Georgian Language and Being a Student
Since I am spending more time hanging out with Georgian people now, and since showing my American guests around this past week, I am finding that my Georgian is coming out of hibernation and I am eager to work hard on learning the language again. The people I have been teaching English to, are now at the point where they are also challenging me with my Georgian, and I feel ashamed at how little I have learnt compared to them, and in the time I have been here. My fifth grade class are my favourite class right now, and I really can’t wait to design some kind of a project for them to work on next semester. They are smart and funny, and I always look forward to break time when I can spend 5 minutes just playing games with them before class starts. This week they set me a challenge, as did my 3rd grade class, and now, when they have to learn new verbs or vocabulary for homework, I also have to do the same, and when they are tested on them in the lesson, I am also going to be tested. Every lesson, they provide me with a list of the new words, in both English and Georgian! They love this, and because they are so competitive, I really have to work hard now. I am so inspired to be around young children, and they really make it easier for me to learn Georgian, because they are at that age where there brains are still designed for language learning and they are open to all new languages. They are natural teachers, and so enthusiastic, that its impossible not to learn Georgian words from them, and their pronounciation is the best by far. They are also really patient, and they delight at my mistakes and difficulties with pronounciation, but are keen for me to learn Georgian in order to communicate with them better, just as they are wanting to learn English so they can ask me more questions. Its extremely rewarding.
The only problem with learning Georgian, is that many innocent words in English have rude meanings in Georgian, and likewise for me with Georgian words. For example, I sometimes find it difficult not to call some of the girls at school ‘bossy britches’, or ‘bossy boots’ when they are bossing other students around. In English, this is an affectionate way of telling a child off for being bossy or telling others what to do all the time. It comes from the word ‘boss’, for example, my boss at the Ministry is the Minister of Education, and my boss decides when I will take my holidays, what I will get paid, and tells me off when I don’t do my job properly. He is boss like or bossy. But in Georgian, I can no longer use this English word, because it means ‘bitch’. This is not the English term bitch (to mean a female dog, or a person who is behaving like a nasty cat), but is more like a whoar, and is really, really offensive to Georgian people.
At the same time, I find it hard to use the Georgian word for boy ‘bitchi’ because it sounds like ‘bitchy’, and I feel that I am being rude when I say it. This week, I learnt some very bad words from my 12th graders, and whilst I was pleased that they were finally interested in communicating in English, I also felt a sense of moral responsibility, and it was a tough call. But, I also had to consider that they know these words and use them in their everyday language, just as people of their age in Britain use the same words when talking with their peers. It’s the first time that they have started to open up with me, and they were really keen to talk about some gangster films they had seen, and were using these words to each other in class. The one that I remembered, was ‘bosi scvili’ which basically means ‘your mother is a bitch’.
I also still find it hard to apologise in Georgian, because it just doesn’t sound genuine when I say the word. The word for sorry is ‘bodishit’ which to me sounds like ‘body’ and ‘shit’. Fortunately, the ‘t’ at the end is silent, and with the right intonation, and after 8 months of saying sorry, I am finally starting to feel comfortable about saying the word now!
I really thought I was starting to get my head around Georgian words and their rude meanings, but this week I came across a new one…..’catsvi’ pronounced like ‘cat’s wee’. It’s the name given to a delicious fruit juice made from yellow berries found in the woods, but its difficult for me to talk about cat’s wee as being a really nice drink! In English, the word ‘wee’ has several meanings. Firstly as the Scottish way of saying ‘small’ as in ‘oh, what a nice wee girl’, secondly as in the French way of saying yes, and thirdly as a way of talking about urine, pee, pee-pee, or piss (incidently, the word for piss is pissy pissy!).
Ironically, when a liquid, such as tea or wine is weak or tastes disgusting, then we say it tastes like ‘cat’s piss’ or ‘gnat’s piss’. Its especially used when someone puts too much milk into a cup of tea, and doesn’t make the tea very strong. A gnat is a mosquito, which is small, and therefore doesn’t produce much urine, so the tea tastes like a gnat has pissed in it (i.e. it tastes of nothing!). So, it is especially strange for me to say that a drink tastes like katsvi! As the implication is that its not nice to drink, which actually, katsvi really is! If you get a chance, then I really recommend you try it, and it is also high in vitamins!
On a similar topic, I also wanted to mention to you something else I learnt about words this week. ‘Anuri’ is the name of a grape, a black grape, and is often used to make a particular Georgian wine. The name comes from the name of the river, near where it grows, and the river is called the River Dana. This grape was called ‘adanari’, which became ‘atenuri’ and later ‘anuri’. So there you have it, another little gem of info!