Inventing Words in Your Target Language








Hallo, lievertjes!

Today we're going to discuss something off the beaten path as far as language learning goes... 


Making up new words in your target language. 

Why would you ever want or need to do this? 




Well, take this tweet shown on the left for example. This student made up a new word when they couldn't think of the word for "bubble", 

but they were able to communicate what they meant all the same! 


And apparently it was a memorable moment for the person on the receiving end.



I have done this before in Dutch, giving dragonflies the name draakvliegen, which is literally dragon-flies. The real word is libel or libelle, which is much prettier. But I've also done this with other words in Dutch. One that comes to mind is lieverdje, the word I used in the greeting above. I don't hear lots of other people saying this, and it's not very complicated either. Lieverd means loved one and the "tje" means little. It's like adding "ie" to the end of English words such as "sweetie", which is kind of what lieverdje means, too.



Come to find out, lieverdje wasn't a word I actually made up, because technically it does exist and it checks out as a real word, but that's not the point. The point is, I used what I knew about the way Dutch is structured to create a word I hadn't heard before. It shows that I understand grammar and word structure, at least to some degree.

Although I did get laughed at and corrected when I said draakvlieg, the apparently incorrect way to say dragonfly, it was still a good thing for my language learning. One, because I learned the correct term and two, because I made a guess in my target language, which is so valuable!


According to Vivian Cook, a linguist who has taught and researched language acquisition for over a decade, where the rubber meets the road in language learning is when you can talk about something which you do not know the word for. That's where true communication begins!

  

By the way, the "-tje" suffix in Dutch is similar to the "-ito" or "-ita" suffix in Spanish. These particles of speech are called phonemes; they are the smallest pieces of grammar, and they are so important!

Can you name a few phonemes in your target language? Comment below!



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