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A peck, a hug, a handshake … Are you at a loss ?
When we say hello to each other, this is often linked to a gesture. Every country and every region has its own particularity and sometimes there are even different habits within a country depending on the region. In France, for instance, it is common to kiss people on the cheeks to say hello. The number of kisses varies depending on where you are in France. But in most of the regions, you say hello by kissing twice.
In the Muslim countries, people put their hand on the heart and say „salam aleikoum“ („Peace be upon you“). The Jews say in Hebrew „shalom alekhem“, which has the same meaning as in Arabic. The Innuits and the Lapps rub the tips of their noses against each other to check if they are not frozen.
In the western countries you shake hands to say hello. This can be an indication of people’s character.
In Asia, you make a slight bow as a sign of respect: people incline the head in China, the head and the upper part of the body in Japan (which is called „ojigi“) and in India the head with your hands folded.
The Spanish, the Mexicans and the Anglo-Saxons „hug“ each other: they embrace each other and tap each other on the back because in the past, you wanted to make sure that the other one would not carry a weapon hidden behind his back.
The most uncommon way of greeting each other, finally, exists in Tibet where you poke your tongue out to say hello.
Languages, a passport for the whole world
If you ask your family, your friends or even strangers what is the best thing about travelling, many of them will answer you that it is the start of an adventure, the discovery of new landscapes, but most of all getting to know other cultures.
Indeed, every country is characterised by its history, by its culture, which is recognisable thanks to architecture, by its cuisine, by its art and also by its inhabitants. Of course you can acquire a lot of knowledge about a country, by reading about its history, its monuments etc.. Thanks to the internet, this kind of research is available for everyone today. But I think that the immersion into a country remains the most interesting thing, meeting the inhabitants and having the possibility to talk to them grants us a different point of view of the world, a more authentic point of view.
In this context, language skills become a great asset. The language itself is the essence of culture, you will particularly notice this when you deal with idiomatic phrases that are unique to each country and cannot be translated literally. It is funny to state that when a Frenchman „file à l’anglaise“ (secretly disappears), an Englishman, however, „file à la française“ („to take the French way“). Speaking a language, even if you do not have a perfect command of it, is certainly one of the most beautiful ways to discover the world.
In everyday life, we are in the habit of using idiomatic phrases, proverbs that spontaneously come to our mind. Most of the time, the person you talk to will understand what you mean by these figurative expressions because he or she knows them and uses them, too.
But when you talk to a person in a foreign language, everything gets more complicated, as those expressions that are so familiar to us often do not make sense to foreigners.
The problem is that this kind of expressions are quite hard to explain. The expressions can be the reason for rather irritating confusions, but it is interesting and even amusing to try and learn their counterparts. Therefore, we have a short list of idiomatic phrases in German, of their English counterparts and of their at least enjoyable literal translations for you.
Meaning: It rains cats and dogs
Literal translation: it rains strings
Alle Jubeljahre einmal
Meaning: Once in a blue moon
Literal translation: once in all jubilee years
Reden ist Silber, aber Schweigen ist Gold
Meaning: Silence is golden
Literal translation: talking is silver, but silence is gold
Kommt Zeit, kommt Rat
Meaning: Time will tell – Time will show
Literal translation: comes time, comes a piece of advice
Einen Frosch im Hals haben
Meaning: To have a frog in one’s throat
Literal translation: to have a frog in one’s throat
But (French): Avoir un chat dans la gorge (to have a cat in the throat)
Nicht um den heißen Brei herumreden
Meaning: No beating around the bush
Literal translation: no talking around the hot porridge
Andere Mütter haben auch schöne Töchter
Meaning: There are plenty of fish in the sea
Literal translation: other mothers have beautiful daughters, too
Rutsch mir den Buckel runter
Meaning: Go fly a kite
Literal translation: slide down my hump
Ich habe einen Bärenhunger
Meaning: I could eat a horse
Literal translation: i have the hunger of a bear
Ein Unglück kommt selten allein
Meaning: It never rains but it pours – Misery loves company
Literal translation: one disaster rarely comes alone
Gib niemals auf / Verliere niemals die Hoffnung
Meaning: Never say die
Literal translation: never give up / never lose hope
Ohne Fleiß kein Preis
Meaning: No pain no gain
Literal translation: without diligence no reward
Übung macht den Meister
Meaning: Practice makes perfect
Literal translation: practice makes the master
Das Handtuch werfen / Die Flinte ins Korn werfen
Meaning: To throw in the towel
Literal translation: to throw (in) the towel / to throw the gun in the corn
But (French): Jeter l’éponge (to throw the sponge)
Zu Hause ist es am schönsten
Meaning: There is no place like home
Literal translation: it is the most beautiful at home
Das geht dich (gar/überhaupt) nichts an
Meaning: It’s none of your business
Literal translation: that does not concern you (at all)
Jmdn. im Stich lassen
Meaning: To stand so. up / To leave so. in the lurch
Literal translation: to let so. in the stab
Etw. aus sicherer Quelle wissen
Meaning: Straight from the horse’s mouth
Literal translation: to know sth. from a safe source
Keine Hemmungen haben
Meaning: To have plenty of cheek
Literal translation: to have no inhibitions
Etw. für einen Appel und ein Ei kaufen
Meaning: To buy sth. for a song
Literal translation: to buy sth. for an apple and an egg
Stark wie ein Stier sein
Meaning: To be strong as a horse
Literal translation: to be strong as a bull
Wie der Vater, so der Sohn
Meaning: Like father like son
Literal translation: as the father, so the son
Sich gleichen wie ein Ei dem anderen
Meaning: Like two peas in a pod
Literal translation: to resemble each other like one egg the other
Gleich und Gleich gesellt sich gern
Meaning: Birds of a feather flock together
Literal translation: same and same like to mingle
Frei wie ein Vogel sein
Meaning: To be as free as a bird
Literal translation: To be as free as a bird
But (French): Être libre comme l’air (to be as free as the air)
Der frühe Vogel fängt den Wurm
Meaning: The early bird catches the worm
Literal translation: The early bird catches the worm
But (French): Le monde appartient à ceux qui se lèvent tôt (the world belongs to those who get up early)
Zwei Fliegen mit einer Klappe schlagen
Meaning: To kill two birds with one stone
Literal translation: to hit two flies with one flap
Was Hänschen nicht lernt, lernt Hans nimmermehr
Meaning: You can’t teach an old dog new tricks
Literal translation: what Hänschen does not learn, Hans won’t learn at all
Man kann nicht auf allen Hochzeiten tanzen
Meaning: You can’t have your cake and eat it
Literal translation: you can’t dance at all weddings
Meaning: To get cold feet
Literal translation: to have lamp fever
Hübsch anzusehen sein
Meaning: Easy on the eyes
Literal translation: to be nice to look at
Todschick gekleidet sein
Meaning: To be dressed to kill
Literal translation: to be dressed fatally chic
In the end, we can say that learning German proverbs is „kinderleicht“ (easy as pie).
The longest word of the English language has 45 letters?
Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanokoniosis is, according to the Oxford Dictionnary of English (Krulwich), the longest non technical word of the English language. The word refers to an illness you get when you inhale a particular substance that inhibits the breathing (Krulwich).
However, it is not the longest word of all languages. One of the longest German words, Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz, has 63 letters (Dutertre). It is the name of a law that regulates the way beef is tested (Dutertre). The Germans, though, got tired of the word’s length, so that it was abolished by the German parliament in June 2013 (Vasagar).
Germany has always been famous for the length of its words, which is due to the fact that Germans like to connect words to form longer words that describe something different (Vasagar).
The word Donaudampfschifffahrtselektrizitätenhauptbetriebswerkbauunterbeamtengesellschaft for example, which consists of 80 letters, actually contains several words that compose one long word (Vasagar). The French meaning of this word is „L'Association des fonctionnaires subordonnées du chef du bureau de gestion des services électriques pour les bateaux dans le Danube“ (Vasagar).
The longest French word, however, is not as long as that. „Anticonstitutionnellement“, which has only 25 letters, comes in first. The majority of these words are not often used in spoken language, although they are interesting.
1) Dutertre, France, and Darren Thompson. "The Longest Word in Europe is…." Cafébabel.com. Babel International, 10 Mar. 2009. Web. 18 June 2013 http://www.cafebabel.co.uk/article/29212/longest-word-europe-audio-letters-words.html
2) Krulwich, Robert. "What's The Longest Word In The English Language?" NPR. NPR, 21 Jan. 2011. Web. 18 June 2013 http://www.npr.org/blogs/krulwich/2011/01/21/133052745/whats-the-longest-word-in-the-english-language
3) Vasagar, Jeevan. "Germany Drops Its Longest Word: Rindfleischeti..." The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 03 June 2013. Web. 18 June 2013 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/germany/10095976/Germany- drops-its-longest-word-Rindfleischeti....html