Tag Archives: Language

Languages Again

As ever I have trouble finding out which language to use when I write, and who knows, even when I think. I have been writing in English the last years, but I try to speak Danish in my normal life (not to mention the other languages that are running around somewhere in my head).
Lately I started writing some more things in Danish, and as I didn’t know where to put these on this English blog, I decided to add a wordpress.com blog in danish to it. Just to keep things gathered in the right places. I’ll just see what happens with it, as I don’t want to force me to use a certain language. When I read a book in Danish or Dutch, my natural reaction is to write about it in its language, and the same happens when I listen to a radio program, a video or whatever.

For now I decided to try not to worry about it, even though I know that as a result of changing languages none of them will perhaps be used in an eloquent way, but I will put my trust in the eventual power of simplicity. I have to.

Wikipedia thoughts

I looked up the word Lucifer on Wikipedia and read a Danish page that explained me that it is the name of a roman god and that it later was used in, for example, the Bibel to describe the planet Venus. In the late middle-ages it became a synonym for the devil.
The link to the Dutch version of that page leads to “Lucifer (Satan)” with no mention of the roman predecessor or a planet. In the overview-page of all articles in Dutch containing Lucifer there were many options (popband, novel, satan etc.) but non about the roman god. There was a one sentence mention (not a page) about Lucifer being “an old Latin name for the planet Venus”.

It irritates me that a general article in Danish about the name Lucifer is linked to a Dutch article about the devil, without mentioning any roman predecessors. This is in my opinion another small sign about the Dutch society still being so entangled in christianty that it misforms history. There are many prechristian traditions, names and stories that were transformed at one point in history to fit into christianity, and I think that it is our duty to at least inform each other that there actually was life before that.

The English Wikipedia page refers briefly to the name being a latin word given to the planet Venus and at the bottom of the page it links to an article about the ancient Greek god Eosphoros. They also mention the use of the name Lucifer or the interpretation of it in other beliefs than Christianity.

I do not know how to make a remark about this on the Dutch Wikipedia pages – I might have to read the Wikipedia introduction first.

How to be prudent in Dutch.

Hope Gate, Québec ca. 1871, by Louis-Prudent Vallée

There are many languages, many words. All spoken languages are prefect because they have been used for centuries.
But sometimes there is a word in a language that seems to be unknown in other languages.
I looked up the word prudent, as I didn’t know exactly how to define it.

According to thefreedictionary.com it is:


1. Wise in handling practical matters; exercising good judgment (sic) or common sense.
2. Careful in regard to one’s own interests; provident.
3. Careful about one’s conduct; circumspect.

There is a possibility at the bottom of the page to translate the word into another language. This can be helpful for those that speak a different native language.
But prudent is translated into Dutch as voorzichtig. That is definitely not right. Voorzichtig means careful, and this not in the sense mentioned in point 1, 2 or 3 above.

There is apparently no good translation of prudent. That’s probably why I didn’t really know it. It makes one wonder why the Dutch didn’t need a word covering this quality.


P.S. I came to think of the word verstandig as a somewhat better translation. And indeed after a quick search I found that http://www.freedict.com/onldict/onldict.php chooses verstandig as the best option.

But http://online.ectaco.co.uk gives many options: voorzichtig, omzichtig, beleidvol, oordeelkundig, verstandig.


As you can see from this screenshot from today’s notes I have trouble on concentrating me on one language.

When I read Dutch I spontaneously write in Dutch, and the same goes for English and Danish.

I don’t really know what to do with this right now, it is not always practical but it happens.

To write a blogpost about a Dutch book in Danish is a bit “unusual”, as is to write about a Danish book in Dutch or a Dutch book in English.

Most native English speakers don’t master Dutch or Danish, but almost all Dutch or Danes speak English more or less fluently.

Danes don’t speak Dutch as a rule, and Dutch don’t understand Danish well.

So English is the only language that most people in Europa (and elsewhere) understand.

I could of course write in Dutch about Dutch books etc, but, how good is my Dutch, or Danish at the moment?

Google Translate can be a helpful tool, but it is not perfect yet and turns many sentences into nonsense:

Het is makkelijk te krijgen insanely afgeleid in ons leven vol van informatie en impulsen, maar waar komt het laat ons?

Når jeg skriver, jeg højtideligt besøge mig.

I suppose I will continue in English so that everybody can read it, but a quote can be in one of the languages.

Quotes are often not so easy to translate and regularly serve as an illustration rather than a vital part of the story.

Just Write

When words come quickly and my fingers barely can keep up with the stream of thoughts I usually don’t stop to look up a word in a dictionary. My English vocabulary isn’t too big unfortunately so I sometimes use words in three different languages. My own, that of the country I live in and English. In this way I keep the flow when freewriting.
When editing I translate the foreign words into English and this helps me to build a vocabulary of my own.
Sometimes these non-English words express something in a certain way that can be hard to translate and that keeps my writing personal.