My mind, my thoughts, my words

Replacing native for a second-rate brand of English?

“My private tragedy, which cannot, and indeed should not, be anybody’s concern, is that I had to abandon my natural idiom, my untrammeled, rich, and infinitely docile Russian language for a second-rate brand of English”

These were Vladimir Nabokov’s words in the afterword of Lolita. Nabokov was brought up trilingually (Russian, English, French) and could apparently read and write in English before Russian, nevertheless he wrote his books in Russian until he moved to the US in 1940. He translated the first two novels that he originally wrote in English into Russian himself. He noted for the first one that he felt the English version was imperfect, so after re-writing it in Russian he brought out a new English version, too.

Nabokov’s story doesn’t only show the difficulty of translation but also reflects how I often feel.

questionsWhich language to write in?

I love writing. Be it blog posts, short stories, novels, poems, messages, letters… (the only aspect about writing that I really do not like is that you need to write by hand or sit in front of a computer).

I’ve lived in ‘English-speaking-environments’ for five years now, only occasionally writing and conversing in German, which has had quite an effect on my language abilities. When I sit down to write nowadays, I’m torn between English and German. My diary sometimes reflects that, is mostly written in English though. When it comes to literature however, I kinda have to decide. Do I write in German, my mother tongue, which I have a natural ‘feel’ for even if my vocabulary etc have declined? Or do I write in English, which is a lot more present in my mind, but which will never compare to the English of native speakers?

I would call this a 50-50 question. Probably neither writing in German nor in English would give drastically better or worse results. So I remain without a clear-cut answer, und werde vielleicht einfach beginnen beide Sprachen zu mixen um das Beste was ich aus Beiden habe herauszukriegen!

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This entry was posted on 25/05/2013 by in Cultures, Linguistic Musings, Literature and tagged , , , , , , , , .
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