Lost in Translation

Leza Warkentin
Ladies, we need to talk. Let me preface this talk by telling you all how very much I love my dear husband, and how (almost) every minute I am very happy that we found each other. He is absolutely the only person could that tolerate the drama, the chaos and the laundry that seems to go hand and hand with a life that has me in it.
If you too have found your very own longsuffering Mexican mate, and you are considering making things more permanent, let’s just take a moment to go over a few points. In any marriage, you will look back at some point and realize (hopefully with a sense of humor instead of a deep, wracking regret) that some of your beloved’s qualities that seemed so endearing at the beginning are now the things that send you on some long walks with your dog.
I think this is probably doubly true for bicultural marriages. There are so many new, exciting things about a person from a completely different background. All the romance! All the music! And the language! He can teach me Spanish! Let me tell you something, honey. You will not appreciate a language lesson when you don’t know the words for “toilet seat” and you have to demonstrate (daily) the way that you would like it positioned when not in use.
There are a few things that I KNOW you both think are great now. I’m here to tell you: a few years down the road, you will think the other person is great in SPITE of these things.
It’s so sweet when you start figuring out the other’s language. My husband thought it was “flowering” instead of “flirting”. This is adorable. He used to giggle at my toddler-like Spanish too. Nowadays we are resigned to the fact that our conversations are probably twice as long as most people’s, being said in two languages just to be sure, and we will have at least one, major, language-based misunderstanding per week (outside of the normal misunderstandings of every marriage). For example, my husband didn’t realize I meant that this past Friday the kids would be home from school, so he scheduled a work meeting. The realization that we both came to on Thursday night at 11pm was, in technical terms, A Major Drag.
It’s very romantic to start a relationship with someone who constantly loses track of time while staring into your eyes, and would spend 12 hours straight with you because stuff like being anywhere else just doesn’t matter. This disregard of the passage of time turns around to take a big bite out of you when you are supposed to be at a party at 5, and he is finishing up that song he is learning on guitar at 4:59 (I almost have it!). To be fair, we were still the first ones at the party. And he really does know that song.
My dream was to have children that a) didn’t sunburn and b) spoke two languages. I was so excited for the day when I would hear my children speak Spanish as well as they spoke English. My husband shared with me how he felt the same way about hearing our children speak English like true Canadians. We were thrilled about this special gift we were bestowing upon our children. Until the day my son told me “Um, yeah, mom, just speak to me in English, your Spanish doesn’t really sound right.” Until the year our daughter became the English drill sergeant with her daddy, demanding repetition and accuracy. Apparently being bilingual comes with a bit of a smart mouth.
But they do, indeed, have the loveliest, golden, burn-resistant skin. And that man still causes me to lose track of time when he turns those brown eyes on me.
So I guess what I’m saying is, ladies, I may speak a lot of Spanish, but I still don’t know the words for “toilet seat”. And he still doesn’t know that what he’s doing isn’t really “flowering”. As long as he’s still doing it, he can call it whatever he wants. The best things about any marriage never really need translating anyway.

One comment

  1. You probably do not want to listen to me , for I am a man who has been married for 59 years, and still remember my marriage vows “until death do us part:”, and for the woman “To love, honor and obey”.

    Now the meat of my message: Countries that have major diversification of cultures, languages and religions … are finding that it does not work well, and are turning away from any further expansion. My wife and I courted almost exclusively for seven years before marriage. Because we came from different economic ,religions (different Christian churches ) backgrounds, We were both advised by parents and grandparents not to marry at 19 .

    I was told by wife that our children would not be taken to my church (Christian Science) . We married in a non-denominational church (such were our three daughters ) and shortly after stopped going to church at all. We are together most all the time, except for work, and talk for hours at a time since we both speak American English, and do not speak another language.

    Communication , common cultures , race, and experiences are very important in a successful marriage and of raising children. In fact it is important in raising grandchildren we have eight, who have lived under our roof for much of their lives. I selected my wife to be at the age of twelve, and we are still together .

    So perhaps I may have had something of importance to have said. As my mother-in-law said to my wife shortly after our marriage before we adjusted to living together … “You made your bed so now you have to sleep in it !” My father told my wife after she had two children, that she was too good for me. I have worked hard to be worthy.

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