The beauty of language
March 1, 2017
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When I was little, my parents would talk to each other across the dinner table in broken Spanish. They were nowhere near fluent, but they knew enough to keep, what I always assumed were, secrets from me and my sister.
Much like my parents, my grandparents would also secretly speak to each other but in Yiddish. From the minute I heard the foreign sounds and words rolling off my relatives’ tongues, I was hooked: language was a secret, and I wanted in.
Naturally, I jumped at the chance to learn a new language. In elementary school, I started learning French. In middle school, I began taking Spanish, which I still study.
Each language contains countless unique words, phrases and rules. Each language is absolute: if you don’t speak it, you won’t understand it. While language has the terrifying power to divide us, it also has the incredible power to unite us. We need to celebrate and accept language and the diversity it encourages.
Language is a secret that everyone can possess, and to me, that’s beautiful.
Learning multiple languages exposes people to millions of opportunities and offers chances to travel, explore, or talk to people across the globe. Language allows anyone willing to learn it the chance to thrive in the richness of various cultures.
In countless ways, Language allows for self expression. In Yiddish, for example, “Schlep” describes the action of going a great distance, or out of the way, while carrying something heavy or unnecessary. In Spanish, “Sobremesa” describes the period during a meal when everybody is done eating, yet remains talking at the table. In French, “L’ésprit d’escalier” describes the phenomenon of coming up with the perfect retort or reply too late. English doesn’t have one all-encompassing phrase to express any of these actions or feelings.
Every language offer various forms of expression that others do not, and to me that is the greatest secret. The ability to identify with other cultures is more important than any formal policy or border. It’s no wonder countries struggle with acceptance when so many can’t comprehend or even begin to understand what other people are describing.
The notion that new concepts exist that I don’t have the vocabulary to even fathom amazes me. Language is a secret that everyone can possess, and to me, that’s beautiful.