Writing in the wrong language

July 28th, 2023

Perhaps one of the most criticized basketball players in recent times is this guy called Ben Simmons.

He was named an NBA All-Star (one of the best players in the league) and then his play began to decline significantly, with a lot of criticism surrounding his shot.

His shooting was quite poor, and at some point he just stopped shooting in games.

But that story isn't relevant here - this is just some background context. The interesting part in all this is that speculation started that he might be shooting with the wrong hand (he's considered ambidextrous).

While a lot of this might just be media noise, the idea of someone going their whole life using the wrong hand is quite an interesting premise. It sounds absurd - how can you not figure that out?

Interestingly though, it struck me today that there's a parallel here between shooting with the wrong hand and something that happened to me: realizing I was writing in the wrong language (kinda).

I have a little notebook where I wrote the following on the first page: "art overflows from us". The main point being that forcing art to come out of you is likely to not take you anywhere, the best art comes at times when something inside of you needs to get out, it can't stay in any longer. Like when water gets poured over an already full glass. This was one of the main reflections I had while reading "Letters to a Young Poet", by Rilke.

This is relevant because at some point last year I had some poems that needed to get out of me. I had this urge to write things that I felt could only be expressed in poem form (for me), so I started writing.

I wrote and wrote and nothing came out and it was this weird experience - I felt I needed to do this and in my head it made sense, but when the words hit the paper, it just didn't feel right. Not right in the sense good for the world to see, right in the sense of fulfilling my urge.

And then it hit me that I was writing in the wrong language.

I was born in Brazil and lived here until I was thirteen, but then moved away and since then English has been my primary language. I write in English, I dream in English, I take notes in English, and so on. When I speak Portuguese, I have to fill in gaps with English words because I think in English. A Brazilian friend of mine once said: "I think only bilingual people can talk to you".

But poems only come to me in Portuguese. Or at least so far that's been the case. I can actually think of some logical explanations to this, such as the fact that for years my only contact with poetry was through Brazilian poems recited by my grandmother at Christmas. I also was uninterested in poems throughout most of my life, making it so that the bulk of the poetry reading I did was as a kid while I still lived in Brazil.

Nevertheless, whatever the reason, it's an interesting concept. It makes me wonder what other things we're doing with the wrong hand because "that's how things have always been".

And on the topic of writing, I know for a fact that my technical writing needs to be done in English - I simply lack vocabulary to write anything technical in another language. But as I'm looking to branch out into other types of writing (like this very piece), taking multiple steps back, I wonder: am even I writing in the right language?