Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Langwidge Pt. 2

This part's a bit more melancholic and also doesn't come with an apology. In the first part I was talking about literary translations and some of the problems surrounding the process (that I can see, anyway. Maybe you don't have any problems with anything... good for you). What I really wanted to talk about was stuff like the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis (which I'm trying to get clued-up on) and also talk about my language experiences (mainly an excuse to brag about decent GCSE grades :P ). So now that I've ruined all possible suspense, let's get cracking (don't worry, it won't take forever. Besides, there's always that little 'x' you could click in the... oh wait... no I already did that joke in the previous portion...).

Basically what I'm dealing with is a sense of mourning for my ability to speak different languages. I've had two years of Latin, two years of Spanish and five of French (since seven, five and five years respectively). Since then, my proficiency (if I can claim it so highly) has somewhat dwindled. I try and make up for it by using convoluted English words in everyday situations (I can't comment on how well that's going...), but it's not the same. I knew quite a lot about French, like how to speak in many tenses, talk about complex ideas (such as 'frogmen' - hommes grenouilles for those of you who are interested) and, much more importantly, I started to get a bit of confidence in being able to speak it. Where's all that now?

I chose not to do language at A Level. I'm not sure why. I chose subjects (like Physics) because I was interested in them, and wanted to get to know them better. But what I wish I'd have been told to look ahead to what I'd like to do with my life, rather than just what I'd like to do with the next couple of years. Physics, for me, has not only been 'too hard' but also had basically no impact on my life. Now all my French syntactical knowledge has withered, and alls I got is useless lexis (such as the word  for 'frogmen' - oh wait, I gone done that one already).

French was mandatory where I went to school from year one, but at GCSE we had to pick another (German, Spanish, Latin or Greek). I went for Spanish, as it's similar to Latin, but never took it that seriously. It was a lesson I had to go to, a qualification to get, and I didn't put as much effort in as with French. Now all I can think is, 'why did you waste that opportunity'?

At Edge Hill, my BA in English and Creative Writing involved language modules. They were richly varied, with elements of history, sociology and more, but in a sense there was too much variety and over the course of one module there wasn't enough depth in some ways (obviously they weren't designed to help you learn a language, but personally I felt a little directionless with all the slightly disparate elements that we looked at). Anyway, my point is that, again, I have a few nice nuggets of linguistic information, and I'm still interested in languages, but for the purposes of translation it wasn't so helpful (again, I'd like to stress that it was never meant to be helpful in such a way, and it WAS useful for many other things).

Now I'm in this place of desolation. I'd say it's a desert, but deserts can be beautiful. Things have withered and died and there's no turning back. It reminds me very much of Sujata Bhatt's 'Search For My Tongue' apart from the 'mother tongue' is not the 'problem', it's the other tongues (would they be called 'father tongues'? Surely not... sorry, I digress!). The tension that arises from not having a proper frame of reference for the mother tongue is the problem. How can I understand more than the (relatively) narrow sphere of English-speaking cultures without being FLUENT in another language? I've been getting very into American writers (Vonnegut, Bukowski, Kerouac) and yet what use is that for cultural diversification? Sure a lot of them are influenced by Eastern philosophies, but there's that voice at the back of my mind: if they've not communicated the original culture sufficiently then they are practically worthless. I wonder where I got that from?

Never mind, this isn't a blame game. This is a discussion (albeit one-sided :P ). Still not got onto Sapir-Whorf. Maybe next time. Thanks if you've  stuck around haha.

Goodnight. [Part 3]

No comments:

Post a Comment

Just keep it clean (ish)!