English has always been a plural. In Australia, the term “player” denotes an individual, usually male, with a heightened proclivity and prowess for romantic engagements with numerous members of the opposite sex (hopefully one at a time, always in quick succession). The term bears with it a mixture of distaste and intrigue: after all, badness carries far more allure than piety. In Canada, however, people speak not of players (except in sporting and video game contexts), but of “wheeling and dealing”. Wheeling (as I learnt from a friend who speaks Canadian) is the process of using one’s charm and wiles to attract members of the opposite (or same – the heteronormative distinctions hold less sway in colder climes) sex; dealing, conversely, is the process of negotiation between two individuals who are sweet on one another but lack the courage to say so. A player in the Antipodean sense, then, is in Canada someone who has “got wheels” – typically also a literal epithet, since cars are a necessary precursor to modern virility and Canada, like Australia, is a very big place. I’m not sure whether “sweet on” will make sense to my friend who speaks Canadian. Her language differs from mine, but its underlying genome is the same.
Find a native speaker. Tolkien had an excuse but nowadays even Rivendell has fibre-to-the-citadel. The beauty of a language is in its irregularities. If not for my friend who speaks Canadian, how would I have ever known I don’t actually have wheels?
Not everything needs translation. My mentor’s latest novel contains sizeable tracts of Russian interpunctuated with a smattering of elven Cyrillic. I don’t understand what those sections say – nor even how to say them in the latter instance – but it doesn’t matter. The beauty of a language is in its incomprehensibilities. The only familiar word is shto which my Russian friend often says not to me but to members of her extended and fibre-to-the-dacha family. Not so long ago we were eating frozen yoghurt when her grandmother used her mobile phone to call and ask her many questions in that blunt yet well-meaning manner of all grandparents except the ones who don’t ask questions any more. I could only hear one side of the conversation, in a language I didn’t know, but that just added allure to its piety. Their language differs from mine, but our underlying genome is the same.