Sunday, July 07, 2019


Foreign Languages

Donald Keene (1922-2019), Chronicles of My Life: An American in the Heart of Japan (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008), p. 10:
Ever since then I have felt strongly attracted to foreign languages. Japanese often ask me how many I know, and it is extremely difficult to answer. I have studied to varying degrees perhaps eight or nine languages, but I have totally forgotten some and others I can understand but not speak or can read but not write. Yet even in the case of a language like classical Greek, which I have almost totally forgotten, I am happy that I have had the experience of reading Homer and the Greek tragedies in the original. But I sometimes think that if, as the result of an accident, I were to lose my knowledge of Japanese, there would not be much left for me. Japanese, which at first had no connection with my ancestors, my literary tastes, or my awareness of myself as a person, has become the central element of my life.

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