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  • Which is the hardest word to translate in this sentence?

  • "Know" is easy to translate.

  • "Peprally" doesn't have a direct analog in a lot of languages and cultures,

  • but can be approximated.

  • But the hardest word there is actually one of the smallest: "you."

  • As simple as it seems,

  • it's often impossible to accurately translate "you"

  • without knowing a lot more about the situation where it's being said.

  • To start with, how familiar are you with the person you're talking to?

  • Many cultures have different levels of formality.

  • A close friend,

  • someone much older or much younger,

  • a stranger,

  • a boss.

  • These all may be slightly different "you's."

  • In many languages, the pronoun reflects these differences through what's known as the T–V distinction.

  • In French, for example,

  • you would say "tu" when talking to your friend at school,

  • but "vous" when addressing your teacher.

  • Even English once had something similar.

  • Remember the old-timey "thou?"

  • Ironically, it was actually the informal pronoun

  • for people you're close with,

  • while "you" was the formal and polite version.

  • That distinction was lost

  • when the English decided to just be polite all the time.

  • But the difficulty in translating "you" doesn't end there.

  • In languages like Hausa or Korana,

  • the "you" form depends on the listener's gender.

  • In many more, it depends on whether they are one or many,

  • such as with German "Du" or "ihr."

  • Even in English,

  • some dialects use words like "y'all" or "youse" the same way.

  • Some plural forms, like the French "vous"

  • and Russian "Вы"

  • are also used for a single person

  • to show that the addressee is that much more important,

  • much like the royal "we."

  • And a few languages even have a specific form

  • for addressing exactly two people,

  • like Slovenian "vidva."

  • If that wasn't complicated enough,

  • formality, number, and gender can all come into play at the same time.

  • In Spanish, "tu" is unisex informal singular,

  • "usted" is unisex formal singular,

  • "vosotros" is masculine informal plural,

  • "vosotras" is feminine informal plural,

  • and "ustedes" is the unisex formal plural.

  • Phew!

  • After all that,

  • it may come as a relief that some languages often leave out the second person pronoun.

  • In languages like Romanian and Portuguese,

  • the pronoun can be dropped from sentences

  • because it's clearly implied by the way the verbs are conjugated.

  • And in languages like Korean, Thai, and Chinese,

  • pronouns can be dropped without any grammatical hints.

  • Speakers often would rather have the listener guess the pronoun from context

  • than use the wrong one and risk being seen as rude.

  • In one extreme example,

  • 18th-century scholar Wang Xihou was executed, along with his family,

  • simply for referring to the Emperor in a too familiar way.

  • So if you're ever working as a translator

  • and come across this sentence without any context:

  • "You and you, no, not you,

  • you, your job is to translate 'you' for yourselves" ...

  • Well, good luck.

  • And to the volunteer community who will be translating this video into multiple languages:

  • Sorry about that!

Which is the hardest word to translate in this sentence?

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B1 US TED-Ed pronoun translate plural informal vous

【TED-Ed】One of the most difficult words to translate... - Krystian Aparta

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    VoiceTube posted on 2016/09/13
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