Thursday, 29 October 2009

Kabayan Buntis or Pregnant Horse


I was surrounded by four different languages while I was growing up - English, Tagalog, Punjabi and Urdu. When I went to secondary school French was added to that as we had to learn it whilst at school. and then in second year (now called Year 8) we were allowed to choose a second foreign language. I remember the choices being German, Spanish, Italian or Urdu. We were meant to put our first two choices down in order of preference. My first choice, according to my parents, had to be Urdu and that's what got put on the form. I didn't want to learn Urdu. I wanted to learn Spanish. And so, with help enlisted from a friend, she changed the choices so that the first choice was Spanish and the second Urdu. I just told my parents all the places for Urdu had been taken up. I did this for two reasons. The first was because I really did want to learn Spanish and the second was because, at the time, I thought learning Urdu was uncool. How I loved those Spanish classes. In fact, for me, second year at school was much better than the first. I had three lessons I was passionate about: Spanish, Textiles and Steel Band.

Half way through second year, we left for Pakistan. It was such a culture shock for me that as part of my "rebellion" against my parents, I refused to learn Urdu properly (which to this day I cannot speak properly). Anyhow, I digress.

The reason I love languages so much is that each one has it's own beauty, rhythm and idiosyncratic phrases or words. Take the title of my post for example. Literally translated from Tagalog, kabayan buntis means pregnant horse. Ammi says it whenever she drops something or does something she wasn't meant to. It's her way of saying "Oops". I always find it hilarious when I hear her say it because it just doesn't make any sense.

A Spanish friend of mine once saw a very cute guy and said "Es como un queso." Again, literally translated that means he's like cheese. For me, that made complete sense. If you love cheese as much as Spaniards (and myself) do then you'll understand. Another phrase I absolutely adore is "meeti churri" which is Punjabi for sweet knife. It's a way of describing someone who is nice to you and then stabs you in the back. "Awaragardi" I recently learnt is the Urdu word for going about town and enjoying yourself. The list goes on.

The only trouble is with languages is this: so much gets lost in translation.


  1. Interesting read. I am currently learning spanish too.

  2. And how is it coming along? Sorry it took ages to reply haven't had time to visit my own blog.