What does language mean to me?

Moving across various countries, language becomes one of the important factor in my life. Learning new language wasn’t easy to me but I had no other choice than learn the language. So, I had to learn the language because I have to live there.

If culture was a house, then language was the key to the front door, to all the room inside.

Khaled Housseini

What were the good things about learning a new language?
I had ability to assist others if they requires such assistance. I had ability to interact with others in their native language. I was able to see things in a multiple ways. Understand the culture first hand.

The language barrier is probably the most difficult and takes the longest to overcome.

Stephen Lee

What were the bad things about knowing multiple language?
Confusion. Fear of not belonging to any culture or place because for the native speakers I will be always foreigners to them. I had people who tried to took advantage of my abilities.

To speak a language is to take on a world, a culture.

Frantz Fanon

Because of my experience in relation to language, sense of not belonging, feeling of alienation, I felt I was living in a confusion. Even sort of knowing and living in a country for over two decades now, I always had sense of not belonging. I always felt I was a foreigner. I always hate the feeling of uniqueness. I just want to be a ‘normal’, ‘general’ ‘one of many’.

I never saw myself as talented in language. There are many out there who can speak multiple languages. I am just one of many. I didn’t choose to learn another language. I had no choice. So when someone told me that they want to be an interpreter/translator and they said that they envy me because I speak so many language. Well, I struggle to understand why. I just happened to be. Once again, I didn’t choose to take this path.

This is a fascinating perspective of myself. For years, my supervisor tried very hard to show me the significance of knowing multiple languages. I probably will still say that I didn’t choose to but wherever I looked, opportunities were in relation to my ability of language. Like it or not, that’s just the world is.

When I admit that’s part of my uniqueness, I stopped stressed about it. Yes. I know few languages, so? That’s something I had to do but that’s not all about me. I am more than just knowing few languages.

Recently, I had a very interesting conversation with my supervisors. We were talking about the difficulty of explaining different notion of ‘team’ and ‘group’ to some international students. I would probably never thought to explain difference between these two terms.

Recently, I am experiencing interesting power of language. I am now fascinated about meanings that individual people attach to a word. I think I am at the gate of encountering the art of language.

Language is an art, like brewing or baking…

It certainly is not a true instinct, for every language has to be learnt.

Charles Darwin

One day, I was in a workshop and we did a little exercise. We were try to define the word ‘courage’. We had about 20 people in a room and every person can replace the word ‘courage’ with another word. Interestingly, we had 20 different explanation of ‘courage’.

Change in language often reflect the change values of a culture.

Ravi Zacharias

It is easy to assume the meaning behind each word but if I really want to understand the true meaning behind what has been expressed, I start to ask what does this person mean by such and such word.

Someone once shared a story with me around the word ‘Thank you”. Depending on the culture, it may have different meaning. So, if a person can use ‘Thank you’ and ‘No’ appropriate to that culture, it means that person tried to understand each culture.

I remember a friend asked me to stop using the phrase ‘I have to’ or ‘I should’. Instead, she suggested me to use the phrase ‘I choose to’. This is simply changing the word but it had lightened my mind to believe that I have choice in my life to do what I choose to do.

What is your perspective of a language?
If you can rephrase your thinking, what would you say?
Have you experienced the power of language?

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