Monday, March 26, 2018

lingua, frankly

  1. Learning a language is learning a person, you can only learn it by immersion.
  2. In order to learn it, you have to take up their whole mess: their cultural foibles, their history of violence, their triumphs and their art. Their scars, their feuds, and friendships. And the meals which accompany each.
  3. When you do that, you can recognize their thoughts and feelings, boxed out onto soft violet paper. Just like I can recognize letters on a page which used to be completely indecipherable squiggles. Even if I can’t translate the words, with my stunted vocabulary, I can never rewind to the definite former epoch when these letters were meaningless. Each one now has a sound and a history. Their meaning is impressed upon me—it leaps off the page to meet me—and I cannot escape it. Except, perhaps, through extreme neglect. If I put the books away, and never look at the letters, and try to shut the letters out of my head, will the letters Jeem, ha, and ghain return to being squiggles on the page?
  4. Is this what a break up is—trying to forget the language of a person in whom you have immersed yourself? 
  5. Perhaps this is an impossible task. For nothing is ever lost in memory, says Marion. Everything we’ve learned is stored there: languages we’ve lost, people we have unlearned.
  6. They lie there, dormant. Until we cross paths with an old lover and recognize, in a flash, the language which they spoke to us in the flip of their hand, the flicker of their eyes, the way they jut their hip out to the left.
  7. I suppose the question is: what does one do with dead languages?

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