Sunday, 11 May 2014

The Amazing Race 24, Episode 11

Seville (Spain) - London, England (UK) - Liverpool, England (UK) - Wrexham, Wales (UK) - Cheshire, England (UK)

The most difficult challenge for the racers in this episode of The Amazing Race 24 was to recite a passage of poetry -- in Welsh.

I don't know how likely you are to find yourself in a place in Wales where nobody around speaks English. I suspect it's a bit like Irish: The European Union maintains an entire department of Irish-language translators, but it's rare for there to be anyone in the Hermicycle of the European Parliament who speaks only Irish and not English or any of the other languages into which EU proceedings are also translated.

Yet you are likely to find yourself trying to pronounce the name of the town to which you are asking directions, or to pronounce other written words or phrases in languages you don't understand. We've seen variants of this task on previous seasons of the race, and they represent a common real-world travel challenge.

You don't have to be be able to understand the words to regurgitate them. Musicians routinely sing from memory in languages that they don't understand. For most languages, however, you need to be able to (a) reproduce and (b) remember (with or without some sort of notes to yourself) sounds that don't occur at all in spoken English. Some languages have only a few such sounds. Others have many. There's no simple way to represent these sounds in writing, unless you're conversant with the language you're trying to transcribe, or with the symbols used by linguists.

Variations in pitch, volume, and tempo that monolingual native speakers of English don't even notice may also be significant to meaning in some languages.

Foreign-language karaoke (critiqued, if possible, by someone fluent in the target language) might be useful practice to improve your skill at this travel task.

What works for you?

Do you make up your own phonetic code in which to make notes for yourself? Do you remember the words by chanting them, or by fitting them to a rhythm or a tune? How do you learn or remember the sounds of foreign-language words or phases you don't understand?

Link | Posted by Edward on Sunday, 11 May 2014, 23:59 (11:59 PM) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

Recently I sent an email to a rental car agency in Norway that bounced back as undeliverable. I later phoned the agency and read the Norwegian-language message to the English-speaking representative, who complemented me on my non-existent Norwegian. It apparently helps that I speak German.

Posted by: Wayne Bernhardson, 17 May 2014, 07:31 ( 7:31 AM)
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