‘Mamá, Pass me the sopa.’
‘Here you go, be careful, está caliente.’
‘mmm… ¡Qué bueno!’
This was a regular conversation around the dinner table at my house. ‘Spanglish’ has always been one of my main languages of communication. We would mix English and Spanish constantly. It wasn´t so much a question of confusing one language with the other, but rather a laziness to stick to just one. We all understood both, so we just voiced the words that first came to mind (and we still do). My parents made a conscious effort to promote both languages at home from the very beginning. My dad used to write the Spanish versions of words in our English picture books, we watched cartoons in English and in Spanish, and we travelled to Mallorca to spend time with our relatives as frequently as we could.
As a child growing up with one foot in London, surrounded by Greek and Cypriot friends at a privileged Hellenic school in Kensington, and the other in Mallorca, the island of affectionate relatives and long paella lunches; language has never been an issue. By the age of seven, I was speaking English, Spanish and Greek, and becoming rather adept at naming all the Gods on Olympus. By the time I left school at 18 I knew I wanted to study Classics, and happily immersed myself in four years of study of Ancient Greek and Latin language and culture at Durham University.
Nowadays conversations in my house are a mixture of English and Hebrew, my husband being the latest language influence to have entered my life. Our Mallorcan bred puppy benefits from being spoken to in four different languages. My newest challenge has been to improve my Catalan skills. With all the other languages flying around my family home, Catalan, or should I say Mallorquin, was not given much of a look in. But as I have gotten older, and have begun to settle on Mallorca, I have felt the desire to be able to communicate to Mallorcans in the local language. Nothing beats the secret looks of complicity when you can speak Mallorquin to a fellow islander. Don´t get me wrong, I think Catalan should be an optional advantage, not an imposed replacement of any other of the languages spoken on the island, but I don’t think it should die out either.
So even though I have tried to ignore it in the past, languages and communication are very much a part of my life. It now seems only natural that I have taken up translation. I first thought of trying my hand at translating professionally while I was living in India, land of over 400 different languages, and I was searching for an independent way to make a living. I took a Diploma in Translation with the Chartered Institute of Linguists and was instantly fascinated by all the theory and skill involved. Translation requires you to stand back and observe a language in a way regular readers never have to do. The trick is to be able to reproduce the text in question into your target language so it reads as if it could have originally been written so, and not like an awkward translation. I really love this aspect of translation and combine it with my writing skills, I really believe you have to be able to write well in the two languages you are translating from and into in order to be able to translate to a high standard.
I am now running my own business here in Mallorca, I like to call it a Communications business, as its main aim is to assist people to communicate – I translate written texts from English to Spanish and vice versa, I also write in English and in Spanish and I proofread copy that has already been written. Communication in Mallorca is pretty exciting stuff; tourism has meant that the island is home to several different languages and we have become quite used to seeing everything in two or three, not only Spanish and Catalan, but English and German too. People doing business here know that in order to reach more clients, they need to express themselves in several languages, or at least try to. And that’s where people like me come in.
I am truly grateful to be able to live in such an international place. At our gatherings with friends there can be anything from 6 to 7 different nationalities present. Blame it on the sea and sand, or the regular flight connections; everyone ends up here for different reasons, but for me one of the main attractions is the veritable cornucopia of different people, different backgrounds and yes, different languages. Anglo-Spanish ‘hybrids’ like myself are easy to come by in Mallorca; there are lots of us. The mixtures are endless in fact, and the island gets more cosmopolitan every day. It is a refreshing and exciting melting pot where you can rejoice in each other’s differences.
Being a mixture has not always been so fulfilling however; I have felt foreign in Britain and foreign in Spain. At university my group of friends was made up of the Erasmus students and the international students paying exorbitant fees; I was always the ‘Spanish girl’, and in Spain many of my mannerisms and customs are considered ‘very English’. Luckily for me though, Mallorca is a different place entirely. Mallorca has become a world of its own. My strangeness is pretty normal here; my friends know what marmite is (and where to get it) and respect the sanctity of everlasting Spanish family lunches. Some of us even communicate in ‘Spanglish’. On a regular basis. In Mallorca, I feel at home.