The Complexity of Languages

Every now and then I get an email or something highlighting how confusing the English language is – eg. “The [army] deserter was in the desert eating some dessert.” Of course, one would never say “the [army] desserter was in the dessert eating some desert”, which is just blatantly wrong.

I thought I should point out a couple of examples where other languages are equally as confusing…

  1. Mandarin (Putonghua): Sentence structures in Mandarin are great, but some of the tonal differences can produce some rather interesting results. ‘Ma’ is a great one – depending on the tone it can refer to a horse, a mother, or three other things! ‘Shir’ (sometimes spelt ‘shih’ in Pinyin) can mean ten or yes (or to be, similar to the root word ‘etre’ in French).
  2. French/ Italian: The use of masculine and feminine nouns. Why is perfume a masculine noun? While I do appreciate the potential historical reasoning for this particular noun, the lack of standard rules is perhaps the most frightening thing about learning these two languages.
  3. Indonesian: Check out the 7th type of sentence construction if you dare. I still don’t get it!