Monday, 5 December 2011

Mamihlapinatapei, and other fascinating words

I have been thinking about the language of computers and whether it would be good for X  to learn one. I have also been working hard to untangle the language of researchers at the global company TNS. These very clever people seem to have a remarkable ability to tie up single sentences in more knots than you would find in a macrame pot holder. Meanwhile X has been playing hard with language. She and her best friend (I love her, mummy) have started to speak a language all of their own. X has now started to speak it to me. I was so flattered to be included that I started speaking back to her in jibberish. Now we walk down the road jabbering nonsense to each other. I say nonsense but mainly we intuit what each other is saying.  We laugh a lot in this language and don't use it for snapping and whining.  If ever I was lost for words with her it might come in handy. 

It occurred to me that one of the reasons that X might be so interested in speaking a foreign language is that almost all her friends are bilingual and have a 'special' language which they use with their mothers. T speaks Finnish to hers (no father around) , S speaks Icelandic (father doesn't speak Icelandic), N is only just learning English over Russian (no father around), and her best friend A ( I love her, mummy) speaks Danish to her mummy. I could go on- there are so many examples. It seems such a shame that X's fascination with language at this key moment in her development (this is the time where children naturally learn language) is going to waste as I only can jabber with her in make-believe meanings. Maybe we should learn a new language together. I do try to speak a bit of French but my French is woeful.

I did learn one new foreign word today: mamihlapinatapei, which is apparently Yagan for "the wordless yet meaningful look shared by two people who desire to initiate something, but are both reluctant to start."  
Good, eh? We haven't made up that one yet, but then I'm not sure we've ever seen two people looking at each other in this way. Maybe they were and we mistook it for British reserve. 

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