Frenk, tell me, why you not use
you mother language some more, hmmm?
You speak Australski, yes,
but this is not you mother tongue.
You mother tongue is Hrvatski,
you call him Croatia, no?
That is language you was born with
and you papa and mama speak him.
Why you no speak him more?
Why always Australski, Australski?
of course you not too lovely speaking him,
if you don’t get praksa, the practice,
how you can be speaking him good?
even you mama and you papa mix him up now,
with the Australski and the Hrvatski sve in jedan.
And your tetak iz Chermany, too? What he do?
Oh, he mix deutsch with the Hrvatski? Ha!
This mjeshanje of languages is no good.
I think svako, eh, everyone, should speak
mother language proper, no more mixing-ups.
Frenki, you go now to you grandma, to you oma,
and you speak her and you listen to her
to proper Hrvatski speaking – this beautiful language.
Maybe is something you can be learning.
What you saying, Frenk? Oma is mixing Australski, too?
© Frank Prem 2003, 2016
This is one of a series of poems I’ve written that make use of a ‘foreign’ or immigrant voice – Croatian-English in this case.
This is a voice that I grew up surrounded by, and there was a period of time when I was able to capture it for my poetic purposes.
I’ve had the good fortune to have a few of these pieces appear in publications of capture prizes from time to time. This piece – materinski jezik – was featured on the UNESCO site as their Poem of the Month, back in 2003.
Hope you enjoy reading the piece.