French and Mandarin...very distant cousins?


#1

Am I going crazy or do French and Mandarin have a lot of sounds/words in common (tous faux amis pour la plupart, bien sur!)?
Examples: dei zha or deja, wait vs. already
mai you or maillot, don’t have vs. bathing suit
de or de, as in wo de - mine vs. de - belonging to
The syllables ring as French and sometimes I swear I hear two people speaking some French even though common sense tells me that it’s either Mandarin or Taiwanese really.
It seems like Chinese sounds a little like French and I am really, really getting the two confused in my head to the point I come up with things like Je yao une dian dian. Anyone else notice this or am I just going through the stages of acquiring a new language and therefore confusing it with my other two? It’s gotten too far for me to just pass it off as mere coincidence. Has anyone else gone through this if you speak a second language and are learning Mandarin?


#2

My brain seems to have three sections for languages: English, foreign language I’m listening to/trying to speak at the moment, and a dusty storage space labeled “other.”

When I, for example, go to Europe and need to pull something out of the “other” section and put away Chinese, the transition has never been smooth. For the first few days I’m in a non-English, non-Chinese environment, my attempts to speak the local language usually result in an ungodly mess of words from several different languages fighting for position within the same sentences.

I’ve always envied those who can switch from language to language to language with ease and fluency.


#3

Uh, uh…no way, I just don’t hear that. Mind you I speak fluent French as well, so for me it’s a language, not just a bunch of syllables that sound a certain way (like Chinese is to me). French consonants, for the most part, are softened. Chinese is harder edged and also more “compartmentalized” aurally speaking. French is softer, and more like a rolling wave. Pronunciation is more complicated in French, it’s more important to enunciate your words, and it’s also a very subjective language. While Chinese sounds like way more of a drone, emotion-less, and intellectual, a language to conceal your feelings behind, speaking French on the other hand demands that you add emotional tones (not linguistic ones) to your phrasing, you have to inject yourself into the words, your feelings.

French is a way of expressing who and what you are. Much less “objective” than English, it makes you to define and express your personality every time you speak. You can’t really say, “the chair is by the window” in French without also giving away how you feel about that as well. Chinese does pretty much the opposite of this, it’s more mathematical, you say words like THIS, only, change your tone, change the meaning. Everything’s regulated, ordered, compartmentalized, mathematical.

Anyway, that’s just an opinion from an anglo-francophone.


#4

I don’t think they are similar at all. But I do agree with the ‘language compartments int he brain’ idea. i think of got two. English and a ‘new language’. I used to speak a little (emphasis on little - but I managed a couple of conversations in Indochina) French, but can barely remember a word fo it now. every time I try and think of a French word the Chinese pops in. I found myself saying shite like “Ni parle Francais ma?”

Bri


#5

A Frenchman I once knew who lived here in Taiwan said: “Taiwanese sounds like monkeys talking to dogs.”
He was fluent in Mandarin, by the way.


#6

hahahaha!!! That’s awful! Just bloody awful!!! (but had me rotflmao nonetheless!!!)


#7

I get a lovely English/French/Mandarin/German combination when I try to think in my head although it’s a credit to the Chinese I have learned that in just a year and a half after I began studying Mandarin I am thinking in it. It took me 8 years of studying French to begin to really think in it…thinking meaning that instead of the words being in English and then translated, their in the other language and I translate them into English or I can read something and understand it without translating it into English in my head or…dammit. I guess if you can think in another language you know what I’m talking about. Of course, I didn’t even realize that I remembered that much German after taking it for only six months in college. Pronouns are the worst thing for remembering in the right language for me.


#8

I guess the concensus is that I am either gaining Mandarin as a new language or that I am in fact going crazy. Either way Taiwan is going to be a much more interesting place from now on…


#9
quote[quote]Am I going crazy or do French and Mandarin have a lot of sounds/words in common (tous faux amis pour la plupart, bien sur!)?[/quote]

I’m a Taiwanese francophone, I’d say these 2 languages aren’t absolutely the same. We stress a lot in Mandarin, but not in French.

Your confusion could just result from your understanding of these 2 FOREIGN languages.
I’d bet you a non-English speaking person could properly confuse English with German.

quote:
French consonants, for the most part, are softened. Chinese is harder edged and also more "compartmentalized" aurally speaking. French is softer, and more like a rolling wave. Pronunciation is more complicated in French, it's more important to enunciate your words, and it's also a very subjective language. While Chinese sounds like way more of a drone, emotion-less, and intellectual, a language to conceal your feelings behind, speaking French on the other hand demands that you add emotional tones (not linguistic ones) to your phrasing, you have to inject yourself into the words, your feelings. French is a way of expressing who and what you are. Much less "objective" than English, it makes you to define and express your personality every time you speak. You can't really say, "the chair is by the window" in French without also giving away how you feel about that as well. Chinese does pretty much the opposite of this, it's more mathematical, you say words like THIS, only, change your tone, change the meaning. Everything's regulated, ordered, compartmentalized, mathematical

As a Taiwanese francophone, I entirely agree with you.

[Note: This post has been edited by the moderator to establish which sections are quotes from other posters.]


#10

You might have struck on something here.

Not being a linguistic expert I have studied a little as an adjunct to my specialty. Some basic words are similar in almost all languages of the world. Do you think it is a coincidence that

dog and gou are quite similar

mama, mhama/mathair(irish), muchin - mother, mama

Isn’t it interesting they are all shared one syllable words.

nio
cow
bo (irish)

fuchin, dhaid/athair (irish) - father
baba - papa

Cool eh, those neolithic peoples really got around!

They are merely the most obvious.

Then I got to thinking about zhi (just/only)
Actually it seems that some words seem to come out of the ‘best fit’ for our brain to create–our brains are wired to accept language but some words and combinations of syllables are probably shared across many cultures and invented independently, since we are using the same hardware we could indepedently evolve words such as just/zhi/jiu which sound so similar because they fit into phrases just right.

actually many primitive words are very similar due to the fact they go back to neolithic times.

We can look at the grammar too. Superficially Chinese grammar seems quite different but actually if you forget about some prepositions and verb endings you quickly realise the basic sentence structures have a very similar logical format (it was so similar when I first started studying I was really surprised, it really proves that people the world over follow the same logical thinking patterns).


#11

“san” or something very close is three in at least 5 asian languages


#12

Sure, we all have our own list of suspected coincidences,
http://jidanni.org/lang/chin_eng_coincidences.txt However, as the pros
on news:sci.lang will tell you, 99% are just that, coincidences.


#13

OK - more suspected coincidences - Cantonese and Thai numbers one to ten share many coincidences in pronunciation (more than 5 are very close).

There is an old saying - Once is an event - twice is a coincidence - three times, well there must be something in it.

I am not a linguist, but I can count to ten in more than a few languages and to three in many, (and ask where is the toilet and understand enough of the reply to find it)


#14

I think a small few are not coincidences.

Mama is , I think the easiest sound for a baby to make, and extremely widespread. Baba/Papa, might be the next easiest sound. Nai nai or nei nei or something crops up in a lot of languages and is the sound a baby makes when it wants to eat (or suck I guess).

Bri


#15

Please refer to book “Word and Rule” by Steven Pinker. It is an analysis of how human processes language in their brain. I kinda quite agree with the writer.

It’s like such that our brain stores every single meaning (corpus) in a register. Word of languages that associated with this meaning is linked when you start absorb new vocabulary for certain language.
Meanwhile another database is used to store rules (grammar, usage).

Don’t you sometimes want to express a meaning (corpus) but are at a loss or groping for word in certain language?

regards

ax


#16

The /m/ and /b/ are two of the easiest sounds to make. You just put your lips together and make a sound (nasally) for /m/ and put your lips together to stop the sound for /b/. But that still doesn’t explain the coicindences. I have studied historical linguistics. No where are French and Chinese even on the same page of histories, but the fact that some of the words in each language share similiar sounds and related meanings is pretty interesting nevertheless. Ta meaning 2nd per. sing. fam. possessive for a feminine noun and it meaning he/she/it in mandarin which can also be made possessive as in “ta mama” (his mother) and “ta maman” (your mother). Anyway, cheers

ImaniOU


#17

Yes, and ta means “thank you” in English - so what?


#18

Yes, and ta tas are what Maoman calls … oh, forget it.


#19

I’m impressed by the guy who managed to get Irish into a thread about Mandarin and French. Peig would be proud.


#20

Ni raibh fearr ach dha bho

there wasn’t even grass for two cows…and that’s just the first line of her autobiography, never forget it…

how we can forget Peig and the wonderful optimistic book she wrote!

Yes I sneaked the irish ref. in Hexuan and i think its valid as irish is from the indo-celtic language group whereas french is from the romantic group, of languages as i’m sure you know already and this adds some more good examples to our discussion.