23 April 2009

Esmeralda Santiago 1

"Many times, when writing, I was surprised to hear myself speaking in Spanish while my fingers were typing the same sentence in English," writes Esmeralda Santiago in the introduction to her Cuando era puertorriquena (1994, p. xv, translated by Catherine E. Wall).

This is one of the greatest joys of a bilingual writer - to be able to use two languages at the same time. Most monolingual persons think that bilinguals (or polyglots or multilinguals) think in one language and translate, whether consciously or unconsciously, into other languages. Here is a bilingual author testifying that this is not true. Translation is not the key to bilingual writing. The key is adding to, not replacing, the mother tongue in the creative act.

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