Multilingual Poetry

Belgian-born Tineke Van der Eecken learnt French at a young age in addition to her mother tongue Flemish (Dutch). At school she enrolled in Rhetorica, and studied Greek and Latin as well as English and Belgian's third national language, German.

'I loved Latin languages,' she says. Meeting Italian and Spanish people was a real treat. 'I learnt Italian from a boyfriend and while working with Italian families at their restaurants in Belgium where I used to work as a student.' She perfected her French during summer holidays in the Belgian Ardennes, and studied 'Roman Philology' at the University of Antwerp (UFSIA). 'It was awful, being forced to reading thirty novels in less two months. This included medieval French and other stuff that was hard to digest. I gave up and went and worked at the pizzeria.'

Tineke eventually returned to University, this time to study Criminological Sciences. After graduating, she was offered a job to work for the United Nations in Burundi. 'This is where I learned Kirundi.'

By the time she moved to Zambia, at the age of 26, Tineke had learned 9 languages. 'And then I stopped. My job for the International Labour Office covered all of Southern Africa and I did not know what language I would need most. Everyone spoke English.'

Now she plays with languages in her poetry. Language is a way to connect to places and people. 'My next language to learn will have to be Bibbulmun,' she says, referring to the South Western Australian Aboriginal culture and language.

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