Thursday 28 April 2011

Perfect words

In a relationship of different nationalities, cultures, education, history and language, the most and least reconcilable I have found is the latter: the words. It is also the most frustrating, interesting, hilarious and surprising of our differences.

Words are the heart and soul of a language and those that use them. I didn't realise the richness of it and how much our identity is bound in our native language until my boyfriend didn't understand that I don't 'give two hoots' or I didn't get what 'living inside a ravioli' implied. Looks, gestures and our body language truly compliment our speech, but the words we actually say and write are the main course, with lashings of meaning on the plate: intrinsic, implied, embedded.

It is obviously a continuous journey. Not only are there words to play with, but new sounds, intonation and rules. One thing that has become clear on this journey, and that both of us have learnt, is that there are words which just stay in one language. This may because they are difficult in the other, not easy to remember or we just like them. For example, the words mattress, drawer, cloth and thermos flask are always spoken in this house in Spanish. These words, in our world, have transcended all barriers: "Pass me the trapo to wipe the table"; "Your money's in your cajón." I can never remember the word for budget in Spanish, so it will always be: "El lugar depende de su budget."

Then there are the words which remain, but for different reasons than the above. These are the perfect words; words which have such a wonderfully exact meaning in their usage that there is, literally, no other word or translation for. Words like ponce and pikey in English, or quilombero in Argentine Spanish: you simply have to use them, there is no other word.

This discovering and use of our two languages means that my boyfriend and I have developed our own lengua. It's going to be interesting when we have children and they grow up speaking both languages far better then either of us. While, as parents, we will no doubt be jealous, I smile with glee when I think about the day my son or daughter comes home from school: "Mum, the teacher told me that globo isn't a word. What lengua have you been teaching me? I thought you said I spoke perfecto."

And though others may not know it, perfecto is exactly what they will speak.

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