi and using the word portable for my mobile phone. When I started translating and joined ProZ.com, these forums helped a lot, then we got some English TV stations in our package, and I began to speak more current English.

When we moved to Spain I was suddenly in the midst of thousands of Brits and Irish, as well as just about every other nationality. English is very much the lingua franca here, so of course the quality isn't great, but I definitely believe that native speakers can be choosy about what they say themselves. And contamination can be very handy - I know others find it difficult to follow the jokes my husband and I share because they almost always involve two or more languages. I believe you do have to make an effort to stay in touch with the language, to keep abreast of developments, but just being aware of the problem of stagnation means that it can be avoided with today's technology. Nobody needs to stagnate nowadays unless they prefer it that way. I no longer speak exactly the same language as my husband, as he thinks my English has been corrupted, but I know what's what and can choose the correct register for my clients.


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:54
Spanish to English
+ ...
To see ourselves as others see as... Dec 11, 2016

Did you notice the same in your own language? Should we just accept it as a natural (e)/(in)volution and move on?

[Edited at 2016-12-08 21:00 GMT] [/quote]

Yes, I did notice, and I do think it's all part and parcel of the natural development of language/s. However, I do think it's much more noticeable the longer you are away from your mother tongue culture, although thanks to technology it's much easier to keep in touch with the latest news and developments in "the old country" nowadays.


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 06:54
English to Portuguese
+ ...
A few stories on that Dec 11, 2016

No, not my case, a walk from where I live now to the maternity where I was born should take about half an hour. Though I realize that, adding all trips together, I've spent a bit over two years overseas, as my age increases, that's not percentagewise so relevant anymore.

Yet I have a few stories...

After WWII, my late father - the youngest of seven siblings from Krakow, Poland - moved to Brazil, had to learn Portuguese. His next older brother moved to Australia, had to learn English. They corresponded all the time via snail-mail. In those days, a phone call across 14 time zones was a formal - and rare - event.

Some 25 years later, my uncle came to Brazil, for my first wedding. Though - as my father put it - they had been born on the very same bed, in the very same room, and had spent the first 40 years of their lives together (including labor camps in Siberia and some years in Uzbekistan later - with their respective spouses), I was often called to intervene as a PTEN (no, I don't speak PL) interpreter between them, as their truly native PL no longer sufficed in their communication. And no, it was not only "home" language; both had secured their higher degrees still in Poland.

And what about PL in its homeland? The daughter of a Polish couple came to Brazil with her parents in her twenties. She was quite educated, spoke PL at home, was fluent in several languages (PT, DE, EN, FR), worked in an international environment, and kept in touch with her friends by snail-mail in Poland. Some four decades later, so in her sixties, she traveled to Poland. While her friends, hence in the same age group, still spoke the same PL, she discovered that the everyday language spoken in the streets of Krakow was what once used to be the lingo used by less-educated menial laborers. Everywhere she went, she was taken for a "classic Polish theater actress" to speak that way.


Moving to Italian, which I studied for 4 years, so I know a bit of it... Most Brazilians who learned it as a second (or third, etc.) language - according to Italians - speak it with a Genovese accent. My take is that since Genova is a major Italian port, and the Portuguese were leading navigators since forever, their frequent presence in Genova must have influenced the local accent to some extent.

A woman I knew was born in Trieste, came to Brazil in her late twenties, and married an Italian here (no idea where he was from, I guess Rome). In her sixties, she went visiting her homeland, and her cousins in Trieste were amazed at how she spoke like a Genovese, after so many years in Brazil.


An American I knew first met her Brazilian husband in the USA, where he was taking his graduate course. They got married, and moved to Brazil, where they started a company, had children, etc. etc. Their business required them to travel to the USA at least twice a year, so she always had a chance to visit her family and friends in Detroit.

Once she was presenting a conference in the USA. When she asked, "And now, who's gonna peel the pineapple?", she noticed the entire audience was gaping at that Brazilian slang expression. So she had to explain that it means to solve a tough and unpleasant problem, as one must hold the prickly and somewhat heavy fruit with one hand, a sharp and reasonably large knife using some strength with the other, and get both hands gooey and slippery from the abundant juice. Nowadays this expression is found on the web, however she was possibly the first one to use it in America.


These and many other stories I know are what leads me to consider "native speaker" as a very fickle concept. Just like people move, the language at their birthplace also moves on, so it's hard to tell when they have moved apart.


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Daniel Frisano
Monaco
Local time: 09:54
Member (2008)
English to Italian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Funny! Or scary? Dec 11, 2016

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:
Everywhere she went, she was taken for a "classic Polish theater actress" to speak that way.


A client I recently met in Italy told me (jokingly ... I think) that I speak "like a professor". Me? Really?

To me it seemed that everybody spoke like teenagers who spend all their time watching TV or twitting or whatever they do, all the time flooded by s.c. "pop-culture" stimuli.

And that includes people the age of my parents (70+). When my mother told me that my sister was getting married she called it "a nice experience". What the ... ?!?

[Edited at 2016-12-11 12:27 GMT]


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:54
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Edge Dec 11, 2016

Daniel Frisano wrote:

....... I slowly realized, to my surprise, that the language has been changing quite a bit in recent years....


All languages evolve. The big advantage I have as Tom "in London" is that I am constantly up to speed with my native language (English) which makes my translations (from Italian) much better. When I lived in Italy, like you I noticed that my English had become set in patterns that were becoming more and more out of date. However apart from a tiny number of examples, the changes that come about in the English language are not primarily due to the adoption of terms borrowed from other languages.

That, unfortunately, is not the case with my second language, Italian. I am not in Italy 24/7 any longer, but I constantly (every day) keep in touch with Italy and Italians and I, too, notice the changes that are taking place in the language. I share your concerns about these changes, a great many of which (unlike English) are based on the incorrect adoption of English words, but with changed meanings and so completely italianised in their pronunciation that they are incomprehensible to a native English-speaker; "Jobs Act" becomes "giosà" and so on.

Some of these were adopted into Italian years ago and are no longer even used in English!

[Edited at 2016-12-11 18:39 GMT]


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 06:54
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Bingo! Dec 11, 2016

Tom in London wrote:

I, too, notice the changes that are taking place in the language. I share your concerns about these changes, a great many of which (unlike English) are based on the incorrect adoption of English words, but with changed meanings...


An "outdoor" in Brazil is the standard name used to name a billboard.

The proper name of the fruit in PT is "toranja", but everybody knows it here as "grapefruit".

Microsoft has imposed the translation of the verb "to delete" in PT as "excluir" (to exclude). IMHO this is completely wrong. For me, to exclude would be, e.g. in a folder, key Ctrl-A to select all files, and then Ctrl+click on a few to EXCLUDE them from the selection.
However Brazilians have adopted the verb "deletar" to say things (in PT) like "She said such things about me on Facebook, that I've deleted her from my life."

And so on... Examples abound, I guess in every language.


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Daniel Frisano
Monaco
Local time: 09:54
Member (2008)
English to Italian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
New dimension Dec 11, 2016

In Spain they are adding a new dimension to slaughtering languages, both their own AND English in the same word.

Example: bungee jumping is called "puenting", from ES "puente" (bridge) + EN -ing suffix.

Ugh ... talk about evolution ... I wonder what kind of languages our grand-grand-grand-....-children will use!


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Christel Zipfel  Identity Verified
Member (2004)
Italian to German
+ ...
I think this has to do with the "melody" of the two languages Dec 11, 2016

José Henrique Lamensdorf wrote:


Moving to Italian, which I studied for 4 years, so I know a bit of it... Most Brazilians who learned it as a second (or third, etc.) language - according to Italians - speak it with a Genovese accent. My take is that since Genova is a major Italian port, and the Portuguese were leading navigators since forever, their frequent presence in Genova must have influenced the local accent to some extent.

A woman I knew was born in Trieste, came to Brazil in her late twenties, and married an Italian here (no idea where he was from, I guess Rome). In her sixties, she went visiting her homeland, and her cousins in Trieste were amazed at how she spoke like a Genovese, after so many years in Brazil.



I know how they speak in Genova and know the sound of Portuguese spoken in Brazil and by Brazilians; the sound is indeed very similar and Italians who have lived in Brazil for a long time could have simply been influenced by the Brazilian accent, thus seeming "Genovese" to their Italian relatives and friends.


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Melina Kajander
Finland
English to Finnish
Scary, I think... Dec 13, 2016

Daniel Frisano wrote:
A client I recently met in Italy told me (jokingly ... I think) that I speak "like a professor". Me? Really?

To me it seemed that everybody spoke like teenagers who spend all their time watching TV or twitting or whatever they do, all the time flooded by s.c. "pop-culture" stimuli.

And that includes people the age of my parents (70+). When my mother told me that my sister was getting married she called it "a nice experience". What the ... ?!?

That often seems indeed the way language usage is going these days - more and more people are starting to sound like "teenagers", or that kind of speech is seen as "trendy" (what a horrible word) and desirable... (Why wasn't it like this when I was a teenager?! )

Although I don't quite understand why your daughter's wedding would not be "a nice experience", but maybe that sounds different / has different connotations in Italian?


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Daniel Frisano
Monaco
Local time: 09:54
Member (2008)
English to Italian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
The whole thing Dec 14, 2016

Melina Kajander wrote:

Although I don't quite understand why your daughter's wedding would not be "a nice experience", but maybe that sounds different / has different connotations in Italian?


She was referring not to the wedding day, but to the whole process ... meeting, dating for a few months, getting married, being married and possibly having children. Apparently all that is an "experience" now.


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:54
Member (2008)
Italian to English
It could be worse... Dec 14, 2016

Daniel Frisano wrote:

Melina Kajander wrote:

Although I don't quite understand why your daughter's wedding would not be "a nice experience", but maybe that sounds different / has different connotations in Italian?


She was referring not to the wedding day, but to the whole process ... meeting, dating for a few months, getting married, being married and possibly having children. Apparently all that is an "experience" now.


It could be worse...it could be a journey.


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