To begin with, let me tell you that I am bilingual, trilingual even (I’ll try any tongue *sleazy wink*), I have been since I was a child. I think in a different language depending on what I’m doing or thinking about. When drunk, my abilities in language number 3 (the one I use daily where I live) diminish rapidly and so do my thoughts. This is why I drink alone so much lately. My contributions to previous conversations with the locals have been barely conscious thrustings of basic words in the faces of my much soberer companions. Anyway. That’s not what I’m talking about today.
I want to mention one of my pet peeves. You know what I have to deal with every day, living in this country? Every time someone asks where I’m from, and deduces I speak English, they decide to start dropping random English words into the conversation. Just random words. And the thing is, if I’m speaking language 3, I’m expecting that language. I’m tuned in to the frequency of the local voice speaking its language. If you start littering your fluent talk with mispronounced words I’m not expecting, I can’t understand them. I need warning that I’m going to hear English. Not that you should tell me some time in advance, it’s a pretty instantaneous switch. It’s just that my ear is picking up your accent speaking your language, and then I hear something pronounced by your accent but not identifiably in my vocabulary. Then when I don’t get it, you take offence because I don’t understand and appreciate your English. It’s not that- although you do speak pretty shitty English (learn how to pronounce H, for fucks sake… If American toddlers can do it, so can you.) it’s just how my brain (not wishing to speak for anyone else) copes with a dual vocabulary.
So that’s probably an innocent mistake to make, by someone who doesn’t understand. It’s probably done with the intention of making it easier for me by translating what they can, and to show off a bit. I can forgive, I just hate the social entanglement that ensues while I try to explain “it’s not you, it’s me”. Ok. I forgive.
On to the truly obnoxious habit, then.
The pretentious fuckery of dropping foreign words into conversation for no reason other than to show you know foreign words. I admit there are some words in some languages that are kind of better at describing some things. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of one. Maybe they are more onomatopeic or just sound better. If I you’re a German talking about love, I probably could forgive your slipping in of a bit of French. But this doesn’t account for the majority of cases.
When you read a magazine in Italy, the word “fashion” is interspersed in every paragraph. It’s used as an adjective. They have a word for fashion, and I think it’s better. And the Italian word isn’t an adjective either. So what’s going on here? It’s just stupid. And then you get people doing it more as well, because they think it’s in common usage. This is what happened with the French “chic”. And a million other words. People seem to think that by translating the odd word in a sentence, they sound like someone out of an F Scott Fitzgerald novel, from an era when everyone knew around 7 languages by the age of 12. They don’t. These aren’t people who are masters of any language. I’m honestly a master of 2 languages, and they don’t mix in my head. Ever. So when I hear someone referring to “pomodoro pasta”, I just know they have about 5 Italian words in their vocabulary. (like this girl)
Actually, aside from French, Italian is one of the most commonly butchered languages by snobs and idiots everywhere. When I see people using Italian words for ingredients that have an English name, just to sound posh or to make tomatoes sound more romantic, it makes me want to punch someone. Coffee houses that use Italian or Italian-sounding words for different sizes or types of coffee (none of which would ever be seen in an Italian bar) deserve a grande kick in the balls. And that’s another fork in the road for my current rage to divert to- coffee shops with a personal vocabulary. How fucking dare they. (the swearing’s back, I must be really pissed off) As if we’re all going in there every day, loyally speaking their beverage shop’s language, bending over for the privilege to drink their frothy overpriced bullshit. You ask for a coffee and the “barrista” starts trying to give you a begginer’s lesson in made-up Italian. They are essentially forcing you to beg for their bullshit coffee, repeating what for all you know means “I’m your bitch, coffee masters”. Fuck that shit.
Ah.. there’s no satisfying conclusion to this. Well, maybe I can whip one up. If you think you might be guilty of snobby asshole language-randomisation, here is a few tips to avoid my (and probably other people’s) hate / wrath/ face scratching
1. Pick a language, and stick with it, unless translating for someone who doesn’t speak the main conversation language in the group.
2. You can use some foreign words without looking like a tool. If you’re speaking English and you don’t know the word for some foreign food you want to be a smug bore about, use it’s foreign name. Don’t try to translate stuff like churros, or smorgasbord. But there’s a perfectly good English word for parmigiano, and it’s parmesan.
3. Before using a foreign word while speaking your native tongue, pause. Is there a word in your language that does the job? The answer is yes. Don’t be a dick.
4. There’s no need to translate foreign people’s names into your language. That’s just ignorant and offensive. Just because Jorge is the Spanish version of George, doesn’t mean the Jorge you met on holidays (and probably patronised the hell out of) should be referred to as George. Only some names have multi-lingual equivalents, don’t translate it just cause you can. Oh, and don’t even think about calling yourself “Juan” while on holidays, you can’t pronounce it any better than the Spanish can pronounce “John”, so let them get your real name a bit wrong, instead of sounding retarded when you mispronounce your own.
5. There is no need for more instruction. I don’t see why anybodybehaves like this in the first place. When in doubt, shut the hell up.