The internet was kinda sad this week and I didn’t like being on it. Highlights: The meaning of learning a new language, drinking with Nikki Giovanni and Tressie McMillan Cottom, Claudia Rankine, the unfinished story of Emmett Till, how it is expensive to be poor, philanthropy mostly helps the rich, Alicia Keys works with the NFL, the end of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, the west coast is burning, and Trump’s Supreme Court Justice picks.
I don’t speak another language. I took French in school, but I never kept up with it, and I’ve never needed to learn a new language like the writer Sulaiman Addonia has. “Learning a language as an adult or in your teens, especially with a history of repeated migrations between languages and countries, is extraordinarily difficult,” Addonia writes. “It isn’t just about swallowing new words like passion fruit that glides down your throat. It’s like chewing on stones breaking your teeth in order to seed the foundations of that new language on your tongue already heavy with many idioms.”
Addonia has learned several languages and found homes in some. His first language was Arabic, and “to learn new words of English, I had to let go of some of my Arabic. It was like taking a hammer to the home I had built in the Arabic language word by word… The more I felt at home in English, the less Arabic felt like one. So much so that learning a new language was to acquire a new wound. Multilingualism meant multi-wounding.”
I don’t know if I could let go of a language, a home, the way that Addonia writes of learning a language—that is, after all, why he “resisted learning French and Dutch, instead isolating myself with Silence is My Mother Tongue, the second novel I was working on.”