Control, Fear, and Rage: Ovid on Linguistic Isolation

This excellent post from Peter Kruschwitz resonates with me on several levels. I too have been deeply saddened by the referendum fall out (though I am unlikely to be a victim of racist abuse myself). I too love languages for all their diversity; reading Peter’s selections from Ovid talking about his exile on the Black Sea reminded me of my own linguistic experiences on the Black Sea coast in Bulgaria several years ago.

I was travelling with a boyfriend, about whom I had had some misgivings, but we had agreed to go on holiday together. On the plane over I had spent a little bit of time reading my guide book’s notes on the language – and the Cyrillic alphabet – so that I could attempt conversation with the locals, read street signs and so on. Arriving in a small seaside resort one evening, my boyfriend was tired and anxious that we wouldn’t be able to find where we were staying. I started to read the street names, which being in the Cyrillic alphabet my boyfriend clearly couldn’t make head nor tail of. He expressed his discomfort with me by shouting at me in the street. I thought this was bizarre, but Peter’s post and references to Ovid very neatly explore and go some way to explaining some people’s fear of the spoken word and have crystallised my own experience for me.

I still embrace the foreign in my everyday life and have as little as possible to do with that particular ex.

Peter’s posts have also had the unexpected result of making me see my own country in a more interesting light. Admittedly I haven’t been to Reading in some time, but his blog makes me want to explore, makes me want to look more closely at often overlooked local sights, makes me want to appreciate towns in my own country more. It has taken a German to make me feel this way. Thank you, Peter!

The Petrified Muse

I moved from Germany to Britain in September 2005. I have made this island my home – I work here, I live here, I have my friends here. I don’t put my beach towel over chairs in the library, I do not wear socks with my sandals. I still can’t bring myself to enjoy real ale, I regret to say, but I try to make up for that by drinking cider instead. In complete denial of my identity as a Berliner, I apologise when someone inconveniences me, and I join queues whenever there is an opportunity. I’ve been working on my English, too, improving it from marks in the C/D range at school to at least a B- now. I live in Reading, a beautifully multicultural community, in which I very much feel at home, for all its faults and oddities.

Yesterday, however, on my way to work – I…

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