No, my English has not gotten that bad (although it is nearing that point). But, in my years of learning Spanish, I’ve found that there are simply some words and phrases that don’t do as well in one language as they do in the other. Those of you that have spent any amount of time living in another country and learning the language can attest to this. Those of you lucky enough to have grown up bilingual I think would also be with me. If you still aren’t sure what I mean, read Junot Diaz. It’ll start to make sense.
Ask my parents or any other poor soul who has had to suffer through a skype date with me on one of my bad days. I will have moments where the first word that comes to mind is in Spanish, and after minutes of awkward silence where the person on the other end of the lense thinks, this is it, all that sun has finally gotten to her, say goodbye, I return to the world of language with a quizzical look and launch into a ten-minute explanation as to why I decided not to use the word “gossip” when it clearly would have worked there.
I’m sure all you dual-tri-cuadri (anyone beyond this is my hero)-lingual people out there have your favorites.
One of mine: ¿Como amaneces?
Or, How do you wake up? I’m not sure why I like hearing this so much from people, but I have to argue that we don’t have something in English that matches it.
What about “how’d you sleep”?
I knew you’d say that. Great, ask how I slept. But what if I slept well and woke up a little iffy? Or slept poorly but I’m still ok, happy to be out bed? Hm? Really, there’s so much more than just how I slept. I woke up, too!
Wouldn’t a simple “good morning” suffice?
You would think it would. That’s nice. Pleasant. But I can say good morning to anyone. Asking you how you woke up shows I care about you, and that’s even more pleasant.
The first time I heard it I was a bit confused—another pitfall of learning a second language are the mix-ups that come from direct translation. How do I dawn? I…um…I dawn just fine, thanks. Yeah, I’m dawning fine. I am dawning! Yes, dawning, me, just like the sun! It all felt a little strange to say at first.
To give you a better translation, como amaneces is more like “how do you greet the day.” It’s a look forward, not a revision of your last 7 hours in a bed. Now isn’t that beautiful? How can you not say “bien” to “how do you greet the day”? I didn’t think so.
Below are a few ways we use the word around here:
Amencí dormida— “I dawned asleep,” or “I slept in.”
Amenció lloviendo—“It dawned raining,” or “It was raining in the early morning.”
Fueron a la fiesta y amenecieron alli.—“They went to the party and dawned there,” or “They partied until dawn.”
Perhaps this has given you some insight as to why it gets harder and harder to speak one straight language. There really aren’t enough words in either.
Que amanezcan bien. Dawn well!