Memory Speaks: On Losing and Reclaiming Language and Self
“At once an eloquent memoir, a wide-ranging commentary on cultural diversity, and an expert distillation of the research on language learning, loss, and recovery.”—The Economist
“Insightful and informative…Sedivy examines what happens to memory, dreams, and even the sense of self when you enter another language.”—Eva Hoffman, author of Lost in Translation
“Engagingly describes the disorienting and sometimes shattering experience of feeling one’s native language atrophy as a new language takes hold…Sedivy elegantly captures why the language(s) we use are so dear to us and how they play a central role in our identities.”—Science
“A profound elegy to memories that endure despite displacement and the many time zones that define our lives.”—André Aciman
Julie Sedivy was two years old when her parents left Czechoslovakia. By the time she graduated from college, she rarely spoke Czech, and English had taken over her life. When her father died unexpectedly and her strongest link to her native tongue was severed, she discovered that more was at stake than the loss of language: she began to feel she was losing herself.
In Memory Speaks, Sedivy explores the brain’s capacity to learn—and forget—languages at various stages of life, poignantly combining a rich body of psychological research with a moving story that is at once deeply personal and universally resonant.