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How are you

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  • Martin Votruba
    Socially, culturally, the Slovak (Polish, Czech) literal equivalents of How are you have a very different function from what it is in English. Their meaning
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 30, 2005
      Socially, culturally, the Slovak (Polish, Czech) literal equivalents
      of "How are you" have a very different function from what it is in
      English. Their meaning is "how have you been recently?", "bring me
      up to date -- what have you been up to since we last saw each
      other?". Therefore, the question cannot be used unless the two
      people have not seen each other for some time (days, at least,
      preferably weeks).

      It would be absurd to come to work every morning and ask a colleague
      the Slovak "how are you?" It would sound like the person asking the
      question suffers from a serious loss of short-term memory, or never
      listened to the answer. "Why are you asking me again? I told you
      yesterday!"

      Among the first things English speakers always want to learn is how
      to say "how are you" and then they go around asking "how have you
      been recently" dozens of times a day. It's not so much that they
      make fools of themselves -- that would be their problem. What's
      worse is that they don't realize they offend those they ask -- the
      Slovaks find it dismissive to be asked how they've been, only to be
      asked it again and again as if the person didn't really care about
      the answer.

      The same applies the other way around. Many Slovaks who have learned
      English don't understand the highly formalized use of "how are you"
      in English, respond to it as they would to the Slovak "how have you
      been recently?" -- i.e., begin to burden the English native speaker
      with the ups and downs of their life -- are puzzled when the American
      rushes away murmuring "that's good," and then they're puzzled again
      when they're asked the same thing the next day.


      Polish: jak sie masz [yak sheh mahsh]
      Czech: jak se ma's~ [yak seh mahsh]
      Slovak: ako sa ma's~ [ahko sah mahsh]

      Slovak regional:

      West: [yak sah mahsh]
      Central = Standard Slovak
      East: [yak sheh mahsh]


      Martin

      votruba "at" pitt "dot "edu
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