Quote of the Day (Dezső Kosztolányi)

Idegen nyelvet lehet nagyon jól tudni, de jól soha.

[Translation: “It is possible to know a foreign language very well, but never well.”]

— Dezső Kosztolányi in his 1922 essay “Nyelvtudás” (“Language Knowledge/Learning”)

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  • He also said, in the same vein, “Csak anyanyelvemen lehetek igazán én” – “Only in my mother tongue can I be my true self.” Would you agree?

    • Nope. Communicating in one’s first language certainly does help express one’s ideas, but, after ten or so years of communication almost entirely in a second language, this statement can easily be considered untrue.

      • I don’t think it is merely a matter of fluency with respect to this point. There is some evidence from psychological studies, if I am not mistaken, that one’s personality and the impression one gives of oneself are different in a language other than one’s mother tongue. My own experience would tend to confirm that. But perhaps you have simply achieved something that most others have not!

  • Just Sayin’

    What does this mean?

    • Is the translation not visible to you?

      • Just Sayin’

        It is, but I can’t make any sense of it.

        • It is possible for someone who is not a native speaker to reach a point at which they can say they now the language “very well.” But they will never know it well – i.e. there will always be something that feels different, that is imperfect, even for one who knows a language so “very well” that few others would ever spot a flaw in their expression.

          Does that make sense? It is much pithier in the original Hungarian – which perhaps helps to make the point? 🙂