I'm a totally different person!

Last week we had the first rehearsals for our performances in Hanko. This time we're expecting to play Hamlet private mostly in Swedish so the new language was our main focus. Even though Cécile has done the show in Swedish before, it's really a new challenge. "I'm a totally different person when I speak Swedish!" she cried out. Probably this experience is familiar to many people who regularly switch between languages... it becomes really concrete when performing, particularly if you only have one spectator! This makes me think: in what way are we different? And does this difference also say something about the differences between the languages?

We're pondering about this short sentence: 

"Pysähdy, viipyile pitkään ja kiireettä, viivähdä hiljaisuudessa" in Finnish and "Stanna upp, länge och utan brådska, dröj kvar i tystnaden" in Swedish. It seems like the words open up a space to linger in but it's not the same space. I imagine it a bit like this: when we learn a language, the space opened up by each word is coloured by all the experiences we've had of this word since we first encountered it, and even before that... We connect associations and connotations to this word over the years, since early childhood in the case of our native language. This process is never over. And it is influenced by the culture of which the language is part of. So even if we can make the connection between words of different languages with the same meaning, the space they open up might still be different. Even as I write this I'm aware that my image of this space triggered by words which I'm trying to verbalise here would be very different were I to write this text in my native language German...

We don't have to create two identical versions of Hamlet private. In fact that's not possible anyway. It never is in theatre. And it isn't in this particular case, where each performance is personal, specifically for this one spectator. But even in a more loose sense, we can allow for discrepancies, pysähdy can be very different from stanna upp. We're not linguists. Our field of study is art. Our method is art. And it is through art that we hope to understand something about how we are different in different languages. And maybe also about what it is to be us, independent of the language we speak.

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