onsdag 21 oktober 2015

Being raised bilingual

I was just reading this article claiming that bilingual people are better lovers - probably because they are better at communicating.

When you are raised in two or more languages (such as was my case after the age of 3), you get to observe the way people behave, communicate, and speak (both verbally and non-verbally) in those languages. In my case, I started being an interpreter for my mother as soon as I started with Swedish (age 3), since she did not speak the language. That went on to my first simulataneous interpreting "assignment" at the age of 12 (whispered, at a teacher-parents meeting at my school). And you quickly realize that the equivalent words do not carry the same meaning in the other language.

Communication is far more than words. Translate those words literally into another language and you may get into the worst blunders. A very simple thing I noticed now that I got married is how the mention of the spouses changes from country to country:

  • In English, the priest pronounces the couple "husband and wife".
  • In Spanish, they are pronounced "husband and woman*" (marido y mujer). It would sound terribly funny to call him "your man".
  • In Swedish, a woman refers to her husband as "my man*" (min man). It would sound terribly chauvinist and offensive to call her "my woman".
  • In Mallorca, traditionally women do call their husband "my man" though (mi home).

*= there are of course multiple other synonyms for how you call your spouse.

Quick tip: in a translation of Swedish into Spanish, you must never translate husband as "man" - you'd be puzzling, shocking or even insulting the readers.

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