List of Shibboleths - Non-English

Non-English

  • Krai kai kai gai (ใครขายไข่ไก่) or Kai kai kai: This phrase is used to teach Thai children the subtleties of their tonal language. When each word is pronounced with the proper tone, the phrase means, "Who sells chicken eggs?"
  • Rødgrød med fløde : The definitive test of one's mastery of the Danish language. No non-native is likely to pronounce the sentence (which means 'red pudding with cream' in English) correctly due to the overwhelming amount of Danish phonemes.
  • Rugbrød : Danish for Rye bread, almost impossible for non-Scandinavians to pronounce due to the "soft" g and d and the Scandinavian letter ø.
  • A æ u å æ ø i æ å : a well-known Danish vowels-only way of judging someone's ability to speak Jysk, the general dialect of Jutland. Often/usually practiced on visitors from Copenhagen. In standard Danish, the sentence would be Jeg er ude på øen i åen ("I'm on the island in the stream").
  • I öa ä e å, o i åa ä e ö, a Swedish phrase from Värmland, containing only vowels. "On the island is a river, and in the river an island". In standard Swedish it would be "På ön finns det en å, och i ån finns det en ö". (Literally it would be "I ön är en å, och i ån är en ö.")
  • Chirurgien, French for "surgeon"; very hard for English-speakers to pronounce correctly, due to its containing, in quick succession, several French sounds not found in English:, ).
  • Chuchichäschtli in Swiss German, meaning "little kitchen cupboard" is nearly unpronounceable for outsiders because of the frequent /χ/; (note that the middle one is geminated) however, unlike German, the sound does exist in Standard English as well. Most Swiss would pronounce it /ˈxʊxɪxɛʃtli/ with velar fricatives.
  • "Es vergäid käi Tag im Jahr, wo der Fux am Schwanz nid het Haar" in Swiss German, meaning "There's not one day in a year, when the fox has no hair on his tail". This is usually used to verify whether someone is drunk or not. It is difficult because the word order is not the normal way and the measure of the verse is broken.
  • "Tschingg" /tʃiŋk/ in Swiss German is a derogatory name for an Italian guest worker, derived from the Italian word "cinque" (five), which was the name of a popular card game in the Italian diaspora.
  • The sentence a o'agnehm grean agstrichns Gartatihrle (a garden door painted in an awful shade of green) serves as a Swabian shibboleth. The consecutive nasal sounds are almost unpronounceable for other German speakers.
  • A Czech or Slovak shibboleth is Strč prst skrz krk, meaning "stick the finger through the throat". This is usually used to verify whether someone is drunk or not.
  • Another Czech shibboleth is basically any word containing the Raised alveolar non-sonorant trill represented by the grapheme ř, often in the form of the dialogue -Mařeno, řekni ř! (Mařena, say ř!) -Neřeknu, ty vořechu! (I won't, you rascal!) or simply by asking to say řeřicha (Garden cress)
  • Estamos de huelga is a Spanish phrase meaning "We are on strike". The majority of Spaniards pronounce "huelga" (strike) as . Andalusians and Extremadurans, though, often pronounce the elsewhere silent /h/ and intermix /l/ and /ɾ/, pronouncing "huelga" like the Spanish word "juerga", as . This will change the meaning of the sentence to "We are having fun". The same happens in the Southwestern region of the Dominican Republic, where for example "mal" (bad) is pronounced "mar" (sea) . Similarly, Puerto Ricans change the sound of a mid-word /ɾ/ to an /l/, thus a Puerto Rican will say "I come from Puelto Rico".
  • In Spanish spoken in Loreto, Peru and San Martín, Peru, most people will say "El fez y el juiscal feron a tomar cajué el feves con don Juederico en San Fan después del ficio" instead of "El juez y el fiscal fueron a tomar café el jueves con don Federico en San Juan después del juicio" (The Judge and the Prosecutor went to drink coffee on Thursday with Don Federico in San Juan after the trial).
  • In Spanish, most Argentinians and Uruguayans near the Río de la Plata pronounce /ʝ/ as or . This for example turns arroyo (, stream) into or .
  • Many businesses in the United States tout the bi-linguality of their workers with the advertisement "Hablamos español," literally meaning "we speak Spanish." However, the proper and grammatical phrasing "Se habla español," is often used by customers to distinguish between establishments that employ native and non-native speakers.
  • Northern-Italian dialects have ü and ö sounds as French or German, which are not present in standard Italian language or southern dialects. Words like föra (out) may be used to discern whether one is from the north. Comedians Aldo, Giovanni and Giacomo presented a whole scene about a similar shibboleth in their first movie, the Lombard word cadrega: a guest, suspected to be a southerner, would be shown a table with many sorts of fruit, and offered to take a cadrega, unaware he was actually being offered just a chair (in Italian, sedia ).
  • Italians travelling abroad and wishing to dine at an Italian restaurant often check the menu's grammar to verify whether the restaurant can be trusted to be authentic. Common errors are missing prepositions as in "spaghetti bolognese" instead of "spaghetti alla bolognese", missing accents, such as "tiramisu" instead of "tiramisù" and uncommon misspellings such as "mozarella" (mozzarella) or the difficult "capucino"/"capuccino"/"cappucino"/"capucchino" (cappuccino)
  • In Chile, the pronunciation of "ch" — which in standard Spanish sounds /tʃ/ — as /ʃ/ is often associated with the lower classes. Hence, humorous phrases like "el shansho con shaleco" (corruption of "el chancho con chaleco", the pig with a sweater) denotes a person with a genuine lower class pronunciation, or just somebody impersonating it, in jest. It is a major problem for English teachers to make their Chilean students pronounce both sounds correctly.
  • The West Flemish dialect does not know the Dutch "ch" (/x/ as in the Scottish 'Loch') Instead West-Flemmings pronounce both the Dutch 'g' and the 'ch' as 'h'. For instance they would pronounce the term "een gouden hart" (a heart of gold) as "een houden hart". Today, most West Flemings are sufficiently exposed to standard Dutch as to know there is a difference between the pronunciation of a 'ch' or 'g' and a 'h'. Folk tales however are full of examples of elder generation West-Flemmings, raised without much exposure to standard Dutch, who tried to speak 'civilized' ABN Dutch instead of 'peasant' dialect. Invariably they would just imitate the way they think Dutch should be spoken by pronouncing both 'ch', 'g' and 'h' as /x/ alike. When trying to pronounce the term "een gouden hart" above in Dutch, they now pronounce it as "Een gouden gart". Although they might succeed in convincing some equally ignorant countrymen that their talk is 'what the civilized people speak', more than often they would just amuse their listeners by pronouncing a word with a 'h' as a word with a /x/, completely altering its meaning. For instance they would ask "Geef mij mijn goed, ik ga naar de gaven." (Give me my good, I'm going to the gifts) instead of "Geef mij mijn hoed, ik ga naar de haven." (Give me my hat, I'm going to the harbor).
  • The German words Streichholzschächtelchen (small box of matches), Eichhörnchen (squirrel), Fachhochschule (University of Applied Sciences) and Strickstrumpf (knitted sock) serve as shibboleths for distinguishing native speakers from foreigners, due to their many ch sounds and the large number of consonants. In Bavarian German dialect, the word Oachkatzlschwoaf (squirrel tail) is also used for differentiation.
  • In Mandarin Chinese, the sentence shì sì, shí shì shí, shísì shì shísì, sìshí shì sìshí (四是四,十是十,十四是十四,四十是四十; four is four, ten is ten, fourteen is fourteen, forty is forty) is used to distinguish between native speakers of northern varieties of Mandarin from northern China, and native speakers of other Chinese varieties from central and southern China, including Jianghuai Mandarin, Southwestern Mandarin, Cantonese, Wu, Min Nan, and so forth, most of which lacks the retroflex consonant sh /ʂ/.
  • A Polish shibboleth is W Szczebrzeszynie chrząszcz brzmi w trzcinie (in Szczebrzeszyn the beetle skirls in the reed).
  • Estonian "Jüriöö ülestõus" (St. George's Night Uprising) includes many difficult vowels for foreigners, who are sometimes put to the test of pronouncing it.
  • In Finnish, shibboleths include höyryjyrä /ˈhøyryˌjyræ/ (steam roller) and the loanword öljylamppu /ˈøljyˌlampːu/ (oil lamp).
  • In Quebec French, the phrase Je m'en câlisse (loosely: I don't give a fuck) is sometimes used as a shibboleth, distinguishing natives of France from Québécois.
  • The Mid and Northern Norwegian dialogue fragment "Æ e i a." "Æ e i a, æ å." ("I'm in A." "I'm in A, too." – proper Norwegian: "Jeg er i A." "Jeg er også i A." "A" refers either to the Norwegian naming of different classes of the same grade, or to the Labor Party) is near-impossible to reproduce for a non-Scandinavian, due to the use of the vowels Æ and Å. It is also very hard for a native speaker of another dialect to reproduce with the correct enunciations and pitch, often sounding grotesquely exaggerated. Middle Norwegian dialects also use the phrase "Hannhund i bånd" (Male dog on a leash) as a shibboleth. The phrase is pronounced as "Hainnhoinn i bainn" in Middle Norway, which due to palatalization is difficult for speakers of other dialects to pronounce. Northern Norwegians also sometimes use "Fersk fisk, rakfisk" to distinguish between natives and "pretenders".
  • In Budapest, Hungary, many streets and localities were renamed during the time of the Communist regime. Some of those reverted to their original names or received completely new names after 1989. Especially in the nineties it used to be possible (and, to a lesser extent, it remains possible now) to recognize people who had lived in the city before 1950 (as they would use the old, original names and be over 50); people who moved into (or were born in) the city between 1950 and 1989 (they would use the Communist names); and people who were born after the mid-eighties or moved in after 1989, especially from farther away, as they would use the new, post-Communist names and would not even know the Communist ones. Referring to "Élmunkás tér" (approximately "Foreworker square"), now known as "Lehel tér" (named after the Hungarian chieftain Lehel), would just get a blank look from a newcomer. "Ferenciek tere" ("Square of the Franciscans") used to be known as "Felszabadulás tér" ("Square of Liberation") in the Communist era and was often abbreviated to "Felszab tér". This abbreviated form is still used in 2007 among Budapest dwellers in their thirties because it is much shorter to pronounce than "Ferenciek tere", but newcomers typically do not know what place is meant. Interestingly, in at least one case using the Communist name was what gave the visitor away: the square known both in pre-Communist and post-Communist times as "Oktogon" was officially called "November hetedike tér" ("Square of 7 November"), but this name never really caught on; thus, if someone called the square that, they probably did not know the city well and had gotten the name from a map. Similar examples could probably be found from other parts of the country.
  • Native speakers of the Indonesian language generally use Indonesian as the name for the Indonesian language in English, whereas non-Indonesians often name it Bahasa Indonesia or, worse Bahasa—being either redundant or plain wrong since the word bahasa means "language" in Indonesian.
  • In Latvia someone might put you to the test in pronouncing the Latvian language correctly with the term "Šaursliežu dzelzceļš" (narrow gauge railway).
  • In French, the place name "La Roche sur Foron" can be used to distinguish English speakers who have not mastered the French "R" sound.
  • It is possible to distinguish European Portuguese from Brazilian Portuguese by asking the speaker to pronounce the word "excelente" (excellent). A Portuguese speaker pronounces it in one or two syllables whereas a Brazilian speaker will use four syllables .
  • In Afrikaans, the pronunciation of the word "jakkals" (Jackal) can be used to test whether a person is from the Cape Flats. Residents of the Cape Flats would pronounce the word as "dzakkals", whereas non-residents pronounce the work as "Yackals".

Read more about this topic:  List Of Shibboleths