Hungarian writes in English

13 December 2008 at 8:44 PM | Posted in News | Leave a comment

Peter J. Oszmann writes candidly of his attempts to write poetry in English, after a previous lifetime of writing in Hungarian, his mother tongue. Here are a couple of sentences from his 2004 article entitled “Writing Poetry in a Second Language“:

“The Hungarian language also lends itself easily to writing poetry. There is no difficulty in finding rhyming words, as and when and where you need it; the accent in every word – without exception – always falls on the first syllable, there are no ambiguities in pronouncing a word and finding the right meter is relatively easy, regardless whether one uses very short or very long sentences or lines.”

He says of his first forays into poetry writing after moving to England: “I made a few attempts at writing poems in English, but was deeply disillusioned with the results. I found it almost impossible getting the right ‘tone’ and had great difficulties with rhyme and meter.”

Is his experience typical? I would venture to say that it is not just typical, but inevitable. Frankly, I have found very few poets writing in a second language that are able to catch the “right tone” in that language. Prove me wrong by giving me what you consider successful poems in English written by writers that learned it late in life as a second language.


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