I am participating in Stream on Consciousness Saturday this week. The prompt is Language.
I have always being interested in Language – any kind of language. It first started with my own – I believe I learned to speak at the right age and didn’t have any articulation problems. At school I liked grammar – so many kids hated it – but I was quite fascinated about how a language was built up. Spelling wasn’t that important to me but I got the gist of the rules and if I made mistakes – they were more through carelessness and concentrating on another aspect of the task – like getting the writing right or answering the question correctly and mainly in writing a creative story. These skill are different to the structure of language which only comes naturally much later in life. My grammar was perfect in a grammar lesson and I always got full marks for a spelling test.
Some people are very snobbish about using correct grammar and spelling in their daily speech and writing – I like using the correct form but I believe communication is way more important. I taught little kids and loved their creative spelling – they could ask for help with words but it was much better for them to apply their own skill and of course I could understand what they wrote. It was the content that was important – the little story they were writing or the questions they were answering – let the rules come later I would tell them if they got upset that something was wrong – you’re using your own brain to get your message across. Language is also a living thing – it changes over time – it grows and usually becomes much simpler. And isn’t it amazing how the same language can be spoken so completely differently in different countries or even regions? Language defines us. It encompasses more than just words – it embraces culture and personality too. Why do we think of the French as romantic lovers and Italians as having passionate operatic personalities. Surely their language is partly why?
In South Africa there are 11 official languages – Yes – ELEVEN. And their speakers are all different in many ways – culture, creed and diet. I speak only two of those languages – English being my mother tongue and Afrikaans I was taught at school. I do not speak nor understand the other nine – but it would be useful to at least have a few words in Xhosa which is spoken by many people in the Eastern and Western Cape. Of course most of them know English so we get by communicating in my language. But to really understand another culture, it helps to speak their language.
We, as English speakers, I believe, are lazy about learning other languages – EVERYBODY speaks English – Why bother? And now with all those translate apps it’s not even necessary to have a phrase book in a foreign country. But what a lot we miss if we don’t at least try to learn a few words and phrases. I am grateful that I learned some Italian before I visited that country. I found that not everybody understood English! My husband landed up in an Italian hospital for three weeks. The nursing staff and therapists did not understand English! It was difficult but I kept calm and spoke as much Italian as I could!
Of course there are so many different types of language beside what is spoken – there are software languages, the language of love, body language and sign language.
Without language we could not communicate, learn, create or progress. Yet nobody really knows how we learn it. The older a language the more complex it is – modern languages are easier to learn. The smarter we get the simpler we make things and yet our knowledge grows and our technology becomes more amazing. And it all started with Language.
If you have animals or have ever watched creatures in the wild, you will know that animals communicate too – just in a language that most humans do not understand – yet your pet understand yours!
I love language!