At the beginning, words in a foreign language just don’t seem to hold as much weight as they do in our native tongues.
And then, gradually, our vocabulary increases, and we start to not just understand the words, but feel what they actually mean.
Ok, I know I’m sounding a bit cuckoo, but it’s a bit difficult to put into words. (Even in my native language.)
The best examples I can give are curse words.
As Americans, we aren’t taught a foreign language until we are at least 15, 16, or 17 years old. And the first thing immature teenagers always seem to want to learn are curse words. (fick/fuck, scheiße/shit, etc.)
Something to giggle about, I guess.
But, once we learn them, the foreign curse words don’t seem to carry as much weight as the curse words in our native tongue.
For instance, I must admit that I found it funny when Kay used to call me, “Miststück” (Bitch) and he was my… well, too derogatory to be written in this blog.
Yes, our humor is a bit slanted.
I can remember a conversation while in college with a Swedish friend in which she taught us some very naughty foreign words. We Americans laughed while constantly repeating these demeaning Swedish curse words, while she sat there cringing each time we blurted them out; I know she immediately regretted teaching us.
On the flip side, and to turn a bad concept into something good, I wonder how much weight, “I love you,” carries for Germans?
While the equivalent does exist in German (Ich liebe Dich), when I have tried to be respectful by saying it in the past, Kay can’t listen without laughing. No doubt because of my horrible pronunciation.
And the result was that I just quit trying; both of us have continued to use, “I love you,” in English.
Since Kay and I are constantly speaking English to each other (with the exception of Kay unknowingly talking in his sleep in German), I hadn’t given too much thought to learning terms of endearment in German.
The other day, I asked Kay, what are some German terms of endearment?
He, of course, looked at me with a blank stare until I explained, “terms of endearment.”
As in… the opposite of calling me Miststück and me calling you… (See, I can’t even write what I used to call him in English, but no qualms writing a derogatory name in German.)
Like Schatz or Schatzi which literally means “treasure,” but somehow translates to honey, or sweetheart.
He couldn’t give me as many German examples as I had in English. Is this proof that Germans just aren’t as affectionate?
Not my husband, at least. We say, “I love you,” in English all the time.
It isn’t too often that it happens, but last night Kay said, “Ich liebe Dich.”
Maybe it was the alcohol talking? Or maybe he forgot that he was speaking German to me (although not talking in his sleep)…
But now things are a bit different for me. I don’t speak German fluently, but I am beginning to feel what words mean in German.
And although I am a native English speaker, there is something completely romantic and indescribable when my husband says to me, “Ich liebe Dich.”
No, it isn’t me just being a sap for a foreign accent.
I guess, because I know that our own native languages will always carry more weight, it means more to me to hear him say, “I love you,” in his native language.
That’s not to say I thought he felt any less while saying, “I love you,” in English.
It just means that we are starting to cross the language barriers; now both of us are understanding more about the other’s native tongue language. (Using “tongue” in this context just seems too gross. But if I had to have the visual, I figured I should subject you to it too.)
I still refuse to try and say, “Ich liebe Dich,” though. My English dialect does not do the phrase justice.