Tuesday, 17 May 2016

How Spain improved my English

The title for this post is a direct allusion to Tim Parks' recent article for The New York Review of Books, titled How Italy improved my English. In his article, Parks asks the following question:

"..what about those writers who move to another country and do not change language, who continue to write in their mother tongue many years after it has ceased to be the language of daily conversation?"

For me, this was what drove me into poetry's arms. I dabbled in verse at college and university, but wrote more drama than any other genre, as my first love was the spoken word. Of course, once I left the U.K. and moved to a non-English-speaking environment, my feel for dialogue soon became weaker. Moreover, there was no one to whom I could voice my thoughts in my native tongue. Poems became my outlet.

As the above-mentioned feature develops, Parks discusses the advantages and drawbacks of such a life of linguistic, social and cultural immersion in another country, mentioning the examples of others and recounting his own experiences. Having lived through a decade of only speaking proper English once a week in an expensive telephone call home, I understand how he feels, while I also learnt an awful lot about English by comparing its mechanics to those of Spanish.

Furthermore, I''ve also found my life turned upside down, and for the better, by the technological changes that he describes in the extract below

"All in all, I feel immensely lucky to have gone to Italy when I did and experienced for a decade or so the relative linguistic isolation that made me focus so intensely on language, writing, and translation. But equally lucky to be able to send this piece to New York by email, and to be part of that now global community that shares its thoughts, on literature and other matters, online, regardless of where we live."

E-mail, Skype and the internet transformed my poetic life and ended my isolation just at the right time for me to reconnect, save my native language from any deterioration and feel part of an English-speaking community once more. I too am incredibly fortunate to have lived through a unique period that has enabled me to experience both old-fashioned and new-style expatriation and immersion. It's fashioned me as a poet.

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