Do You Understand Me?
The importance of language

Reading, writing and the importance of language is something that is attempted to be taught to most of us from a very young age. I’m one of life’s readers – give me a good book and you won’t see me for days. My sister on the other hand, is incredibly intelligent but has probably voluntarily read about three books in her lifetime. Some grasp it straight away, others take somewhat longer, some thoroughly enjoy the challenges of learning new words and how to use them both in the spoken and written form, others view it as nothing but necessity. Neither viewpoint can be seen as superior to the other as after all, the right to opinion is something that has been fought for over centuries.

In the words of Evelyn Beatrice Hall in the biography of French philosopher Voltaire:

‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,’

However the one element that joins these various outlooks together is the fact that once we’ve grasped the basics, we take them for granted.

Once you know that CAT spells cat and DOG spells dog you never need think about it again, and I can’t imagine many do – after all, once you know you know. Which is why, the concept of languages fascinates me. The mere fact that you can be in a different country for example, sitting next to someone in a restaurant, and should you try to have a conversation, even though you know what you’re saying and they know what they’re saying and technically you’re saying exactly the same thing, chances are neither of you will have a clue what is actually being said. I talk a bit more about the harsh reality of this in social settings in more depth in my blog post ‘What I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know‘.

The arrangement of letters, punctuation, accent, even the speed at which the words are pronounced has over time created the most amazing natural divide between countries, cities and towns all over the world. It is a hugely frustrating factor for many a human that although we are all saying the same words, when we are out of our native habitat we almost revert back to our early, illiterate years, where we simply just don’t know what is being said to us, how to speak and be understood, or how to interpret what is written down in front of us.

There has been huge amounts of research done by many a scholared professor into the history of language; it’s birth, development, evolution and so on and so forth, but the true fact of the matter is that it would appear that nobody actually knows when language became a ‘thing’, which isn’t overly helpful but it’s the truth so there’s not much we can do about it.

Which therefore highlights, to me at least, the importance of two key things, which you may agree with me on or you may not, but as afore mentioned, opinion is king.

Number one – patience. When visitors are in England and they can’t say hello, goodbye, good morning etc the first reaction from most of us Brits whether conscious or not is ‘what an ignorant human, how can they come here and not know basic entry level communication?!’ Flip that for a moment on its head and place yourself in a foreign country – would you have taken the time to research and learn how to get by on a daily basis in that country’s language? Methinks for the majority, probably not. So have patience, with yourself and with others if you find yourself in this situation. Getting frustrated won’t magically make either one of you fluent in the others mother tongue.

Number two – appreciation. Appreciate how wonderfully fortunate you are to have language. Written, spoken, any way you communicate is a huge gift because it gives you a way to express yourself and a chance to be heard. There are so many people who are unable to communicate for a multitude of reasons that would so desperately love to be able to do so, in one way or another, so just for a moment think about how so very lucky you are if you can, without even thinking about it, make yourself understood.

So I suppose what I’m really trying to say through all of this is that whether you love it or hate it, language is one of the greatest gifts we have, so please, use it wisely.

‘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. Use what language you will, you can never say anything but what you are’ Nelson Mandela.

As a starter for ten if you’re learning Turkish, check out these really useful words and phrases to help get you started…..

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