Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Jūs esat brīnišķīgs dejotājs!

While spending a few days in Rutland last week (now there's an opening phrase to entrance the reader!) we had an excellent dinner in a pub/restaurant kept by a family of friendly Latvians in the little town of Uppingham. When I paid the bill I gave the waitress a polite Liels paldies! (thank you very much) and she seemed pleased and a little surprised; probably very few of the regular customers address her in her own language.

Later she may have discovered that I had acquired the phrase only ten minutes before, by asking her father. Since then I have looked up a few more which might be useful if I meet any more of their compatriots and I look forward to an opportunity of using the one which I have used as the title of this post, which means You are wonderful at dancing!

Wikipedia has a fascinating article on the Latvian language, from which I learn that Latvian and Lithuanian are closely related but mutually unintelligible, and that there are several contests held annually to promote correct use of Latvian. Notably, the State Language Centre holds contests for language mistakes, named "Gimalajiešu superlācis" after an infamous incorrect translation of Asiatic Black Bear. These mistakes, often quite amusing, are both grammatical and stylistic; sometimes also obvious typos and mistranslations are considered to belong here. Organizers claim that mistakes are largely collected in areas heavily populated by Russian-speakers, as well as from Lithuanian-owned chain stores. Mistranslations are not necessarily grammatical, but also stylistic and vocabulary mistakes, such as literal translations from the English language.

2 comments:

Gemini 2 said...

Surely that must have been very embarrassing for your traveling companion, did you not offer to dance her national dance with the waitress, while your companion hid under the table cringing ? I wonder if you have behave like that at all in your past travels?

Tony said...

Well yes, Gemini2, I often used to do that sort of thing, but now in my maturer years I do it less often, for fear I might fall over.