Sunday, 19 July 2009

"What language is it in?"

"Estonian."I had to explain this any number of times yesterday afternoon. I had taken the new Estonian lace stitch dictionary with me to the knitting group.
"Can you read it?" was the other question. My answer, "I could if I had the right dictionary but there is a translation of the symbols in the book." Most of the knitters present do not look convinced. Why would you buy a book you cannot read?
Why indeed? Of course I can read the book. It has charts. It has photographs. It has diagrams. I can read all those things. I can even guess the meaning of some of the words. There is more than one way to read a book, especially a book like this.
The book was passed around for everyone to look at. Some spent longer than others. One woman had to leave early and asked if I would bring it back for her to spend more time on. I will because I know she really does want to look at it closely. Most people looked at the few photographs of the fine, delicate lace garments created by some of the stitches. They agreed they were "lovely", even "gorgeous" or "exquisite". They said they "could never knit that".
The person I thought would be most interested in the book spent a long time over it. She handled it almost reverently. Her expression was intent and content. She is a woman who says little, a migrant whose first language is not English. It is not Estonian either. She comes from a culture where lace knitting is acknowledged as an art form. Her hands moved unconsciously at one point, as if she was trying a stitch for herself. She was "reading the book".

3 comments:

Agnieszkas Shoes said...

What a wonderful story. These kind of universal languages are somehow so much more communicative than the ones using words.

Sorry to ramble about the present tense - may I ask why you asked, if that isn't too wheel within a wheel?

virtualquilter said...

I had the same reaction when I bought Japanese quilting magazines. A few looked and learned how to make something new, most thought I was crazy buying something I couldn't read.
I also bought a German dressmaking pattern book and never used the English translations.

catdownunder said...

It depends on the definition of 'reading'. There is more to reading than seeing words on the page!