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HippityHop
Sep 21st, 2011, 03:05 PM
If a non-native speaker uses the wrong gender for a noun, does it make a big difference in how the hearer understands the speaker?

For example if I say un table or la train in French, would I be misunderstood or just known to be struggling with my French?

njnetswill
Sep 21st, 2011, 03:49 PM
Some words change meaning.

For example, in Spanish:

el papa = the pope, la papa = the potato

Novichok
Sep 21st, 2011, 04:01 PM
Some words change meaning.

For example, in Spanish:

el papa = the pope, la papa = the potato

Yeah but it seems like that wouldn't be a problem because of context.

HippityHop
Sep 21st, 2011, 04:09 PM
Yeah but it seems like that wouldn't be a problem because of context.

Nonetheless, that's good to know. Is it only in Spanish that the article can change the meaning of the word or would that be the case in French or Italian also?

Vincey!
Sep 21st, 2011, 04:16 PM
From what I've noticed of english people speaking in french the gender is often an issue, beside being funny I don't think you can be heavily misunderstood if the rest of the sentence is coherent. The people might be confused at first tho because it does sound very weird for us to hear something like "La écureuil". I don't think a word has a different meaning depending of the gender, at least none that I can think of right now.

HippityHop
Sep 21st, 2011, 04:35 PM
From what I've noticed of english people speaking in french the gender is often an issue, beside being funny I don't think you can be heavily misunderstood if the rest of the sentence is coherent. The people might be confused at first tho because it does sound very weird for us to hear something like "La écureuil". I don't think a word has a different meaning depending of the gender, at least none that I can think of right now.

Thanks Vincey. Since English nouns don't have gender it's difficult for me to imagine how important the correct article is. However I suppose that it could fall on the ear like subject verb disagreement in English. For example hearing someone say "I are" or "they am" sounds funny but it doesn't make the person completely misunderstood.

But then again subject/verb agreement (I assume) works the same in most languages. I'd imagine that "je sont" and "nous suis" would have the same effect on a French listener.

NoppaNoppa
Sep 21st, 2011, 04:35 PM
If a non-native speaker uses the wrong gender for a noun, does it make a big difference in how the hearer understands the speaker

Where are you at? Why such quilt of being yourself!

Super Dave
Sep 21st, 2011, 04:37 PM
Some words change meaning.

For example, in Spanish:

el papa = the pope, la papa = the potato

Yeah but it seems like that wouldn't be a problem because of context.

Unless you order a side of fried Pope with your burger :eek:

HippityHop
Sep 21st, 2011, 04:42 PM
Where are you at? Why such quilt of being yourself!

Where are you at (with the preposition at the end of the sentence) could be slang though the proper usage would be "where you at". There's a song that says Come on, let me show you where it's at. The name of the place, I like it like that.

I must say that I don't understand the second sentence at all with the word "quilt" in it. :confused:
Which language are you suggesting that this might equate with? (prep at the end. :))

HippityHop
Sep 21st, 2011, 04:49 PM
Unless you order a side of fried Pope with your burger :eek:

:lol:

That reminds me of the time when I was in grad school. A young lady from the Phillipines said something to me and I said, "Gloria, you're pulling my leg." She looked under the table and said, "Oh, I'm sorry." :lol:

But then that's an idiom and not really the same thing. I explained it to her though and we both had a good laugh about it. :)

égalité
Sep 21st, 2011, 04:54 PM
Someone said it before, but usually it just sounds funny and doesn't hinder understanding.

I can't think of any examples in Italian of articles changing the meanings of words. But there are some words like "dentista" and "barista" that can take either masculine or feminine articles. They have different plural forms, though.

azdaja
Sep 21st, 2011, 04:57 PM
Nonetheless, that's good to know. Is it only in Spanish that the article can change the meaning of the word or would that be the case in French or Italian also?
the gender in romance languages is for the most part determined by the ending of the word. there are some exceptions (like the stated example), in some cases due to historical changes of languages, but for the most part it is very reliable. the same can be said about slavic languages which don't even have articles. if you try to learn german on the other hand you will have to memorise the article with every noun you learn. and if you miss it it is a source of amusement rather than misunderstanding for the most part.

spiceboy
Sep 21st, 2011, 07:53 PM
the gender in romance languages is for the most part determined by the ending of the word. there are some exceptions (like the stated example), in some cases due to historical changes of languages, but for the most part it is very reliable.

Exactly. In both Italian and Spanish if a noun finishes with an "a" 95% of the time it will be a female noun, while if the noun finishes in "o" most of the times it will be a male noun. Very few names end in "u" or "i" while if the word finishes in "e" or consonant you have to guess :p

But then, of course you make yourself understood if you misuse the articles, it is not a big deal.

Specter
Sep 21st, 2011, 11:08 PM
It might cause slight amusement, but we're very aware that people have trouble with the gender of words in German, because there are no hints as to the gender of a word at all - you just have to learn it word for word.

But something I've come across is when an immigrant I know struggles with the gender forms and uses "die" to describe something, it can be tricky. Since "die" is used for female words, but also for the plural forms. So I've gotten into situations where I wasn't sure whether the person had incorrectly applied a female form to a male or neutral word, or if they were speaking of multiple items and forgot to alter the word into the plural form.

Normally I just overhear stuff like that. I wouldn't expect anyone not from here to get it right all the time. Hell, I've had arguments about the gender of nouns with fellow Germans, because it's so random sometimes. :lol:

Cajka
Sep 21st, 2011, 11:19 PM
In Slavic languages it sounds hilarious. But everybody would understand it of course.

ico4498
Sep 22nd, 2011, 12:10 AM
Where are you at (with the preposition at the end of the sentence) could be slang though the proper usage would be "where you at". There's a song that says Come on, let me show you where it's at. The name of the place, I like it like that.

I must say that I don't understand the second sentence at all with the word "quilt" in it. :confused:
Which language are you suggesting that this might equate with? (prep at the end. :))

reminds of the English teacher that returned my love letter with corrections ...

Tripp
Sep 22nd, 2011, 12:20 AM
It might cause slight amusement, but we're very aware that people have trouble with the gender of words in German, because there are no hints as to the gender of a word at all - you just have to learn it word for word.

But something I've come across is when an immigrant I know struggles with the gender forms and uses "die" to describe something, it can be tricky. Since "die" is used for female words, but also for the plural forms. So I've gotten into situations where I wasn't sure whether the person had incorrectly applied a female form to a male or neutral word, or if they were speaking of multiple items and forgot to alter the word into the plural form.

Normally I just overhear stuff like that. I wouldn't expect anyone not from here to get it right all the time. Hell, I've had arguments about the gender of nouns with fellow Germans, because it's so random sometimes. :lol:

German language is so arbitrary with genders. I remember feeling dizzy when I took lessons, because you could never tell when it is "die", "der" or "das".

canuckfan
Sep 22nd, 2011, 12:53 AM
Nonetheless, that's good to know. Is it only in Spanish that the article can change the meaning of the word or would that be the case in French or Italian also?

It happens in french also sometimes.

For example:
-La mère/la mer = The mother/the sea
-Le maire = The mayor

Of course, they're all written differently, but they have the same pronunciation. So if you say "Je voudrais voir la mer" (I'd like to see the sea/ocean), it has a completely different meaning than "Je voudrais voir le maire" (I'd like to see the mayor).

Other examples:
-Un livre (a book)/Une livre (a pound)
-Un somme (a nap)/Une somme (a summation)
-Un tour (a lap)/Une tour (a tower)

Bayo
Sep 22nd, 2011, 01:22 AM
German language is so arbitrary with genders. I remember feeling dizzy when I took lessons, because you could never tell when it is "die", "der" or "das".

And the plurals. When in doubt, I just add an -e.

HippityHop
Sep 22nd, 2011, 01:46 AM
It happens in french also sometimes.

For example:
-La mère/la mer = The mother/the sea
-Le maire = The mayor

Of course, they're all written differently, but they have the same pronunciation. So if you say "Je voudrais voir la mer" (I'd like to see the sea/ocean), it has a completely different meaning than "Je voudrais voir le maire" (I'd like to see the mayor).

Other examples:
-Un livre (a book)/Une livre (a pound)
-Un somme (a nap)/Une somme (a summation)
-Un tour (a lap)/Une tour (a tower)

These sound like the homonyms in English except they are spelled exactly alike save the articles. I would guess that English would be a nightmare to learn as an adult because of how arbitrary some things seem (much like noun gender :).)

Of course with the advent of the internet and (probably the failure of the school system :mad:) we have even native English speakers (particularly Americans) who use the wrong word. How often do people write "your" when they mean "you're"?

And take the "ough" combination in English. You have cough, through, thorough, rough, bough, hiccough.

I studied French in high school and college and I read it (kind of :p ) But now that I have the time I'm giving the Assimil method a go. If it improves my French, Italian is next on my list. :D

*Nefertiti*
Sep 22nd, 2011, 02:54 AM
No, people understand you very well and it is very common for foreigners to be confused about this issue.

Specter
Sep 22nd, 2011, 06:51 AM
And the plurals. When in doubt, I just add an -e.

Good luck with that. :unsure:

Beat
Sep 22nd, 2011, 08:02 AM
For example if I say un table or la train in French, would I be misunderstood or just known to be struggling with my French?

people would surely understand you. i can only speak for german (where we have three nouns, der (m), die (f), das (n)), a lot of non-native speakers are making these mistakes, it's really difficult to learn.

*edit*

sorry, i posted before reading the thread, realizing now that specter had explained everthing very well already.

HippityHop
Sep 22nd, 2011, 12:18 PM
people would surely understand you. i can only speak for german (where we have three nouns, der (m), die (f), das (n)), a lot of non-native speakers are making these mistakes, it's really difficult to learn.

*edit*

sorry, i posted before reading the thread, realizing now that specter had explained everthing very well already.

No need to apologize. I really appreciate everyone's input. Thanks. :)

Whitehead's Boy
Sep 22nd, 2011, 12:46 PM
All non-native make mistake (and a lot of native make errors as well for specific words), except perhaps those in fields like translation or writing.

While most people are forgiving about this, it's very ugly in the ears of native and constantly mixing up genders would provoke irritation I would think, if you are in a position where you are expected to know the language reasonably well.

Kworb
Sep 22nd, 2011, 12:48 PM
In Dutch masculine and feminine are the same ("de"), but we also have neuter ("het"). There are a few basic rules that make it easier to remember if a noun is neuter or not. But you can mix up the articles and people will still understand.

Curcubeu
Sep 22nd, 2011, 03:24 PM
the gender in romance languages is for the most part determined by the ending of the word.

It's the same in Romanian, but even stricter because the definite article is used like a suffix at the end of the word. You can make some mistakes with the indefinite one, but of course people understand you... :shrug:

Just Do It
Sep 22nd, 2011, 03:36 PM
In Serbian, it's funny, sometimes even native speakers make a mistake but of course everyone can understand what they wanted to say.

WowWow
Sep 22nd, 2011, 07:22 PM
OMG! This is like in David Sedaris' book Me Talk Pretty One Day when he was learning French and had problems ordering so he decided that a masculine kilo of feminine tomatoes presents a sexual problem easily solved by asking for two kilos of tomatoes.

:lol: