Now that we’re on our 3rd app (wow!) we have some traditions! One of them – and one of my favorites- is to talk about how we selected the words for each board. From language to language, we select different words, based on the same theme. We take into account cultural aspects. We’re not telling you, for instance, how to translate your current American apartment into Swedish, but how a Swedish person would describe their apartment, in Sweden. Mary and I discussed this at a party recently (where some of our very important Bingueau discussions occur). Most travel apps and language guides help you discuss your Western life in foreign language. What it leaves out, or what it leaves the student to learn later, is how the culture describes itself.
Me, coffee, wifi in Gamla Stan, Stockholm
For example, in Sweden, coffee is very important. Documented various places, but mostly I’m reminded of this on my Facebook feed, when around 10PM Pacific Time, my Swedish friends start bragging about their lovely steaming cups of kaffe. So in the “in the kitchen” list, I made sure coffee maker, coffee pot, coffee, etc. were all there. I also think that in learning a foreign language, seeing the root, endings, and compound words with a common root help learn a grammar lesson almost imperceptively. Kaffekanna, tekanna, and kaffebryggare, teaches you through practice and repetition the endings for adding “pot”, “machine,” the differences between tea and coffee, and other suffixes, includign identifying the root. And, in later lists, this is apparent with clothing, clothes washing machine, dryer, dishwasher, etc.
As I also did for Russian Bingo, for climates that have serious winters, I made sure to include a set of winter clothes- heavy coat, light coat, etc. Tights, vs. nylons. This is a classic example of why we include words that are important to Swedes vs. describing our life in Swedish. I live in San Francisco, I never have to wear a serious winter coat, nor tights, hats, unless it’s a fashion choice. The reality of living through a Swedish winter without good boots, or a Ukraine winter, would be ridiculous. Being able to describe that is key to knowing the language.
To be honest, adding the audio was an afterthought, but now it’s my favorite feature of the game. At one of our favorite SF cafes, Chameleon, Mary suggested recording sounds for our budding iPhone game. She recorded and added the sounds to our code repository, I integrated them with the touch events, and the next time we met, I was eager to show her the resulting app. I felt it had improved the whole experience almost twofold. With Swedish, this is even more apparent. Because it is so similar to English, we can lull ourselves into thinking we know it. more than any other language I’ve shown my friends- Spanish, Russian, and Chinese (all in development)- Swedish is the one they are the most confident about, without any schooling. It’s the audio that tells them they don’t know it, ha. Of course they initially point to “kök,” “what does that mean?” thinking it’s…. that c-word. Our native speaker Håkan says, “shoohk” and they are chastened.
Viking house in Denmark, shaped like a ship
I had quite a back and forth with Håkan about “tak.” Some of my sources said “roof” with a second definition as “ceiling,” and “innertak” being a primary meaning for ceiling. He had told me “tak” was OK for ceiling, and in further discussion, he added that there is a technical word that building contractors use to define ceiling, “innertak” but in the vernacular most people say “tak.” I’m wondering if it’s because historically roofs were alpine design, with no lower internal roof because that would prevent heat from descending. Note this Danish Viking building, shows the lack of ceiling and only a roof, for heat purposes. Having toured Russian rural houses, they also didn’t have ceilings, only roofs, and were similarly within a larger barn building, to manage the heat. Of course there are debates on how much history has an effect on modern word usage.