Empirical study of second language reading23 June 2009 at 5:14 AM | Posted in News | 3 Comments
When poets write in a second language, the sounds that the words make in their minds are different from the sounds they make when read or written by a mother-tongue poet. There is experimental proof of this, such as revealed in the article “Comparisons of native and foreign language poetry readings: Fluency, expressiveness, and their evaluation” (2004) in Psychological Research: “American college and German Gymnasium students read an English and German poem in their respective native (L1) and foreign (L2) languages. In L2, articulation rate (syl/s) was slower and phrase length (syl/pause) shorter than in L1. Only the German women read expressively: Mean pause duration was higher than all other groups in L1 and lower in L2. Evaluations of fluency and expressiveness by American teachers of German and German teachers of English paralleled these results.”
Since poetry is made up of the sounds of words (what literary critics call “signifiers”), then the difference in sounds is crucial. This is one reason that critics have to start paying attention to the mother tongue of the second-language poet. The case of Cirilo F. Bautista rhyming men with mien is just one of numerous examples of second-language poets attributing a sound to a word different from that usually attributed by a mother-tongue poet.