Since language is the true food of love, and also because today is Valentine’s day, we decided to tee you up for all current and future romantic endeavours with a comprehensive guide to saying “I love you” in a hundred different languages.
It’s difficult to understate the importance of this life-skill, so get to it! Never again will you be stranded in the arms of a Lithuanian paramour and lost for words!
To get the videos together, we spent the weekend roaming the streets of London accosting anyone with a bi-lingual look and inviting them to record an “I love you” in their native language. It was terrifically good fun- about which, more below.
Do please share with your friends!
Many thanks to Henrietta Williams for camera-work, Kev Campbell, who strummed the soundtrack, and to Hugo, Silvio and John for their good humour and fun around the markets of London.
To finish up, I thought it might be worth sharing a few reflections on London, love and faces.
The first is that London is a really spectacularly cosmopolitan city. On one crossing of (an admittedly touristic) pedestrian bridge, we were able to harvest I love you’s in, no joke, Serbian, Malay, Portuguese, Spanish, Afrikaans, Cantonese, Korean, Catalan, Russian, Armenian, English (!) and Greek. Pretty cool. We only wish we could have allow ourselves to cross the same bridge twice, but that’s against our belief in constant forward motion.
The sheer intensity of cosmopolitan-ness around London was something of a revelation to us. Although we’re of course aware that people here come from all over the place, we’d no idea just how much this was the case till we began asking them individually. Way more than half of the people we approached seemed to hail from overseas- if not personally, then at least through their families. Just think of all those stories!
Another thing which struck us was how quickly spotting foreign origin can become a perceptual habit (in a good way). If you spend two days, as we did this weekend, roaming the streets in a state of hyper-attention to any signs of being-from-abroad (thick accent, I love London T-shirt, Scando-vibe, public displays of affection, ruly children, physical health, colourful capes, amusing beards etc) the world seems to respond in kind, and these stimuli become amplified in one’s visual experience to the extent that the world just looks richer. Where Nietzsche said “if all you have is a hammer, everything becomes a nail” so Memrise says, “if all you have is a Canon and a Valentine’s day deadline, everyone becomes a nuanced speaker of foreign tongues.”
“We discovered this Russo-Armenian pairing on the Millennium bridge”
And how very loveable faces are if you pay attention to them like this! Makes you realize how little one looks at other people in going about one’s business. I’m left, two days later, with a much better emotional reaction to a normal face than I typically enjoy.
Perhaps the most heart-warming aspect of the whole experience this weekend was how keen people were to share their language, and how energized they were by the act of saying “I love you” (this was unrelated, I think, to my attractive manner). A typical conversation would go like this:
“Hello, do you mind if I ask whether you speak any foreign languages?”
“Yes, I do. I speak only English. Excuse me, I’m busy.”
“Well, the reason I ask is we’re collecting “I love you’s” in as many languages as we can for our language learning website, so people around the world will no longer be inhibited by linguistic barriers in their search for the discovery, and expression, of true love”.
“But you should have said. With pleasure will I teach you how to say “I love you” in Pashtun!”
Anyhow, enough wittering. Time, reader, you went off and expanded your romantic horizons through the sheer power of your brain.