The Question of Language

Standard

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language 
And next year’s words await another voice.”
T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

Words

Have you ever counted how many words you speak in one day?  How many you use when you write, read, or text?  How many you use when you think or dream?  Language, whether spoken or written, is the powerful conduit that connects humanity.  It is ever evolving and has an infinite amount of possibilities.   Words can soothe our heartbreak, energize our passions, and ignite our resolve.

UNESCO has a pulse on the languages that span our global, interconnected world.  There are approximately 6,000 languages currently in use; however, the forecast for the future is quite clear.  Less than half will exist by the end of this century.  According to National Geographic, one language dies every 14 days. The loss of knowledge is incalculable.

I want to explore the idea of languages within the context of a world that strives relentlessly to find a common language.  I am uncertain exactly where this discussion will lead.  Of one thing I am confident – I will be using words that offer an infinite amount of possibilities.

“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.” 
 Nelson Mandela

31 thoughts on “The Question of Language

  1. Kia Ora, Clanmother ( I like calling you Clanmother :)) this is a supremely timely post. This week is Maori Language Week in New Zealand. Just a week?! People are working so hard to ensure the survival of this language but no one is certain of its future. Here is our wonderful library doing its bit http://cclblog.wordpress.com/2013/07/03/te-kete-wananga-o-karoro-new-brighton-library/ I have been thinking a lot this week about Maori and how little I know of it; and wondering, too, if ,in every country, there is an ignorance of the language of the first peoples. The Maori word of the day is Papatuanuku (Mother Earth) Hei konā mai me te aroha (With Love) Gallivanta

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    • The Christchurch City Libraries Blog is an wealth of information – have signed up to follow. The seagull (food/chatter/) theme is remarkable – a confirmation of the wealth of knowledge held within a language. It seems that, with the Maori language there is a strong connection to earth and nature. When we lived up in northern Manitoba my family was involved in learning the Chipewyan language. It is a member of the Northern Athabaskan branch of the Na-Dene language spoken in northern Manitoba and Saskatchewan, north-eastern Alberta, south-eastern North-West Territories and the south-western Nunavut.The older people have kept the tradition, but the young people are not as familiar with it. Efforts are being made to revive the language among the young people via immersion programs in elementary and high schools. Here’s hoping!!! 🙂 BTW – I like being called Clanmother!!

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      • It seems to me that when we love our own language it is so much easier to love other languages and appreciate their significance. How lovely that your family were learning the Chipewyan language.

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      • We had fun – but we never really mastered the language! It was a way to appreciate a diverse and remarkable culture. 🙂

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  2. A propos your last comment about Charles Ritchie… I so admire the way you wade into life siezing every opportunity to expand your vision and your understanding…

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    • Thank you so much for your comments. I have found that curiosity keeps us engaged, participating and focused on moving forward. And there is so many exciting things to learn, especially when we have kindred spirits to share the joy of discovery. It is like putting a jigsaw puzzle together and saying “ah ha – that is where it fits.” And you have given me so much to consider! I’m always going to Vancouver Public Library On-Line whenever I stop by for a chat. How delightfully wonderful… 🙂

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  3. Thanks for another great post, Rebecca. Your language as your said, offers an infinite amount of possibilities. It is because your heart speaks. Whenever you speak with your heart, people will understand. The tool (language) that you use always touches someone’s heart. Thank you!

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    • Thank you for your heartwarming words! Words are a matter of choice, of responsibility, of compassion, of hope! Hugs!

      “Be nicer than necessary to everyone you meet. Everyone is fighting some kind of battle.”
      ― Socrates

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  4. Imagine if they invented a wordometer to count our spoken words, just as you can use a pedometer to measure each step you take. I’m sure we’d be rendered speechless by the daily result. 😀

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    • Oh, that would be fun! I remember trying to count how many “buts” I used in my day. The word “but” has the extraordinary power to elevate and demean in the same sentence. For example, “I love the colour of your dress, but it doesn’t go well with the scarf your are wearing.” I must confess that I found that I used this work significantly more than I thought I did. And when I didn’t use “but”, there were other choice words like “nevertheless” “nonetheless” and “yet.” Oh, my!!! So that was one of my “ah ha” moments! We learn as we go along…:) 🙂 🙂

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    • Me too!!! I remember when I first read “the Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock in high school! I was enchanted..

      “In the room the women come and go
      Talking of Michelangelo.”

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  5. for me words are everything, and love languages, very interesting topic looking forward to the next post 😉

    you always have the perfect photo with the text

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    • Thank you!!! Sometimes we need to be reminded to relax and enjoy the day….
      Love your visits! 🙂

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  6. Oh no… I’m still struggling with computer language, forget about cell phone texting. I hear you Mandela, talking to the heart.

    If I add any more words spoken to all those I write on a daily basis my system will crash like a computer. In any event, might I suggest, with the horror stories of the limited language quality of today’s North American students coming out of higher education, hardly able to read, let alone speak properly, we concentrate on learning, in this case the English first. I myself would want to master the total of the daily spoken English language, last I read (probably higher now) was 600,000 words. Then again maybe I’m in the wrong place (which for me is not difficult) and not hearing beyond the fractured so called English and French I hear all around me. Thus not able to connect with where you are heading.Would you not have to understand ones own at a high level before venturing to a universal communication. How do you explain it otherwise? Whatever comes of it you have a large undertaking here, so Bonne Chance ! JJ

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    • Ah, you are suggesting that words should be given a certain amount of respect. You have just segued into a huge dialogue. The question becomes, do words, languages have to be spoken correctly to be understood? Do we give more value to those who have a better grasp of the words? Several years ago, my husband, son and I traveled to Italy and enrolled in a 3 week course at an Italian language school. They did not permit anyone to speak English. If fact, there were only a handful who spoke English so I couldn’t even cheat. I couldn’t follow directions, I had to guess at the time schedule, I didn’t know how to ask where to buy groceries. In the middle of this, a young man smiled and said “Non c’e problema.” He understood what I was feeling. Communication without full knowledge. All of of sudden, I was free to explore and enjoy my studies. The words would come.

      Thank you for adding so much to the conversation!!! 🙂

      “No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care” Theodore Roosevelt

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  7. By the way, you might find my alternate preference to words…

    “ The Sound of Silence ”
    ~ a blissful pleasure ~

    Ah to be free
    Of obstreperous sounds,
    Man’s din vociferous
    That so abounds,
    Ever torturing
    An anguished ear
    Implied inured,
    We’re made to hear
    Too far beyond,
    Man meant endure…

    Oh for the sound
    Of deafening stillness,
    A resounding calm
    Of blissful pleasure,
    In the healing balm
    Of echoing silence,
    You can almost hear
    From the quiet whisper
    Of a falling tear,
    For the sound of silence!

    © Jean-Jacques Fournier

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  8. it is also interesting how the written word can be misconstrued. This has been amplified in the world of texting which is exacerbated by poor punctuation and often leads to lengthy explanations and on occasion conflict.

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    • Been there! Done that!!! Our words are speeding up – and so is the likelihood of mis-communication. When I first saw LOL, I thought it meant “lots of love.” not “laugh out loud.” I now have at my fingertips, a website that gives me online chat and text message abbreviations. My mother, who is in her 80’s is a master texter. She said to me, “if I want to keep in touch with my grandchildren, I need to understand their language.”

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    • You are so right – it is an intuitive process, one that resists clichés and stereotypes and puts the other person first! I always like what the Dalai Lama comes up with…

      “Silence is sometimes the best answer”
      ― Dalai Lama XIV

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  9. Indonesia is one of the world’s fourth most populous country has over two hundred of distinct native ethnic and linguistic groups.
    The “Bhineka Tunggal Ika” (Unity in Diversity) is the moto of Indonesian that derived from a language that was extinct here. I am fascinated with what Mandela have said and I am grateful that I can reach and touch your heart with the language you speak.

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    • I just went on Google and was amazed by the breadth and depth of Indonesia’s languages. “Bhineka Tunggal Ika” – this is the way of progress. When a language disappears, the culture fades away. I think that you will like this video! I did. Thank you so much for your comments and presence. 🙂

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      • Yes I do like this clip. Thank you for giving me a link to it. It is important for children to learn their mother language – When a language disappears, the culture fades away. I will keep it in mind. Thank you 🙂

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  10. Why am I getting a message that all this texting, will eventually kill off the beauty of a well written, ergo also spoken languages. Much like man has been killing off the many animal species of our world, thru among other methods, air and ground pollution, thru oil and other explorations etc. Well why not do in our languages with abbreviations, which we have been doing for years to the point of not recognizing the actual word it replaces. We have become more familiar with, and readily so, the few letters that replaces the word. All this to accommodate our so-called button pushing communications, we believe to be, and thus call progress. The ever overly anxious urge and need for speed. Rushing to stand still, in the process of rushing life away , and realizing it only once it is near the end…

    If I need to learn texting to speak to my grandchildren, I can’t imagine ever having anything too earth-shatteringly important or interesting to talk about with them, or they with me. I truly do not want the beauty of our language species to die, so some of us will have to hold our ground to save what is still with us, of the pre-texting variety vocabulary. That may even encourage said grandchildren to learn to read and speak with complete words, while looking us in the eye, rather than at a cell phone, and ergo know what we look like while we are still alive. Hey…one can dream, for that is one thing that they will not abolish with what we have been brainwashed to believe to be progress, as in rush to stand still.

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    • Thank you adding to the discussion and for keeping our language safe.

      “A language is everything you do.”
      ― Margaret Atwood

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  11. Great discussion. Language–was God-given for sure. What if we had no means of utterance of expression to others in any language. What then?

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    • I have yet to get into body language and gestures. Now that is an interesting conversation all by itself! You have given me another idea…

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