Land of many languages

11 Jul
The Val Gardena is home to the Ladin people, an ethnic group of the South Tyrol with their own language, culture, and traditions. Repressed under Fascism, the language and culture is now embraced and celebrated in this small region. The language is spoken by an estimated 84% of the people in our favorite town of Ortisei and is spoken in the home as a means of  keeping the language alive. But as one cannot communicate outside the small Ladin region without other languages, almost everyone speaks German and Italian (education is all in Italian), and many people also speak English fluently, which is helpful with the numbers of non-German and non-Italian tourists.
Embracing this linguistic variety can cause confusion among visitors. We have been here five times now, and the other day got into an argument about the name of the main piazza in Ortisei. I said it’s Piazza San’Antonio and Ric said, “No, it is Piazza San Antone.” How could we not know that? Here’s why:
Sign in the piazza: Italian, German and Ladin names for the same piazza in Ortisei.
Sign in the piazza: Italian, German and Ladin names for the same piazza in Ortisei.
Even the town itself has three distinct names. In Ladin, it means “place of nettles.” Luckily we have not encountered any of the stinging variety.
Does trail #9 lead to 3 places? No. All are names for the same cute town.
Does trail #9 lead to 3 places? No. All are names for the same cute town.
Some place names are vastly different. The other day we were taking a trail we had not intended to hike. We were not really lost, just a bit off course. At a junction where we had to make a decision, we saw a couple descending so I waited to see if they could clarify our choice. First try, in Italian I asked, “Parla Italiano o Inglese.” Blank stare, then the man says, Deutsch.”  “Do you speak English?” I ask. “A little,” he responded. When I asked where they had come from, he answered with “Langkofelhütte.” Luckily I knew that was the German for Rifugio Vicenza and not our destination, that we should take the other path. How can the same place have such wildly different names?
A final note, many signs at restaurants, etc., are in Italian, German and English to help the majority of travelers. But translations being what they are, sometimes they are amusing. At this rifugio (one of the nicest we have seen) the hills were steep, but what we really needed was some coffee.

7 Responses to “Land of many languages”

  1. Marcia Kakiuchi July 13, 2015 at 04:29 #

    What would you say Ladin is most like…Italian or German or totally something else? I’m still so dang impressed ( or I’m just embarrassed about my lack of) with all of the languages others outside of the USA speak!!! And a bit envious too😀


    • gooddayrome July 13, 2015 at 04:54 #

      Ladin is a Rhaeto-Romance language, much like Swiss. We Americans kick ourselves for not learning many languages, and I think it does make us less culturally aware, but as my Italian friends say, the rest of the world really has to learn English to speak to one another, and we are already blessed to know what is perhaps the most useful language!


  2. Chloe July 12, 2015 at 08:27 #

    ‘Crunch of feet of pork and his crazy salad’ and ‘greedy plate of melon.’ Two reasons why we order our food using the French menu. I have no idea how they came up with these translations, but was amused. We didn’t order that first suggestion.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gooddayrome July 12, 2015 at 14:20 #

      I know! I always ask for the Italian menu as it is easier to puzzle out the Italian and ask questions than to figure out what the heck they mean in fractured translation!


  3. mvaden1948 July 11, 2015 at 17:34 #

    You and I both know that English is such a difficult language. At least in Italian there is only one pronunciation for each vowel. What sensible Italian would think that the two English words “brake” and “break” would be pronounced the same way and mean totally different things. You don’t want to get me started on “read”. Ah, the joys of learning different languages!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. mvaden1948 July 11, 2015 at 17:21 #

    Well, you really did need to stop so taking a “brake” would work.
    I have a favorite restaurant…the food is primarily Vietnamese with some Thai selections. It is family run by people who barely speak English and the English translations on the menu are often quite amusing.
    Glad you are getting your hikes in.
    It’s cooled off a little here in the Pacific North West.


    • gooddayrome July 11, 2015 at 17:24 #

      I need to take more notes/pictures of bad translations. There are some terrible ones! I am especially amused when the translation is no more understandable than the original.

      Liked by 1 person

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