I learnt to read and write in English before I learnt my mother tongue, Farsi. As a result, when speaking Farsi, my speech is peppered with imported English words. As a child in Britain, the highlight of my week was watching Dr. Who on Tuesday evenings with my father. One evening, he missed an episode, and I can remember trying to recount it for him the next day in such a garbled mixture of Farsi and English that he told me to relax and just tell him in English without making any efforts at translation.
Actually, with the West so much now in fashion in Iran, and the internet so far-reaching, many of my compatriots also inject English words into their speech as often as possible. Not just words like “computer” and “sandwich”, which can be considered nationalized, their official Farsi equivalents sounding ridiculous and artificial, but also words like “update” and “the point”. These words have perfectly reasonable and valid Farsi equivalents, yet I myself am guilty of using the English word “point”, as in “you haven’t got my point” or “that is not the point” so frequently that I have heard it echoed back at me by my close associates who are not even fluent in English.
And now it is my daughter’s turn, who following my footsteps, is learning English before she is fully literate in her own tongue. And now I realise how doubly patient my parents and my close persons were with my English-Farsi manglings. For listening to my daughter scream `Stop guys!` and `Don`t touch` in a nasally whiny haligonian accent is almost more than I can bear. She has started calling me `Muuuum`, imitating the exact mixture of self-righteousness, protest and focused wanting which you associate with middle-class white western children, and I told her to stop it – it reminds me of under-arm deodorant. She has two options, in my eyes, either she calls me `mummy`, a nice old-fashioned British word which I still use for my own mummy, or `maman`, what Farsi children have been calling their mothers for three generations now, ever since French words became fashionable usage. As for the authentic farsi word for mother `naneh`- god forbid that I should ever hear it- that has not been used even by servants and villagers since my grandmother`s time. Iranians are nothing if not good imitators.