Language is a City


LANGUAGE IS A CITYText: Ahmed Zaidan

My Finnish language is like a hotel by the highway, while my Arabic is like the city of Tokyo, and my English resembles the city of Turku.

Language is a city full of alleyways and small details. Poetry is the old town in the city of language.

Some languages in us form small separated villages, while others are like the big cities with areas that we haven´t visited for a very long time. Therefore, sometimes we feel that we’re lost in our mother language, and we feel the need to expand our awareness by wandering the old parts in the city of language.

When we start learning a language, it means that we’ve already started to build our own city, the city that will one day attract more visitors and tempt others to stay for longer. Some will get stuck, if the city of language was built in a tricky way, like the cities of religious languages. Then we would need a while before finding the shortcut to get out. While, in the cities of literature and arts, life thrives and cafés are full all the time, and rivers are a vibrant source of beauty.

Some of us have reserved a hotel in the cities of our beloved writers, while sometimes we ask to extend our residency for longer. For instance, my Finnish language is like a hotel by the highway while my Arabic is like the city of Tokyo, and my English resembles the city of Turku.

The humble highway hotel is in the middle of the desert, where I would park my car to dwell in for a short while, getting access to the necessities of life and nothing more, such as the important phrases that I use in my everyday living, distant from the literary language. That’s what I’ve built with my Finnish language.

Turku is small and beautiful, also I am still discovering it every day through meeting new people and getting to know the city more and more. This resembles my experience with English language, where I consider myself the explorer who would travel in the small details to fulfill a bigger picture. There I have a larger space to move and to stay for longer time, I also have the ability to browse the city on many levels.


Ahmed Zaidan. Photo by Mikael SoininenAhmed Zaidan is a poet and journalist from Mosul, Iraq. Arrived to Finland in 2013, recognized as a political refugee. Graduate of University of Mosul, Translation Studies. A winner of the prize of Creative Writings of Mosul University for twice. Author of “Aurora from Mosul” a poetry collection written in English, published in Germany 2018.

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