Sandwiched between the Poly-Glots glibly mixing three foreign languages in a sentence and the Mono-glots / Only-My-Own-Languages-Glots resolutely refusing to pronounce a single bonjour, we have the Once-Bitten-Glots. Once upon a time, they did love and learn a langue étrangère, despite the uncomprehending stares of their people and the guilt of lavishing more time upon it than upon their own language. They wooed it with vocab-lists, with painstakingly pieced-together phrases and chartloads of perfectly pronounced conjugations. Yet at the last they won only a gentle shell, an Ellen O’Hara where they had sought Ellen Robillard.

It never did spring first and most freely to their hearts, tongues, pens. All the poems and stories they had dreamt of finding in the version originale and discovering in some deeper and more meaningful way obstinately refused to be felt in any language other than the one in which they had first been read. In their own writing too, sentences in the foreign - the ever and ineluctably foreign! - language stayed wooden half-translations bolstered by Linguée. So now, for all their dabbling in half-a-dozen tongues and their Glot-Posing, they shrink inwardly from loving another langue étrangère the way they loved that One, because they live every day with the heartbreak that comes with never-quiteness.


Hibah Shabkhez is a writer of the half-yo literary tradition, an erratic language-learning enthusiast, a teacher of French as a foreign language and a happily eccentric blogger from Lahore, Pakistan. Her work has previously appeared in The Mojave Heart Review, Third Wednesday, Brine and a number of other literary magazines.