Monday, January 27, 2014

Just a matter of looking things up

A colleague of mine (a Russophone from Belarus) just walked over and showed me a student paper, written in Russian. She was baffled by a sentence:

Нет прямые галстук.

I knew instantly what the student had meant to say. But only because I'm a native English speaker.

Нет is "no" of course, but at the beginning of a sentence like this it means "there is no / there are no". Прямые is "straight" - a plural nominative form; the word is often used for things that are direct or unmediated or, sometimes (as in English) candid. And галстук is a necktie.

"There are no direct ties", meaning "connections".That's what the student wanted to say. Unfortunately, the Russian sentence cannot mean that at all. (For one thing, "there are no" takes a genitive predicate, not a nominative one.) What this means, if it means anything, is "Nope, straight neckties" - as if answering the question "Were they wearing crooked scarves?"

So, yeah, no. You can't just look up each English word in an English-Russian dictionary and get a good translation.

Labels: , ,


At 9:48 PM, January 27, 2014 Anonymous Kathie. had this to say...

I blush to think of how many times I made comparable errors while learning to write in Portuguese (still probably do occasionally).


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post

Links to this post:

Create a Link

     <-- Older Post                     ^ Home                    Newer Post -->