A world of words
It is rather cold today in Heidelberg. A little shower in the morning and heavy wind throughout the day. The season has come to a very subtle phase where you can hardly judge if it is still autumn, or winter has arrived unnoticed.
The new semester of Heidelberg University started on Monday this week, and my schedule has already been filled with courses both in English and German. I have long been curious about how and what students are taught in a foreign university.Luckily, they seem not completely unfamiliar.
In a linguistic course called Approaches to World Englishes, we will look at Englishes spoken in different parts of the world — their accents, history,cultural backgrounds and future. It interests me that Hong Kong English will be studied too. I have several intimate friends from Hong Kong, who speak English with a very distinctive accent and intonation.Now for the very first time, I have been offerred a perfect chance to know not only how they speak, but why like this.
The “cool” (the more I study English, the less I use this word—there are so many accurate words to describe HOW “cool” it is; it will be a big waste if all the different good feelings are devoured by a vague “cool”) thing about studying language academically is that one will be able to turn his/her rough impressions — which in my mind resembles a buoyant leaf on whirling water — to something solid and secure— Knowledge.
I have also discovered that there may be a mysterious power which weaves fragments of my life into a consistent series. Months ago as I was visiting Bath, UK, I spent an entire afternoon in the Jane Austen Center (I hope there are many Austen fans among the readers here) smelling the air in the house and playing mini dramas in my head about Jane’s life. For a little souvenir to bring back, I randomly picked an exquisite bookmark which read “I Love Mansfield Park”.
Now months later in Heidelberg, sitting in the course of “Literature and Film, Mansfield Park”, with thirty young women glittering with enthusiasm about a same lasting name, I suspected delightedly that that bookmark had meant to lead me there.
I shall now trace back to a bit earlier, how I, born and brought up in a distant oriental country, have turned out a faithful soul who wishes to share a corner of the bewildering literary world. The answer looks superstitious but worth believing in—my birthday!
On the same date, two influential people, if not utterly historic, were born. One is Mr. Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Hollywood star and present Governor of California USA, whom there is no possibility I could ever become. The other— when I first learned it, an inner voice of mine shouted out of surprise -- is Emily Bronte, author of Wuthering Height, one of the most prominent British writers of all time.
I do not know if that means anything, but rather I like to take it as a hint. That mysterious power arranged me to be born on this special date, and has made me much closer in many ways to this special woman. As a kid of 8, I was shown by chance a black-and-white film of Jane Eyre, a work by Emily’s sister Charlotte Bronte. I was magnetized even without complete comprehension. The journey of loving literature (in both languages I speak) then started and has led itself onwards.
So dear Rocio, I hope you now understand why I chose to study language and literature. It’s a natural choice. I know in many cultures, including Chinese culture, people believe in Fate. I do not say this is fate, because it sounds ostentatious. Nevertheless, there might still be one day at my old age when I look back and say “Well, it’s just meant to happen.”
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