The Edge of Words: An Interview with Ms. Natalya, English and Math Teacher

Natalya Soloveychik, one of the teachers at the Eastern Mediterranean International School, accepted my invitation to talk about some aspects in today’s literary world. Her areas of interest, as she doesn’t teach only English, but also Mathematical Studies, gives her students the chance to experience a multidisciplinary side of culture and education.

Reporter: First of all thank you for accepting my invitation. I know you teach both literature and mathematics and it is no longer a secret that even though they seem opposite, there is actually a special connection between them. How would you describe the way they are linked and what is it like to teach both?

Natalya Soloveychik: I really enjoy teaching both literature and mathematics because in university I studied political science and mathematics so I already had that link. Additionally, math is really everywhere. It’s like another language, another way of looking at the world. And literature is also a way of looking at the world through words. Really, in both cases we’re looking at the same thing, it’s just different points of view. I think it was a German philosopher that once said that the worst thing we’ve done in education is to split the subjects up, because before that all the great mathematicians were polymath, they were good at everything. And that is really effective, because knowledge is everywhere, but now we just put it in a category and just because we say it’s in a box, it doesn’t mean it is actually in a box.

R:   Education is not all about what we learn in school, but how we extend our learning preoccupation in our free time. Reading books used to be associated with knowledge and power. But what is literature’s faith nowadays in the internet era?

N.S: I think the internet made knowledge power more democratic, because if you have access to a computer and internet, you can find out everything. Knowledge is becoming more widespread. Now, what do we do with that information, how do we find that information, how do we know it’s correct information, those are all skills that nowadays we need to know and I think knowledge in general is changing from just memorising to research, to finding information and then to figuring out what you are going to do with it. It’s a different way we need to start thinking, because you are absolutely right, knowledge has changed.

R:    Another thing that comes along with the internet is that everyone is now able to publish their written pieces. Does mass literature represent a danger?

N.S: I don’t think it represents a danger, I think it’s a shift; a change in literature. It is a change in what the world considers to be literary worth. Now it is different, because you have people publishing Facebook posts with spelling mistakes. Facebook has become something that more people read than books and this is totally changing the way information is being transferred. I don’t think it is ruining anything, it is just different. It is a change and it is a difficult change for a lot of people. But it is a change and it is organic, that is how life works.

R:   How would you describe the profile of today’s world writer since everything is socially or politically linked? How involved are they in society?

N.S: It is interesting because in a way this is one of the major questions in literature; how much is literature trying to impact the “status quo” or how much is it trying to impact society in general, or how much is just your personal creation? That is something I think it was from when we started writing, when we began to have this debate about the purpose of literature. Now, maybe there is a bit more social integration. I think literature is just a reflection of the writer and even if it has something to do with social issues, there’s still a specific problem that touches the writer.

R: But is their job only to create works in a secluded environment?

N.S: It is hard, it is hard to first create a secluded environment and then take yourself out of it. I think even when you try to be objective it is kind of a reflection of who you are as a person and how did you get to the point where you’re trying to be objective. You know what I mean? Everything you do is a production of you and your experiences in your life, so even in literature if you want to write a beautiful social critical piece it’s still the question: “Why did I do it?”. There is always this question and I think it is an important question.

R:       We also travel a lot today and English inevitably becomes our second language and we – the students at EMIS – are the best example. Elif Shafak, a Turkish writer, calls writing in 2 different languages a journey. Literarily speaking, how would you define the transition from writing in your native language to writing in English?

N.S: It is also a very interesting discussion, because languages are more than just words, they are a way of thinking and they reflect the culture. We are talking even in Math about the way numbers are said in different languages, like in French, the number 80 is expressed as 4 times 20. Languages are different ways of thinking about something. And so, when we write in different languages there is a big difference in the world we are showing, because that is the way those words develop, that is their power and their specific context and their specific history. So, totally, there is a lot of beauty in the fact we all speak English. It is great, because we can all communicate, but there is also the sad part where we kind of may be losing a unique cultural and historical identities, which can be beautiful manifestations. 

Written by Raluca Ciubotariu

Edited by Hannah Cook


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