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June 27, 2009

Poetry in Translation

There is far more to learning a language than just memorizing vocabulary words and grammar. Poetry is a valuable and memorable entry point into the nuances and possibilities of language. In fact W.S. Merwin, recent Pulitzer Prize winning poet, makes the observation that poetry leads us...

...into what we don't know.

And when we are learning a new language - and culture - there is much that we do not know.

It was the poet Ezra Pound who suggested that W.S. Merwin translate poetry - with the intention of learning poetry. The rhythms, the images, the cultural references and of course the ways words are used in a direct and compact way that words are used in poetry all give a learner an up close sense of how a language can be used.

I don't know about anyone else, but when I am learning a new language, I try to be as concise and compressed as possible. Poetry from my target language not only gives me cultural insights, but also shows those I speak with that I know and respect the great writers and thinkers of their history and culture.

To hear or read more from and about W.S.Merwin, check out http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/06262009/profile.html.

For a glimpse at a few other poets, check out - http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/poetry/index.html.

We are all learning. And it is always more fun to learn together. We can learn as much from the past as from the present.

I have asked readers of this blog to submit their dream job (related to language instruction). Send yours. The best length would be about 200-350 words. Over the next week or so, I'll be collecting them and I'll post the best one(s) and send the best writer this CD.

Yes, I'll send it anywhere in the world as long as you have a valid mailing address. Sound good? Then get writing!

I'll be doing several of these over the next few months. Good luck to all!


Listen, read and speak. Make your new language your own.

What do you most want to do? Where would you like to be? Who would you want to work with?

About the author of this entry:

Morf has a B.A.from the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington and an MAT (Master's in Teaching English) from the University of Washington (Seattle). Morf currently teaches English and writing for a local technical/vocational college with many international students. Morf prefers international and independent films, foods he can't pronounce, music no one else has heard of and riding his bicycle in foreign cities.

He is also waiting for an irresistible job offer...

Posted by mmorf at June 27, 2009 08:28 AM

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