Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Lost in translation

Bidet: foot bath or booty washer
When I was little, my great uncle Marion taught me how to cuss in Polish, except I didn't know what I was saying.  In high school, it was a game to try and figure out what the cuss words were in French, so we could use them on trips to Quebec. I felt so daring.

In adulthood, I try hard not to cuss and it bothers me to be around a lot of profanity. I'm a bit of Puritan when it comes to things like that, but I'll allow there are times where a good cuss word can come in handy. When I decided to move overseas, I wasn't searching for cuss words in Arabic, but rather words that might help me survive in a foreign country. Luckily for me, and my inability to roll r's, almost everything I need to get done is able to be accomplished in English. The first Arabic word I learned was "shukran" which means "thank you." The second was "shway, shway" which loosely translates to "by and by" or "easy, easy" or "slowly, slowly." Yeah, you see the problem - few things translate exactly, and I don't know if you've spent a lot of time thinking about the English language, but we do some pretty crazy/silly things that make learning it a lot more challenging.
I've heard beauty can be found in
a saloon...
I didn't know it was interchangeable with  salon.

We've been working on verbs this term in my classes, and I needed to bring in a straw and water bottle as a prop to teach "suck" because the Arabic dictionary I used had it translated to an infant's nursing. But the verb is used in more contexts than that, and honestly, I've never really thought of sucking=nursing.  And we were working on food vocabulary - so context...

I've also recently learned that some English words have words that sound similar to Arabic words, but mean very different things. "To think" in Arabic sounds like a very vulgar English word, while the abbreviation for a common fastener sounds like a very vulgar Arabic word.

Ok, Santa on a camel was cool...
And then there was today....
I walked into my 10th grade class for our second period of the day (after reminding them at the end of our earlier period to make sure their homework was completed because I would be checking it then).

One of my favorite students looks at me and says, "Oh, sh*t." (This is a very respectful student who is always concerned with being a good, honorable girl.)
I swung my head around a la Poltergeist. "What? That is a bad word. You should not say that word."

The class and student looked at me in puzzlement. "But, Miss, it means: 'oh my gosh.'"

"No, no, it doesn't. It is not a good word for you to use. It is an unclean word. It is word for the bathroom."

The cussing student: "But it is on tv all the time and the translation says 'oh my gosh'. All the time, at my house, my mother and I say, 'sh*t'." I have had a recent conversation with her mother, who while limited in her English, is very strong in French.

"It is a bad word for 'poop'. You should not say it. Tell your mother it is the same as 'merde'. She will understand. It is unclean. Do not say it." Guess my French cussing came in handy for something besides being an obnoxious teenager....

Another student: "What about 'damn it'?" 
...........

6 comments:

Mary Esther said...

As a one time sociolinguist I would have loved to be a fly on that wall! You never know how life is preparing you always for the next thing.

Mrs. Beaudin's classroom said...

I like the name of your post. By the way, if you have enough drinks in a saloon, people become beautiful. Also, I didn't know my language bothered you.lol.

Jasmine said...

Mary, You crack me up. :) LOL

T. C Adams said...

When I was 8 and 9 years old and living in Crete, I quickly learned the Greek cuss words first. Pardoxically, the Greek kids wlearned the English cuss words; so there we were cussing out one another in the other's language. (BTW I am awaiting my in person interview for Abu Dhabi secondary English through Teach Away.

Jasmine said...

Good luck at your interview T.C. - it is quite an adventure. We just spend the first part of the morning at the camel races and will be off to the horse show after we finish breakfast. Lots to do over here!

Angela Pitrone said...

Ha ha ha ha!!!!!!