domenica 5 marzo 2017

A man speaking every language

One of the greatest Italian polyglots (from Sogni e bisogni, 1985;
the girl is Eliana Miglio; other actors: Mario Brega & Ninetto Davoli):

Just a quick summary of what I'm doing with my life I don’t want to talk about this blog, because it’s not necessary. Just two words about the name, Materialismo Sacro [“Sacred Materialism”]: it’s kind of a pun, because in Italy materialistic philosophies always dealt with spiritual problems; while, on the other hand, our religion is strongly materialistic (golden crosses, transubstantiation, the Sistine Chapel etc.).
By the way, I believe this is the only blog in the world that deals with sensitive issues in 15-20 languages, managed by an old-fashioned curmudgeon (I forgot to mention this part). There shouldn't be any problems with that, I suppose: even Alessandro Bausani was kinda... ancestral

I consider myself a polyglot, but I would prefer to keep away from other polyglots, because most of them remind me of “a sort of organ wound up for the performance of certain tunes, than of a being endowed with reason” (though certainly these days nobody has the greatness of Mezzofanti… )
I mean, when polyglotism is used as a way to express a pent-up desire of interaction, it’s inevitable to look at a polyglot as a caricature of an intellectual (this also explains the widespread “geek machismo” within polyglot communities). 

Since I can’t content myself with a Sisyphean task, I prefer to label myself as a dragoman rather than a polyglot, even if my cultural interests aren’t exclusively oriented towards Eastern languages: generally I’m not much into “Orientalism”. Sometimes I try to explain this disaffection with an example: the Arabic word maktūb (“written”), past participle of kataba (“to write”), in Turkish was borrowed as mektup, which just means “letter”; in French was adopted as mektoub and it currently means “le destin de l’homme fixé par Dieu, chez les musulmans” (“Wiktionnaire”). Bien sûr, mais… That’s why we take from the East only secondary meanings, forgetting that even those people have a daily life (or at least they would like to have one).

In fact, the major problem of language learning is that it gives the illusion to be clever than the others (although even a child can learn a second language): this satisfying feeling, paradoxically, brings to a weakening of intellectual curiosity. 
Let’s keep this short: in my view, polyglotism can’t be an ersatz life, a surrogate. I can’t deny it’s a pretty good way to balance the intellectual dimension of existence with the social one, but it’s not fair to limit the “learning aspect” only to language learning. Especially since, unlike what everyone thinks, the current spread of polyglotism is more related to a nihilist/reductionist approach to culture than to a mere increase in telecommunication traffic. Our epoch expects from polyglotism more than cheat sheets: it demands something like intellectual endorphins (in addition to a new lifestyle and a key to understand the meaning of everything).

For these reasons, learning a new language is becoming an expedient to get cultural factors down to basics, on the one hand, and to avoid frustration caused by the impossibility of taking up all available opportunities, on the other. Many polyglots admit that in order to settle their inferiority complex, they re-enact the typical learning conditions of childhood. That’s praiseworthy, but an adult man shouldn’t forget his status. And if he does, there emerges an animal conception of existence that leads to consider human language as a variant of simian screaming (which may also be a very interesting insight, if approached precisely as a full-grown man).

Nessun commento:

Posta un commento

Nota. Solo i membri di questo blog possono postare un commento.