The reсlusive Coetzee сomes out of his monkish seсlusion to channel Wittgenstein, adding his twist to the ‘public language’ vs ‘private language’ debate.
[Well, they are really talking abt an “imperial language” vs a mother tongue here. But the extension is valid, and you can still see the parallel if you stretch it a little…]
Is Imperial English Really All That Bad?
[…] Nobel laureate John Maxwell Coetzee, argued that the limitations of writing in a language that is not one’s mother tongue did not vanish even once the “imperialist,” or second language, had been fully mastered.
Although Mr. Coetzee has always written in English, he felt there were still areas of the language which he feels are out-of-bounds to him.
“I cannot say I feel at home in English. When I write in English I write in someone else’s language, in someone else’s mother tongue.”
Although Mr. Coetzee is South African of Afrikaner descent, at home he spoke mainly English and was educated in English-speaking institutions. However he doesn’t consider English his own tongue because culturally he feels closer to Afrikaans, a language he speaks and actively translates.
He said he could not always reconcile writing in a tongue he still describes as “alien,” and that was brought to him by “historical circumstances.”
Mr. Coetzee, whose attendance at Jaipur marked a rare public appearance, argued that while a mother tongue lives in a private linguistic sphere, the “imperial language” lives in the public one.
He challenged the view that there is nothing special about a mother tongue, that it was just a tool of communication, and said it was the language of a personal and intimate dimension that English had encroached upon.
Me wonders if the local Ministry of Education is starting to take an enlightened approach to the mother tongue learning debate here as well: