“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”
It was in my freshman year of high school that I first fell in love with language, thanks to a French teacher who inspired us to look beyond the words to understand the people and the cultures behind them. This week’s Alphabet challenge stirred memories of that initial exposure and my subsequent quest to better appreciate the world’s languages.
“Who are we without our words?”
After studying French, Spanish and Latin in high school, I went on to become a language major in college. There I studied more French and Spanish as well as German and much more interestingly, linguistics. It was in the last that the evolution of language became much more clear – to the point that we were able to speak and write Swahili without actually studying it – a whole new world was suddenly opened to me.
“Pity the poor in spirit who know neither the enchantment nor the beauty of language.”
Beyond written language, in recent years scientists have begun to understand the many forms of communication used by other species. Sophisticated sonar communication between whales, the clicks of dolphins, the complex squawks of crows and even the use of foot stomping by elephants are all examples of languages we are only now beginning to explore.
“I like you; your eyes are full of language.”
While we in the US think of our own alphabet as the method for depicting language in written form, other cultures offer much more extensive alternatives. The Chinese, for example, use thousands of symbols to depict their language.
“I dream of lost vocabularies that might express some of what we no longer can.”
During our exploration of China I captured some of the examples of written language that I found most interesting. The pictographs used by the Naxi people, which is nearly extinct, were fascinating. Today’s opening capture of a hotel sign includes Chinese script as well as an English translation and if both fail, the lovely little pictoral image of the building. I especially liked the second image, which I made from a charming moment in a local park, where a group of seniors were practicing their art by writing on the pavement.The shot above made me smile because of it’s message – “Sincerity . Eternity”. Seriously, how could you possibly expect to see such a sign on the back of a BUS of all places?! And finally…..
“Language is the only homeland.”
I loved the sign captured above, not only for it’s message but for the sincere attempt at translation – which didn’t quite achieve idiomatic success, but got the idea across despite the disconnect 😊.
Here’s to communication – in whatever form it takes.