Foreign languages: the WTF moment that made you throw in the towel

In middle school, I used to get A’s in French. I enjoyed the lessons. Until, that is, the calamitous moment that Mlle Prendergast, our teacher, revealed that the French words for “seventy,” “eighty” and “ninety” were “soixante-dix,” “quatre-vingt” and “quatre-vingt-dix” (“sixty-ten,” “four-twenty” and “four-twenty-ten.”)

That was the moment that I decided the entire French nation was nuts. The following term, I abandoned Mlle P and signed up for German instead. The Germans, I figured, despite the humanitarian failings in their history, were a rational people who could be relied upon not to perpetrate absurdities such as “quatre-vingt-dix,” and so it proved.

What inanities, in any language, make you want to tear your hair out?

I’m tryng to learn some Amharic, for a trip to Ethiopia this year. The numbers 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80 and 90 are almost the same as my familiar Arabic words for 3. 4., 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9. But words for 3. 4., 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 do not enjoy that similarity. That’s frustrating.

Last year, I found Russian an excruciatingly difficult language to pick up and I felt lucky if I learned one new word a day.

If the number nomenclature of English were perfectly rational, we wouldn’t have eleven and twelve, which are complete outliers. Also the teens would be called something like wunty-one, wunty-two, etc.

No WTF moments to report. I had two years of French in high school and the irregular verbs required more memorization, which was irritating but not WTF.

The fact that all nouns have gender in German drove me out of mind. The gender of the nouns doesn’t even make sense.

I second spamforbrains. For the language of a people purportedly beholden to Prussian ideals of orderliness and rationality, German noun genders defy explanation with worrying consistency.

In a reversal of the theme of the thread, the idiosyncrasy that really piqued my interest in Japanese is the concept of conjugating verbs according to politeness. I suspect it may be part of what throws many people off about the language, but I find it absolutely splendid.

Yllaria, George R.R. Martin would seem to agree with you, as he’s called one of the giants in his novels “Wun-Wun.” He named the character after one of his favorite American football players, whose jersey number is 11.

The Awful German Language, by Mark Twain.

The words don’t sound like they’re spelled. Which is the result of the way it was taught. In English I knew how the words were pronounced first then learned how to read and write them. In the other languages it was always the reverse and it just didn’t work right for me.

Was this four score and seven years ago?

No native English speaker has standing to accuse other languages of irrationality of absurdity.

Chalk up another point for gendered nouns in German! GOD, those drove me insane.

Thirding spamforbrains. German is a stupid language, and 2 years of it in high school did nothing to change that opinion.

English, now that’s a language. Logical, consistent, regular and easy to master. Even babies can learn it. :stuck_out_tongue:

The problem is pretense, you see. Nobody expects English to make sense, given that the language has essentially developed through a time-tested process of mugging other languages in a dark alley and rifling through their pockets for spare grammar and vocabulary.

German, on the other hand, you’d think would run like their trains.

OP: that only holds true in France. Many other Francophone countries use more logical numbers. I found French pretty easy, even irregular verbs. The main things I didn’t get were all the propositions, and the more obscure reasons why imperfect was used over passé composé or vice versa.

Japanese months are easy: January = One-month, February = Two-month etc. The month symbol is the same as “moon.” Days of the week are slightly harder, but combine an Eastern classical element way day (or sun), so no harder than any European language. On the other hand, the names of the 31 days of the month are highly irregular.
and so on. Maybe there’s some logic but I never learned it.

A New York Giants player, who

splattered a minor, minor character whose family crest resembled the Dallas Cowboys star. This happened in the previous episode, too, but I don’t know if the character had a star; I think he was just a random guy. It is all based upon an ongoing bet he has with a Cowboys fan friend.

11 and 12 being irregular among the teens is not just in English.

Gendered nouns is the norm for Indo-European languages. English is the odd one out for not having them anymore.

Gender in Europe.

But, yeah, English proves that it’s not needed, and every other language would be better off for ditching the stupid idea. IMO.

Hungarian has no gender? I guess they got to give some freebies in that notorious difficult language.

Why is northern Sweden blue though, something obvious I’ve missed? There aren’t that many Finnish speakers up there, and as far as I know Swedish has two basic genders, traditionally and in some cases still three (masculine and feminine have merged in most cases). Sami?

I’ve taken lessons in French, Spanish and Portuguese. The last of those caused me no end of trouble, as Portuguese is sorta-kinda like Spanish, but just different enough that my brain had trouble trying not to confuse them when speaking. French was far easier.

This is a description which beautifully fits the Maltese language. The language developed from the bits and pieces that rubbed off from traders and conquerors over centuries.

As a result words of a common theme (e.g. words describing family relationships) do not necessarily come from the same parent language.

So the Maltese word omm, meaning mother, is derived from Arabic. But the word missier, meaning father, is from the Romance languages.

Most languages are consistently spoken with greater grammatical precision than English, even by children. A person speaking Spanish or German or French will be corrected immediately if he makes a grammatical mistake while speaking. But many conversational users of English make a grammatical error in almost every complete sentence, and if anybody notices, nobody remarks on it. Americans take it as a grave nitpiick by a pedant, if someone corrects them for saying “I haven’t took no money”. (Many languages are rich in slang words, but using slang is not the same as making grammatical errors.)

I recommend not trying to add Italian to your repertoire. :smiley: