Today, while relaxing by the apartment pool, I heard some people speaking a foreign language. I realized before long that they were probably speaking a Germanic language, given that it didn’t seem to be Balto-Slavic, and that I also wasn’t able to detect any Romance language giveaways like final/penultimate syllable stress, or -ar / -ir / er verb forms.
I know Standard German, and while my speaking and listening ability are quite rusty. But as far as I could tell it did sound like some German dialect.
Except when I kept hearing the word “No.” Other than English, most of the Germanic tongues use some variant of “Nein”, or “Nee”, etc., for no. Are there any German or Dutch dialects on the continent that also use “no”?
I don’t know of any other Germanic language that uses the word “No” to mean “No” other than English. At least none of the Scandinavian languages do.
I guess it is possible that they weren’t actually saying “No” but “Nå”, which is a Swedish word pronounced much like Frech “non” or spanish “no” . It has roughly the same meaning as English “Well…”, and is especially common among Swedish speakers in Finland.
Neither Dutch nor Frisian use ‘no’ for ‘no’, but Dutch does have the word ‘nou’ which can mean ‘now’ (coming from ‘nu’, now) but also ‘well’ (Nou, ik ben het er niet mee eens = Well, I don’t agree). The word ‘yes’ is used increasingly instead of ‘ja’, however, especially in certain circumstances. For instance, when scoring a point in a game, one might scream ‘yes’ (I did it!).
Maybe they were combining the English “No,” with their language
I used to work with a lot of people who’d do this. The Latino from Texas (aka “Tex-Mex”) would do this a lot as would Filipinos.
They go in and out of English and their native tongue, and it’s quite odd to hear. My parents would do this to a degree. For instance, they spoke (what was then called) “Serbo-Croatian” and they left Yugoslavia in the 40s. So if something in the 70s was invented, they didn’t bother to use the correct word they would just Anglicize it themselves, in differnt ways.
It’s similar with my folks (and me). We go in and out of Polish and English and I often don’t consciously notice that we’re using two different languages. But to the above point, it’s always interesting visiting Poland and getting blank stares for using a word that’s always been used around the house, but turns out to be a hybrid Polish-English word that’s mainly intelligible in Chicago Polish circles, but not in Poland, or perhaps even in other American Polish communities. I’m sure there’s an interesting linguistic study in that phenomenon somewhere in there.
Anyhow, “no” is also used in Polish in the sense of “well,” like Švejk says it’s used in Dutch. There’s also “na” in Hungarian, pronounced something like “naw,” meaning the same thing. And there’s “ano,” meaning, somewhat confusingy, “yes” in Czech. However, if the OP is sure he heard a Germanic language, none of these really sound Germanic in any way–at least to my ears.
Spanish has “No” anyway, and I’d expect Filipinos or any other ethnic group that has lived in the U.S. a long time, and whose country was once ruled by the United States or fifty years to know a little English in any case.
I knew it couldn’t be Dutch, or at least they don’t use “No” as in English. I know just enough to get the sense of stories in online newspapers, although I do get confused by my greater knowledge of German. As you likely know, but others may not, ‘Nee’ is quite common in colloquial German, perhaps more so than ‘Nein’.
They might have been speaking Dutch at that, or something like it.