Ooh, I can't say that
Learners, if you don't understand this post, read the easy version in blue.
There is a very unique moment in the language student's learning journey when a new type of awkwardness, as opposed to the usual awkwardness, takes over. They're expected to say something but instead, there's a hesitation. You, the teacher, ask them "is everything OK?" and they say "yeah, it's just that it sounds like xxxxx and that's not a word I would want to say in my language".
I know, it's completely irrational. It's just a sequence of sounds. The meaning depends on the language. It's not a huge issue but it bothers some learners. I'll admit it, I swear in my native language from time to time. Maybe that's why I don't really struggle with this in other languages, even though there are some rather delightful matches, especially with German. Die Kurve, der Kunde... And having my English always running in the background, even der Fahrt makes me giggle.
Among the words that English speakers blush over in Czech are:
- the omnipresent "fakt" pronounced very much like /fʌkt/, meaning "really"
- a numerous group of infinitives ending with "-šit" /ʃɪt/
- words like "bič" /bɪtʃ/ or "krab" /krap/
German speakers don't seem to like the expression "in the picture" - "na fotce" (do they, Miriam?), the "tce" sounding like the German "tze".
Do you have any similar examples? And how do you feel when you come across such words in another language? Do you hesitate for a bit? Do you just switch to the other language and get on with it? Or do you think you might not even notice it?
When you learn a new language, you sometimes hear new words that sound funny or rude in your native language. Is it hard or easy for you to say these words? Is it easy because you know it is a different language? The words above are examples between Czech, English and German.
To everyone: Please refrain from using actual swearwords in your comments. I don't think it would go down well.