Global Nomads and TCKS- 16: The sacredness of another language

Alice Kaplan writes about why, despite her long struggle with the language, she loves to speak French:

I go back and forth in my thinking about my second lan­guage. Sometimes I think, it’s only the wealthy students who get French; it’s only an expression of their class privilege. My privilege that I went away to Europe when I was fifteen and the shape of my mouth and the sounds going in and out of my ears weren’t frozen into place yet. An accident of class. Or, I think, why have I confined myself to teach in this second language, this language which will never be as easy as the first one? Why have I chosen to live in not-quite-my-own-language, in exile from myself, for so many years— why have I gone through school with a gag on, do I like not really being able to express myself?

Then something will happen, in the classroom, and I’ll see this French language as essential in its imperfection: the fact that we don’t have as many words is forcing us to say more. The simplicity of our communication moves us, we’re out­side of cliche, free of easy eloquence, some deeper ideas and feelings make it through the mistakes and shine all the more through them.

In French class I feel close, open, willing to risk a language that isn’t the language of everyday life. A sacred language.

 French Lessons: A Memoir

Originally posted Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

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