Valentine’s Day: Love Around the World

uTalk’s regular guest blogger and all-round language guru, Brian Loo Soon Hua, is back with our 500th published post, all about Valentine’s Day! Learn what to call your loved one in different languages—and maybe try some out on the 14th!

It’s that time of year again; Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. If you’re single in the big city and have just caught a glimpse of someone unique, someone with that special something, someone with whom you feel, deep down, you’ll eventually fall in love with—but not quite yet—then you’ve just encountered a sentiment the Japanese call koi no yokan (恋の予感).

Once you do start falling in love, the Italians have pretty snazzy pickup lines: Hai degli occhi bellissimi (you have the most beautiful eyes), Mi indicheresti la direzione? Quale direzione? Quella per il tuo cuore (Can you tell me the way? What way? The way to your heart), and finally, voglio baciarti (I want to kiss you).

Lovers all over the world have interesting ways to address the objects of their affection. Turkish men, for example, call their sweethearts fıstık, which means ‘pistachio,’ of all things! That’s because pistachios are a prized commodity in Turkey, sprinkled in abundance on their wonderful desserts and flavouring everything scrumptious from Turkish delight to ice creams. However, an English girl might be puzzled as to why her Turkish boyfriend is calling her a nut.

Vietnamese women call their boyfriends and husbands anh, meaning ‘older brother,’ while also referring to themselves as em or ‘younger sister,’ even if they’re older than their significant other. This might seem bizarre to English speakers but in Vietnamese, as in many Asian languages, speakers often address each other using family terms, even if they are not related. Calling someone ahn means that the speaker regards her partner as being of utmost importance to her, while at the same time, Vietnamese women—though this is not unique to Vietnam—generally enjoy being complimented about looking younger than they actually are.

While English has honey or pumpkin or sweetheart, French has the adorable mon chou, ‘my cabbage,’ which can be made even more endearing by making it diminutive: ma choupette or ma choupinette for women and mon petit chou (‘my little cabbage’) for men.

Arabic speakers call their loved ones عيونى (ayouni, meaning ‘my eyes’) because eyes are considered precious and beautiful in Arabian culture. Another lovely Arabic expression for praising one’s beloved is كلامك عسل على قلبي (kalamuk easal ealaa qalbi), ‘your words are honey on my heart.’

Finally, the way we say ‘I love you’ varies dramatically across the globe. Irish Gaelic speakers say ‘love is at me on you’ or tá grá agam ort, while Basque speakers say maite zaitut, ‘I have you as my beloved.’ The Tagalog word for love also means precious or expensive, hence mahal kita, ‘you are my beloved/precious.’

Which language would you like to learn this Valentine’s Day—and who will you say I love you to?

Check out some similar posts here:

Valentine’s Day – A Day for Declaring Your Love in Any Way You Can (bonus: learn to say ‘I love you’ in 30 languages!)

My Little… Cabbage? Terms of Endearment From Around the World

Alternative Valentine’s Days

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