Multilingual, Polyglot Steiner

I stand in awe of George Steiner. From After Babel:

My father was born to the north of Prague and educated in Vienna. My mother’s maiden name Franzos, points to a possible Alsatian origin, but the nearer background was probably Galician. Karl Emil Franzos, the novelist and first editor of Buchner’s Wozzeck, was a grand-uncle. I was born in Paris and New York.I have no recollection whatever of a first language. So far as I am aware, I possess equal currency in English, French and German. What I can speak, write, or read of other languages has come later and retains a ‘feel’ of conscious acquisition. But I experience my first three tongues as perfectly equivalent centres of myself. I dream with equal verbal density and linguistic-symbolic provocation in all three.My natural condition was polyglot….It was habitual, unnoticed practice for my mother to start a sentence in one language and finish it in another. At home, conversations were interlinguistic not only inside the same sentence or speech segment, but as between speakers.

3 thoughts on “Multilingual, Polyglot Steiner

  1. >Well, THAT must be nice – to have such an innate ability.Code-switching is frequent enough, but to have lived in Steiner’s home must have truly been a gift.I’ve documented my own struggles with languages (my inability to read properly in French and my airport Italian specifically) and can’t imagine acquiring new tongues with such ease.JEALOUS!


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