In this Language Loves Me series, I will be featuring language learners from all over the globe. They will expound on their tempestuous (or tepid) linguistic love affairs. This week let’s dive into the delicious details of…..
Mizton’s love affair with Nahuatlahtolli
The Important Things
Who are you? My name is Mizton Pixan. I am a translator (and sometimes illustrator) from Mexico City, I’m 29 years old, and I’m currently working for Panini Comics and Edgar Rice Burroughs, translating Japanese and American comics into Spanish. My personal website is www.miztonpixan.com.
When did your love affair with Nahuatl begin? About nine years ago, in 2007, when I was finishing college.
What do you love about learning Nahuatl? I love that it doesn’t have anything to do with any other language I have studied before, and to think that this is the most important (in number of speakers) national language in Mexico after Spanish.
Is it a monogamous relationship, or are there other languages in your life? Well, Spanish is my native tongue, so Nahuatl couldn’t be the only one 😛 but I’m a language geek, so my harem also includes English, German, Japanese, French, Russian, Italian, Esperanto and Greek.
Where did you study, and why? I started by myself, online. Then I met a native speaker in the city where I used to live (Cuernavaca) and we made a deal: I taught her English and she taught me Nahuatl. After a while, she had to leave to another state and I started stuying in a small school close to my house, then I moved to Mexico City and here, I studied in several schools, being the last one, Tepeticpac Tlahtolcalli, the best one, where it was all conversation for my class. I decided to study Nahuatl mainly because it is a very important language in Mexico, it was spoken by the Aztec Empire, and it’s slowly dying, and I want to help to keep it alive. Also, a couple of years after I started studying it, my grandma revealed to me that her mom, my great grandma, was actually a Nahua, and she spoke the language. I have no idea why nobody had told me that before, but I was so excited, I really wanted to learn more now.
How did you study? I just go for the whole immersion method. I usually do prefer to have a teacher, somebody who guides me. But I also try to listen to music in that language, read articles online, maybe play videogames in the language (if available), I look for friends or penpals that are native speakers or that are studying the language as well, I try to write in that language, even if it’s just in my Facebook posts :P, etc. And I do study vocabulary lists, just like some experts advice you not to 🙂 It works for me.
What cultural medium helps you most, and how? With Nahuatl, it would be music and online texts, because it’s not that easy to find books in Nahuatl and there are not many films in Nahuatl. But online, you do find many articles in this language… in Huiquipedia, for example, the Wikipedia in Nahuatl. I sometimes put subtitles in Nahuatl in some small videos, like movie trailers, and I have some other projects like those, to try to promote the language.
What are some fun facts about Nahuatl?
Grammar: It’s a very agglutinative language, so you can say for example “nizquixochicuaznequia”, one long word, and that meas “I wanted to eat popcorn”.
Vocabulary: I like how the new words of the modern world are formed, like “tepoztototl”, which is a “metallic bird”, which means “airplane”. Just as “tepozcoatl”, the “metallic snake”, which means “train” or “metro”.
Spelling: There’s a big debate going on right now about the correct spelling. There’s no official way, but there are… two or three accepted alphabets, with their respective spelling rules. Unfortunately, this doesn’t help to standardize the language.
Pronunciation: Most people who are not native speakers, at least in Mexico, mispronounce the TL ending. They think it’s voiced, “TLLL”… and it should be unvoiced, it’s more like a click.
When do you consider a person fluent in a foreign language? I think when they’re able to think in that language and express an idea in more than just one way, and… One will never know all the words, but if you’re able to explain what you mean using other words and you feel comfortable in the language, I guess you’re pretty much fluent then.
What is your favorite word, phrase, idiom? Oh, that’s a hard one…. In Nahuatl? I like “xocolatl” 😛 That’s the origins of a word many people around the world love.
Can you tell an amusing story about a miscommunication or mistranslation you experienced? Hm….. there’s always mistakes, but with Nahuatl, I have no miscommunication story that’s particularly amusing, sorry 😛
In your experience, how do travel and language learning interact? Well, if you travel to a place where people speak the language you’re studying, you usually get to practice it, don’t you? Even if you’re too shy to talk to people, you listen to some words and conversations here and there, and you read signs in that language, and it’s just fun and it also gives you more motivation to go on with it. I have only traveled to a Nahuatl speaking town once, last year. It was amazing.
Thank you Mizton! We appreciate the glimpse into your Nahuatl Romance!
Are you learning a language and would like to share your story with the rest of us? Don’t be shy, we all need encouragement and inspiration!
If you have a linguistic love story to share, please email me at: aplacelikemeinagirllikethis(at)gmail(dot)com