Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Mastering the fact of not being a native speaker of whatever language

"We are sorry, but your application cannot be accepted because you are not a native English speaker"... This is the sad answer that a good friend of mine, native from Panama, raised and educated both in Spanish and English, gets to hear from some European Commission employee to her application for an internship... How do they expect to evolve with such a narrow minded view on today's world, especially in a place like Europe where people, cultures and therefore languages are continuously intermingling? Even if not from birth (still, at least two languages are spoken in many families), languages can be learned and mastered through education and practice. I cannot believe that one can only write in one's own native language (I wonder how Nabokov would have answered to such a stupid assessment). I was myself raised in Turkish, educated in French then in English and Spanish, using Dutch in everyday life and at work. I do not master all of these languages in the same way of course, but I couldn't accept anyone limiting my capacities in writing, thinking, understanding or communicating in any way, to my native tongue, which isn't actually one but two. Nothing rare here, nothing impossible and certainly nothing extraordinary. When Elif Shafak, a writer who was born in France, lived in Spain, studied in Turkey and the United States, writes novels in Turkish and in English, I can just applaud her. It is a richness and not a mistake to be able to write in as many languages as one masters. The key word, as you may have understood, is not "being native" but rather "mastering", and the same goes for everything, far beyond languages.

1 comment:

Nedra said...

Interesting to know.