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Un gout pour les langues

It’s now been more than a year that I’ve been actively studying two new languages, French and isiXhosa. I am finally (if slowly) reaching the point where I can express myself, and occasionally even hold a brief conversation. As a result I thought it would be worthwhile to share some of the things about these (and other) languages that interest me.

A first thought: I enjoy how there are often, especially amongst European languages, words or phrases that are, at least in parts, translated literally. Three examples that come to mind are the French peut-être, bienvenue and pourquoi.

The first, which means “maybe”, literally reads “can-be” or “could-be”. The second, meaning “welcome”, is a combination of bien (“well”) and venu (“[has] come”).

Pourquoi, meaning “why”, is a compound of pour (“for”) and quoi (“what”), yielding something like “for-what”. This is of course reminiscent of “wherefore” of Romeo and Juliet fame which, contrary to popular opinion, means “why” (and not “where”).

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