Jul 6, 2014

Lost In Translation.


I have to tell you that I have had lots and lots of chances in the past three years to think about language, translating, literal translation,and communicating.....


because I have a child that learned Estonian on his mission and married an Estonian.
because I have a grandchild growing up speaking Estonian and English.
because I have a daughter in law that speaks Finnish, Russian, English, German, and possibly more.
because I have a daughter who served a mission in El Salvador and married a boy from Cancun, Mexico and speaks Spanish.
because I have a daughter in the Philippines who had to learn to speak Tagalog.
because I have a daughter in Northern California on a mission who had to learn Spanish.
because I have had my son in law from Mexico who speaks mainly Spanish living in my house this summer.

I simply have to blog about this, "speaking another language thing" today.

First I have to confess that I am so glad my kids watched Sesame Street when they were little and that I paid attention to the songs because at least I can tell my son in law that speaks only Spanish that something is caliente. Who knew that song would come in handy? :)

 I am constantly asking my daughter Madeline what my son in law Carlos is saying. And sometimes she will just say to me, "I am not sure how to say it in English." It makes me sad every time she says this. Why, I wonder?....Why don't our words match up? Why on earth is there no way to say gross in Spanish? I was trying to tell Carlos the other day about something gross and I hollered for Madeline so I could have her tell him the word and there was no word. And that happens way too many times around here....the hollering for Madeline to translate and the lack of words :) I have been very surprised at how many words we have that there is no way to say it in Spanish. I actually googled it....which I am sure does not surprise you....and English does have the most words in it out of all the 6,912 languages that are out there. So many words...so many ways to say things....so little time :) I wonder why the other languages have not caught on to this joy of way too many words?

All of this has made me so aware of words. Not like I was not already aware of words :) The other day I was listening to Madeline tell me a story and I realized how many times she said "like" as she was telling me her story and all of a sudden I had to know if there is a word in Spanish that they use the way we use "like" or "um." My mind is always full of questions.

I had always wondered what it would be like to listen to someone having a conversation and not understand it at all. Although I have to bring up that we all know that sometimes this frustratingly happens with an English versus English conversation. You know that moment when you are chatting away with someone and realize as you walk away that even though you both speak the same language you are not really sure what you were just chatting about. At least with Spanish and English it makes sense that we do not understand each other :) Did you understand that? :) Anyway what I am trying to say is now I know what it feels like to not understand :)

 The really weird part is when I tell Madeline a story and I take five minutes to tell it and then at the conclusion of my story Carlos says to Madeline, "Que?" Which means he wants to know what I said and in one short minute she tells him the story I took five to tell. I always ask, "Did you really just say the same thing because that was too short?" I have watched some movies with Carlos and Madeline with Spanish subtitles and I notice it takes a lot more English to say what they say in Spanish.

Speaking of movies and Spanish versus English the other day Tatiana was in "hysterical, at the end of her rope," tears because on top of everything else in her sad life she had to watch Batman in Spanish. She said " I just want Batman in English." The voices are different then what she is used to and disturb her. You do get used to certain voices being certain characters. Carlos and I compared American Sesame Street to Mexican Sesame Street the other day and let me tell you Spanish Big Bird was ALL kinds of wrong.

Carlos and I are figuring out communication slowly. At one point he did resort to flapping his wings like a chicken in Costco to tell me he needed me to buy him some chicken wings. I got the message and we were both thrilled that we communicated. But there are lots of times we will be trying with all our might to tell each other something and no matter how many hand gestures or pulling of faces we add to the conversation we simply do not understand each other.

I love that he will say the word "careful" at certain points when I am driving....I hope he is saying it to the other drivers :)

Zach and Piret do some translating for events and people in Estonia and I asked them what do they do if there is no way to say it but it HAS to be translated? Some of the stuff Piret has had to translate is computer lingo and there sometimes is really no words that translate computer jargon over but yet it needs to somehow be understood. We also chatted about how some people's talks they are giving are easy to translate and others are hard. It made me wonder about the speed and the clarity with which I speak. I have to tell you that if someone was translating for me I would most likely keep stopping and turning to the translator to ask, "Did you say exactly what I said?" I think about my words so carefully and they are so much a part of who I am what if the translator is gyping me? What if I am only funny in English? :)

Speaking of funny we all giggle with delight when Carlos says something in English. Honestly, I have to tell you nothing makes us laugh more. Even if it is a phrase he really should not know or really should not say we laugh with glee. For example...."I hate you". A phrase all responsible parents train their children to never, ever say to anyone or anything. Well I have to tell you we love it when Carlos from Mexico says, "I hate you." It just sounds so harmless and funny the way he says it. We have been known to make him say it to other people just because it is so innocent and funny sounding :) And I confess he and I say it to each other as a term of understanding and endearment....at least I think we do :)

Sometimes I say to Madeline, "What if he really understands everything we say and he is just faking it?" :)

I am amazed at the Spanish I am picking up just by listening to them talk.....apparently they say, "seriously" to each other a lot because I can totally say that in Spanish now...enserio :)

Sometimes it makes my head spin what all these children of mine have signed up for with their bilingual marriages. It is a little weird to wonder if they will ever truly understand me. But I guess since I am their mother in law that may be a blessing :)

1 comment:

My Many Coloured Days said...

You always get me thinking. And laughing. Please figure out this mother-in-law thing before I get there.