This is a guest post from Patience for the May 2018 Carnival of Aces on Nuance & Complexity. She has written about the experience of having to rely on English to talk about asexuality, because her native language lacks words for it. I am glad to have her perspective represented for this Carnival, because the dominance of English on the internet is a real problem for non-anglophone ace communities.
I guess this post is more some loose thoughts than an actual post with a conclusion, but it was inspired by the prompt about being multilingual. English is not my native language – though I like to think that my skills are pretty decent. Therefore it is not a problem for me to read blogs in English or write this post myself. However, English is more or less the language of the internet and while it’s great to have a way to communicate with people all across the globe it also means that I don’t really have a language to describe my asexual identity in my native language. Most of what I read about asexuality is in English, my small interactions with the asexual community are in English, new labels are naturally coined in English. I am member of a Facebook group of aces from my home country, but there is just not a lot of discussion going on there. I also do know another ace in real life, but for whatever reason we don’t really talk that much about being ace.
All this adds up to my brain more or less switching to English when I think about asexuality, because I don’t have the vocabulary in my native language. Most labels and terms are made up of already existing words and it would absolutely be possible to translate them and some people do, but somehow it sounds awkward to me. Part of it is probably that asexuality itself is new to me and I also think it’s a new thing in my home country so there is no established terminology that I know of. There’s also the fact that I first met asexuality on the internet with an English terminology and got familiar with that. Usually it has been the other way around, where I learn of a concept in my native language and then later realise “oh, there’s also an English term for this.”
Then there’s also a thing about connotations. In English I would be able to say that I’m possibly pan- or demiromantic, and even though romantic exists in my native language I probably wouldn’t use it to describe romantic orientation. Romantic in my native language gives my associations of candle-lit dinners, gazing deep in to that special someone’s eyes, elaborate plans to impress or woo someone – I guess you know what I mean. I have seen people describe themselves as [insert prefix]-romantic in my native language in acespaces and I understand what they mean; I just don’t feel like it’s something I can do yet. It would surprise me a bit if romantic in English haven’t felt weird for some people to describe romantic orientation in the beginning and then later expanded to include this sense. However, when I first encountered it, it was part of a natural context and thus seemed unremarkable. Therefore it works fine for me in an English context, but it will take some time for me to able to use it in my native language
I could probably discuss the Whorfian-hypothesis and how the language we speak influence the way we think and see the world around us, but mostly I just hope that one a day I can naturally describe my experiences in my native language and have a community in which to do it. I realise that this will take work on my part. Also, I am definitely not saying that the English community is a bad thing; I probably wouldn’t have found out about asexuality without it, but I just hope that one day I can also have some kind of community in my native language.