You’ve met Carin before, when she wrote about the important of practice, and shared pages from her art journals, here. I love what she does on her blog, and something that really fascinates me is that while her blog posts are written in excellent English, she doesn’t consider herself an English speaker, and her art journals are written in Dutch, her first language. How does this feel, I wondered, writing about creativity in two different languages? So I asked Carin to tell us a big about being bilingual in her creative life.
A short history of the English Language as used by a Dutch woman
So…Ricë asked me to write about language. She even called me bilingual! At first I was all “What? Bilingual? Moi?” (That last word just made me trilingual by the way; see how easy it is?).
I never thought of myself as bilingual, but considering it now I can see how some people would think so, since I blog in English and there’s a lot of English words in my art and journals. Let’s get into my personal language story and see what’s happening here.
I’m Dutch, I was born in the Netherlands and raised on an eastern dialect. In fact I was raised on a mix of two eastern dialects, but for God’s sake let’s not get into that now; it’s too confusing. In school I learned my proper Dutch and by living in different parts of the country and watching tv and reading books I even adopted the beautiful accentless Dutch that I speak in civilized company. However: put me on the phone with my sister and you’ll just automatically hear my voice twist 180 degrees and I sink right back to where I came from. I love how this happens. I don’t think about it, it’s not a conscious act. It. Just. Happens.
Language somehow sits in your system and adapts itself to the situation. How cool is that? I think my use of English is more of the same.
English came to me through the television first. I distinctly remember watching episodes of Little House on the Prairie (I so wanted to be Laura) and reenacting them in my room with what was no doubt a horrifying type of American English. I wanted to be authentic even then I suppose.
It’s not so uncommon for Dutch people to speak English. We learn it in school and we are bombarded with it through the media. I think it’s impossible to grow up in this country without knowing any English at all. Knowing it well is a different matter, though.
For me this foreign language just somehow … um… spoke to me. I cannot explain it, but I can tell you that I aced my oral language exam in English not for my knowledge on the books I hardly read, but for the fact that I just talked the ears off my teacher in what he considered a perfect grasp of the language.
It may come as no surprise that I later studied English language for two years in college (I dropped out because it all got too technical to be interesting) and that when I later studied to become a librarian I took a four month internship in London. And … I fell in love with that city! Never mind they all thought I was an American because of my accent. I never learned that beautiful real English. I blame television.
All my life it seems that the English language has been a thing that just keeps expanding on itself. I started reading books in English, I started watching shows on tv on foreign channels (no subtitles) and then came the internet. I got into art trading through Yahoo groups and so by the time I started my blog it just seemed impossible to do it in Dutch.
So now I’m an international blogger and I love that. Because of the English language (and the internet) I have access to things that would be out of my reach otherwise. I get to be in contact with like-minded artsy folks all over the planet; I even get to exchange tangible stuff with them. I’ve had some real wonderful goodies show up on my doorstep just because of my blog and the fact that people across the globe can understand what I’m saying. And vica versa.
It also has infused my art. It’s inevitable I suppose. I journal in Dutch, but every now and then something will slip through the cracks and an English word will appear or an expression that I just can’t translate well, but says exactly what I want to. And when it comes to catchphrases and the bigger words that have a more visual aspect I will indeed often choose English, partly for my audience, but mostly just for me. And again: I cannot explain it. It. Just. Happens. English has snuck itself into my life and I cannot imagine living without it.
You can read Carin’s blog and see more of her work here, on her blog.
For more inspiration for your art journals, check out Journal Fodder 365 by the Journal Fodder Junkies.
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