December 8, 2012 2:23 PM   Subscribe

Polish names are hard for Germans. The Danish language is hard for the Danes. Singing in French is hard for New Zealanders. (MLYT) (Previously: An English-esque song that is hard for English speakers.)

In the Polish war comedy Jak rozpętałem drugą wojnę światową (How I Unleashed World War II), "Grzegorz Brzęczyszczykiewicz" is a fake name that the protagonist, Franek Dolas, gives to mislead and confuse the Gestapo. For those of you who speak Polish, the whole film appears to be on YouTube (parts one, two, three).

The send-up of the Danish language is from Uti vår hage, a Norwegian sketch comedy series. The Danish number system really is very complicated (via Language Log). Uti vår hage have made a sequel to their Danish language sketch, but it doesn't quite have the magic of the original.

Flight of the Conchords, formerly "New Zealand's 4th most popular guitar-based digi-bongo acapella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo", have of course been on MetaFilter many times previously.
posted by narain (17 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
That Norwegian skit on the Danish tongue is one of the funniest things I've ever seen. I must have watched it so many times now, and it's just right up my street.
posted by Jehan at 2:49 PM on December 8, 2012 [6 favorites]

Yeah - I LOVE that Norwegian skit on Danish. Can't count how many times I've watched it.
posted by azarbayejani at 2:54 PM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Polnisch ist doch ganz einfach, man muss nur die Sprache verstehen!
posted by romanb at 2:55 PM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Polish names are difficult for Australians as well; Australia has a mountain range named after its discovererer, a gentleman by the name of Strzelecki, and a mountain he named Mt. Kosciuszko, after a Polish national hero. The locals pronounce them, respectively, as the Strez-lekkie Range and Mount Kozzie-Osko.
posted by acb at 3:03 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was at Mt Kosciuszko a few weeks ago acb. You should have watched me try to spell it.
posted by Jimbob at 3:07 PM on December 8, 2012

I was going to write exactly what Jehan & azarbayejani already did, but since they did it so eloquently, now I don't have to
posted by growabrain at 3:12 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Meanwhile, in Canada... (NSFW)
posted by Bartonius at 3:18 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks for reminding me of Prisencolinensinainciusol. I just showed it to my 10 year old son and asked him if he could help me understand the words. He listened intently for a minute and announced that, even though it sounded like it, it was not English. He's a smart kid.
posted by double block and bleed at 4:05 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

English is hard for scots...
posted by Sourisnoire at 4:30 PM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Strzelecki and Kosciuszko aren't even the tricky ones.
posted by scrowdid at 4:58 PM on December 8, 2012

It's odd that there are notable people sharing the Smit surname, but it I think I know how that happened. It's almost five o'clock, almost time to go home, and the last few guys show up at your window. "My name is Schmidt" says the first guy. And you ask him to repeat it. "Schmidt", he says. "Do you spell that with an T?" you ask. "Yes, and an H", he replies.

The next guy says his name is "Smith". "Do you spell that with an H?" you ask. "Yes, and a T", he replies.

It's late. You're tired. There are three more guys waiting. All of them get named Smit.
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:13 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

What was that short movie linked a while back, entirely in not-language? I can't remember any relevant way to search for it now. It seemed dramatic though.
posted by nile_red at 7:54 PM on December 8, 2012

I am an Arkansan-born Texan with a little school French who lived on the West coast of Sweden (Gothenburg, which has its own accent, almost dialect) for a year in high school, with a host father from Skåne (the Danish-ish-adjacent incomprehensible South of Sweden) who was a purser for the main ferry line that traveled back and forth to Denmark. Though I made reasonably good marks in school (except math, because fuck math is hard in another language), I could never speak Swedish with my host father, or his Danish coworkers, or my host mother's Finnish or Norwegian friends, except to talk shit (national pasttimes) and, with the exception of the Danes, count.

It is amazing to me how drastically different (and let's not even talk about Finnish, let's leave it at the Swedish-speaking part of Finland) a few million people not very far apart from each other can be in terms of drastically different languages. I took my visiting (biological) mother to Copenhagen and lost every single molecule of language street cred when I could barely even order a sandwich in Denmark without re-routing through English.

It would be as if Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma spoke completely incomprehensible languages to each other. Oh sure, people joke that they do, but if you were bleeding to death you'd find out that, yeah, they all speak approximately the same English. You certainly wouldn't have the same kind of in-country dialectical issue with a tongue-twister about seven seasick sailors in a ship (which I never could master, due to my inability to conquer the Göteborgare '[s]huu' dipthong (is it a dipthong?)).

What is fucking hilarious about that skit is that it's in English. Because otherwise only 10 people would understand it.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:58 PM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

nile_red: Are you thinking of Skwerl (previously)?
posted by narain at 3:44 AM on December 9, 2012

I'm a Dane now living in non-Scandinavia. I routinely watch Norwegian & Swedish TV as well as my native Danish (and listen to podcasts too where you obviously have no visual cues). I think the whole Scandinavian language love-in is different if you have grown up in a Scandinavian country - sure there are some differences between the languages but you can usually get away with speaking your native Scandinavian tongue and throw in a couple of local words ("rolig" means"funny" in Swedish and "calm" in Danish, for instance).

Having said that, I was watching Only Connect, a quiz show, on British TV lately. One of the clues used the Danish numbering system - AND I HAD NO IDEA AS TO THE ANSWER. Danes tend to use a super-simplified version of the numbering system and you only really encounter the full horror if you are writing out amounts on cheques.
posted by kariebookish at 5:32 AM on December 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thank you for the Danish video, haven't seen it in ages and it takes us back to the fantastic 2 years we had in Copenhagen. Languages are fun!
posted by arcticseal at 9:46 AM on December 9, 2012

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