Today is international mither tongue day, a celebration of ‘linguistic and cultural diversity’. Scotland has a troubled history with its own languages – as I’m sure many other nations have – and we’ve near enough managed to entirely kill off Gaelic and Scots. Here at Tapsalteerie we believe that the loss of a language is a terrible thing. It’s an eradication of a culture, a specific way of shaping our experiences of the world. In our own small way Tapsalteerie has sought to promulgate the Scots language (and in the future we hope to do so more with Gaelic too).
We’re very proud of all the Scots publications we’ve produced, as well as our Biggin Brigs volumes that work across Scots, Gaelic and English, but there’s one in particular that fits the spirit of international mother tongue day. Minoritie Status features Scots translations by Tom Hubbard of the Hungarian poet Győző Ferencz. It’s the first dedicated volume of Győző’s work to appear in the UK, and indeed the only dedicated volume of Hungarian to Scots poetry in existence.
Personally, the idea of translating from one minority European language to another has always held a great appeal. I was never entirely able to explain why – that is, until Győző sent me his fascinating introduction to Minoritie Status. Reading his words again now, as the far right rises across Europe and Brexit looms on the horizon, they seem ever more relevant:
I find it an exhilarating venture, that Tom Hubbard has translated a selection of my poems from Hungarian, a language spoken by relatively few, into Scots, another language spoken by relatively few. It is a deeply European idea, against insularity, seclusion and its consequences, provincialism, intolerance, discrimination, bias, and violence.”
A reminder that supporting indigenous languages isn’t backward or inward looking. In fact, it’s the opposite of that – a widening of experience. Which, when you think about it, is very much akin to poetry itself…