Trying to say "why" in 25 languages

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Trying to say "why" in 25 languages

Postby thefargo » Sat Feb 28, 2015 6:47 pm UTC

Hey guys. I am doing a performance, and as part of it I want to ask "why" in (hopefully) 25 languages. I've been listening google translate to try and get phonetic pronunciations for each. Here's what I have so far:
Language . Word . Pronunciation
Arabic . لماذا . lee-Mah-the
Chinese . 为什么 . way-shen-me
Danish . hvorfor . or-for
Dutch . waarom . vah-rohm
Philipino . bakit . ??
Finnish . miksi . MEEK-sih
French . pourquoi . poor-kwah
German . warum . vah-rrroom
Greek . γιατί . yieTI
Hebrew . למה . LUH-muh
Hungarian . miért . Mee-ert
Icelandic . hvers vegna . ??
Italian . perché . pear-kay
Japanese . なぜ . NAH-zet
Korean . 왜 . waaay
Latvian . kāpēc . ??
Polish . dlaczego . dlah-che-go
Romanian . de ce . day chay
Russian . почему . pa-chye-MOO
Spanish . por qué . poor-kay
Swahili . nini . nee-nee
Swedish . varför . var-FER
Thai . ทำไม . kah-mai
Turkish . neden . neh-den
Vietnamese . tại sao . tai-shao
Welsh . Pam . pahm
Yiddish . וואָס . "Voss" where the "o" is like the "o" in "core".

My ear for language is strictly limited to french, spanish, and the like, so I'm sure I am not hearing important sounds with some of the less common languages. I wrote all the phonetics using an american accent. Also, I'm not super good at formatting, so sorry everything is a little cramped

Can anyone please provide feedback, corrections, or suggestions for other languages? Thanks!

edit: I'll incorporate corrections to the table as I receive them
Last edited by thefargo on Mon May 11, 2015 4:41 pm UTC, edited 7 times in total.

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Re: Trying to say "why" in 25 languages

Postby Angua » Sat Feb 28, 2015 6:50 pm UTC

Russian is wrong.

Should be pronounced more почему- pa-chye-moo Emphasis on the final syllable.
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Re: Trying to say "why" in 25 languages

Postby poxic » Sat Feb 28, 2015 7:10 pm UTC

German is closer to vah-room, at least in the standard version. YMMV in the various regional pronunciations.
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Re: Trying to say "why" in 25 languages

Postby Carlington » Sun Mar 01, 2015 2:02 am UTC

Chinese is like way-shen-me; but those 'e's represent something closer to a schwa - more like the e in 'the' (when you're speaking quickly and not enunciating) than the e in 'egg'. Depending on the speaker, the w can vary to something halfway between w and v, but I wouldn't stress about that.
Tone is also important - the first syllable should be rising, like it's a question, the second and third syllable should match the pitch you reach at the end of the rising tone, and be fairly unstressed - even to the point that it starts to sound like shemme instead of shenme.
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Re: Trying to say "why" in 25 languages

Postby WanderingLinguist » Mon Mar 02, 2015 3:58 am UTC

Korean is wrong.

이유 (pronounced ee-yu no ee-oo) means "reason" (a noun) not "why".

What you want is "왜" (way). The pronunciation is just like the English word "way" but you can draw it out longer if you want (just like a whiny child who wants to know why they can't have candy might say whyyyyyyyyyy in English, you can say waaaaaaaaaay in Korean)

Edit: I was wondering where you got "이유" from, and my guess (for trying it myself) is you got it from Google Translate. A tip for using Google Translate: Don't translate single words. It's ambiguous. In English, "why" has multiple meanings. Consider:

that's why you can't have candy
why can't I have candy?

In the first instance, it means "the reason".

However, if you paste those two lines verbatim into Google Translate, you'll see it both ways (이유 and 왜) for each context. Hover the mouse over various Korean words and it will show you how they match up to words in the original text, so you can find the appropriate one. Then copy & paste that word back into Google translate and do a reverse translation to confirm. This is much safer than just translating individual words.

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Re: Trying to say "why" in 25 languages

Postby Envelope Generator » Mon Mar 02, 2015 6:37 am UTC

var-FER (as in "fer crying out loud") would be more accurate for Swedish.
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Re: Trying to say "why" in 25 languages

Postby PM 2Ring » Mon Mar 02, 2015 6:45 am UTC

thefargo wrote:Thia . ทำไม . kah-mai

Your "Thia" should be "Thai".

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Re: Trying to say "why" in 25 languages

Postby thefargo » Mon Mar 02, 2015 1:32 pm UTC

Thanks everybody! I've integrated all of your corrections into the list.

WanderingLinguist - Yes, I got this from google translate. Your advice is very helpful - I'll do that from now on. In fact this evening I'll translate some test sentences and double check all the words on the list stay the same.

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Re: Trying to say "why" in 25 languages

Postby mathmannix » Tue Mar 03, 2015 9:07 pm UTC

Arabic: لماذا (lee-Mah-the)

Also, from the New Testament: Aramaic (fellow Semitic language, similar to Arabic): למא (usually transliterated as lama or lema. My guess is that the stress is on the second syllable, so it would be le-Mah.
Full text of Mark 15:34:
And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “E′lo-i, E′lo-i, la′ma sabach-tha′ni?” which means, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

The Aramaic is אלהי אלהי למא שבקתני. (Semitic languages are read right-to-left.)
Hebrew is probably very similar as well.
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Re: Trying to say "why" in 25 languages

Postby gilan » Sun Mar 15, 2015 9:31 am UTC

Yiddish וואס is pronounced "Voss" where the "o" is like the "o" in "core".

Hebrew למה is pronounced "LU-mu" where both "u"s are pronounced like the "u" in "bum".
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Re: Trying to say "why" in 25 languages

Postby MarselJov » Sat Apr 25, 2015 8:26 pm UTC

russian is cool) paa-chi-moo :D

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Re: Trying to say "why" in 25 languages

Postby Alexius » Mon Apr 27, 2015 8:19 pm UTC

The Greek γιατί is pronounced ʝeˈti (in IPA).

The first consonant isn't a sound that exists in English, but you're right that a y is the closest approximation for an English speaker.

A way to get close to the actual pronunciation (as in, a native speaker would understand it) is to say "yeti" as in the Abominable Snowman, but to stress the last syllable rather than the first.

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Re: Trying to say "why" in 25 languages

Postby TerribleTrivium » Tue May 05, 2015 5:51 pm UTC

I have studied Hebrew at school, and the word seems to be pronounced much like the English "llama," though with the second vowel being like the first.

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Re: Trying to say "why" in 25 languages

Postby kharnynb » Fri Jan 01, 2016 10:49 pm UTC

Finnish is pronounced differently,
the first syllable is short , most finns would drop the second i in normal day-to-day talk and it would sound like the english word mix

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Re: Trying to say "why" in 25 languages

Postby Rhombic » Sat Jan 02, 2016 3:56 pm UTC

Spanish would be better as poar (as in "oar", rolled r) kair (as in "air" in a NON-RHOTIC ACCENT).

Catalan: per què; the e in "per" is like the a in "about", the second e is like the "ai"in air.
Esperanto: kiel; key-ehl

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Re: Trying to say "why" in 25 languages

Postby Lazar » Sun Jan 10, 2016 10:38 pm UTC

Shouldn't Yiddish be far vos? Vos is just the interrogative pronoun what.
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Re: Trying to say "why" in 25 languages

Postby KarenRei » Mon Jan 25, 2016 10:58 am UTC

In Icelandic the most commonly used form is "af hverju" which is pronounced like "ov KVAIR-yuh". R is alveolar-trilled (like Spanish) but not heavily, and in this context may come across as nothing more than an alveolar tap.

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Re: Trying to say "why" in 25 languages

Postby heuristically_alone » Mon Jun 13, 2016 4:42 am UTC

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Re: Trying to say "why" in 25 languages

Postby Essah » Fri Jun 17, 2016 1:38 pm UTC

to join the choire. Danish is wrong, The h is pronounced
h airy sound like in the beginning of "which" or "whence"
vor- (like "vo" as in "volley" and a Germanic R sound (in your throat)
for - pretty much like for in British english with a silent r at the end.

I can contribute Czech: Proč -
Pr with rolling r
o like "or" in British english with silent r
č like ch in english as in channel

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Re: Trying to say "why" in 25 languages

Postby MWak » Tue Aug 09, 2016 8:58 am UTC

In Japanese, the anglicized pronunciation would be "na ze", not "na zet"

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Re: Trying to say "why" in 25 languages

Postby buttered_cat_paradox » Fri Sep 16, 2016 2:00 pm UTC

A small nitpick about Hebrew -- there are actually two words for "why":
* למה LUH-muh
* מדוע muh-DOO-'uh

I think initially למה was about purpose ("what for?") and מדוע was about reasons ("what made you do it?"). Colloquially, למה is used for both.

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