Not being a native speaker of a given foreign language makes it certainly harder to express the ideas and thoughts that come naturally in my mother tongue. Conrad or Nabokov were giants, and as much as one would like to be carried on their literary shoulders, the truth is that at times, we cannot even dream of treading in their footsteps.
But as with all disadvantages, there are always hidden treasures to be unearthed. The way a foreign word rolls in our mouth is different, perhaps even more savoury. It is easier to perceive the poetry of everyday language. Magic erupts in the most absurd terms. I will never forget, when I heard the very bombastic “flabbergasted”, how aptly I thought it conveyed its meaning, as if word and sense had been born together. It has since been a favourite, and I realise with some sadness that its childish exultation does not fit anymore in serious conversation. So I revisit it, and use it, whenever I feel rebellious against what is proper and the norm. Language should never conform to what is expected.
When I travel, it’s the sound of the “wander/wonder” pair that makes me smile. Such a natural combination of the literal and the metaphor: because a wanderer, in life as in the road, should always welcome life and its gifts (harsh or sweet) with wonder. And feel very, very flabbergasted at the strange poetry of everyday life.
This entry was written before #Brexit, which sadly will curtail the wanderings of many in the forthcoming years. All the more essential then to value the gifts (of speech, of love, of travel) you have, before they are lost.