In Other Words

“…avevo bisogno di una lingua differente: una lingua che fosse un luogo di affetto e di riflessione.” —ANTONIO TABUCCHI

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[Jhumpa Lahiri as featured in the Wall Street Journal]

By: Gabriela Yareliz

I finished Jhumpa Lahiri’s book, In Other Words. She brought many interesting things to mind. She filled me with the nostalgia of what it’s like to passionately want to communicate and love a life that embodies a language and cultural identity different than my own.

She discussed how, to her, being a writer was a way of concealing herself and hiding behind characters and imagination. She strongly implied that fiction carries a dishonesty with it.

This book was her own personal linguistic journey. I enjoyed it, and still, there were many sentiments I did not share. We both have a different love affair with words and languages– but it’s a love affair, nonetheless. For example, perhaps because I look racially ambiguous, I haven’t often shared her frustration of not looking like I speak a language. I write, not to conceal myself, but to share myself with the world. Writing is freedom, to me. There is no place I am more myself than when I put words down on white space. I understand her feelings as a first generation U.S. grown kid (how that plays into family and friendship dynamics), and the role language plays in our identity. My love of the English language is different from her own experience with and slight disdain of it.

“When you live in a country where your own language is considered foreign, you can feel a continuous sense of estrangement.”
Jhumpa Lahiri, In Other Words

That is what is so fascinating about life. We can each have so many different experiences with the same things. And while Lahiri and I may differ in some (or many) experiences and thoughts, I am so grateful she wrote about her journey which brought me to think about my own.

“Imperfection inspires invention, imagination, creativity. It stimulates. The more I feel imperfect, the more I feel alive.”
Jhumpa Lahiri, In Other Words

It made me reflect upon what each language I have ever flirted with and cemented myself in means to me. What each evokes. I am presently learning a new language (or at least trying). This is the 9th language I come into contact with at a deeper level of grammar and vocabulary. I feel like a child when I try to figure it out or when I realize I have been pronouncing a word incorrectly for three weeks. It comes with the territory. Strangely, these feelings make me feel like myself. When am I not trying to figure out a new language?

“Because in the end to learn a language, to feel connected to it, you have to have a dialogue, however childlike, however imperfect.”
Jhumpa Lahiri, In Other Words

The meaning certain languages hold in our hearts sometimes change or it doesn’t. I still dream in Hindi and French, sometimes.

Regardless, each language is a piece of me. And I feel there are other pieces to be found and brought into the puzzle.

Languages are for those who dare to try to build a bridge and cross it at the same time. I am one of those people. This journey is far from over for me. In other words, stay tuned. Pun intended.

***

Some of the languages that fill my heart:

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