Family & Friends · Personal Essays

Old and new ways to say I love you

Soon after arriving in Montréal, I signed up for French classes, deciding that learning the language would be a good way to start feeling more at home in my new city. For the past seven weeks, a dozen of us—each from a different country, each with a different story—have laughed and talked and studied together, under the tutelage of our occasionally crazy but very gifted teacher, Nicolas. Thanks to them, I just know I won’t be able to hear or say the words catastrophe and beaucoup-beaucoup-beaucoup without thinking of our evenings together in our cramped little classroom.

I remember one of our first few lessons on personal pronouns and verbs ending in -er.

« Je… », Nicolas began.

« …t’aime »,  one of my male classmates finished for him.

« Excusez-moi ? » said Nicolas.

My classmate shrugged. “It’s the only French verb I know.”

Learning a new language, I’ve found, not only enriches you in all the obvious ways—it also helps you appreciate the ones you already know.  I got a CD from my aunt in the mail yesterday: The Company’s latest album, Lighthearted OPM.  Most of the songs are in Tagalog. Even if English is my first love, and French the language of love, there are some sentiments that just cannot be expressed adequately in either. But in Tagalog, the language of my childhood, they strike chords that resonate far back and deep down to the very heart of who I am.

Could anyone hope to hear a deathless declaration of devotion more powerful than this?

Hanggang sa dulo ng walang hanggan
hanggang matapos ang kailan pa man
ikaw ang siyang mamahalin
at lagi nang sasambahin
manalig kang ’di ka na luluha giliw

In every day life, though, love is a lot more than sweet words. I heard about this book at a friend’s despedida de soltera, and although I haven’t read it, I did go on the website to take the test to find out what my love language is. The outcome surprised me, but after some reflection I realized that it was true. My mom and sister took it too, and we shared our results with each other. For us, it was a good opportunity to know ourselves and each other a bit better. If working on your relationships is one of your resolutions for 2013, this test would be a great place to start.

Have a joyful Advent!

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