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How loanwords make language learning easier?

September 14, 2018

Cultures and languages are constantly changing and interacting with each other. On the level of language, the interaction can be seen in loanwords, which are found in every language in the world.

A loanword is a word borrowed from another language that has not been translated to the target language. It also has its own special meaning, usually not found in the target language’s own, original vocabulary. In some cases, loanwords are spelled or pronounced a bit differently in the target language, but most of the time they stay the same. Over time, loanwords become such an essential part of the language that even native speakers can’t say where the word originated.

Loanwords make language learning a bit easier because the odds are that you already know some of the words based on your existing language skills!

Where do loanwords come from?

Words are usually loaned when two cultures come into contact with each other. The reason can be, for example, immigration, trade, fashion, art or food.

For example, English, French and German have had a significant impact on each other. This is due to the countries’ common history and geographical nearness.

Especially French has influenced English greatly, so much so that over a third of English words can be traced back to French. It has been said that between these two languages there are 1 700 identical equivalences.

A loan from here, another one from there…

Every text written in English – poetry, cook books, magazines, you name it – is packed with words that have been borrowed from other languages. Below are a few examples of words English has borrowed:

algebra [Arabic]

bagel [Yiddish]

bistro [French]

critique [French]

diva [Italian]

karaoke [Japanese]

kindergarten [German]

paparazzi [Italian]

prima donna [Italian]

Loaning naturally goes both ways – many languages have borrowed words from English. New technologies in particular have increased the number of English loanwords in other languages, but loaning from English has been going on throughout history. So, if you already speak English and would now like to learn some German, here are a few loanwords from English that you can also use when communicating in German:

klicken [in English: click]

der Computer [in English: computer]

das Baby [in English: baby]

babysitten [in English: to babysit]

der Star [in English: star]

der Trend [in English: trend]

das Coaching [in English: coaching]

das Hobby [in English: hobby]

das Team [in English: team]

joggen [in English: jog]

fit [in English: fit]

die Party [in English: party]

Russian has got many loanwords from other languages as well – although it may be hard to believe at first. But once you get familiar with the Cyrillic alphabet, you realize the similarities to other languages. For example, if you have not studied Russian at all, the Russian word “ресторан” gives the impression that it should be pronounced “pektopah”. However, when you have learned the Cyrillic alphabet, you know that it is pronounced “restoran” (cf. “restaurant” in English).

You only need approximately six hours to master the Cyrillic alphabet with WordDive, and after that it will be much easier to travel in a Russian-speaking country!

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Director, Learning Material & Customer Relations

Language loving coffee addict and communications professional haunted by eternal wanderlust.

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