||[Jan. 15th, 2011|10:41 pm]
For homework this weekend, apart from ploughing through pages of Albert Camus in French, we have to write two short stories, one about happiness and one about sadness. As simple as that seems I am having a ridiculously hard time even choosing something that can succinctly encapsulate a single emotion, and even worse a time expressing that in a language I can barely understand.
I think I've hit the rut. I'm past the beginner stage of wide-eyed wonder and now the language comes to me me not as a super simplified, carefully chosen textbook selection of basic words and phrases with rudimentary meanings- hello, how do you do, it is so very hot today- but as a great, pulsing river of thoughts and ideas and emotions. It comes so close and clear that I can almost feel its might, so replete with the richness of people and history and time. Yet at the same time the nearer I get, the more the fragmented phrases and unfamiliar words come into relief as well. As if stuck behind a great glass wall, I find that while I can see the world that is encased in this beautiful language, sense the love stories people have told with it, the lilting music of childhood tales, the angry smatterings of vulgar quarrels, the grief and joy and envy and fear and pride and humanity that these words have held- still hold- while this world is so terribly close, I cannot touch it. It is beyond my reach, and when I try to draw words, to tell my own story, I find I have nothing to say because I have nothing to say it with.
The funny thing about learning a language after you have learnt to write and talk is that unlike in childhood when each word gives you a new idea and a new way of looking at things, as someone older you find that you do have ideas already, you just don't have the means to express them. You feel the thought sitting there in anticipation; sometimes already formed in another language, it waits impatiently as you try, desperately and at times without success, to match some word to it that will make it real. It is humbling to be stripped to the very bare basics, to struggle to represent even the simplest ideas and feelings. And it is extremely unnerving to realize how hopelessly dependent you are on language to say something, to mean something. I've been wondering, though, is it possible to have a thought without language?
Anyway, here I am, frustrated and depressingly mind blocked. Wrote a draft for 'a happy day' but without the freedom that comes from a reasonably sized stock of grammar and vocabulary, it came out looking awkward and lopsided, as if written by a very pretentious (and rather mediocre) child. Thanks to this, I've stopped taking English so much for granted, but I wonder if, given the liberty of using my native language, I would then find something worth saying...?