20 January 2011

Language(s) & Perspective(s)

Posted by Kathryn under: Language(s) and Perspective(s) .

Zwischen zwei Stuehlen / Between Two Chairs (c) Kathryn Buck

In a January 7th New York Times op-ed piece, Cuban-born Roberto Gonzalez Echevarria, author of Cuban Fiestas and professor of Spanish and comparative literature at Yale who moved to the US in 1959 as a young boy, included the following observation:  “I also latched on to my native [Cuban] culture by making the study of Spanish and Latin American literature my life’s work, and  in a sense I relived my traumatic acquisition of English as a teenager by learning French and Italian at the University of South Florida with pathological zeal.  When I spoke those languages I assumed new personae; they were shields against an American culture I still could not quite absorb. Instead of freezing me into a role, the 1961 break in relations between my two countries transformed me into a man with several voices within my own head, a perspective that has informed my literary criticism, I believe.”

Questions:  Do you have — or wish you had — “several voices” within your own head that help make you more effective in multilingual/multicultural environments? What are your experiences and perceptions regarding the ways in which knowing more than one language affects your work, other interactions and perceptions?

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