Are polyglots schizophrenic?

Up to a certain degree, yes!

Have you ever interacted with a person, yet once you switched to a different language your perception of him or her changed entirely?

Watch my short video in Russian about how the language we speak influences our personality and get to know my “Russian self”!

Thank you for watching 🙂

The song I used in the outro is “Closer” by Emma Jensen.

Unknown language adventures: Czech edition!

This summer, I had the pleasure of experiencing a Czech language adventure. Thanks to a mixed language interpretation class I have become a bit more familiar with the sound and intonation of this West Slavic language during the past semester.

In preparation for my trip to Brno I looked at this Czech language book I found at the library.  It is called “Tschechisch. Faszination der Vielfalt” and describes the Czech grammar in a very structured, easily understandable way and provides many practical exercises.

I particularly enjoyed the general introduction and how the authors refer to the specific differences between the German and the Czech languages.

It was as hard as ever to contain my enthusiasm when I encountered words I recognized (which was a frequent occurrence) in the beautiful city of Brno.

Mam Přednost! – I have right of way

Samoobsluha – self service

Akadémia umení – academy of arts

I had plenty of possibilities to apply my, admittedly very basic, conversational skills, and, since roaming charges were abolished in the European Union, it was a waltz reaching for my phone to find a translation whenever a word, an expression or an advertisement posed a mystery.

I should think this ad catches every language enthusiast’s eye; and therefore, I will leave it to you to make sense of it! 😉

I will only say this much: only in retrospect did I realize how easily I could have established the connection between the word “hlad” and its Russian equivalent “голод“.

Other questions still have to be answered, for example where the Czech words for music (hudba) and for Austria (Rakousko) derive from…

Интересное чтение: концепция "Авторской пунктуации"

Читая статью о главных заблуждениях о русском языке в журнале “Русская Мысль”, я в первый раз столкнулась с феноменом “авторской пунктуации”.

Значение этого термина мне не сразу было понятно, особенно потому, что автор статьи утверждает, что авторская пунктуация – это феномен исключительно графиллогический, а не орфографический.

Это уточнение дает понять, что авторская пунктуация связана с почерком и с выражением личности почерком. Следовательно, мы можем считать авторскую пунктуацию признаком креативности и своеобразным подходом к языку.

Одновременно автор статьи, прочитанной мной, подчеркивает, что авторская пунктуация не является орфографическим феноменом. Это значит, что в принципе, все писатели всяких текстов должны были признать правила правописания и соблюдать их.

Я стала думать: присутствует ли в немецком языке то же самый, или сравнимый феномен? Он не существует под тем же названием, а похоже понятие, конечно, есть. Однако, кажется, что оно касается фактически только литературных текстов.

Почему? Как известно, авторы художественной литературы могут позволить себе более свободно относиться к правилам прапописания. Кроме того, им разрешают, обычно, образование новых слов и использование необычных с точки зрения грамматики словосочетаний.

Очень интересно обратить внимание на авторскую пунктуацию, когда мы читаем тексты, не относящиеся явно ни к художественным, ни к научно-официальным текстам. Речь идет, прежде всего, о текстах, опубликованных в интернете, например, в блогах, и о текстах, написанных в газетном стиле. Примерами можно привести комментарии, репортажи, очерки и. т. д. В зависимости от конкретной целевой группы, стиля, контекста и типа текста можно разрешить авторам более свободный подход к языку.

Короче говоря: чем больше текст похож на художественное произведение, тем больше автономии у автора. Однако, конечно, авторская пунктуация не может служит “отговоркой” не следовать правилам правописания. Ее можно признать, если она на самом деле имеет художественную функцию и улучшает каким-либо образом данный текст.

Dreaming in a foreign language

Dreaming in another language is an extremely interesting phenomenon to all language enthusiasts. It occurs whenever a foreign language has found the way to your heart.

How to make yourself dream in a foreign language? Of course, it will be necessary to expose yourself to the language of choice as much as possible. Continuous and intensive contact allows for the foreign language to take root in your subconscious. Apart from that, I can say from experience that intensive contact with the language right before going to sleep favors dreams in this language.

During the last couple of weeks, I have watched the show “Narcos”, in Spanish, with English subtitles. It was definitely a learning process! The subtitles allowed me to improve my listening comprehension skills in Spanish, while the daily contact with this beautiful, relaxed and powerful language gave a feeling for its sound and pronunciation.  More than once have I found myself lying in bed after an episode of “Narcos”, my head spinning with the resonating Colombian Spanish.

And then, in the end, it happened. I will try and spare you the details of my disturbing dream that included a university class in outer space … the crucial point, however, was that my fellow students spoke Spanish! I have no idea how my brain could create the illusion of me listening to someone speaking Spanish. The experience I had in my dream was the same I have when watching “Narcos”: sometimes I am able to follow the dialogue pretty well, even without subtitles, mostly because Spanish is so similar to Italian. Then again, I find myself unable to decipher what is being said and I only understand a few words.

All in all, this unique experience showed me how receptive our brain is in the moments before going to sleep. I’d like to make use of this fact in the future as well, I am sure it will be worth it!

To conclude, I’d like to present you with the Spanish “chunks” I have learnt so far:

La misma cosa – the same thing

promettemelo – promise me (it)

¡Tienes mi palabra! – you have my word!

¿Donde estamos? – Where are we?

Por favor, tengo que saberlo – Please, I have to know (it)

Non lo quiero hacer – I don’t want to do it


Unknown language adventures: Hungarian

“Translators are nomadic figures inhabiting spaces between cultures” – Cronin 2000: 104

The four days I spent in Budapest for my friend’s graduation turned out to be a most memorable multilingual experience.

It was especially interesting to see how much it differed from my Croatian adventure.

Of course, I was equally proud of myself when I mastered the pronunciation of „Köszönom!“ or the much hipper version my friend taught me: „Kös bro!“.

Yet I could not help but feel intimidated by the incredibly long and complicated Hungarian words that had nothing in common with the Germanic, Romance or Slavic word stems I am familiar with.

The seemingly unpronounceable accumulations of letters discouraged me from reading any street signs aloud, (which might have come as a relieve to my travel companions), I only dared to cautiously whisper some of the words that seemed tame: „tej“ (milk), „vìz“ (water), „kávé“ (coffee).

But, as complicated the Hungarian language and its underlying grammar seemed to me, as comfortable did I feel alongside my many multilingual companions. Not only did they make me feel at home immediately in the very special city of Budapest, but they also excelled both as ad hoc interpreters, and as case studies!

Everywhere we went I admired their skillful „natural“ interpretations: at the restaurant, the ticket counter, the grocery store and at various Austro-Hungarian family gatherings.

In a large group of Austrians, Hungarians and Austro-Hungarians, the biliguals definitely were the lucky ones; and the ones we monolinguals were in dire need of!

It was fascinating at which incredible speed they would switch back and forth between Hungarian and perfect German, how casually they veered in and out of conversations, as the „nomadic figures inhabiting spaces between cultures“* they were.

Yet it was almost equally interesting to see how important a certain degree of nonchalance was in this situation:  as one of the monolinguals you don’t have to understand every single word that has been said. Just lean back from time to time, listen to the lively, incomprehensible chatter and enjoy the show!

All in all, there has never been a better motivator to keep improving my working languages in order to become as fluent and comfortable in all of them as my favourite Austro-Hungarian ad-hoc interpreters 🙂


*CRONIN Michael, Across the Lines. Travel, Language and Translation, University Press, Cork 2000, p.104.

Language-passtimes for insomniacs

“Perhaps there is another kind of writing, I only know this one, in the night, when fear does not let me sleep, I only know this one.”* –Franz Kafka

Franz Kafka used sleepless, anxiety-filled nights to be artistically productive and expressed this notion beautifully in a letter to Max Brod from July 1922.

On a somewhat lighter note, I thought I’d list some activities for insomniac language enthusiasts today.

I promise that these little exercises are more rewarding than frantically calculating your remaining hours of sleep or desperately trying to make yourself forget the last horrow movie you watched!

1. Recap the day

Review the activities of the day in your foreign language of choice. You may find this to be an easy exercise with a very welcome soothing side effect!

2.Study nonverbal communication

Your partner, your cat or your roomate is slumbering peacefully in your close proximity and your headphones are out of reach?

For this scenario I’d suggest you grab your phone nontheless and search for a video of a native speaker. Turn off the sound and watch the video focusing on the nonverbal communication. Mirrowing the body language of a native speaker may greatly improve the authenticity of your communication performance.

3. Describe your surroundings

What might remind you of obsessive compulsive behaviour at first is actually a highly effective language exercise. Focus on an object in your room and try to be as precise in your description as possible. Who would have thought how difficult it could be to describe a window in all its technical detail? You may save the terminological research for the next morning, though!

4. Count down

Lastly, I’d like to present you with one of the most addictive exercises. Its simplicity makes it even more brilliant. Count down from 10 to 1 in all of the languages you speak. You will realize immediately how little cognitive effort is required for doing so in your native language. Sleepless hours are an excellent opportunity to practise counting in your weaker languages. After counting, try the days of the week, the months or the alphabet – the possibilities are endless. Maybe you’ll even fall asleep before you know it!


*English translation cited from: CORNGOLD Stanley, Franz Kafka. The Necessity of Form, Cornell University Press 1988, p.22.



Trying something new...

… translating from Portuguese into Italian!

In the course of this month I developed a great interest in the Portuguese language.

I am not only ravished by the similarities between this beautiful language and Italian – it is primarily the pronunciation that intrigues me, as it seems to be the magical combination of French, Spanish and Italian pronunciation patterns.

In order to further nurture my obsession with Portuguese (and to be able to improve my comprehension of the language) I decided to translate this article about the Brazilian portuguese into Italian.

I learnt a lot translating the text into Italian and it makes me very happy to have created the Portuguese version’s congenial sister! 🙂

Check out the Italian version of this post to have a look at my translation!


Unknown language adventures: Croatian

Isn’t there something very intriguing about languages you don’t speak?

Hearing people converse around you in an unknown language can be so relaxing and frustrating at the same time.

There is no point in concentrating on the contents of utterances you hear. All that is left to do is focus on people’s mimics, the tone, gestures and the bare sound of the language. Yet there is a frustrating aspect to it, since you have no access to people’s most important means of communication.

Travelling to Zagreb

I should admit that the Croatian language isn’t entirely foreign to me. Its beautifully soft, soothing sound can be captured all over my city. Apart from that, thanks to me speaking Russian, I could make sense of quite a few Croatian words.

Let me give you some stunning examples along with their Russian and English equivalents 🙂

ostatak – остатки – rest (n.)

platiti – платить – pay (v.)

život – жизнь – life (n.)

Hearing Croatian in its “natural habitat” for the first time changed my perception of it – and as a language enthusiast I tried to edge my way towards an authentic pronunciation of “Hvala” (Thank you) which earned me several confused looks from the supermarket cashiers, as it came out as “Hlava” more than once!

And of course, I had to be the obnoxious person reading out every single advertising slogan I found on the streets:

Za sve koji se vole igrati!

Maxi promo!

Dobra veza čini čuda!

In my “everday life” in Zagreb I repeatedly stumbled across the following words which stuck to my brain:

vući – pull

guraj – push (which might be an imperative form?)

Pozor! – Attention/Danger!

These words are all very practical; which made me realize how different this natural way of language acquisition was from the planned, academic approach I am used to.

Thank you Zagreb for teaching me so many interesting things!



What to read as an advanced language learner

For those who have not read my reading suggestions for the beginner and intermediate level, let me start by naming a few select arguments why reading is so very awesome (not only) for language enthusiasts:

  • It adds to your busy and unapproachable air if you do not want to interact with your surroundings
  • It is the ideal topic of conversation if you do wish to chat
  • Be it a book, a magazine, a blogpost or a news item – reading allows you to improve your language skills wherever you might be

The positive yet overwhelming aspect of being a language pro is that you may read pretty much everything:

  • Authentic, high-profile literature

Literary texts are an obvious choice. Reading the classics for your language of choice at some point might even be considered a must. However, everyone has their own preferences.

For me personally, there is little that draws me in as much as a twisted-minded female protagonist in a psychological thriller.

For you, it might be an intriguing historical setting or sharp-witted humor.

Find what you enjoy and you will never cease to stumble upon bewildering formulations and new aspects of the language you are acquiring.

  • Book reviews

Maybe you are already over reading literature or you are obsessed with your current read and wish to engage even more in this particular piece of writing. If this is the case, I recommend reading some skillfully written reviews, as those represent an intriguing blend of literary and journalistic/scientific language.

  • Scientific articles

Choosing to read scientific articles will benefit you in various ways. You familiarize yourself with scientific terminology and recurring formulations. On the other hand you learn or revise information about complex topics. I, for instance, enjoy reading up on various chapters of world history.

I strongly advise you to choose a topic you are actually interested in, though. Otherwise you will experience the phenomenon I call the “wandering eye”: reading and re-reading the words on a page without grasping the slightest bit of meaning behind them.

  • Political analysis

Again, this is an excellent way of acquiring specific vocabulary and collocations for your own written language production. Apart from that, political analysis provide you with cultural knowledge as they are probably country-specific.

You get bonus points if you read through articles online, because then you can browse through the comments‘ section afterwards not only to have a good laugh, but also to educate yourself on how native speakers of different social strata communicate in today’s wired world.

Congratulations on your advanced language skills! But remember to crack open a children’s book once in a while when you are visiting foreign book stores or to skip through banal blogposts – just because you can (and because it’s fun)!

Second semester wisdom

What has my second semester as an interpreting student taught me so far?

  • Never forget your earphones

Leave your glasses under the bed, run out the door with mismatched socks and leave your precooked lunch in the fridge to ist own destiny – but you cannot forget your earphones.

Be it a podcast, a youtube video, a political speech or a recording of your own voice: as long as you can plug them into your phone, a tablet or computer, earphones are an interpreting student’s best friends as they help you improve on the go and in every little break you might want to use effectively.

  • Acknowledge the essentiality of the notepad

While earphones help you practise and improve, a notepad facilitates you doing your job. More than once have I expected 90 minutes of chuchotage and did not take a notepad with me which turned out as a big mistake when chuchotage turned into classic consecutive. You will always want to note something down: feedback to your fellow students, numbers and figures while interpreting simultaneously, classical consecutive notes or little kitty faces to conquer your nervousness.

  • Ditch the library

Don’t get me wrong, the library is still a good guess if you are looking for me – but as an interpreting student, your voice becomes your most precious asset and it wants to be trained! There has never been an excuse as valid to leave university early … to practise at home, of course! 😉

  • Never stop over-analyzing

As tempting as it may be to interpret text after text after text – it may make more sense to focus on one particular speech, record your interpretation and analyze it. Write down all errors and odd expressions and correct them on paper, then try again and again until you are satisfied with your preformance.