Philip Newton (pne) wrote,
Philip Newton

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Gir da la citad Cuira per rumantsch

This evening, I listened to the audio guide to Chur: 32 individual audio files to download to your MP3 player (or, in my case, the computer) and to listen to at 32 marked points on a map that you download as a PDF.

They have the audio files available in multiple languages, including Romansh, which is what I listened to this evening: about one hour and 20 minutes of audio in total.

It was my first attempt at listening to Romansh, and I wanted to see how much I would be likely to understand.

It helped that—as far as I could tell—the two speakers spoke Rumantsch Grischun: a bit unusual, perhaps, since I believe it's considered a written-only language by many Romansh speakers, but perhaps a good compromise for Romansh speakers from all parts of the canton (I don't know how proficient Romansh speakers are at understanding idioms other than their own, though I recall from reading the report of Statistics Switzerland on the state of the Romansh language that, to a first approximation, most only understand their own idiom and perhaps the immediately neighbouring one).

At any rate, I'll guess I understood about 20% overall, rising to 50% or 60% during some short passages.

Not too bad, I suppose, given that I started "learning" the language, what, about six weeks ago?

I think it definitely helped that I'd already done a bit of reading in the language (such as the instructional grammar I downloaded, and some Wikipedia pages), and reading them aloud in my head meant I had already "heard" many of the words they used (from my subvocalising the words I was reading).

And it seems that my understanding of the description of how the language is pronounced was good enough: words I could recognise were pronounced pretty much as I had expected them to be. (The main difference was that the sounds represented by s and sch—which can stand for voiced or voiceless sounds—were voiced quite a bit more often than I had expected, especially but not only in liaison and in compound words.)

And I couldn't hear a difference between tsch and tg (in Croatian orthography: č and ć, respectively), even though I tried to listen for it.

My first instinct was to assume that there is no difference for at least some speakers (including the two who voiced the audio guides), but then I remembered a Croatian saying the words čaša and ćaša to me; I couldn't hear the difference there, either. So I presume that whatever difference there may be for native speakers is nearly impossible for me to hear at the moment due to the phoneme filter my audio processing uses (sort of like how a Japanese friend of mine couldn't hear the difference in the second sounds of the words crowded and cloudy even when I said them slowly and clearly, and even though the sounds sounded very distinct to me).

Ah well. I hope people will understand me even if I can't make the distinction well. (Not that the remainder of my pronunciation is likely to be picture-perfect, for that matter... and not even to mention the fact that I don't know how well speakers of Jauer will be able—or willing—to understand spoken Rumantsch Grischun.)

Tags: romansh
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