Author Topic: Are languages like the Proustian "madeleine"'  (Read 4553 times)

Offline Guijarro

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Are languages like the Proustian "madeleine"'
« on: March 10, 2015, 06:57:12 AM »
Early this morning, as I was going to the nearby bakery to get my breakfast croissants, I crossed two Austrian or German ERASMUS students chattering away in their language. The Spanish social representation of this language is similar to the barking of a furious dog –probably due to the fact that in former Hollywood films, wicked Nazi Germans shouted a lot, thus showing their evident wickedness. I suppose that now, it’s the Arabs who shout like that, I don’t know. I don’t go to war films any longer.

For me, however, when I listen to German, as I did this morning, the feeling that I get is similar to the one Proust had when he smelled his famous Madeleine: i.e., I recover my distant ant lost time span when I was a kid (5 yearolder to 10 yearolder), back in Mallorca, where my father, a naval officer, was appointed. It was during the years 1941-1946, and Germans, especially among the military crew were mostly pro-German. So this language is for me the scent of my childhood, the love of my mother (who spoke German beautifully), the music of friendship (all my little friends were German at that time). There were many German nazi-outcasts in Mallorca then, mostly Jews, all friends of my family (there were Arians too, but they lived all happily together in Mallorca, as far as I can remember).

So, German brings peace, tenderness, even happiness to me as soon as I hear it, as I did this morning. I can almost say that I get HEIMWEH, home sickness, not from the German land, but for my lost childhood in that language, which I am in the pocess of forgetting since there is no way for me to practice it in my present life, except by reading –which sure enough, I do most of the time. My first girlfriends, from my 14 years of age to 21, have all been German, by the way. So, imagine how this language rings to me!

Thinking about these feelings, I began to ponder what other emotions do the other language that I try to speak bring to me. These are my conclusions:

FRENCH: it’s the sound of a plentiful and adventurous life, the life of my mad and beautiful experiences, my thrilling readings, and musical encounters, my intellectual development. It really smells to my life!

ENGLISH: it tastes like work; it’s the tongue of my professional world, my tool to communicate in the academic environment. But, also, as I have always been against-everything, I hate to realize how English is flooding its way almost everywhere, how if you don’t use the “tongue of the Serpent” in Paradise (as English was labeled in a XVth century German document), you are almost academically invisible. So, English to me represents work (which I hate!) and power (which I shun).

ITALIAN: I can’t help it: as soon as I hear people talking in that marvelous language, I fall into a blissful state. It gives my all the beauty (and humor too) that I find in the World. It’s an art form to me. I feel entranced when I am able to use my broken Italian in a conversation

SLAVIC TONGUES: I studied some Russian in my youth, and Polish some six years ago, but I can’t speak either. However, whenever I hear them spoken, I immediately try to figure out, which language it is… and I normally fail in my guessing, although Polish sounds like Portuguese a lot more that Russian.

CHINESE: I also tried to study Chinese Kuo-Yu (Mandarin) in my youth. All my friends were Chinese at that time, and I became a Taoist, if you please (subsequently I turned to Zen Buddhism, but … oh well!). So when I hear it, it gives me a feeling of mystery and exoteric religions.

ARABIC: it was an compulsory two-year subject in my Humanities career, and I enjoyed every minute of it. However, I los contact with it very soon, and now, the feeling I get is “Gosh, what I have lost!”.

SPANISH, which is my mother tongue, does not produce any conscious feeling in my mind and/or heart. It’s the tool I use automatically to communicate in everyday life around here.

Does anyone there, have conscious feelings over languages, or am I a “rara avis”?

Here are some spoken examples of all the languages mentioned: