»Comparing apples
and oranges is my
daily bread.«

Juli Gudehus


Inconceivable, approachable, capricious, down-to-earth beauty, ugly like a toad. Language is my second mother, it’s old, it’s young and it’s highly lively.

Language is my home. I feel secure in it. As a child, I moved several times, and that made me sensitive to different words meaning the same thing, and to the very different meanings that one word can have. Language is a slippery frozen lake, on which you can play ice hockey and dance rumba.

Language is my wonderland, holding endless discoveries. In this habitat, I am a chameleon. I pick up dialects, expressions and phrasings easily. In foreign languages, I joyfully learn new words to be able to get into contact with locals. Thank you, hello, lovely. Many a book and some people have enriched my diction. I enjoy my richness. My cradle was a manger of language. Merrily juggling with language, accuracy bordering on pedantry, whit, nuances and new creations were all typical of the family I grew up in, and I am deeply grateful for that. 

In addition to my mother tongue – in which I recognize my mother’s vocabulary again and again – I speak English fluently, and I can communicate on a basic level in French and Italian. I can pass as a Rhinelander, as a Swabian and as a North German. And not by chance, I am married to someone who commands several computer languages: Ruby, Logo, Fortran, Java …

Language is like mortar. It connects people. Language is a sonar that allows me to orient myself in other peoples’ perception of, and attitude towards the world. Language is a time machine, a transmogrifier and a means of transport: for delicate, bulky, highly explosive and heavy goods. When I traveled in Japan for a couple of weeks in the 90s, I conceived an idea of a life without language. I could not read, I could not understand, and I could not say much more than »arigato«. I felt like a bird without wings. 

All these different metaphors demonstrate how pictorial language can be. It gives me pleasure again and again. I regard it as no less than a wonder that language can help to visualise, to grasp and express abstract ideas. Similarly, everything visible speaks to us too, and I am well versed in theses languages.

I mind my language, and my language minds me. Time and again, language has been the well-tested midwife of my thoughts and feelings. I spoke or wrote, and insights and ideas began to take shape. Language is my association blaster. Via phonetic similarities and ambiguities I gain new thoughts. Language nurtures my work and is essential to it.