Thursday, September 25, 2014

The bilingual writer... Part One

 Writing is one of the most demanding skills and writing literary works is an art that only a handful of people ever master - even in their first language. So what do you do if you grew up with two languages and with the years one dominates your thoughts? And further what imagination and writing is a constant yearning in you? May you give in and can you still write in that language that rooted maybe not in the country of your origin or where you leave, but has rooted in your mind? Well in truth - it won't be easy and yet there is hope because, there are some very special bilinguals who write literature in their second or third language, and sometimes even in two languages (see link below).

In my case growing up with both German and English over the years English predominated - it's the language I dream in, I feel most comfortable reading and all the stories and worlds popping up in my head... are in English. Writing in English became natural - it actually feels strange to write in German. Although I have a wonderful exercise I recommend all bilinguals: write a scene in one of the languages and then try the same in the other - matching not simply the meaning of the words, but imagery, symbolism, emotional evocation...

This game is unbelievably difficult and many times I falter. But it forces me to asses my strengths and weaknesses in both languages as well as in the scene itself. I need to look into meaning behind the messages and see if it works in both languages. And then sometimes when I have a scene in both languages developed that it feels like the same story, I pause and think about how now a translater would work with it. Would he catch what I meant? Would she come up with the same word I used in the other language or do I need to find one that is clearer?

It's essential. I have read - well started to read - some dreadful translations especially from English into German. German is way more complex, the translation could become a totally different story that carries quite different feelings. So I am able to play with both languages developing a scene and making sure it's as strong as I can get it, but I have to decide in which to write.
And the language in my head speaks English... (to be continued)

Famous past and present bilingual writers from around the world