Student spotlight: What is your favorite word from your native language?

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In February at Townsend Harris HS, the halls are always full of students preparing to celebrate the variety of cultures and backgrounds that populate THHS. These preparations will culminate in the annual Festival of Nations, and to help get ready for FON, The Classic asked students what their favorite word is from their native language.

Many Harrisites selected words of greeting. Senior Jada Burton said her favorite word is “wah gwaan” from an English-based creole language called Jamaican Patois. She explained that this is an informal “what’s up” in her language. “I personally enjoy greeting others this way because it often… makes them smile,” she said. 

Freshman Lynn Eo said her favorite word is “안녕 (annyeong)” in Korean. On why she picked this word, she said, “I chose this word because it’s a simple [introduction] and it’s the first one that popped up in my head.” 

Senior Kayla Greenfeld said her favorite word is “Shalom [שָׁלוֹם].” Being Jewish, the word resonates strongly with her. “Although this word is universally known as ‘hello’ in Hebrew, it also means so much more… [it] means peace,” she said. “I think it’s really beautiful that we greet each other by saying ‘peace.’”

Alternatively, many students selected words due to their frequency in conversations. 

Sophomore Christelle Diab said her favorite word is “habibi/habibti [عزيزي],” the masculine and feminine versions of the Lebanese word “darling.” She said “it is common to hear in conversations with friends, family, and relationships as it means ‘my dear’ or ‘my love.’” 

Junior David Ghobryal said his favorite word is “Yalla [يللا],” a lighthearted or intimidating “let’s go” in Arabic depending on how it’s interpreted. When asked to explain his choice, he said, “It sounds fun and it’s a very commonly used word.” 

Junior Amanda Nakhul said her favorite word is “Padna,” a word meaning “partner” in her culture’s dialect of the English language. Because she comes from a polyethnic background of South American, South Asian, and Caribbean heritages, she chose the word because “I heard it [all my life] and it’s close to English.” 

Many favorite words of Harrisites also took their origins from past experiences or impactful memories.  

Junior Alex Hattel said his favorite word is “Mulțumesc,” which is the Romanian word for “thank you.” He said, “It’s [important because it’s] the first word I learned to say in Romanian.” This word marked the beginning of how he learned to communicate with his family.

Freshman Adrita Dey said her favorite word is “aloo [আলু],” translating to “potatoes” in Bangla. “I chose the word above because I have a friend group of Bengali people where our group name was the ‘aloos,’” she said. “And we’re still together so it remains my favorite word.” 

Senior Nuranjalie Outar said her favorite word is “Raani,” a Guyanese Creole word standing for “queen.” When asked to explain her choice, she said, “My grandfather who was born and raised in Guyana used to call me [that word]… so I was treated like a little queen growing up.”

Some students chose words because of their humorous pronunciations or connotations in their respective languages. 

Sophomore Rachel Tan said her favorite word is “黐線 (chi sin),” a Cantonese word meaning crazy or insane. She decided on this word “because my family often uses it to express incredulity regardless of the severity of situations, always bringing humor into situations that may seem hard to find light in.” 

And in a majority of answers, the words chosen were connected to family or friends and had a common theme of love. 

Sophomore Emily Kapica said that her favorite word is “słoneczko,” which in literal translation means “sunshine” in Polish. “My parents call me this as a nickname and I think it’s really cute,” she said. “Most of the words that come to mind… are words that my parents or important people in my life call me.” 

Senior Julie Li said her favorite word is “剑 [jian],” a Chinese word translating to sword. She said the word holds a close place in her heart because “it’s my brother’s name… he’s a few years older than me but we’re very close.” 

Freshman Ava Pusing said her favorite words were either “bunso” or “mahal,” translating to “youngest” and “dear” in Tagalog respectively, words that her family called her. She said that these words were the most important to her because “being one of the only parts of the family that lives overseas, hearing these words bring back memories of home.” 

Sophomore Antonia Lestariadi said her favorite word is “anju,” a word meaning “always love you.” She expressed that this Indonesian word had significant sentiment in her life. “[My mom] named me after her favorite song and ever since I was young she’d sing it to me,” she said. “So my full name is Antonia Anju Lestariadi.” 

Freshman Valerie Villalba said her favorite word is “amor,” meaning “love” in Spanish. “I chose it because… I think the word ‘love’ really is nice and you can express it in various ways,” she said.