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JOHANN VON HERDER: THE BEST CULTURE OF A PEOPLE CANNOT BE EXPRESSED THROUGH THE MEDIUM OF A FOREIGN LANGUAGE

August 11, 2012

Painting by Michele Meister (b. 1966), Australia, carrying the title “Communication”.

The German philosopher Johann Gottfried von Herder (17441803) once said:

“Has a people anything dearer than the speech of its fathers? In its speech resides its whole thought-domain, its tradition, history, religion and basis of life, all its heart and soul. . . . The best culture of a people cannot be expressed through the medium of a foreign language, … it thrives only by means of the nation’s inherited and inheritable dialect. With language is created the heart of the people…”

How true! And how relevant to the Copts! For a long time, whether in Greek or Arabic, we have been using the language of foreigners to express ourselves. No wonder we have not produced genuine Coptic literature, whether in prose or poetry, that conveys our culture, since a foreign language, particularly if seen as foreign, cannot express what goes deep in the heart or what is freely pondered upon in the mind.

What is possibly worse, is what has resulted of that – that we have contributed to the loss of our beautiful and rich culture since we could not record it in a foreign language. This is one of the national disasters that the writer of the Apocalypse of Samuel of Kalamoun has tried to warn us of.

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