Blogging without barriers

My undergraduate degree is in engineering, but, as I’ve written before, it was a mistake for me to pursue that path because my strengths have never been in the sciences, nor in mathematics. I should have listened to Papa at the age of eighteen when I was applying to universities; I should have pursued a major in the humanities.

This is not a recent conclusion for me; several years after graduating from college, I turned towards the social sciences and got my graduate degree in public policy, which was much more interesting for me. (Thankfully, I managed to apply my undergraduate degree by working in energy policy, which greatly benefits from a high degree of comfort with engineering terminology.)

I’m comfortable communicating in several languages; and language acquisition is a relative strength of mine; but my greatest stumbling block, by far, is perfectionism. I hate speaking incorrectly, but I know it’s the most effective way of gaining fluency in new languages so I force myself to speak with people in languages other than English (Russian, Hebrew, Arabic, French) whenever possible and to whatever extent I can. It can’t be said that I don’t try.

Nevertheless, as a perfectionist, I only derive deep satisfaction and pride from playing with English words. When I write poetry [and prose] in English, I feel that I am creating art – and it’s rewarding in a way that no other means of communication at my disposal can compare with.

This is significant because I do not live in an English-speaking country. Sure, lots of people in Israel speak English, but the majority does not speak it at a mother tongue level. English fluency is very, very much valued and respected in this country, but Israel operates first and foremost in Hebrew, both professionally and socially, despite it being a country with immigrants from all around the world.

Now, professionally, it’s taken me a while, but I have acclimated to a Hebrew-speaking environment, and my co-workers are happy to help out when a particular phrase or word is unfamiliar to me (I work with some very nice people).

Socially, however, as much as I am more than willing to speak awkwardly in several other languages; and as much as improving my communication skills is profoundly rewarding in its own right, I simply cannot express my most complex thoughts and deeply held opinions thoroughly enough in any language other than English… And as a perfectionist, I am constantly left feeling dissatisfied with my inability to convey the nuances of my ideas.

Unexpectedly for me at first, I have come to realize that this is one of the primary gifts I receive from the WordPress writers’ community: the freedom to express myself fully and interact with interesting people, without having to overcome the language limitations that I face in Israel.

As an ex-pat who moved abroad when he was thirty years old, far away from the society in which he grew up and came of age, blogging has been liberating for me. On the Skeptic’s Kaddish, I can readily begin discussions on whatever happens to be on my mind at any given moment, and I suffer no limitations, in terms of expressing myself on complex issues.

Ironically, I find that I am lacking the skill necessary to deeply express just how much relief I find in blogging here at WordPress.

55 thoughts on “Blogging without barriers”

  1. I feel you. I have a similar sense of gratitude for the writing community I have found on WordPress. Probably one of my favorite places that made me feel like I had a place to belong. Strangers have been so kind to me, some I have become more acquainted with over time and some who while maintaining a certain distance have still supported me in their own silent ways. It’s a beautiful feeling. πŸ’•

  2. You’re doing a wonderful job expressing yourself here. Lovely words always. I can understand the limitations and burden of having to learn new languages. I grew up in the U.S. and after relocating to India had to learn two new languages. It’s all practice, David. The mind is very flexible. But please write on in English. πŸ™‚

    1. Well, it pretty much has to be in English for me to feel that I’m actually expressing myself, Terveen… no other language will do for me. Thank you so much for your continued kindness!

      πŸ’ž
      David

  3. Great post especially the end about blogging! My native language is English, I studied Spanish in school for many years, and I am recently learning Arabic on my own.

      1. Hi, nice to meet you too. I am learning it on DuoLingo and want to be able to read books by the author May Ziadeh who drew me in with her first book in French I was able to understand with an online translator and the rest are in Arabic. I’d like to read the books firsthand and know them just as she’d written them. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

  4. When it comes to languages, I am the total opposite of you, with only two languages. I’m trying French and Japanese though. Nice work there πŸ‘

  5. I’m so impressed with your papa’s insight and that you later found your calling David❣️
    I’m so amazed at how many languages you speak and appreciate your difficulty in not speaking perfectly in other languages. I’m so glad you have been able to master english in your poetry or I would have been able to understand any of your writing unless maybe it was in spanglish. πŸ€£πŸ’–

  6. I admire you for your fluency in several languages. I can get by in Spanish, but that’s it. Unfortunately, my kids don’t have a knack for languages at all. Oh well.
    πŸ™‚

  7. I speak two languages at Mother tongue level – Polish because it is my mother tongue, though I was born in England, and English because I spoke it from the age of five and actually studied it and use it all the time. I also learnt French at school and can read it and write it still quite accurately but cannot understand a word anyone says. If I have to speak it I can – so well in fact that people initially take me for a native speaker. Until they realise that the idiotic face I am pulling means I haven’t a clue what they are saying – I am too busy preparing my next perfect sentence! so – a tragic waste of time. I also studied Spanish to degree level. and there was a point when I was completely fluent. I dreamt in Spanish, thought in Spanish and got confused occasionally with Polish. I loved it. But then I stopped going to Spain, stopped buying Spanish newspapers – and so – if you don’t use it you lose it. I can still speak and understand most things, but to a much lower level. On the other hand I have started doing translations of Polish military documents for second third generation poles who cannot read their grandparents’ papers – and I have discovered that my Polish has improved enormously over the last year. I retired from teaching because of the pandemic, and this opportunity fell into my hands and the computer. It keeps me busy and it keeps me learning,
    Can I write poetry in Polish? No. But I have translated some into English, and that has given me great pleasure, especially when It was published. But I have heard that you do not truly know a language until you can make jokes in it. Maybe the wordplay is akin to poetry now that I think about it! Puns, word associations, connotations and other linguistic games are congruent to both! Imagery and nuance too.
    So yes, dear David, blogging is a superb way of discussing meaningfully with fellow enthusiasts, of whatever interest one has.

    1. But I have heard that you do not truly know a language until you can make jokes in it. Maybe the wordplay is akin to poetry now that I think about it! Puns, word associations, connotations and other linguistic games are congruent to both! Imagery and nuance too.

      I think this is 100% on the mark, Basia. Thank you so much for sharing your personal experience(s) with languages. The “use it or lose it” thing is also entirely true – that’s why my French went from fluent to weak after I graduated from high school.

      ❀
      David

  8. David, I enjoyed learning more about your background and how you turned an academic “mistake” into a positive choice and how your graduate degree is better suited to your strengths. I don’t believe I have ever heard of a parent persuading a child to choose humanities over engineering. That says a lot about who your father was. ❀ I am impressed by your ability to communicate in multiple languages – I admire this ability in others. I am forever trying to brush up on the Spanish and French I studied in HS and college. I just need to live in France for a year. That would help! 😁

    1. I don’t believe I have ever heard of a parent persuading a child to choose humanities over engineering.

      You know, Michele, you’re right; and to be honest, I hadn’t much considered that side of it… your comment gives me more appreciation for my Papa. Thank you.

      ❀
      David

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