Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Writing and the Language Barrier

At the moment I am supposed to be reading "Legal Rights to Land in the Early Chancery," by Edith Henderson for my English Paleography class, but focusing has become futile. Just like every other school day I finished my classes and then headed to my usual spot in the lobby of my Dad's building. Today, however, has been different than most days.

My Dad just happens to be the head of international travel here at the university, and so, the building who's lobby I so often utilize is also the Center for International Study. As one of the resources for students and other people who may wish to come, this building houses many speakers from all over the world. I have attended one myself - an ambassador from France - and quite enjoyed the experience. That was back when I was still a beginner with French, and I was so proud when I could raise my hand when the ambassador asked who in the room could speak French. I'm happy to say that had he decided to speak in his native language, I would have done very well if he were speaking today!

Funny enough, the speaker today was also a French-speaker. BUT, he wasn't French. He was Mongolian. From what I can tell from the poster over there he was talking about "The 25th Anniversary of Mongolia-U.S. relations." I caught a few little bits of what he was saying, but I wasn't paying that much attention. My attention was hopelessly grasped, however, when the speaker finished, and from the room came not the group of students I was expecting, but a few students and a lot of other Mongolian people! Suddenly the lobby was filled with them and they had literally surrounded one other girl and I who had chosen the best chairs in the room. That was probably over a half an hour ago, and they are still here! I love foreign people, and I am thoroughly enjoying listening to them speak their language. They are, however, making it impossible for me to read any of my homework!

So, let's take this international theme and add in some writing bits, just to make things even more fun! Like I said, I love international things, especially French things. I have greatly enjoyed using my reading and writing skills to understand and create things not only in English, but also in French. I feel like I have access to a whole other world that the rest of my family members and friends do not. Of course, many of them have access to even more worlds that are unlocked by other languages. It think that it is a beautiful thing to be a part of both of these worlds, and I try to incorporate things from French culture and language into what I write.

What about you? What do you think about when an author has quotes in another language in their book? Does it annoy you because you can't understand? Does it give you a fiery desire to learn the language solely so you could understand? If any of you have read the Hourglass Door Trilogy by Lisa Mangum, you may have experienced this feeling just as I did!

If you are bilingual, what language to you usually write in? Do you only write in your native language? If you write in more than one, why? For enjoyment? To expand your audience? To hide things from your siblings? I would love to hear about it!


  1. I quite like it - but only when used sparingly. Foreign phrases thrown in for a cultural feel? No, that can be annoying. But a foreign character swearing in their own tongue? Fantastic. Character who are speaking in a foreign tongue so they can seem cultured to each other (Like the Russians all speaking French in War and Peace)? Brilliant. I guess for me it all depends how it fits into the story, and whether it come across naturally.