Wednesday, April 21, 2010

As Red As a.........

Language learning is an ongoing game. I have mentioned before some of the common mistakes I make in pronouncing Uyghur. Things like; "verb" and "elephant" are only one vowel apart, as are "think" and "house", and "love" and "slaughter". So our teacher likes to laugh when we tell her we "conjugate elephants", have a guest "staying in our thoughts", and that God "slaughters us".

Now a days the challenge is to get deeper into the language. I want to learn how to use idioms and express myself using metaphors and similes that resonate with the culture. To learn how to describe things in a natural Uyghur way.

Today we found out that when Uyghur people get angry, they turn "as red as a lung". When they blush, they turn "as red as a gobbler". It took us two days to remember the English equivalents; sometimes our English atrophies from lack of use. But now I know we beet red when a person is angry. I tried this expression on my teacher, but realized that it fell flat since she had never seen a beet much less eaten one. The comparison was empty to her.

Moreover, Uyghur people don't "get angry"; their "anger comes upon them". They don't "get hungry", they "have an open stomach". Clothing isn't "immodest", it is "open". "Pregnant women" are "two-layered" or "heavy-footed". People who are "generous" are "wide-stomached".

"Putting requirements on a woman" means to propose to her. When your face "turns to the color of a wall", it means you've become pale. To "look to someone's road" means to wait for them.

The Uyghur people give their strongest promise to attend an event by saying "can't not come". (double negatives always threw me for a loop in English). They have the same word for "bitter", "spicy", and "angry". There are two words for jealous--one with a good connotation (like "I'm so jealous of your new car") and one with a bad connotation (I'm jealous of my brother"). They have ten or twenty expression for happiness depending on situation, mood, and accompanying actions.

The heart also plays a key role in the unified language. To have "half a heart" means that you're sad. To "lift someone's heart" means to comfort them. To "put someone's heart on the ground" means to disappoint them.

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