Transparent Language Blog

How I Met Your Mother’s Language Posted by on Nov 13, 2017 in Archived Posts

Once upon a time in the Southwest, I fell under the spell of an Italian and her…Italian.

This comic is based on a true story.

My wife and I were only dating for a few months when I brought her to the USA for the first time to meet my family. I grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico – not exactly the first stop for Italians visiting the United States. And that’s why she loved it. She didn’t want any part of the stereotypical USA that she saw on TV. So my family and I took her out to our cabin in the desert, where we enjoyed cider and burritos and Indian fry bread and played German board games by candlelight. It was a thoroughly un-American experience.

But we wanted some Italian flavor as well. My wife-then-girlfriend didn’t speak very good English back then, and none of us spoke Italian, but we loved the sound. So when she dug out her university textbooks, we had her read from them. And not the interesting stuff, either – she just read the copyright page. We sat there, drinking our cider and watching the fire crackle and listened to the melodic sound of Italian copyright legalese drift into the night. Either I fell in love with her that night, or I fell in love with Italian. Maybe both.

Sadly, I’ve learned how to speak Italian since then. I love speaking it, and I love Italian culture and the people. I only say “sadly” because there’s something magical about not understanding a language. Your imagination takes you on a journey far more beautiful than the content of the actual words could ever do. I don’t regret learning the language. But I do miss the dreamlike enchantment of that night, when Italian seduced me with that particular book’s date of print and rights permissions.

Luckily, there are other beautiful languages of which I do not understand a word: Japanese, Swahili, Quechua, Finnish and Maori are just a few examples of languages I find stunningly beautiful to hear, but don’t follow a single syllable. And maybe it’s best if I keep it that way – to preserve the magic.

What about you? What languages have seduced you?

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About the Author: Malachi Rempen

Malachi Rempen is an American filmmaker, author, photographer, and cartoonist. Born in Switzerland, raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, he fled Los Angeles after film school and expatted it in France, Morocco, Italy, and now Berlin, Germany, where he lives with his Italian wife and German cat. "Itchy Feet" is his weekly cartoon chronicle of travel, language learning, and life as an expat.


  1. Deb:

    I so understand. Portuguese does it for me. Read me anything.

  2. Janet:

    I would seriously listen to someone read an Irish Gaelic phone book any day. =-)

    I just love the sound of the language, even if the only word I recognize is a type of seaweed, and I only know that from a Clannad song…

  3. Yuliya Kapuza:

    What a wonderful text! I enjoyed it greatly. I can relate to feeling enchanted by a language you don’t understand. Another thing that fills me with awe is young children speaking in such a language😆.

  4. Stuart Martin:

    I so LOVED this piece, and your comic. It’s exactly how I feel about Italian, even as I begin (again) to learn it. The desire to communicate well with sammarinese friends outweighs the loss of the magic. Thanks too for the plug for Aotearoa’s first (chronologically) language. Fwiw, when I tried my sammarinese friends on Māori (macron’s important) words, they nailed them 1st go – vowels effectively identical 🙂

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