In University I have learned that linguistics often say that language forms our world. The act of giving something a name shapes the way we perceive this object and I have often found that different languages also mean, that we see the world differently. There are certain ways to express something in one language that might not exist in the other. Some languages are more precise than others or are simply better suited in certain situations or when discussing specific topics.
After having spoken Spanish almost during the whole time of our relationship, my husband and I are now in a stage of different languages being used. The time of us only conversing in Spanish is over, as he is here in Berlin to learn German and at work we also need to speak English besides German and Spanish, so it is alright to keep practicing that as well. I do have to say that I really enjoy to be sharing this experience with him, as I am not the only one anymore to be mixing languages and using just one word from another language because it fits better. In linguistic terms, this is called code-switching. It means that we might be speaking in German and then we just use one word in English or Spanish because it simply expresses so much better what we wish to say. Of Course this only works if both parties speak the languages being used, that’s why I had to wait until now to be using this practice with my husband. Of course we sometimes also use a word without Intention, simply because we don’t know it in the other language or because the languages are mixed up in our head. This is a process of learning, supporting and understanding eachother, as Gus is now in the position to learn my mother tongue just as I was a few years ago to learn his.
Of course one of us is always going to have a “home advantage”, but that’s a good thing as we can help eachother learn and understand the foreign language and culture better. If language shapes our understanding of the objects we name, it also shapes our culture, our understanding of the world and our ideas. There are so many words that can only be explained more or less, but never translated and you will only really get them when you are learning the language. Here are some of my alltime favourites:
In Spanish the word estrenar is simply wonderful to say that you use something for the first time. The best thing in Spanish is the diminutive you can use for absolutely anything in just one word. If you want to describe a small object, you can for example say cajita (small box) instead of caja (box), or you can make something small (chico/a) even smaller (chiquito/a). You can use it in a sweet way to call someone (Marianita, Pakito) or even to change time: Ahorita is the diminutive of ahora and a way to say any amount of time between now and probably tomorrow – love it! Spanish also has the opposite – the augmentative: a huge car (carro) is a carrote and so on.
In English one of my favourite untranslatable words is “cheesy”, for example when describing a movie. Of course the English language is also known for having made its way into other languages, for examples with words like “cool” or “spam”.
I think the strenght of the German language lies in the compound words that can be so creative such as Fernweh (as an opposite to Heimweh (=home sick), you are longing to go away, sick for a vacation if you will), Ohrwurm (=a worm in your ear which means a song is stuck in your head) or sturmfrei (when you are home alone and can do whatever you like we call it to be “free for storm”).
Also, there are big differences in how affectionate a language is: It is not the same to call someone “amor”, “honey” or “Schatz”, at least for me it isn’t.
Another advantage of Gus and me being able to speak in three different languages is to be able to choose which one is appropriate for the situation, depending on who we’re with and what’s the topic and the mood like.
So to finish this post, let me say this: speaking different languages is something very rewarding and wonderful. If you are learning the language as part of a bilingual relationship, it is even more rewarding and enriching for your relationship as it changes positions and gives both partners the home advantage from time to time – so do it! 😉