On a walk around my neighborhood today I recorded Queens residents saying the equivalent of “I live here” in Korean and Croatian.
Korean, “전 여기 살아요”: (this is the formal way to write it. The informal way is: 난 여기 살아)
And Croatian, “Ja živim ovdje”:
Not as simple as it seems:
Down the road from where I live is Kelly’s Bar, an Irish pub. I passed by on the same walk when I recorded “I live here” in Croatian and Korean. Someone had left a comment on this website with the words for “I live here” in Irish Gaellic: “Tá me i mo chonaí anseo”. I wanted to see if I could find a Queens resident who would do a short video saying the words. The owner pointed me to a man seated at the bar. Yes that is the literal translation for “I live here”, the man said. But with a pause for reflection he said that “Tá me abhaile” – or “I am home” – would sound more natural to him. He graciously declined to do a video. In many of the 160+ languages spoken in Queens there will be more than one way to convey “I live here”. And there won’t necessarily be a “right” way.
Just a few weeks in, the process of this project is already full of surprises. Gathering the words for “I live here” in all the languages spoken in the borough sounds relatively straightforward. But of course who is to know which language will be next and who will provide it? It is reminding me of when in 2011 I conducted one interview a week with people who live or work along Astoria’s 30th Avenue. You can apply a structure or rules to something, but within the structure there is plenty of scope for unpredictability and surprise.