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“Exophony” by Yoko Tawada

This is an essay written by Yoko Tawada, who reflects on varied themes on language: what it means to be outside the world of your mother tongue; what it means to write in a foreign language; what is language which is at the core of our identity.


Tawada writes that what she wants may not being able to write in two languages (Japanese and German) but finding some poetic valley between the two languages and falling into it. I really liked the expression of finding “some poetic valley” and subscribed to the idea that by oscillating between two languages we can find something substantial. Another point I found quite intriguing is her emphasizing its musicality of the foreign language. Even if you have learned vocabulary and grammar of the language, unless you capture them in its musicality, you wouldn’t understand the meaning properly. With Tawada’s keen observation of languages being scattered around, this essay provided me with a wonderful opportunity to immerse myself inside her unique language world.

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