On March 29, Foro Económico Hispano-Luxemburgués has published the interview with Maria Teresa.Introductory note from Luis Sahún, the President
of Económico Hispano-Luxemburgués (FEHL)
To end March, the month of Francophonie and multilingualism, I have the great honor to present to you an interview with Her Royal Highness the Grand Duchess Maria Teresa of Luxembourg.
In this unique interview, HRH the Grand Duchess offers a very personal reflection on Her experience as a child who grew up in exile and the impact of this experience on Her relationship with language.
On behalf of the Foro Económico Hispano-Luxemburgués, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to His Royal Highness for having deigned to trust FEHL. My gratitude also goes to the Embassy of Luxembourg in Spain who supported us in carrying out this exceptional project.InterviewYour Royal Highness, in a recent interview with the Luxembourg magazine Télécran you spoke of your joy at feeling welcomed in a country where you understood that it would henceforth also be yours.
Born in Cuba but having grown up in Geneva, in French-speaking Switzerland, would you first define yourself as French-speaking in your relationship to language?
Yes absolutely, I am a francophone at heart and in a way, I can say that it is my language of heart. It is above all the language in which I was educated, because I took the French baccalaureate. French is therefore the language I know best, both written and spoken. It's a beautiful language and I tend to think that when you start dreaming in a language, it has adopted you, which I did from childhood.As a child, you followed your parents into exile at a very young age. How does a child feel about this change?
The change brought about by exile is always disturbing to those who experience it. I think you rarely leave your country, family and roots for fun. This change is all the more disturbing for a child. An example comes to mind with emotion, it goes back to when we left Cuba and were in New York, I must have been four years old. My mother had written in my notebook of memories: "Maria Teresa often asks when we are going to come home". The house was Cuba, of course.
However, I think that exile, although it is accompanied by suffering, also brings a great openness to others, because to adapt to the new environment, you must necessarily immerse yourself in a new culture, that of the country that welcomes you.MT is in the center, in the arms of her maternal grandmother, Maria Teresa Batista-Falla y BonetWhat memories have you kept from your native country?
Although I have only a few hazy memories of my life in Havana, there is one thing that marked me deeply throughout my education, and that is "the Cuban temperament". It is a real chance to grow up in a Cuban family, with its very warm, lively side, punctuated with joy and life. I am imbued with this state of mind, and that is why I hold so dear to my Cuban roots.
I also had the chance to grow up in a wonderful family, known for its philanthropy in Cuba, which transmitted to me values which are dear to me, they transmitted to me very early a maxim: "When you have received a lot, you have to give a lot". It is this state of mind that inspired me to get involved in humanitarian aid, and which has guided me in all my commitments.What language were you raised in? What was the place of the Spanish language in particular?
I am fortunate to have grown up in a multilingual environment, in which I spoke three languages. With my family and at home, I spoke Spanish. It is a very beautiful language that I particularly like, which is also my language of heart and the language of my origins. It’s a language that reminds me of my temperament, which is very Latin, and which I am very happy to have always kept!
I also grew up with English, which was the language we spoke with the English housekeeper who looked after us, and who was part of our family as she spent nineteen years with us. And finally French, the language of my schooling, which I have already told you about.Has the change of country reflected in your relationship to the language?
I would say that my condition of exile has above all endowed me with a great capacity for adaptation, to the country that welcomes you of course, and therefore necessarily to its language. It is a real wealth that I was able to acquire in a very natural way from childhood. I was able to discover each new language with joy, but beyond that, I learned that a language corresponds to a culture, a way of thinking, which is found in the expressions of the language, and which speaks of a "way of being". This relationship with language and culture interests me enormously and has always seemed to me to be fascinating and a huge asset. Being born in Cuba, growing up in the United States and then in Switzerland and getting married and living in Luxembourg: all these cultures to which I have been exposed have enriched me and made me who I am today.The Luxembourgish language which as a future Grand Duchess you must have learned, how did you approach it, did the experience of plurilingualism make your task easier?
When I got married, I wanted to learn the language of my new country, Luxembourgish straight away. I was lucky to have taken German as a third language at school and the grammar of Luxembourgish being largely Germanic, German made it easier for me to grasp my new language.
I'm lucky to have a pretty musical ear, and I pick up accents quickly, which made my language learning easier.
One of the very interesting features of Luxembourg is that it has three official languages: Luxembourgish, French and German, and a national language which is Luxembourgish. The Portuguese and Italian languages have come through immigration to enrich our culture. This multilingual and multicultural aspect makes Luxembourg a country very open to the world.What was your experience in particular during your first return to the country of your early childhood, what echoes captured your attention?
My first return to Cuba in 2002 was a very powerful experience. When we grow up outside our culture of origin, there are many things about our way of being that we do not always know how to fully appreciate or even understand, and somewhere, a nostalgia that does not say its name nestles in your heart.
I understood who I was when I returned to Cuba. I discovered through this beautiful island and this wonderful Cuban people, why I love to laugh, why I love to dance, so many things in me that made sense, and that I totally made it my own. When I met the Cubans and saw their way of being, their openness to others, their smile, their welcome, their rhythm and their music, I found myself, and that is of extraordinary strength! It’s something that pacifies you with yourself, especially when you live in cultures that are very different from your temperament or your native culture. This stage of my life has helped me immensely to build myself up and to feel happy, in addition to discovering an absolutely beautiful island to which I am extremely attached.You were among the first personalities in Luxembourg to thematize the subject of dyslexia, the relationship to language beyond syntax and grammar, is obviously a theme to which you attach great importance. Could you tell us a few words about it?
Having a dyslexic son, who had the courage to speak out about the challenge that this represents, I experienced first hand the problem of learning difficulties and the great suffering it represents, for the child and for the parents. It can also be a pain for teachers, who do not always know how to address these complex issues.
With the international forum that I initiated and organized by the Foundation of the Grand Duke and the Grand Duchess, I wanted to give hope to children and parents confronted with this problem, and even if understanding and helping to children has progressed, there is still a lot to do, because young people affected by learning difficulties are very gifted in a multitude of areas and real assets for society, if we can help them develop to their full potential!