You might call it “lust in translation.” This Chinese-English online quiz, one I agreed to do complete well before I met John, turned into a perfect excuse to visit John a little more often at work. I translated the English words into Chinese, and then brought my work over to him for proofreading. Sure, in between our “how do you say”s and “zenme shuo”s, we flirted a little. But we also learned something too, more than just the right way to say rainjacket or maozi. We made a pretty awesome translation team.
Nearly eight years later, we still help one another with language and translations. John’s my go-to guy for Chinese when I’m stuck on translating a word, and I’m the one he calls on to give his English writing a final check. One week, he tells me about a new Chinese idiom; the next, I’m explaining a new saying in English. You might say we’ve re-written that old cliche — now, the couple that wordplays together, stays together.
I thought about our linguistic give-and-take the other day. We’ve kept this up for so long, and it’s such an egalitarian process that deepens and strengthens who we are and our own relationship. You might say we lean on each other to become better people, and better at what we do. But I also wondered, do bilingual cross-cultural relationships like mine make it easier for couples to become equal partners? Does bringing a different native language to the table encourage lovers and spouses to work together in a beautiful way?
Maybe John and I just lucked out. We both love languages, and we love each other enough to support each other. We also established a bilingual relationship from the start, with equal helpings of English and Chinese, and depend on languages for our work.
I can’t say for sure. But I’ll bet a little flirtation over translation (like, say, a quiz) wouldn’t hurt any fledgling foreign relationship.
What do you think?