Three Words, Three Languages

One great thing about living abroad is picking up languages; or as quite often is the case, bits and pieces of languages.  Occasionally, these bits and pieces make their way into our everyday English conversations and become part of our family’s everyday lingo.  Here are three of the SixAbroad family’s favorite words:


Capace: (pronounced cu-paw-chay)  Italian for “capable”.  Jason and I both lived in Italy, independent of each other, in our early 20’s as Mormon missionaries.  Our kids have heard the word capace since they were babies.  We have tried to limit their understanding of Italian however, because we like having a secret language that we can speak in front of them, knowing that they can’t understand us.  This trick also works well when buying cars or if we are ever kidnapped together and need a secret language we can speak in front of our kidnappers.  Luckily, we haven’t had to use our secret language in the latter circumstance.  But we have it … just in case … because you never know … unless they are Italian kidnappers … probably associated with the mafia.  I digress.  Here is a typical SixAbroad Family usage of the word capace: 

SixAbroad mom :  These dishes better be washed before Dad and I get back from the movies.

SixAbroad kid: But mom!  I can’t wash these dishes because I’m not capace.

SixAbroad mom:  Oh really?  And what makes you think you’re not capace.

SixAbroad kid: I have a hangnail.

SixAbroad mom:  Oh you’re capace.  But good try.  ‘A’ for effort, ‘F’ for results.

Next word, which is really two words:

taiwanBu hao: (pronounced boo how) Chinese for “not good” 不好.  Taiwan was our first Foreign Service post.  And in case you didn’t know, the Taiwanese speak Mandarin Chinese and not Thai.  We get asked that one a lot.  Here is a typical SixAbroad Family usage of the words bu hao:

SixAbroad kid:  Dad’s Chinese is bu hao,  but Mom’s Chinese is even more bu hao.

SixAbroad mom:  Oh really,  well … tonight your dinner is going to be bu hao!

Last word.

jordanHaram: (pronounced haw rawm; accent on the second syllable, very lightly roll the r) Arabic for “forbidden”  حرم.  Arabic is the national language of our current home of Jordan.  English speakers are familiar with this word, but we generally think of it as a tent full of veiled, yet scantily clad women.  Well those women, to anyone but the lord of the haram or harem, are forbidden.  Here is a typical SixAbroad family usage of the word haram.

SixAbroad kid: Look at all this chocolate I just found in Mom’s underwear drawer!

SixAbroad mom:  That chocolate is haram!!!!!

So in closing, if you ever find yourself around the SixAbroad Family and you aren’t capace of understanding all the words we throw around, with our bu hao accents, it is not haram to ask us to please speak like normal Americans.

2 thoughts on “Three Words, Three Languages

  1. I so respect and identify with this! We hadn’t even noticed how much Kiswahili we used as a family until we were back in the States for a visit years ago. We found ourselves having to explain the English words for things to the kids– trashcan, bug, medicine, toilet, etc. I think it is one of the things I find most endearing about raising a family overseas.

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