Language is such a complex, amazing thing. The fact that you are reading this sentence right now and immediately conjuring up ideas and images in your brain just by having your eyes transmit a message through these peculiar characters we can letters, in a set pattern that form words, in a sequence that forms a sentence – is crazy. I think I am relatively on top of the whole language thing , because I work with language learners daily, and have robust meta-linguistic conversations with fellow educators all the time. I consider myself in tune with the details of letter formation, meaning making through letters and words and so many other things that most adults take for granted since they haven’t spent, hours, days, month and years working with little ones and seeing the lightbulb go on when they “GET IT.” Not to mention that I am bilingual and biliterate and am always learning and teaching about the complexities of how language works.
Sitting through a Latin mass yesterday shone a new light on just how complex language can be. I am pretty familiar with all the mass parts, I speak Spanish which is derived from a dialect of latin thus having very similar sounding words, but I admit, I was at a loss. I kept thinking about language learners of all kinds and how real the struggle is.
I’m a relatively smart person. I was interested in the topic, familiar with the content, knew what to expect, knew some key vocabulary , yet was unable to fully participate and even distracted and frustrated at times. This was only for a span of 35-40 minutes. I sympathized greatly with our students, many of whom sit through a similar situation all day.
Trying not to be negative, I focused on the beauty and power of language. We take for granted our ability to use words and body language to communicate, whether we speak the same language or not. It is incredible how entire societies have used language throughout the centuries. How language changes and evolves daily. How we learn idiosyncrasies and nuances of using language in different settings, contexts or with different people. I am amazed at the ability of the human brain to process at incredible speed the accent on a word, the tilt of the head, the inflection of a voice.
Take a moment to appreciatel for your ability to hear, read, speak, write and communicate a thought , message or feeling on demand without much effort.