Saturday, February 11, 2012

Love of languages, or: how many ways can you say, "Huh?"

In our news segment, an update and a couple of new things.
  1. The date for my guest post on Ritesh's blog has changed.  He's going to post it today (so, maybe tomorrow -- he's in India.)  The address, in case you've forgotten, is  
  2. Word is getting out about SwanSong!  It's now listed with other works by indie authors at
  3. The thing I cryptically referred to last week is a go.  I'm participating in an event called "For the Love of Love" at Terri Giuliano Long's blog.  My piece will be posted on Feb. 20, although the event starts on Valentine's Day.
That brings us to this week's post, which started with my ruminating on what to write about for "For the Love of Love".  My first thought was that it was a good thing the organizer didn't ask me to talk about relationship-type love, since I suck pretty badly at that.  Instead, she asked me to write about the love of language; now that, I thought happily, I can do.

I mentioned the topic to my daughter Amy, and she reminded me that our family has a love of language -- or perhaps more precisely, a love of languages.  And she's right.  We have the ability to annoy each other in at least seven languages, although we tend to stick to three or four.

I studied Spanish, off and on, starting in the third grade, and minored in it in college.  I wouldn't say I'm fluent, but I was able to get by during a week-long solo trip to Spain in 2008.  In addition, a few years ago I started learning Czech, mainly because my maternal grandparents emigrated from Czechoslovakia, but also in preparation for a trip to the Czech Republic that I have yet to take.  (One of these days, I swears it.) 

Amy took Spanish in high school and college.  She also took a semester of Japanese in college.  And she knows a little bit of Italian, thanks to a college choir trip to Venice a couple of years ago, and a smattering of French that she picked up from high school and college friends who were studying it.

Amy's older sister Kitty took a couple of years of Latin in high school and about two and a half semesters of college Japanese.  She also took a semester of German in college.  She went on the same college choir trip to Venice that Amy did, so she knows a few phrases of Italian as well.  And she has picked up more Spanish than she ever wanted to know from Amy and me.  Besides that, she collects foreign language dictionaries; besides the dictionaries she's had to buy for various classes, I know for sure she has a Gaelic/English dictionary that she bought in Ireland on a different college choir trip.  (Ireland is another country I'm going to visit someday, I swears it.)

(To add to the fun, Kitty's girlfriend Suzu spent a year studying in Japan while she was in college.  And she took French in high school.)

So a typical conversation at our house might go like this:

"Kitty?" I say.
"Nani?" she asks (which means "What?" in Japanese).
"No comprendo (I don't understand)," I say.
"Baka (stupid)!" she cries.
"¿Cómo?" I ask.  ("How?" in Spanish.)
"¿Qué?" Amy asks.  ("What?" in Spanish.)
"Co?" I ask.  ("What?" in Czech.)
"¿En inglés?" Kitty says, eyebrows waggling threateningly.  (Which means: "Tell me, in English, what you just said, or I'm going to kill you.")

Isn't is great how we all understand one another?  

P.S.  Happy Valentine's Day, girls!  Love, Mom

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