Return to Language
Language is a conceptual tool—a code of visual-auditory symbols that denote concepts. To a person who understands the function of language, it makes no difference what sounds are chosen to name things, provided these sounds refer to clearly defined aspects of reality. But to a tribalist, language is a mystic heritage, a string of sounds handed down from his ancestors and memorized, not understood. To him, the importance lies in the perceptual concrete, the sound of a word, not its meaning. . . .
The learning of another language expands one’s abstract capacity and vision. Personally, I speak four—or rather three-and-a-half—languages: English, French, Russian and the half is German, which I can read, but not speak. I found this knowledge extremely helpful when I began writing: it gave me a wider range and choice of concepts, it showed me four different styles of expression, it made me grasp the nature of language as such, apart from any set of concretes.
(Speaking of concretes, I would say that every civilized language has its own inimitable power and beauty, but the one I love is English—the language of my choice, not of my birth. English is the most eloquent, the most precise, the most economical and, therefore, the most powerful. English fits me best—but I would be able to express my identity in any Western language.)