The language we speak is the house we inhabit, the map and limits of our world, the vessel for our travels. The language that we do not know, which we learn at a later age, opens up new worlds within us and in space and time. It carries us inwards and onwards on paths we never imagined, into unknown dimensions, into new halls in the mansions of experience, into new worlds charted by those who have traveled its jet streams and alleyways.
The longer a language has lived and carried great thinkers on its back, the greater its potential value to us, the more profound its penetration into what we see and do not see. It lives in the dark space of other languages, it is the rich matter between the planets and stars that we see, stretching the universe as it expands our imagination.
My personal journey has been a life in three languages, a play in many acts, an adventure that marries chance with the inevitable.
I was born to Greek parents in a foreign country. Greek is my mother tongue, the language of acceptance and familiarity, the language of love, the only one I knew till I was 5. In kindergarten the other kids spoke English, I thought they were suffering from some strange illness. We stared at each other in mutual astonishment. I determined to speak their language better than anyone else, learning it as, all together, we learned to read and write. Striving to compensate for my weakness, I discovered a new world, I enlarged my home.
I went to university intending to train as an English teacher. There, by chance, in order to garner an easy credit for my BA, I picked Greek (Ancient) as a first-year subject. I thought that speaking Greek at home would have helped me. The little I knew was useless, my informal knowledge of the modern language serving only to confuse me as I sailed carelessly into the rich and rigorous universe of what in academe is “Greek,” as opposed to “modern Greek.” In the second year, I was reading Homer, Sophocles and Euripides in the origi