Why ‘A Mirror of Mind’?

It’s an unusual name for a website, so why ‘A Mirror of Mind’? The reason is simple.

I was living in Italy. It was early 2017, it was a pristine, chilly day and I was living in my eighth country of residence, teaching English. I remember the day clearly – it was a weekend and I had spent a wonderful day exploring one of the treasures of northern Italy (I believe it was either a walk in Verona or one of the towns on Lake Garda – not sure which)

I was sitting on the train from said location back to my home in Romano di Lombardia. I absolutely love podcasts (I have not written about too many, but I feel I should), and at this time I happened to be listening to a podcast by the Guardian Science Weekly on one of my main passions in life: language. It was discussing Universal Grammar, one of the things I had studied in some detail at university whilst studying for my degree in German and Linguistics.

In this podcast arose a quote from Noam Chomsky that I had never heard before. It quite eloquently summed up a large portion of my personal and professional activities :

“One reason for studying language – and for me personally the most compelling reason – is that it is tempting to regard language, in the traditional phrase, as ‘a mirror of mind.'”


I cannot claim to be particularly proficient at language learning; nor can I claim to be a polyglot of any kind. Nevertheless, I do have a keen interest in all things linguistic, and I have thus far over the years managed to hold a reasonably decent conversation in (I think) seven different languages, and I do always try to learn a language when I live in a country so that I can get by and make somebody chuckle at my terrible attempts at their tongue! Despite all of this, languages have been a core element in my life since I was sixteen and decided that German would be the primary A-Level qualification to go for. I did quite well (thank you Mr. Palmer – if I am lucky enough to bump into you again when I am at home in England, I will have to find some way to thank you) and this continued into my early twenties thanks to the University of Southampton and the wonderful Erasmus program.

As I write this in 2019, I find it hard to imagine my life without languages in one way or another. My entire post-university career has involved teaching a language, as well as trying to take on a new language every year or two. At a time when I was thinking of finally documenting some of my teaching ideas and uploading some of my travel experiences, this podcast provided me with the inspiration I needed to start this website and, hopefully, allow others to glimpse at the mirror of my mind in some small way.

1 comment

  1. I always assumed it was a quote or reference to something. I enjoyed reading how it became your blog name!

    I can identify with this phrase too. Just this week I’ve been working on developing my response in Russian to the question ‘why are you learning Russian’. I’m always surprised to be asked that question. How can I try and understand the culture and people if I don’t also try to learn the language?

    I’m not sure who wrote about the correspondence between structure of language and nature of the culture (eg. structured languages like German have an organised culture with what seem to be clear expectations (eg. be on time), contrasted with Spanish or Italian for instance). The way I see it, the language, culture and people are all so intertwined. And all fascinating.

    Liked by 1 person

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