Being tri-lingual sometimes feels like having a super cool and amazing party trick. “You speak THREE languages? Wow. Say something in Norwegian!” This question is asked of me by one out of five new people I meet. “You are half Mexican? But you are so white?” Is another ringer. A while back these comments would bother me and I would commence long explanations of, “well, the Spanish did Colonize ……” Now I just smile and giggle along and embrace my wacky background which I realize is not so unique. (The other day I met a girl who spoke five languages fluently. How does her brain function?)
I have difficulty at times with phrases that I translate from one language to the next which puzzle people. For example, a few days ago my boss was watering our plants. Unfortunately I had already watered them the day before so the pots started to overflow. As I helped her clean up the mess I asked, “so, do you have green fingers?” She looked at me with a puzzled expression and then down at her hands. In my mind I was thinking “well? It isn’t such a hard question, why is she staring at her hands you are either a plant person or not” and in her mind she was thinking, “why would my hands go green from these plants?” Suddenly she smiled and looked up at me saying, “do you perhaps mean if I have a green thumb?” Te he. That made me giggle. Potato- potatoe. I like green fingers more than a green thumb. Ha ha. So that is a definite Jennyism.
Another one came up as the office started to giggle with me when a colleague added, “yeah Jenny you are full of those. The other day you were talking about how if a design was difficult it could make the customer jump through holes…” I realized then it should be hoops. Holes hoops…same thing. Ha ha. In a meeting yesterday my boss said “well we don’t want the client to balk at that….” and I heard bark and looked at everybody smiling waiting for the laugh. Nobody did. Why would the client bark? I was then informed of the word balk which I had not really heard in conversation. When I used to live in London I one day said the word “gnaw” in a sentence and I pronounced the G making it sounds like g-naw. When I was corrected I told everyone that in the United States they pronounced it like that. I was so adamant that they believed me, I even believed me.
The English language, full of it’s random silent letters teasingly thrown into words has always made me laugh. When you hear people whose mother tongue is not English pronounce words like “Thorough” or “Because” it always makes me smile. The mis-pronunciation of words and made up phrases is something I do in every language. I copy and paste from the three that I speak and have created many Jenny words. My favourite being “pop-chops”. This confusion arose when I was a little girl. For some reason I equated pork-chops and pop-corn (two quite delicious foods) with chips or crisps as the English call them. So I have never used the word chips, I call them “pop-chops”.
Last story. My grandmother is Mexican and she has a million and one sayings that I could write a book about. One of my favorites is a translation of “por si las moscas” which means just incase but when translated literally means “for the flies”. So I will always say, “we should bring a jacket…for the flies”. It can cause confusion. I know we all have her special words and phrases. If you have any I would love to hear them so please do share!