Stand on me: Linguistics of love

Humour Stories | Satire
Illustration by Christy Shao, Graphics Editor
Illustration by Christy Shao, Graphics Editor

Would you date someone who is a native speaker of a language that you were in the process of learning? It can be difficult enough to communicate in my first language without a few cups of strong coffee, but since I like a challenge and I have a high threshold for embarrassment, so I have given it a try. My second language is American Sign Language and my third is German, and I know that no matter how much I improve both, I will never be as fluent as a native speaker.

So with that in mind, I want to share with you one of my PG-rated experiences of inter-linguistic dating. To improve my German, I have been chatting with people online almost everyday, and we switch back and forth using English and German. I met the guy I am currently dating this way, and we had a funny, awkward moment when he wanted to tell me he liked me as more than just friends. That can be an awkward moment in any  relationship, but the language barrier adds a whole new layer.  It’s been a while since then, so I might be a word or two off, but he said something to me like, “Ich stehe auf dich.” I responded by saying, “But I am so little, if you stand on me, you will crush me!” That was what he was doing too, but not in a literal sense: He was saying that he had a crush on me.

Of course, there are ways to use language barriers to one’s advantage. I have this magical scenario in mind for when I visit Germany in the summer: I will find a cute German guy, walk up to him and say “I’m sorry, my German is not very good. Can you help me? Das Pferd frisst die heilige Kartoffel” What this translates to is, “The horse eats the holy potato,” and it is one of many useful phrases I have learned to say in German. If someone uses this in the bedroom because of me, I will feel I have accomplished something special this year.

That being said, some jokes do not translate over from one language to another. This is especially the case when trying to move from a spoken to a signed language. Often people who are hearing do not realize how many of their jokes are funny because of the way the words sound spoken out loud, or because they are making references to songs. Nothing makes you more conscious of how unconscious you are in your banter like having someone look at you like you have grown a second set of tentacles. Being a bit more aware of what you are saying is one of the best things to come out of flirting with someone in a second or third language. Give it a try sometime. If they don’t run away screaming, they might just be the one.