Tuesday, 16 September 2008

alastair reid

Speaking in a Foreign Language

How clumsy on the tongue, these acquired idioms,
after the innuendos of our own. How far
we are from foreigners, what faith
we rest in one sentence, hoping a smile will follow
on the appropriate face, always wallowing
between what we long to say and what we can,
trusting the phrase is suitable to the occasion
the accent passable, the smile real,
always asking the traveller's fearful question -,
what is being lost in translation?

Something, to be sure. And yet, to hear
the stumbling of foreign friends, how little we care
for the wreckage of word or tense. How endearing they are,
and how our speech reaches out, like a helping hand,
or limps in sympathy. Easy to understand,
through the tangle of language, the heart behind
groping towards us, to make the translation of
syntax into love.


Roxana said...

thank you for this!!!! this quote is so true, especially for a nostalgic language perfectionist like me! oh, I will use this when discussing translation with my students. 'the translation of syntax into love', how beautiful.

swiss said...

glad you liked it. i actually wanted to put up more reid than just this poem - i shall do so soon