What does the language of love tell us about national character. Do Italians really love you more?
French brings them closer together, but almost smothers the beloved “you” in the very act of loving: “Je t’aime”. Something similar happens in Italian, but here the beloved takes priority, whereas the lover disappears entirely inside the verb: “Ti amo”. Spanish does that too, but stakes a bolder claim: “Te quiero” – not just love, but want. Even within Europe, we don’t speak the same language when we are in love.
But, I hear you protest. Love transcends all barriers, all boundaries. The language of the heart is universal, and as for the rest … surely body language is all you need to communicate with a lover.
Maybe so. But love is more than red roses for breakfast and fun and games in the bedroom. Falling in love with somebody from another country may mean a lifetime of compromises and sacrifices – some small, some huge. Twisting your tongue on unpronounceable words. Foregoing the simple pleasure of eavesdropping on strangers on public transport. Having to spell your name every time you order a takeaway. Giving up career prospects to become a second-class citizen, a non-native speaker, a person who doesn’t belong. Raising your children in a culture and a language that will always be foreign to you. Not sharing your partner’s childhood memories of favourite TV programmes and ice-cream treats. Lying in each other’s arms, yet dreaming in different languages. It may well mean getting married long before you feel ready, just so the competent authorities will allow you to stay together – an option that is still denied to gay and lesbian couples in many parts of the world.
Still, whether it’s the thrill of the exotic, the delight in discovering how much stronger the bonds of our shared humanity are than the differences between our individual backgrounds, or the easy availability of cheap air travel – in our globalised world, there is an growing trend towards cross-cultural love. Every year, an estimated 350,000 “cross-border marriages” take place in the European Union alone; in Germany, they accounted for 11.5 per cent of all marriages solemnised in 2010. According to a more recent poll, the number of people in transnational relationships among the staff of Wolfestone Translation is closer to 40 per cent. Und das ist gut so, as we say in Berlin.
It’s certainly good news for the translation industry: The paperwork involved in following your heart to another country keeps Wolfestone’s Certificates team busy; from birth certificates to school records, academic transcripts and qualifications, from professional references to bank statements, criminal record checks and certificates of no objection.
Love without obstacles would be about as exciting as a British summer without flash flooding, after all. And if it doesn’t work out…Wolfestone can translate divorce papers, too.
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