May 31, 2011

Love is a bowel movement

"Sevgi emekmiş"

Can Yücel writes in his poem, "Anladım."

"Emek" is Turkish for something like "effort." Nesli and I searched synonyms for "effort." A huge list appeared: attempt, endeavour, feat, effort, campaign, exertion... bowel movement.

I explained and we laughed for a long time. Sure, love is a bowel movement.

May 27, 2011

If we all spoke the same language...

Is a society more cohesive if everyone speaks the same language (and only that language)?
How do you argue with someone who thinks so?

My mom says that all the kids in her neighbourhood played together outside in a big group. Now she never sees crowds of kids like that. The suggestion was made that language plays a role. Our nearest neighbours speak Greek and Chinese as first languages, and yes, I suppose I never see the kids from those houses playing together. But there are other factors, right?

And what about my own childhood in Saudi Arabia? Navaz's mom didn't always speak English to her. Zabrina's never did. Lorraine and her brother had a Greek tutor. Yet we friends were very close.

And what about last year in Morocco? Oriane spoke French first, Maria Swedish, Julia Portuguese, Abderrahim a Berber language, Fatima Arabic, and so on. Depending on proficiency, who else was around, and sometimes mood, we would speak French or English or Spanish or, if people were feeling patient, Arabic. Yes, there was an English cluster within that--Alaina, Caitlyn, Eric, and I could curse, joke, mutter, obscure-reference, and slang-drop together in a different way--but does that diminish the importance of my friendship with Oriane?

And what about Rwanda and Somalia, Sam pointed out in class (these questions I posed during a presentation on identity in multilingual settings). The common language among people in Rwanda and among people in Somalia failed to prevent disaster and war.

These questions are really important, I think.

May 20, 2011

Gasp! Rasp!

Did you know they were spelled raspberries?

I did not.

May 19, 2011


There are two sisters from Iraq in my Level 3 English class, a class provided for new immigrants to Canada. The two women are quiet, so I walk over and sit with them. Tonight I noticed one writing in Arabic under new words.

She was not translating, though. She was transliterating--putting the sounds of English into the writing of Arabic.

"Fleas" = Faa + Laam + Yaa + Miim (those are the letters)

I used to do exactly this in reverse! Figuring out how to represent Arabic in the Roman alphabet was a pet passion in Morocco! Some people use numbers. I used capital letters and accents.

Wednesday, I'll show the young women from Iraq my old lessons, which appear as a tangle of English, French, Arabic, and Arabic-transliterated-into-Roman-alphabet. Hopefully they will get a kick out of it.

May 10, 2011

On the commute

I sometimes translate things into Turkish for fun.

Kırmızı bir güneş
Denize düşüyor
Ne yaz sıcaklığı!

A red sun
Falls into the sea
What summer heat!

Ay yüksek
Erik çiçeği gölgeler
Yastığımın üzerine düşüyor

The moon is high
Plum blossom shadows
Fall on my pillow

--Original haiku by Soseki Natsume (1867-1916), translated by someone else from Japanese into English.