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Seeing Through Langauge


The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t being said. ~Unknown

I just received a book from Amazon, a book I ordered a few days ago. Amazon is an amazing company. I can sit in the comfort of my home, browse their book selection which is larger than any store I’ve visited, read book reviews written by regular people, get referrals to similar books for comparison, then place an order and have the book delivered to my home all for less than it would cost me to head out to the local bookstore and purchase the book in person. If I had a Kindle or other such eReader, I would be able to read the book the very instant I made the purchase. If I didn’t enjoy perusing the titles in the book store so much, I might never buy another book on anywhere other than Amazon.

The book is titled, “Through The Language Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages”. I became aware of the book via a comment on my blog by someone reading the Iliad at the same time I was reading the Iliad. She recommended the book because it helped her understand the use of color in the Iliad. The gist of the book extracted from the prologue is that the language we grow up with influences how we experience the world.

I have long been fascinated with languages and, since I learned during my Freshman year in High School that I can’t just substitute Spanish words in English grammar to speak Spanish, I have oft wondered about the way people express themselves through the spoken and written word. I have heard of languages that have no concept of the number (non-number) that is zero and wondered how they did math. I was fascinated when I heard that one of the Native American languages has no word for sorry. If a person accidentally step on someone’s foot, the act of getting off their foot is an automatic sorry. If the person wasn’t sorry, they would continue to stand on the person’s foot.

When I travel to a country in which English is not the native language, I make sure I learn a few words, the basics; Yes, No, Please, and Thank You. I do this both because I believe it is polite to at least attempt to converse in their native tongue and I enjoy languages. Part of what intrigues me about being delegated to a foreign land for a year, is that I will be culturally immersed, I will be living in a context where it will be difficult to communicate and I am forced to learn the language of the locals, I will finally be able to achieve my lifelong goal of becoming fluent in another tongue.

How amazing would it be to see India not through an English interpretation but through a native interpretation? I would be better able to understand the culture, better understand the heart of the people I am visiting because I would be seeing them through their own language.

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