Brexit and Portmanteaus

Recently, this whole Brexit chaos has been the talk of many of my friends and people across the world. This is especially visible on social media, like Twitter and Tumblr. “Brexit” is very obviously a combination of the words “Britain” and “exit” in English. The alternative voting option was “Bremain”. Now, people are making predictions about the EU nations that might leave the Union in the near future. And now, the internet is trying to be clever and witty with portmanteaus. 

Just for your info, a portmanteau is just a combination of two words, squished together. As a result of the UK leaving, people are freaking out over the apparently imminent disintegration of the EU. This has caused the internet to concoct things like Finish (Finland), Oustria, (Austria), Italeave (Italy), and Fruckoff (France). Now, my problem isn’t the political commentary flying around (though I have my own opinions that I won’t expound on here). In fact, it’s the use of portmanteaus in English!

So what should we do? We should obviously be making these words in the country’s native languages, since “Brexit” is only appropriate for an English speaking country. Here’s one: Uscitalia, a combination of Italia and uscire (“to exit/depart” in Italian). Or Partigal, from Portugal and partir (one word for “to leave” in Portuguese). And there’s also Espartida (España + partida), which one of my friends debated with me on Facebook.

Captura de ecrã 2016-06-28, às 09.25.51_censored
I’m not really a fan of “Espalida”. It sounds like “espalda”.

Now, the thing is that it’s not a really a problem in and of itself. I just feel like it would be much more effective to the people living in the countries that we’re talking about. For example, Grexit is just a ripoff of Brexit, and that’s boring. I think what would be more interesting and truer to the Greek language is Ελλάδα (Elláda) + έξοδος (éxodos).  Which might be something like Ελλάξοδος (Elláxodos)! It sounds pretty epic if you ask me. Forgive me, Greek speakers if I’ve committed some error of orthographic convention or something. Let me know if there’s something better!

Here are some that we might consider for Germany and Austria. Deutschlassen (Deutschland + [ver]lassen) and Östergang (Österreich + Ausgang). Just Ausgang sounded better but the Aus- part unfortunately isn’t from German.

If any one else can come up with brilliant native language equivalents for things like Finish, Slovakout, or something else, please leave them in the comments! Or if you have better stuff than I can come up with! Disclaimer: this post has zero to do with my politics.

(Credits to @golub on Twitter. Due credit to your brillant contribution and inspiring this post.)

Why French Is Completely Overrated

French is easily one of the most widely studied modern languages from the 17th century in the courts of English nobles to the classrooms of American public high schools to one of the most widely learned languages among wannabe polyglots all over Tumblr and the rest of the internet.

Here’s the irony, though: French is an incredibly useless language to learn.

French literature has an impressive literary presence, but it’s full of long depressing stories of post-revolutionary France like Les Miserables and irritatingly short things like Candide, both of which are treated as some of the crowning jewels of European literature. I mean, who wants to read something depressing when you can read existentialist people like Dostoyevsky, and oh… Sartre. That one, with his meaningful choice of coffee with milk or creamer.

Not to mention the French language is basically silent. La fille? That –lle is there to take up space on the page, my friends. Nearly all the filler letters and weird-ass spellings are things artificially preserved by the Académie Française in order to reflect Old French pronunciation and make it seem more prestigious and steeped in history. There are so many words that sound the same but mean very different things. Out of all of the Romance language siblings, French has wandered hopelessly far from its ancestor, Latin. It wouldn’t be very cool if it didn’t have something old like Old French (how inventive) to ground it in prestige. I mean, sure a lot of people in France speak it, and it’s fairly useful to get around, but I mean you could just be American and pull out English wherever you go. All you have to do is be a complete asshat about English is the only useful language.

Let’s also observe the fact that there are, what, like six major countries that speak French? In several of which you can get away with speaking a more important language like Italian or German? I mean there are African Francophone countries and Vietnam, but let’s be honest: I’m fairly certain they’d rather use their own languages than participate in imperialist bullshit like speaking the language of their conquerors for socioeconomic expediency. Speaking of language repression, the Académie Française was hating on its own Frenchmen for speaking regional languages other than French for years until it’s like “Oh shit that was mean hahah sorry loooool” and now these languages are gasping for breath in the North and South (stuff like Breton and Occitan by the way).

Canada, a major nation in which French is officially spoken, doesn’t even speak French as a majority; my cousins live in Canada and basically never use French. I mean yeah, they live in Guelph, Ontario, but it’s Canada. They’re weird, anyway. Universal healthcare and whatnot.

The point is that French is like a complete asshat to its learners with a completely illogical orthography and extremely pretentious background. Why suffer the abuse? Come to the dark side where we learn the language of real men like Russian with like eighteen verbs for “to go”, Finnish with case declensions like nobody’s business, and Arabic where words can look exactly the same in writing but mean completely different things in context. Fun, right?

First things first: this was a work of satire, and I think that French is a perfectly fine language to learn. But I do give it a lot of shit for the orthography bit. I will never let it live that down.

Practicing a Foreign Language By Yourself

Even if you’re enrolled in a class for a foreign language at school, chances are it’s mostly grammar drills and writing exercises, in my experience. I’ve started to read Fluent in 3 Months (the book), by Benny Lewis, an Irish polyglot who runs a blog with same name as his book (here’s a link: http://www.fluentin3months.com). In his book, he describes how conventional methods that schools use to teach foreign language might work for some people, but it’s hard to practice outside the classroom. I highly recommend that language learners read his book, by the way. It’s fascinating and really helpful. Thinking about this conundrum, I’ve thought of a couple of my own methods (which may look similar to other methods you’ve seen on the Internet):

1. Talk to yourself. This may sound really strange, but trying to speak the language you’re learning to yourself lets you practice and iron out awkwardness when you talk. If you don’t know a word, say it in English (or whatever your first language may be), and write it down to get the word later from a dictionary.

2. Go electronic with your learning. Take your electronic device (a good example is a smart phone), and go to settings, and change the language of your device. Recently, I changed my phone and computer to be in Italian, to practice my ability to read it. This helps because you begin to correlate words that you’d normally see in English with words in the target language, because they physically replace those words, and your usual instinct is to go to the location, without really looking at the word. Changing Siri on iPhones also helps, because then you can practice speaking a little bit.

3. Write more in the target language. Whether it’s posting on Facebook and/or Twitter, or going old-school with a notebook, write as much as you can in the language you’re learning, because it helps you become more literate in the language, and for kinesthetic (learn by doing) learners like me, it solidifies the foundation in your brain for learning the language. Although when you post on the Internet in your language, you should probably include a translation, so that friends who are fluent speakers can correct your mistakes by seeing what you want to say, and non-learner friends can read your posts without feeling excluded. Italki is a great way to do this with its notebook feature.

4. Get books in the target language. Whether they be children’s books or full-on Michael Crichton novels, reading is a surefire way to build vocabulary, due to the variety of contexts, and the fact the good writers usually use a wide range of vocabulary, allowing for a potentially greater number of words for you to learn to appear. Highlight words or phrases you don’t understand, or write them down. For popular book series such as Percy Jackson and the Olympians or the Harry Potter series, compare your native version and the target language version to see what it might be trying to say. You should also read out loud to practice your speaking.

5. Talk with other learners! You generally have more confidence when speaking with other learners of your language, because you know that you’re both still learning, and can’t be expected to be perfect right off the bat. Besides, it can be more social experience, and they’re more accessible, if you’re good friends with them (as you’ll probably become while learning together). Language is inherently social, so not talking with others is no excuse!

Anyway, thanks for reading! Please leave any thoughts you might have on this!