It says in the short description on the top of this blog, that I’m German but I dream in English. And that’s the truth. My mother tongue is German, but I’ve been studying English since I was ten years old. Since then, this other language has become my one true love.
I suppose it started with music. I fell in love with American pop music when I didn’t even understand the words. I just loved the music and the gentle rhythm of the English language. It suited the music so well. It sounded cool. It sounded effortless. It sounded as it should sound. As if the marriage between music and words was meant to be.
Then I learned the grammar and the vocabulary, and eventually I began reading books in English. My first book entirely read in English was the fourth Harry Potter. I will, like so many others, be forever brandmarked as a child of that generation. One of those teenagers whose imagination and whose love for literature was rekindled by a young boy wizard and his group of misfit friends. I fell in love with Britain and Potter as a teenage girl. Since then, I’ve never looked back. I’ve only expanded my vision of a culture beyond the borders of my home country.
Nowadays, it’s the great works of literature that make my heart swell with happiness whenever I allow myself to sink into their depths. I worship the brilliance of Shakespeare, the romance of Austen, the descriptions of Steinbeck, and the utter wonder that is the writing of Faulkner. I love Kate Chopin for her portrayal of the American South. I love Sarah Orne Jewett for painting the Northeast with words. Emily Dickinson and Edna St. Vincent Millay have opened my heart to poetry. Their words, all written in English, touch my heart and fill my soul with wonder and happiness and perfection.
My mother tongue is called the language of poets and thinkers. Men like Goethe and Schiller, Hegel and Wittgenstein, Kant and Nietzsche, Kafka and Brecht. They all wrote in German. They thought in German. Their world was shaped by the German language. And yet, when I read them I do not feel the excitement I feel when I read the words of English writers. There’s no shudder of appreciation, no tingling feeling because the words just flow so well. There’s only confusion. This is the language that I’m supposed to identify myself with. This is the language that is supposed to make me feel at home.
It isn’t. It hasn’t been for a while.
I only ever feel free when I speak or think or dream or write in English. I feel no restrictions on what I want to express. There’s no cultural stigma to the English language except that it is a language of peace and prosperity. It is the language of international negotiation, of cultural communication amongs strangers, and of the great speeches that have first brought about democracy in this world. It is an effortless language. It bears no weight. At least not for me.