Friday, June 17, 2005

Why English?

To be honest, I prefer it in some ways to my native Finnish. Though I do think it largely gets wasted on the native speakers: for them it is relatively boring routine, it is also routinely raped by hundreds of millions of business users every day. But it is the language of Shakespeare, the scariest, most comprehensive writer I know - and of an amazing and quite unique literary tradition. The thing I most love is the vocabulary with its immense choice of nuance and tone. This is due to another lovely quality: the open nature of English, any word can be absorbed into it, almost anything goes. This is not to say I don't love Finnish: it is a beautiful strange language, dark, heavy, emotional. English is to me a light, intellectual and rational language - in many ways the opposite of Finnish, always more flexible but sometimes more emotionally shallow language. Purely subjective opinions, of course, and as a non-native speaker my relationship with English is more distant, more aesthetic, more intellectual, more humorous also which naturally colours my understanding of it. It simply exhilarates me!

2 comments:

helsinkian said...

Even though I'm not a native speaker, English has never occurred to me as an intellectual language in the first place. I've always seen English as a very emotional and lyrical language. German has a huge depth of philosophical nuance and intellectual stringency to me but English is a more practical, everyday kind of language. What I love best about English is the global reach of the language and the regional expressions from variants of English everywhere that still form a part of the whole. But yes, the vocabulary is diverse and rich and English is certainly one of the world's leading literary languages right now. One of the reasons for that is that Anglo-Indian literature is often rated alongside Latin American as the most dynamic, cutting edge contemporary literature. The tradition (and the global potential to refer to that tradition) plays a major part to any variant of English-language literature. The intellectual vs. emotional issue is in itself very fascinating as I believe many ideas combining the two (such as emotional intelligence etc.) stem from thinkers writing in English, or at least are popularized in English.

stockholm slender said...

I guess I mean "intellectual" in a fairly "Anglo-Saxon" manner: that is light, enjoyable and quick flow of language even with serious and weighty subjects. I would not say that this would describe Kantian or Hegelian way of writing... Maybe the French tradition of analytical language use would be an even better comparison, but - without having any French at all! - I would say that it does sound somewhat overly polished and classical. In any case the comparison is with Finnish which to me, somehow, is a more "emotional" language. Maybe it is connected to the fact that it is my native language... Your point about the regional varieties is excellent: there is such a vibrancy and vitality in all these varieties that is at least partially missing from Finnish.