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My father was born in Sweden and my mother in Norway. They met in Sweden and emigrated to Canada, where I was born. So I spoke both Swedish and English until deciding that I'd better stick with English before starting school! I'm now better at Norwegian but Swedish sometimes creeps in. While visiting Gotland, I chatted with a woman who thought my Swedish was just fine, but I told her she was just being kind!
A story about Swedish and Norwegian - I know it is true, because it was experienced by the father of a classmate of mine: He was "turistsjef" (manager of tourist oriented activities in our town), in charge of a pan-Scandinavian conference of people with similar activities:
If meet grown people from Norway's Sognefjord, they sometimes speak a dialect that "no" Norwegian can understand a word of (and this happened 40+ years ago, then dialects were far more pronounced). Sweden has the same "problem" with elderly people from the Skåne district; some of them have a dialect which is almost like a different language.
The distance from Sognefjord to Skåne is around 700 km in linear distance, at least a thousand km along the road, so there is not (and there has never been any) obvious direct communication paths between the two districts. Yet it turned out that the Sogn dialect deviations from standard Norwegian were so similar to the Skåne dialect deviations from standard Swedish, that the Sogn and Skåne representatives were chatting away, having no problems understanding each other. Other Norwegians, and other Swedes, standing ringside, didn't understand a word of what either of them were saying...
I guess that an essential part of the explantion is that both dialects had preserved essential elements from the same proto-Scandinavian Norse language of the viking ages, keeping alive a number of sounds, conjugations and inflection patterns that dissappeared from modern Swedish/Norwegian hundreds of years ago.
Most likely, both Sogn and Skåne dialects have been so watered out by the official national languages that today, you wouldn't have the same experience if Sogn and Skåne people met - they would understand each other, and be understood by the ringsiders, beacuase their languages would be far closer to the national "standard" lanaguages.
The Skåne dialect and pronunciation were quite influenced by Danish, which when spoken with a heavy native accent sounds like a throat disease, not a language. I heard a story about someone from Skåne asking a Stockholm resident for directions. They ended up using English to communicate.
When in Denmark, I could read things about as well as I can read Norwegian, but anything spoken was hopeless. On the other hand, my aunt married a Dane, and they sometimes spoke Danish. His accent was mild enough that I could understand them.
(Many) years ago I was cycle touring on my own in northern Norway, not long after living near Trondheim for 3 months. Got chatting to a local whilst awaiting a ferry. After a while she asked what part of Sweden I was from. Never having been "good" at languages this was the biggest compliment anyone could pay!
Now deceased comedian Harald Heide-Steen Jr. used to impersonate a Russsian submarine captain caught in Norwegain waters ("But we can't see that border underwater!"), speaking Norwegian with heavy Russian accent. One Russian language expert identified from this accent where Heide-Steen Jr. had learned is Russian, and was very surpriseed to learn that Heide-Steen Jr. didn't know a word of Russian. He had learned the accent without learning the language.
There are also a few Norwegian singer-songwriters who are extremely good at talking gibberish that doesn't sound like gibberish, usually either in Norwegian or English. Usually it starts out as meaningful words/sentences, but somewhere in the middle of it - you can't tell exactly where - you loose grip of it. It still is like the chatting you can hear from the neighbouring table at the café. It is the same language; you just cant make out the words.
That is tor of the opposite of what you describe, but I think it takes much of the same abilites, "having an ear for" (is that a valid way to phrase it in Englihs?) the language.
The problem searching for homographs in a language not your native one is that often you do not know the two+ different pronounciations; you mispronounce some of the meanings. Actually, I did that myself once, laughing at this record sleeve identifying the lead (heavy metal) guitar - I honestly though that it was a joking way to say "heavy bass guitar". My friends laughed at my pun, and only much later did I discover what "lead guitar" really means (and how it is pronounced). My friends never discovered that I really made a fool of myself rather than making a pun ...
A non-native speaker may encounter exactly that problem I am addressing: If you feed a word into a speech synthesis module to learn its pronounciation, you usually are given one single alternative. So you might "learn" that the wind blowing or to wind your watch should sound the same way. To learn the difference, you need a dictionary that provides an IPA (phonetic alphabet) version for each meaning, so you can see the difference (if there is one). And then there are dialects - I am sure that most languages have dialects distinguishing between words that other dialects pronounce a single way. So, to make an exhaustive (or even extensive) list of homographs with with different pronounciation requires strong familiarity with the language.
The majority have related meanings but are pronounced differently depending upon the context. Some are chemistry related (ionized and iodic). Others are totally mysterious until they have some context: is polish a nationality or the act of shining something with mild friction?
The main list had more of the fun ones, like wind, polish, sow, console, bass, &etc.
Another part of word fun is with very different meanings in alternate languages. We had a visiting professor from Brazil who went historical laughing when it was his first pay day - sound to him like a day dedicated to flatulence. "Exxon" was a word found by what passed for a computer search to find a word that meant nothing in any other language. It used to be "Esso". Chevrolet got into trouble with it "Nova" in Spanish speaking countries, translating to "no go"
Conclusion - and ancient wisdom: the only way to avoid trouble over what you say is to keep one's mouth shut.
there turned out to be a surprisingly large list of them.
Exactly like I experienced with Norwegian. I am still collecting, but I think I have caught most of them by now!
Thanks for your contributions. I guess I will start collecting English ones now - but I guess that for several of them, I will have to look up the proper pronounciation.
Another famous example of a product/company name explicitly chosen to have no meaning, in particular: offensive/derogatory, in any known language, is "Kodak".
In translation between languages you frequently encounter "false friends". If a Norwegian refers to "eventual problems", he usually meant to write "possible problems" or even "problems not likely to happen". I've got a small dictionary of Norwegain-English false friends. But even languages as close as Swedish and Norwegian (we rarely care to translate, except for formal documents) have false friends. If I write to a business partner "Jeg har ikke anledning til å møte deg", I regret that I won't have any opportunity to meet you, the Swede will read it as I do not have any reason to meet you.
Then there are those English vs. English stories... The classic book "Big Business Blunders: Mistakes in International Marketing" tells about this joint project between a British and a US company. The cooperation was rather unsuccessful. For one joint project meeting the management agreed that "these problems be tabeled". Problem was that to one party, "tabeling" a problem meant putting them face up on the table, for everybody to see, to solve the problem. To the other party, "tabeling" meant laying it face down on the table, not bringing it up, keeping it down. One party got crossed because the other party seemed to refuse to take the discussion that they had agreed upon, the other party got crossed because they had agreed to put those problems aside for that meeting, yet the other side kept pushing.
... Today, I think I would have been more fascinated by working professionally with natural languages than with programming languages ....
I have just been told that our on site IT dept can no longer help with IT problems, there were two networks, on that was locked to nth level the 'Corporate' and one which was a bit looser that I use called the 'Dev' network. On site IT could help with the 'Dev' but not corporate. Worked fine, but at some point that changed and we have to phone a flower when we need help. Who makes these choices before there was mumbles and you got what you needed, now you get told "that is outside of your needs, no!", some one is going to end up sitting on window ledge with a sniper rifle taking pot shots before long!
Slowly working towards that level here too. Next idea is to get rid of the guest network for general use, force vendors to request access for specific time periods weeks in advance, and ban all personal devices from logging into VPN. Also got our two-factor fobs with no information about how to use them because the person responsible for that is out for the time being.
Two Factor, What a waste of time! As the company I work for is run with 'most' people working remotely using company laptops & phones, my part of the company was office based with desktops not laptops and no company mobiles. We had to use our own mobiles... I was not happy about that. We then got asked questions as to why we ordered fobs and not use our mobiles...
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