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Why language matters!

Why language matters!

Patrick Gartrelle No Comment

Patrick –

A few nights ago my house celebrated the birthday of the woman I call “Casa Mama”. I know the words do not translate into English properly but it’s true intention is to show respect for my house mom. She is a wonderful woman and is always trying to find ways to make me feel more comfortable in Guatemala.

On her birthday she nicely requested we had pizza for dinner, so we did. At the table she invited some visitors we were hosting and the tenants who live in a house behind our house. A giant box of Pizza Hut showed up at the door and everyone was ready to dig in. As we sat around the table it is important to know, I don’t speak enough Spanish to have a comfortable conversation with others and to make matters worse I was at a table with all native speakers. I prefer to listen and attempt to follow along, sometimes I chime in when necessary.

So one of the reasons why languages matter is because true emotions move through our words and also our actions. But it is hard to truly comprehend how another human is feeling without the power of language. As I looked around the table I saw nothing but smiles, the conversation looked healthy and I was itching to join in, but it wasn’t really possible. At least it is not possible right now but listening for the time being is helpful, I understand more than I can responded.

At the dinner table “Casa Mama” went and got a very large candle and said we were celebrating all the summer birthdays. So we started with Roxy who is 17 and lives in the house behind ours with her mother. I see them daily and say my hellos and few words and go about my day. We began to sing happy birthday in Spanish which I actually knew, so I found it entertaining to be included in this chant. After Roxy, a candle was lit for me and they requested we sung it in English, but they needed to learn the words.

So another reason why language matters is because everyone wants to get involved with it and understand the meaning. I don’t think there are many things as frustrating as not being able to understand someone. When you don’t speak the same language as someone you do some crazy things to get your point across. I can recall throughout my travels around the world I have acted like a chicken in many foreign countries in order to ensure my food order was correct. So in the long run understanding someone completely is a small desire within us. I can’t recall one time while travelling in Guatemala or anywhere around the world where someone has walked away from me because they could not understand me, in fact I think it only makes people want to help out more. The sense of accomplishment is one to parade around with, when you get through to someone who can’t comprehend your native tongue.

After I taught the words to “Happy Birthday” we sung it with mixed success but it was very warm and I blew out my candle 21 days late but at least it happened. Last but not least it was Casa Mama’s turn and as we prepared to sing the words to Happy Birthday in Spanish the lyrics defiantly changed, which confused me. But I just clapped along and wished her well on her birthday. After the celebration and clean up Roxy had a request. She wanted me to help her with an English assignment she had due for tomorrow.

I agreed to help her of course, English is my native language and I love sharing it. Her assignment was to properly write and read aloud the rules of basketball. I explained to her that the sport was complicated but the basics are very easy to comprehend. It is also really up my alley because my father is heavily involved in the basketball world. Through our exchange and working together for about 90 minutes not only did Roxy master pronunciations, she is really good at retaining information. Her listening skills we superb and the excitement knowing that she would be successful with her assignment the next day was a great feeling. We also both discovered we both play basketball for leisure.

This brings me to my last point. People want to be successful in as many ways as possible and language opens up more options in my opinion than a 4 year degree. Keeping this short it was just a really nice feeling knowing that she felt prepared for something and it did not take that long. It also didn’t take much for me to share information that I was programmed with since birth. The night was a fun success in my opinion. We celebrated each other, our cultures and learned something new.

 

Language matters because it creates and moves emotion or information from person to person, it creates involvement and  gives a sense of success and security. Language is essentially for life’s greatest things.

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