National Young Writers Festival has been and gone, but that festivalia feeling (and post-festival survey) is here to stay with our short series featuring Canberra writers recalling the best, worst, and most memorable bits of the NYWF twennyfifteen. This week indie publisher, writer and radio producer and stellar podcaster Farz Edraki talks about Speaking in Tongues, which featured Adolfo Aranjuez, Raelke Grimmer, Johannes Jakob, Wai Chim and Stephen Pham.
Event description: When language is your greatest tool, is having a second, third or fourth language a help or hindrance? What influence does growing up with multiple languages have on writers? Supported by SA Writers’ Centre.
‘I wish it was TiNA all the time,’ a friend said to me recently. A week had passed since the final day of the festival, and she was having trouble settling back in to status-quo life. It didn’t help that there was a cold snap in Canberra. In October. There’s nothing like fighting frostbite on a grey, cold bike ride to work to make you reminisce about the warm, endless possibility of Newcastle.
That’s what TiNA, or more specifically, NYWF, represents to me: possibility. Afternoons on the beach talking about writing; ambling from one interesting panel to another; discovering new writers and getting excited again about familiar ones, all in a single, sappy-musicked montage.
One of the most interesting discussions I saw was the ‘Speaking in Tongues’ panel. Bi-and-multi-lingual writers Raelke Grimmer, Johannes Jakob, Wai Chim and Stephen Pham spoke to Adolfo Aranjuez about the influence growing up with multiple languages has on their work. (Raelke, who first learned German in high school, was the exception).
I felt a pang of recognition when Pham and Chim spoke about the sense of disconnect they feel as migrants and children migrants.
‘When you’re in Australia you’re visibly ethnic, and when you going back to your mother country and don’t fit in there… you feel you’re in a gap,’ Pham said.
Part of the conversation, too, focused on Australia as a multicultural society. At one point, Grimmer took issue with the fact that Australia labels itself as multicultural at all.
‘I personally don’t feel we take on multilingualism as part of [being multicultural],’ she said.
‘It is really atrocious… we have this whole community of multilingual people who speak different languages, but we don’t accommodate for that in schools.’ She compared this to Germany, where kids grow up learning two or three languages in class.
Is growing up as a multilingual writer in this context a burden or a blessing? There aren’t any neat answers, but if there’s one thing we can count on, as the panellists attested to – it’s at least fodder for your next short story.
If you’re wishing to went to NYWF and couldn’t make it, you can find Farz’s podcast series from the NYWF newsroom here.
Farz Edraki is a radio producer and small press publisher. You can tweet at her in English and Farsi (although she can’t guarantee she’ll understand any tricky words) at @farzedraki or @rippublishing.