Ludovica Credendino remembers the difficulties of switching from Italian to English when writing creatively, and how she learned to fuse the two into her own unique language.
I remember very vividly my parents arguing about whether or not it was “normal” for a six-year-old to memorise a book of poems. My fascination for language and expression started at a very young age and it wasn’t until I was in my teens that I realised it wasn’t as common as I thought. I never really considered reading and writing hobbies until I went to university. They always felt just as natural as sitting down for a meal or getting ready for bed.
Moving away to start university brought about a series of issues I had never considered in relation to what I now know were hobbies, rather than natural human functions. I wasn’t speaking my native language daily anymore. I was getting used to expressing more complex thoughts and experiences in English, and I wanted to be able to share my increasingly sporadic poems and short stories with my new friends. This, though, required them either to learn Italian, or me to switch to English. The little I liked about my own pieces was completely lost in translation, so that was never an option for me.
Trying to switch to writing in English felt like learning a whole new language altogether. Writing didn’t feel as natural as it used to and all my efforts to reconnect with my passion just made me less motivated to keep trying. I eventually gave up creative writing, but slowly discovered different types of writing, different media, and eventually managed to switch to English in a way I found comfortable. With essays and reviews I got my pen back in hand, and sharing less personal pieces helped me build my confidence again and get used to writing in a different language.
I have now given up spoken as well as written Italian almost completely. Less than a year after moving to Scotland, I realised I was actually having trouble expressing myself in my first language. I was growing so fast, but my language wasn’t growing with me. Italian had become the language I use to talk to my family exclusively. It had become the language of my childhood and teenage years. Hearing myself speak Italian I found myself somehow childish, stuck in a moment in time I could no longer relate to. I didn’t sound like me. It saddened me that my family and childhood friends were now the ones I couldn’t share the entirety of who I was with. Italian became a language of reminiscence, of teenage angst, sleepover gossip and a sharp feeling of not belonging. The language of my grandad’s voice when he told me he was proud of me; the one I still use to think of my mum hiding the last slice of my favourite cake from my dad and my sister. The original language of words and expressions that will always feel and sound like a bland translation in English: latte e miele (milk and honey), lazzarone (slacker), ti voglio bene (I love you).
After getting my degree I slowly tried to get back into creative writing, and suddenly the question of which language I should use resurfaced. I thought I wouldn’t encounter the same issues with writing in English as I did years earlier, as the language now felt way more personal to me and more appropriate to express myself truthfully and unambiguously. But again, it wasn’t that straight forward. I kept switching from one language to the other, sometimes ending up with different paragraphs in different languages. I would then translate them back and forth. From Italian to English and back to Italian.
So much of my creativity and imagination come from childhood memories and my family history. Yet, I’m now trying to channel this creativity to share feelings and experiences from my adulthood. It used to upset me that my use of certain languages didn’t blend perfectly with that of native speakers, but I’m starting to embrace it, as I accept who I have been and who I’m becoming. Somewhere between my language of reminiscence and language of consciousness falls my language of imagination, which I now know is entirely up to me to discover and might sound nothing like most things I’ve heard before. It might sound a little bit like that book of poems I memorised when I was six.
About Ludovica Credendino
Ludovica Credendino is an aspiring book publisher based in Glasgow. She’s an Italian and Spanish video game translator by day, a busy student by night and a restless writer on weekends. Her eclectic writing spans from red carpet interviews to Berlin-based artist biographies, with the occasional computational chemistry paper. Fuelled by caffeine and curiosity, she’s in the process of printing her first collection of poems and short stories, Lucid. You can get a taste of her chaotic energy by following her on Instagram or various other platforms @ludofaiga
This piece was completed for Life in Languages, a new series conceived and guest edited by Elodie Rose Barnes
Language is our primary means of communication. By speaking and writing, listening and reading, by using our tongues and our bodies, we are able to communicate our desires, fears, opinions and hopes. We use language to express our views of the world around us. Language has the power to transcend barriers and cross borders; but it also has the power to reinforce those demarcations. Language offers a form of resistance against oppression, yet it can also be used to oppress. Language has the power to harm or to heal.
In these times of shifting boundaries and physical separation, when meaningful connection has become even more important yet seemingly difficult to attain, language has become vital. The words we choose to read, write, and speak can bring us closer as individuals and as a collective. During lockdown, unable to travel, I’ve found myself increasingly drawn to reading works in translation from all over the world – not only for the much longed-for glimpses into different cultures and ways of being that I cannot experience in person (for the time being, at least), but because they offer new words, new viewpoints, new ways of expression. Grief, loss, uncertainty, anger, hope, joy, love: these are universal emotions. Finding my own feelings mirrored in the writing of womxn from all across the world, from different times and different situations, across generations, is a massive comfort. It’s also led me to examine my own relationship to language and languages: what I read, how I write, the roots of my communication, and how that’s changing today.
In this series for Lucy Writers, I’ll share some of my personal reflections on how language has shaped my life and writing, and review some of my favourite works in translation written and/or translated by womxn. Writing on works written and translated by the likes of Natasha Lehrer, Saskia Vogel, Leïla Slimani, Sophie Lewis, Deborah Dawkin, Khairani Barokka and many more will feature in Life in Languages.
Elodie Rose Barnes
Submissions are now open for this series. See our Submissions & Contact page for full details.
Feature image by Kinga Chichewicz on Unsplash.