{#npm: 9 – twalig}

On April 1, Tabatha announced her intention to celebrate short poetry in translation this month. She, as I did, took the pandemic as a little poke in the bum to dive deeper into language. While she chose Scottish Gaelic and French, I finally decided to seriously study Spanish, as I live in a state which boasts that as its first language. I also chose Dutch, since *ik hou van mijn Nederlandse vrienden, and their quirky, unique land and culture. Now, these language combos might sound a little hinkey, but when you’re in it, at least for me, tandem language studies are sometimes helpful. •Mi español ayuda a mi holandés, y vice versa. (Sometimes. Other days it seems I’m equally stupid all languages, as the w sounds like v or sometimes f and the ch/g-sounds-like-guttural h of Dutch invades my rolled r, ñ-laden, b-sounds-like-v Spanish. It gets wild.) I’m nearly to having studied one language or another for nine hundred contiguous days, though, so I’m hopeful, at least, that routinely cudgeling my little gray cells into greater activity is doing something for me.

In Dutch, twalig means bilingual. No handy mnemonic, but I remember it by thinking of twa (the Glaswegian Scots word for two – I know, don’t @ me, I *did* live in/near Glasgow for five years! You could also use twee for two in Dutch) and taal (the Dutch word for language). I love how Dutch builds on itself, such that the compound taalkundige is literally language + skilled. Language skilled. Linguist. Something in that – and in the number of idioms relating to the tongue – speaks to me.

I, serenaded
succumb, yield to silver-tongues –
into wordplay, plunge
*taal! •¡idioma!
*mijn hoofd ik moet gebruik!
•¡déjame solo!

in the word garden
languages spring up like weeds
loved like hothouse blooms

Poetry Friday is ably hosted today by Tabatha Yeatts-Lonske at The Opposite of Indifference. Tapadh leibh, Tabatha!

As always, there’s poetry all around – don’t miss thing, including: Robyn Hood Black’s Friday explorations of Issa’s haiku in translation – a beautiful project. ♣ Did you know The Global Vaccine Poem project, a collaboration between the University of Arizona Poetry Center and Wick Poetry Center at Kent State University, is inviting EVERYONE to share their voices and promote COVID-19 vaccination? We’ll be adding a stanza to a poem by The Naomi (Shihab Nye)! How cool is that??? ♣ Less cool is Linguicism – or linguistic bias and discrimination, which spills over into the workplace – and into the classroom. ♣ This piece from Kevin Simmonds in Poetry Magazine focuses charmingly on how our voices and words shapeshift and morph to mark or obscure identity – and how both music and voice inhabit poetry. Some good stuff.

Fijn weekend, feliz fin de semana, & Happy weekend! May language sing sweetly to you.

*I love my Dutch friends. Language. I have to use my head!* • My Spanish helps my Dutch. Language! Leave me to myself.•

17 Replies to “{#npm: 9 – twalig}”

  1. You are a wonder, Tanita! I think Dutch compliments the German I am learning…maybe you could pick up a third additional language. 😉 Seriously, 900 day language study is AWESOME!

    1. @bmagee10: Thanks! but, DO NOT TEMPT ME WITH YOUR GERMAN, MAMSELL. You’re right – because of Dutch, I can tease out the meaning of a few words in German now, and I am SO intrigued… but, I know taking German now would completely drive me around the bend and possibly wreck my Dutch, so my third language will need to be wholly different… maybe Norwegian? Icelandic? Korean? The mind boggles…

  2. What a colorful wordplay post Tanita! I love your “wordplay, plunge” good tongue-tied-twister too. And your ” word garden
    languages spring up like weeds” – lovely visual. And I think someone might have spring gardening in her thoughts… thanks!

    1. @Michelle Kogan: Guilty! I’m obsessed with my seedlings at the moment, and constantly peering at my tiny corn (in seedling pots yet – still too cool to be in-ground) and whispering, “Grow! Grow! GROW!” at them. Weeding – and the constant call of the overgrown lawn – is saturating my poetry.

  3. Two languages? I really am in awe. I took only a little bit of French when I was young and when my daughter took French at the community college last year (early-entry stuff is so great for homeschoolers), I was relearning a teensy bit with her but I could tell that parts of my brain has shriveled. 🙂

    So enjoyed strolling through your word garden today and I am in love with the idea of Naomi Shihab Nye’s Vaccine Poem project.

      1. @Karen Edmisten: *falls over laughing*
        According to the Geneva Convention (which would surely be a surprise to that august body) one cannot count typos and autocorrect as evidence of brains shriveling, because otherwise ALL OF US ARE IN TROUBLE.

  4. What a fun study, Tanita! I feel like I’m barely holding on to my English right now–no grey cells available. Every time I see a sign in Spanish, though, I put my 4 years of jr high/high school Spanish to the test. I love going down the aisles of the local Mexican market/restaurant and seeing what I can and can’t understand :>) The delicious uh sounds in your poem make me think “yum.” Not even sure why? But they did. Your poem really does roll right off my tongue :>)

    1. @laurasalas: I read a story recently by a Latina who doesn’t translate the Spanish phrases she uses – either you get it by context or look it up, but she’s not there to accommodate you. I loved it. Throwing myself against the larger Spanish words and different tenses is invigorating, and the quiet glee I have lets me know that I really am slightly mad… but in all the best ways, I hope.

  5. Hi Tanita! It’s amazing that you are studying Dutch and Spanish. I particularly loved your haiku about a word garden and “languages spring up like weeds.” So much to think about in this post. Thanks.

  6. I am in AWE of your 900+ day streak! You and Bridget are my DuoLingo Rockstars! #retirementgoals

    I’ve got German, Spanish and Arabic going in my app. You can probably guess where the biggest challenge lies, where the most “cudgeling [of] my little gray cells” happens!

    Thanks for the language links.

    1. @CousinMaryLee: Ooh, Arabic. That must be engrossingly difficult. I’d love to tackle an Asian language someday, but fear it might be a bit late, as I read somewhere that the audial nerves required to hear subtleties in intonation are pruned in childhood, if they’re not used. Still – you encourage me to try!

  7. I do still read French but my speaking & writing is nearly gone now. I admire those of you who are taking on a language and you, two! Felicitations pour vous, Tanita! I like the idea of languages as ‘hothouse blooms’, trickier than those out of doors! Have a lovely weekend!

    1. @lindabaie: Oh, college French is almost entirely gone for me, too, except for those moments when it intrudes on my Spanish – my (vexatiously fluent) husband laughs and asks if I’m speaking “Spench.” Thanks for dropping by. Happy weekend to you, too!

  8. I saw Tabatha’s call and thought “Well, I can’t do that!” The only other language I know is Latin.
    I’m sure Google translate isn’t perfect, but I am fond of the notion of “my head i have to use” in thinking about language and words. I love your word garden!

    1. @Tricia Stohr-Hunt: Oh, I dunno – I think Latin might suit your bent for nature poems and haiku really very well! And while Google isn’t great for nuance, for direct translation it often is “good enough” for some of the meanings – “my head I have to use” is close enough to “I have to use my head” for understanding, I think.

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