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Database of Loans Suggests that English is The World’s Number One Borrower and Lender of Words

International word trades are sometimes friendly, sometimes not.

internet cafe vietnam

“Internet” is a Commonly Borrowed English Word This Internet café is in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam Yun. Image credit: Huang Yong on Flickr, CC BY 2.0.

Chemise, schadenfreude and Tennessee are the words originally borrowed from the languages of French, German and Cherokee respectively.

According to the report by the Boston Globe reports, it appears that English have borrowed numerous words from almost other languages all over the world. However, it is very interesting that English is also the top donor of words to other languages globally.

 Britt Peterson, a reporter with the Boston Globe came across the word “hot jooga” in Finland. In Japanese, the word “furai” did originate from “fry,” but with some syllables added. It is confused that the French use the English word “smoking” to express the meaning of a tuxedo. And the English took the French word “douche” to mean a shower, but they turned it for different expression.

The dominance of English in the field of exporting words clearly shows its importance as an international tongue. The rate of a language’s lending is regarded as one marker to illustrate its prestige. As Martin Haspelmath, the linguist from the Max Planck Institute, said, Mandarin Chinese, which was thought to the imperial power in Asia for a long time, has the lowest rate of word borrowings based on a database of world loanwords that set up by Max Planck researchers after the study of 41 languages.

This fact tells us that the transaction in word lending and borrowing is not always the friendly one. It is commonly accepted that the borrowing many words for languages often happen under duress, especially during occupations or wars. In the Vietnamese language, use of the French words for makeup and flan could remind people of the French colonialism in that country. However, in some cases countries would make great efforts to resist word borrowing so as to keep the national character of their languages. At present, it often refers to resisting English.

Even as a great powerhouse in the world, English is still the biggest borrower of words among the languages based on the study of Max Planck Institute, showing that 42 percent of English words are loanwords. It is why English is a hairy beast for adults to learn.

Source: Boston Globe

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