I do not call my husband and I bilingual because while we are perfectly capable of holding a conversation in two languages, I personally reserve bilingualism for those that grew up with two languages whereas we both learned our second language- English for him and Italian for me. And it just isn’t the same thing. Over the past nine years, we’ve morphed into a couple that, in that past, would have intrigued me. Mixed cultures and mixed languages, I’ve always been fascinated with this state of existence- un miscuglio perfetto, a perfect smorgasbord.
If I had seen us, heard us (more importantly), sparring over cocktails in a crowded bar, I wouldn’t have been able to stop staring. Him- atypically too pale to be Italian but with the dark brown curls, forest green eyes, and wily smile that suggest otherwise. Her- a curtain of black hair, chocolate eyes, a fading tan, fantastic footwear. Unabashedly, I’d probably ask myself: I wonder what language they fight in, when you need so much to run your tongue and spit fire, does it run as fast in a learned second language? Does the fire burn as bright, does it carry the same heat? I’d wait patiently and see if a quarrel, even over what to order to nibble on, might suddenly erupt so I’d have an answer to my silent question. But then witnessing a full-blown fight would start to seem improbable as the one vodka martini becomes four and the couple start to speak in a make-believe language all their own, one that if I hadn’t heard it’s component languages at the beginning of the night, would be impossible to decipher. He whispers now, sweet nothings I imagine, and the romantic in me is itching to know which language he chose, even if I know already. Italian. There’s really no doubt. But does she reciprocate in the same language? Does it mean more for him to say “I love you” or “ti amo” and which one warms the receiving heart the most? The two learned words from a textbook or the three words she’s been used to hearing since she was a baby, coddled in her father’s arms?
The Italians are very serious when it comes to “ti amo” and it is used for romantic love only. It lacks the universality of the Anglo-Saxon “love you” that applies to friends, family members, pets, the guy who changes your flat tire, the one that gives you extra hot sauce on your wings and because of this, it has remained more sacred than its English counterpart. And sacred is good. I would want to know if the couple is honoring the sanctity of the words. As the night draws on and our couple prepares to leave- shrugging on coats, wrapping scarves, all in preparation for unwrapping later. My voyeuristic evening is about to come to an end, leading into my last ponderance: What language do they make love in? I would guess the same language they fight in because passion, in both its forms, requires confidence in what is being said, requires a treasury of word choices, tried and true. In these moments, there can be no searching for a word, translating from one language to another, and I assume that because of this, one always reverts to his native tongue. Instinct takes over.
I know I didn't answer the question posed in the blog title "how to fight and make love in two languages". I can divulge only this- that we reserve "ti amo" for very private moments, whereas "love you" is used on a daily basis, in the American fashion, almost as a salutation to end a phone call. If you're not modest, would love to hear your take on this topic. Do you fight in your native tongue or your adopted one? What about sweet nothings?
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P.S. I know a lot of you are big Pinterest users as well, so I'll try to be more diligent about adding PIN-able images like the one below so you can pin my posts as well!