Usually when I write in either French or Chinese--wait, scratch that, when I attempt
--I open up another Word document, because compared to writing in those other two languages, English is a breeze. Analogy: because I'm far better in English than any other language (which, to be honest, I feel kind of bad about), it always feels like I'm trying to make really fine jewelery with thick gloves on. I know exactly what I want to say, exactly how it should come out--in English. In the other two languages, I'm stretching frantically for the words I know--and they all seem awkward, already-used, repetitive. In English, I have the luxury of fretting about the wording; sometimes in French, I'm utterly at a loss to find the word I'm looking for.
Oh, and also this. I have a book of poetry that I keep in my bathroom to read when I'm brushing my teeth. It's actually really nice, because it's a textbook of sorts, and has all sorts of wry commentary in the back of the book, but also this quote from Octavio Paz, who is, unsurprisingly, both a poet and a prose writer:
"Languages are vast realities that transcend those political and historical entities we call nations. The European languages we speak in the Americas illustrate this. The special position of our literatures, when compared to those of England, Spain, Portugal, and France, derives precisely from this fundamental fact: they are literatures written in transplanted tongues. Languages are born and grow in the native soil, nourished by a common history. The European languages were uprooted and taken to an unknown and unnamed world: in the soil of the societies of America, they grew and were transformed. The same plant, yet a different plant. Our literatures did not passively accept the changing fortunes of their transplanted languages: they participated in the process and even accelerated it. Soon they ceased to be mere transatlantic reflections. At times they have been the negation of the literatures of Europe; more often, they have been a reply.
"In spite of these oscillations, the link has never been broken. My classics are those of my language, and I consider myself to be a descendant of Lope and Quevedo, as any Spanish writer would...yet I am not a Spaniard. I think that most writers of Spanish America as well as those from the United States, Brazil, and Canada would say the same as regards the English, Portuguese, and French traditions. To understand more clearly the special position of writers in the Americas, we should compare it to the dialogue maintained by the Japanese, Chinese, or Arabic writers with the different literatures of Europe: a dialogue that cuts across multiple languages and civilizations. Our dialogue, on the other hand, takes place within the same language. We are Europeans, yet we are not Europeans. What are we, then? It is difficult to define what we are, but our works speak for us."
-Octavio Paz, 1990 Nobel Prize Lecture. Taken from An Introduction to Poetry, Eighth Edition (1994) Kennedy, XJ; Gioia, Dana
First: that is an elegant, beautiful metaphor for this. For me, personally, though, this is interesting. My parents learned English in school, sure, like Canadian children learn Spanish and French as secondary languages in school (Quebec, of course, excepted). But it wasn't until they moved to Canada, in their twenties, before they really used it. The language they had lived with all their lives was not English; the idioms and classics they studied were not English, American, or Canadian. I was born in Canada, raised in North America, and consequently speak English better than I do my parents' language, though I am fluent enough. Like Paz: "I consider myself to be a descendant of [well known writers of Spain]...and yet I am not a Spaniard". I am, I suppose, a strange conglomerate of languages, halfway in English, and halfway in another.
Sorry about the vagueness. I'd rather not put too much personal info on my LJ; I'm kind of paranoid.