Two snippets from this week.
1) My class was practicing changing verbs into nouns into adjectives and vice versa. One word was strength, to be changed into an adjective. Most students wrote strong, but one wrote strenuous. To the extent that I have ever actually thought about it, I have never thought that strenuous is related to strong, so I had to check it quickly. No – it’s not. Online dictionaries didn’t give quite enough information, but Etymology Online shows the derivation of each, slightly confusingly, but convincingly.
Strong is from Proto-Germanic *strangaz and Proto-Indo-European *strenk-. (An asterisk with an etymology means that word has not been directly attested, but has been reconstructed by comparing forms in related languages.) Strenuous is from Latin strenuus and is possibly related to stern.
The student happily accepted his classmates’ answer of strong, but I told him that if he’d written strenuous in a test, I would have given him a mark.
2) The next day, my class was practicing science terminology. One word in the box to be put into the correct place in a sentence was laboratory. One student correctly identified the place but then wrote laboratorium. From Wikitonary, laboratorium is Latin, Dutch, Norwegian, Polish and Swedish. So which country is this student from? Indonesia.
Bahasa Indonesia uses Dutch words for many of the same concepts that English does Latin and Greek, a legacy of its colonial history. The related (indeed, generally mutually intelligible) language Bahasa Malaysia often uses English words (many of which, in turn, came from Latin or Greek) in the same way, but Google Translate and Bahasa Melayu Wikipedia both report that the Malaysian word for laboratory is makmal, presumably a native word adapted to the new situation, though the latter adds (singkatan lab) (abbreviation lab). I’ll take a wild guess at what its examples of “makmal fizik, makmal kimia, makmal biologi, makmal komputer, dan makmal bahasa” are. The Indonesian article similarly lists:
Laboratorium film atau kamar gelap
Laboratorium klandestin untuk produksi obat ilegal
Laboratorium kriminal digunakan untuk memproses bukti yang diperoleh dari TKP
Laboratorium medis (melibatkan penanganan senyawa kimia)
Laboratorium kesehatan masyarakat
some of which I can’t even guess at.