Sunday, September 30, 2007

If I'm English, You're... "Takova"

I get called "Anglichanka" here a lot. People confuse my nationality and refer to me as "the English girl." I don't know why it bothers me so much. Maybe it's because I've been here two years, and they can't seem to get it straight. Maybe it's because I've never even had the pleasure of visiting England.
"So, what's life in England?"
"I've never been there."
"Oh, yeah. What's life like in, where was it you were from again? California?"
*Two to five minute explanation about my concept of whatever I feel like sharing about life in California*
"So... do you miss England?"
*Huge, exasperated sigh*
What's also annoying is when I walk by a group of people and I hear the word "anglichanka" whispered under their breath. That's when I turn around and look at them defiantly. You didn't even bother to ask me who I am.
The kids, however, are by far the cutest. My absolute favorite is a quote from a boy at a camp we had last summer. It was captured on video: "And here is a game taught to us by the English girl from California."
Speaking of favorite conversations,here's an almost verbatim one I had with an adorable girl the other day.
Girl: So, you're from England...."
Apryl: I'm not from England. I'm from America.
Girl: So, you don't really speak English. You speak American.
Apryl: Well, some English people might agree with you, but we really speak the same language.
Girl: How can you speak English if you're not from England?
Apryl: We speak English in America as well.
Girl: That doesn't make sense.
I was trying to think of ways it made perfect sense, but I wasn't getting far. Maybe it's because of the distinctiveness of languages that match up with nations over here. Romanians speak Romanian, the French speak French, the Germans speak German, the Spanish speak Spanish, etc. There aren't many nations that don't claim their own language. Before I left before Bulgaria, many Americans asked me what language they speak over here. Even I wasn't sure in the beginning. "I think it's Bulgarian," I said. "I think they have their own language." We did wonder if they spoke Russian, however.
It's funny, because I've never considered myself all that nationalistic. To me, being "proud" to be American (or any nationality for that matter) is like being proud of having a heart that beats. There isn't much that you *did* to be part of that nationality because no one gets to choose things like being born, everyone comes from somewhere, and hating where you come from is just counterproductive. However, one thing I love about being "American" is that it isn't an ethnicity. A lot of people talk about being African-American, or Puerto Rican-American, or Canadian-American, but there's always the option of tacking the "American" on the end there. I don't think every country has that linguistic capacity. I, for example, could gain citizenship here, and I would never be "American-Bulgarian." It also kind of devoids me of a cultural heritage, but then, we made our own traditions growing up. I have the freedom to do the same with my own children. I used to lament the lack of a cultural background. I still do, but really only to the point that I wasn't raised bilingual. I feel like I found out late in life (though it's never TOO late) that I love languages.
So, I don't know why it bothers me when I'm called English, but it grates on my nerves. I now understand my friends whose relatives came from diverse places such as Guatemala, Peru, Brazil, Argentina, etc. and how they get frustrated when people blanket them with the term "Mexican-American." I'm thinking of starting a campaign to call everyone I meet "Rusnatsi" (Russians). I think they'll look at me like I'm an idiot, but it will be great to randomly ask people how they like living in Russia.
In other news, I've picked my favorite Bulgarian verb: "Takovam." It's universal. Basically, it means, "Do that thing. You know, that thing." Here's an example: "After work, I'm going to... 'takovam.'" It's a verb with a wide range of meanings. It can also be used as a noun: "Can you 'takovish' and hand me 'takova?'" Literally, "Can you do that thing and hand me that thing?" I LOVE IT. We should have a comparable word - one word, mind you - that applies in such a universal way. It's like a "get out of jail free" card for learning certain, impossibly difficult words in Bulgarian.


T. Renee said...

yoooo!!! just wanted to let you know that if we "takovame" it can also means we are having sex!!!! yeaah!!!!! just fyi :)

Lyrpa said...

Yeah! I know! Isn't it great? Another reason to love the verb! It's like "Seinfeld" and "yadda-yadda-ing" sex.

gospodinBezkrai said...

"There aren't many nations that don't claim their own language. Before I left before Bulgaria, many Americans asked me what language they speak over here."

Lol, and here I get pissed off every time they ask me here "So what language do you speak in Bulgaria?" "Bulgarian OBVIOUSLY." For me, they imply we are a petty offshoot of Russians or something, not worthy of our own language and culture. So, yes, you in the US must be English! :)
You can see also how all language arguments in Former Yugoslavia come about - Croatian, Bosnian, Macedonian, etc.


You are not the first learner of Bulgarian to appreciate the beauty of "takova"! Such word does not exist for example in Serbian!

Lyrpa said...

My friend, Sam, pointed out that we actually DO have a word that functions a bit like "takova." It's vulgar, but I have to share. I apologize to those who thought this blog was going to be PG-13. This is NOT a translation of the Bulgaria word "takova," mind you. Here was his brilliant example: "Can you f***ing hand me that f***er?"

Anonymous said...

wow. you must communicate with very intelligent Bulgarians if you get that question all the time. In fact I like in America and still don't know exactly where CA is! What, uh?