28 May 2010

Language-less (or more)

I am. I am a woman who dreams in an unknown language. Who counts “one-two-three” in one language, and “four-five-six” in another. My thoughts come in fragments of four languages.

My language of love is the poetic song of this ancient land – Arabic. My language of politics is a language I have no connection with – Hebrew. My language of creative writing is yet a third language – language foreign to me and my land – English. And my language of family – well, that’s the simple language of my early childhood – Slovak.

Four languages, one brain. Most of the time there is chaos in my brain – I feel the words of these four languages racing, competing for my tongue. Fighting to escape.

Ideas I write in English I struggle with in Arabic and Hebrew when speaking. The things I write in one language I cannot express in writing in the other one. The words I speak in Arabic cannot be pinned down on paper. The intimate discussions with my family in Slovak cannot be rendered into another language. The heated political discussions with my friends in Hebrew become a struggle when I repeatedly attempt to document them in English. The words of passion in Arabic – well, I can never imagine myself speaking these words in any other language.

Each language leaves an imprint on my identity, as words shape our realities. Each language carries within itself a complete world – of traditions, cultures, symbols, jokes, street-language, and more. Descriptions of feelings and emotions can extremely vary across these languages. The same words – when translated – carry completely different connotations, denotations and meanings. Sometimes they carry history itself within their very letters.

I use all four languages on a daily basis, in different settings and in various contexts. I try to negotiate my identity between and within those four languages and the spaces left by the gaps. It is no easy task. The instant switch between languages feels a burden at times, while at other times I take it up as an intellectual challenge. One thing is sure: life is so much more interesting when experienced in four languages.

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