Monday, 29 September 2014

Language Zapping

Have you ever started a sentence in one language and finished it in another? Or squeezed another language in to make three?

When you work daily with people of different linguistic backgrounds, say, to take an example from my own experience, French, English, Spanish, Gujerati, Russian there are ample opportunities for this sort of language-zapping.

But why should you do this? Perhaps because in a given situation a particular expression in a particular language seems to better describe what is happening or encapsulates a concept better?

Perhaps because you need to show off your extensive linguistic knowledge and this seems to be a good way to do it? I'm guilty of this sometimes.

I'm sure people who have been brought up in truly multilingual circumstances do this all the time. It feels a bit stranger for those of us who have had to acquire new languages through hard work.

Between the Pages

I was given this 1943 bilingual edition (translated by J-F Angelloz) of Rilke's Duino Elegies and Sonnets to Orpheus by a generous bookseller a few years back.

I like these bilingual editions because, certainly with Rilke, the language is often too dense and deep for my limited knowledge of German.

I did not open the book immediately as one is not always in the mood to read Rilke.

Recently though I have been, and found these flowers in two places in the second and fifth Elegies, and in various sonnets.

My next task will be to try to identify the flowers to establish when in the year they were picked. Dating them would be more problematic but not impossible, though costly no doubt.

Then I can let my imagination run wild and tell the story of how they came to be there.