Let’s say you’ve been learning American English for some time now… grammar, new vocabulary, colloquial expressions. You are so proud of yourself, your vocabulary keeps growing and you can understand more and more… until you decide to go on a trip to the UK to discover that /to’mei to/ is /to’ma tou/, that cans are tins , that pants are trousers, and fries are chips (more). At that point you can only think to yourself: why not having one standard word for each thing? Easy; make a decision – where’s the pavement, where’s the sidewalk, and what’s the curb? Second language learners would appreciate some consensus.
Sadly, these tricky “disagreements” are part of almost every language. Sometimes you don’t even need to go to another country to have very different words and expressions describing one little object. German is one of those languages with a vast amount of dialects, and logically words vary greatly from region to region. Sometimes I even think that they can barely understand each other. One extreme example of that is the word potato, one simple innocent word that has tons of translations into German starting with the more standard Kartoffel which turns into Erdapfel, Herdöpfel, Krumbeer, Grumbeer, Grumbier or Brambori depending on the region.
Spanish is another problem language when we think about regional expressions. There are roughly 20 countries that have Spanish as an official language, which means many millions and millions of people using the language, and hence, changing it. I’m almost sure that many Latin Americans would be more than happy
If Almodovar’s movies came with subtitles. French has a similar problem, but on a smaller scale. French say 4×20 plus 10 and they mean ninety (why make it easy if you can make it complicated), and their Belgian neighbors say something like nonante. Sorry, French readers but I think I will second the more intuitive Belgian way.
So if you want to know more about this topic in each language (and I’m sure you do), click on the links below, to learn what to say, and more importantly where to say it…