Thursday, February 27, 2014

Life is Life / English as an International Language.

On the recent tournament trip, my students asked me a question:

Did I know the phrase "Life is Life"? Was it a phrase in English?

I had never heard it and asked what it meant.

"Life is short. So live life. Don't worry. Enjoy things. Have fun. Don't work too hard. Life is life."

Still an odd phrase. They told me what it would be in Bulgarian and I spent some of our bus travel time trying to think of what it would mean in English. What is the nearest equivalent in American slang? I decided "Live it up" was closest.

Then they told me that they never say this phrase in Bulgarian but only in English. Even Bulgarian teachers use it as an English phrase. Yet I had never heard it before and was pretty sure that it didn't exist in American slang.

I love it. I love that English is such an international language that an Eastern European culture could take English and say something that only they really understood. English doesn't belong to America or England anymore. It came from there but our relationship with it is not quite the same as smaller cultures. The Bulgarian Language is tied to Bulgaria in a way very different from the English language and its source countries.

My students aren't so sure about this idea, understandably because their relationship with Bulgarian is not so flexible. The idea that a language can spring into a new hybrid life form is weird. But I love that about English. I love that its roots in many languages and cultures enable it to be adapted to cultures and language needs all over the world.

Okay so maybe that also has to do with English being the language of imperialism, but that's a way less fun theory.

No comments: