Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Literal interpretation in a foreign language

In everyday language, we regularly say things we do not mean literally. Native speakers know better than to interpret everything literally.
However, there is a tendency to interpret more literally in a foreign language.
For example, when someone is angry and says "I would kill him", people usually do not visualise the speaker killing someone. Rather, they know that they are conveying the depth of their anger. When heard in a foreign language, on the other hand, one might first think of the meaning of the word "kill" and feel a bit of a shudder upon imagining the outcome of the sentence.

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