Once upon a time, in a picturesque city called Sydney, Australia, Chioma went out with her boyfriend to lunch. They had been long-distance dating for about a year – she lived in the US and he lived in Sydney. He was Nigerian, just like her, although from a different part of the country. He was also working on his postgraduate studies at the time.
They got to the restaurant and she assumed he would open the door for her, which is what she had seen men do in these parts of the world. To her surprise, he opened the door and walked right in, not waiting for her to go through. Although she tried not to make a fuss, she was still dismayed. Growing up in Nigeria, she’d never really experienced men opening doors for women. Sure, she had read about chivalry in novels and watched it in movies but she’d never actually seen such courteousness until she came to the United States where the culture was different entirely. It was a dismal lunch date for her after that. She sat down in a limbo as he jabbered away about his dreams, that someday they could get married and she could have five children for him. His chattering spoke of dreams that pertained to him. Only him. Midway through their lunch, she asked him if he believed in romance, like courting a girl and bringing her flowers, writing her poems and saying he loved her. He snorted with disdain, describing romance as a notion for idiots.
“‘I love you’ doesn’t even have a translation in my language,” he’d replied.
That was all the sign she’d needed from the heavens to know that she could have no life with this man, ever. It was time to move away quickly, run as fast as her legs could carry her… away from a man whose native tongue had no translation for “I love you.”
Years later, she got married to another guy, but she has always wondered about that fateful lunch. How can one not have the ability to express love in their mother tongue? Surely when God confused Man’s lingo at the tower of Babel, these three important words were made universally available in every language. So how come her ex-boyfriend’s mother tongue didn’t have a “I love you” version? Did God forget? Or better yet, in a world where we believe theories of evolution, maybe the “I love you” version evolved to something more complicated so that the expression became redundant?
I doubt if Chioma or I will ever know the answer to that question, but one thing I am certain of is this: If “I love you” has no translation in your mother tongue, it’s time to say farewell to that language and learn another.