Language Is a Phantom Limb

I struggled to decide whether I should write in English or Portuguese. 

English is the obvious lingua franca of the internet, and that’s where most of my works are published. There’s more competition for attention, but also a broader audience. 

I eventually decided to write in both languages, and, whenever possible, to write the same thing in both languages. I reached this decision because writing is the same as thinking, and writing the same things in different language forces you to think better, to broaden your perspective.

I don’t think Hideo Kojima’s final Metal Gear game, “The Phantom Pain” is his best work, but it was the one which had the greatest impact on me because it exposed me to the idea of how language shapes culture and thought. The English language is more than a vehicle of expression; it’s a vehicle of assimilation. 

Reading translated eastern-Europeans like Bulgakov or Dostoyevsky drove this in even further – the words are in English but the thoughts are constructed in a way that is almost alien, and I mean this in the best way possible. They make you organize your thoughts differently.

I’m very impressed by Anglo-Saxon culture, so I don’t mind being somewhat assimilated, but Kojima’s game got me thinking that I should be as serious about writing in my mother tongue as in English. It is not as profitable or practical. But I took it up as a manner of preserving my culture and, more importantly, to sharpen my way of thinking. 

Because if everyone thinks in the same language, we’re much less likely to produce interesting ideas.