Thursday, April 21, 2005

Lingua Falsa!

I speak over 11 languages! Over 11 fake languages, that is! What are fake languages, you ask? Well...

Here's a mathematical definition -

A fake language of the language L, say L' can be defined to be a non-sensical, gibberish conjunction of sounds that when heard by a listener who does not understand the language L, can convince him to believe that what he/she heard was indeed spoken in the language L.

The above convoluted paragraph is the best I can offer by way of a rigid definition. However, to clarify matters for the non-mathematicians amongst you, I shall elaborate a little further.

Imagine you did not understand Russian. You knew how it sounded but would not be able to understand anything that a person said in Russian. (For most of you, this would be true, and so not much imagining would have to be done here!) Now let us say, Pierre ambled up and warbled something out to you in French. You obviously would not believe that that was Russian, since you know more or less how Russian sounds. It's a lot gruffer than Pierre's soft flowing French. That's the first important point - even though you may not be able to understand a language, you can still indentify it. Basically, all languages sound different.

Now, imagine I strolled up behind Pierre and mumbled something else that sounded Russian-like. Close enough to actual Russian for you, a non-Russian speaker, not to be able to make out any difference. Now that's fake Russian!!

Remember, I don't know Russian either, and what I spoke was pure, unadulterated gibberish. But the only important fact is that it could convince someone who doesn't speak Russian, that it is indeed Russian. Period. That's all that counts.

In case you're thinking by now that this whole fake language thing is childishly simple - think again! It's a lot harder than you may first imagine. Remember you have to convince someone who knows exactly how the language you're supposed to be speaking sounds like. Thus you have to be able to perfect the respective accent and it wouldn't hurt to occasionally throw in a couple of words that actually exist in that language. Careful attention has to be paid to which syllables in a word are normally stressed and other such minute details. Bottomline - it's not easy!

After a lot of practice I can proudly claim that my fake language count stands at 11. Amongst others it includes fake German, fake French, fake Spanish, fake Italian, fake Latin, fake Russian blah blah...

An interesting fact to note in this regard is that it's often easier to speak fake Schmazz when you don't know how to speak Schmazz in the first place. Thus for me fake German was a lot tougher to master than fake Russian, since I know quite a bit of the former. Somehow when you know how to speak a particular language, even if you're trying it's fake counterpart, genuine words seem to some out instead. (Going by these standards, fake Hindi and fake Marathi were a cinch for me!)

So go on ahead - try practising your own fake languages. And if you ever want any tips (and I'm strangely unavailable), try contacting the cast of the hit TV show "Who's Line is it Anyway?" They're the masters at this fake language stuff. In fact they're so good, they could even write a fake book in a fake language!!


Aditya Bidikar said...

Dog Latin is a language you might consider fake. Terry Pratchett uses it a lot, and it's pretty funny.

For example, 'Fabricati Diem, pvnc' means 'Make my day, punk'.

'Sodomy non sapiens' means 'buggered if I know'.

Pratchett, by the way, is a very funny guy, and you might like him if you like Douglas Adams.

His books are available in BCL, and 'Mort' and 'Going Postal' are very funny, especially the latter.

arnold said...

you guys make not believe this but... i'm yet to read anything by Douglas Adams...!

Aditya Bidikar said...

WHAT!!! (He said, his eyes bulging out in surprise.)

You're really missing out, man. If you are even slightly interested in surreal comedy (and are sick of American SitComs), you should read the following:

Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, Robert Rankin, and perhaps Eric Idle.

If you liked 'zany' movies like Hot Shots, then you should watch the fathers of all that's silly - Monty Python. They are simply fabulous. The ideas will boggle your mind. Their movies are: Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Life of Brian, The Meaning of Life and And Now For Something Completely Different, and I wouldn't recommend starting with The Meaning of Life - it's a bit extreme.

arnold said...

i know.. i want to read these authors, but just hvnt got down to it... maybe after these exams. also, i'm not much a movie guy..