15 April 2009

Anne Tardos

In her essay, "How Not To Teach Multilingual Writing" (2002), Anne Tardos writes: "I grew up learning one language after another, like many Europeans born during the Second World War, moving from country to country, learning language after language by necessity, being equally comfortable in all of them. I don’t much care whether we’re conversing in French, Hungarian, German, or English. When I’m going from site to site on the Internet, I often don’t realize what language I’m reading, until I make a conscious effort to identify it. Similarly, when writing poetry, I don’t necessarily make a point of noticing the language I’m writing in."

Here is an important ingredient in the writing of successful multilingual poems: the writer must think in all the languages being used. Thinking in one language and writing in another adds another remove (to use Plato's classic word) to the relationship between the creative work and Creation.

The multilingual critic does not have to think in those many languages. I can read Spanish, French, Cebuano, and even a little German fairly accurately, if laboriously, though I can't speak in those languages except to say "That's overpriced" or something like that. With reading knowledge, however, I think I do a passable job of judging if a work is worth my time or not.


  1. The blog's prescription that the writer must think in the language used seems to contradict Tardos who does not notice (read "think") the language she's writing in. I can guess that the kind of thinking the multilingual critic prescribes will stop creativity dead on its tracks.

  2. Maybe it is possible to think in more than one language at the same time. That would be something linguists and psychologists should consider. A truly global brain!