For the love of language part 2

« Ce que l'on conçoit bien s'énonce clairement,
Et les mots pour le dire arrivent aisément.
Hâtez-vous lentement, et sans perdre courage,
Vingt fois sur le métier remettez votre ouvrage,
Polissez-le sans cesse, et le repolissez,
Ajoutez quelquefois, et souvent effacez. » 
(Boileau, Art poétique)

I started to realise how home and identity are intrinsically linked to language while questioning and investigating those two notions. This is of course by no means exclusive – it can happen to feel at home in a country without speaking the language, especially if it is a country where English is wildly spoken.

To quote Heidegger: “Language is the House of Being. In its home, human beings dwell.” It is the way we construct and articulate the world around us.

I like to think that we have a world within us, and that is understood and articulated also through its own language. I have lived in an English speaking environment in London or USA for 15 years and I do now think in English. I came back to home land for longer periods of time over the past 2 years, and it took me a little adaptation. I still find myself often looking for my words in french because I know now that what would take me a few words to describe in French, would only require a specific word in English.

There is a wonderful book about those peculiar word that some language have to describe something that takes a sentence rather in English like for example:
Hiareth : homesickness for somewhere you cannot return to, Welsh
Pisan zapra: time needed to eat a banana, Malay
Mångata: road like reflection of the moon on the water ( I like this one a lot!) Swedish
Boketto: staring vacantly into the distance without really thinking about anything
Tiam: twinkle in your eye when you first meet someone, Farsi
Iktsuarpok: the act of repeatedly going outside to keep checking if someone s coming
Tsundoku: leaving a book unread after buying it, typically piled up together with other unread books ( I am very of so guilty of that one!), Japanese
Waldeinsamkheit : the feeling of being alone in the woods,an easy solitude and connectedness to nature. German

The moon is the dream of the sun

I often feel frustrated with “my french”, I am not at home in it anymore, although it is my first language or mother tongue along with Darija (which arabic moroccan dialect and a very elastic one as it has various languages mixed in it ) Ironically my mother’s language is one I do not speak  – German .

There are a few stereotypical sayings that are just that – stereotypes that over simplify complex questions:” home is where the heart is “ or this idea that one can feel at home anywhere if healthy and happy within their “temple” and heart. I do have great reservation on this but that’s another debate about the effect of wanderlust,  constant movement, rooting unrooting, the time is takes to root and develop connections and a home,  living through a suitcase without a regular familiar set base to come back to and start from.

Through language we label and give a name to people and objects. “Tagging” or “labelling” through language modifies the perceptual processes such that it changes what we pay attention to. ” By first naming objects, language brings beings to word and to appearance.” Heidegger writes. When we put a word to something as opposed to something else it makes it. Or maybe we cannot imagine a world without that system in place. Labelling is also a way of differentiating and separating.”But if the human being is to find his way once again into the nearness of Being he must first learn to exist in the nameless.” There maybe home will be everywhere and anywhere for there will be no difference, no category, no to and from.

06 home is where i keep books

Language is a space, a portable one.  We can take it everywhere with us. Anyone who has left home land a long while ago where the language is totally different from where they live and had that warm fuzzy feeling when they hear it or speak it again with some?  It is a place and a space writers ad poets wander in and lead us by the hand.

In an interview by the Historian Philip Blom on ” Identity and language as a portable home”organised by the Burgtheatre/Casino titled “what do we do?”    Aris Fioretos speaks of the portability of language: “It offers something similar to Heimat, as Heinrich Heine already expressed.{…} in language there are things and places we don’t know anything about. Next to that it can offer us magnificent vistas or intimate little nooks, there are secret spots and unpleasant caves. In language I always, but not only find myself, yet I can also often feel a stranger”  He goes on that kids growing with different languages and from mixed cultural background learn very quickly that each object subjet or event can be articulated a different way and told trough different angles. It is a double view but it can also be a broken one. He wonders while born multicultural brings a much differentiated view compared to “the mono cultural cyclopes” but is it at the expense of clarity?  Later he makes a powerful statement about culture and identity : “I understood that i didnt need to choose. For me identity lays in the experience of differences”

Has anyone who speaks various languages experience a change in demeanour and attitude, humour when they shift from one language to another? I certainly am different, my gestures and my humour are very different if I speak English, french , the mixture of Anglo-French ( to the irritation of most my french friends, or admiration of my english speaking ones ), Anglo-French-Darija all in one sentence with cross language neologism ( that’s how we roll in Morocco and if we can add some spanish or else we do!) – or arabic.SM2015_tamoko_DSC02075 copy

When in New Zealand working over New Year for a research on traditional mocks, those lines written on the skin, etchings on the body I met Patricia. She told me that once she had all her Mokos done, she felt settled within, and that was so anywhere she went. She had her Grandmother Moko Kauae, Her grandfather on her chest , her father on the right and her mother on her left shoulder. I found it such a powerful statement, in words, in action, and in visu. A portable home of abstract and meaningful  Mokos on the canvas of her body. There is something also very similar to Morocco within the Maori community – is the inclusion of Maori words in an english sentence. It is natural, and I loved it. Aaah for once I didn’t feel an alien mixing casually different languages in one sentence outside Morocco! For the anecdote, I was nicknamed Malika Vandame in the skydive centre for my propensity to mix French and English within the same sentence.


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