story | Minsoo Bae, Contributing Reporter
photo | Yihao Xie

Tònes, Yale-NUS College’s multilingual magazine, held its first magazine launch party on Jan. 19. A literary magazine celebrating linguistic and cultural diversity, it welcomed submissions from native speakers as well as new language learners; the former, so that it may draw out stories of home, and the latter, to allow for a unique medium to experiment with a new language. The theme for this issue was makan, or “(to) eat”, in Malay.

The first issue featured 14 writers and ten languages, ranging from Romanian to Vietnamese. English translations were printed next to the original pieces. Students reserved 102 copies in advance out of the 150 total prints. At the launch, authors read their work in the foreign language and shared personal stories that inspired the works. The topics ranged from campfires in Argentina to learning to be proud of eating onigiri in Belgium. The launch party also featured a spread of snacks from 13 countries.

Tònes was inspired by Yale’s multilingual publication Accent, which Tònes’ co-founder, Anna Evtushenko ’17, was involved in as a contributing writer during her semester abroad at Yale. She was intrigued by the concept, and thought it fit the mission and diversity of Yale-NUS College. Yihao Xie ’17, co-founder of Tònes, echoed this sentiment, recalling a time when he picked up a copy of Accent during his orientation at Yale. Evtushenko and Xie began planning the publication last August.

A pile of Tònes Issue 1, with the theme Makan.

A pile of Tònes Issue 1, with the theme Makan.

“It’s part of our community that’s never really been captured,” said Xie, on the intentions behind the magazine. “We have such a diverse student body. We hope that people will be incentivized to learn another language, as well as have a medium to keep in touch with their native one.”  

Those interviewed expressed a wide range of opinions about the importance of writing in a language other than English. Jonas Yun ’18 said that he believed languages evolve based on their uses, and therefore different languages are best suited for different modes of writing. He gave the example of Italian for opera songs, and French for romantic poems. Regarding his piece written from the perspective of his grandmother on the popular Korean dish “army stew”, he said that “Korean as a language was better for expressing tales of suffering, especially in light of its history in the past 150 years”.

Evtushenko described writing in another language as showing another personality, one that may not necessarily show through in English. She said she felt distanced from her “Russian self” while using English almost exclusively in Singapore, and wished to have a platform to engage with and portray her native side. “While I may not completely grasp the richness of someone else’s writing in another language, I feel like I can understand him or her better when I read the piece [and] I hear the person read the piece [in his or her native language]” said Evtushenko.

The publication of the second issue of Tònes is scheduled for the end of this semester. The theme will be “dual”. Submissions can be sent in to ynctones@gmail.com.

Correction: This article originally said that Makan means “food” in English. It has now been correct to “(to) eat”.

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