Arrival : The Importance of Language

As a child I was gifted with unusual language abilities. I used to be able to memorise words and their meaning instantly, but however I would never know how to spell them. I spent many years struggling to understand how to translate my rich vocabulary onto a piece of paper. Unable to be understood in my writing, I started to feel separated form others. As some things we communicate do not come from talking. I ended writing for myself a lot, wishing people would read my stories. No one really did in the end, but it felt good writing them anyway. And so I for one appreciate the complexity of writing more than others, as for many years all I could do was talk.

There are major difference between talking and writing, if you write people tend to listen. We understand better the meaning of an idea if it is showed to us. And what better is there to paint a picture than words? They transcend sound and time itself, as they carry voices of long dead souls into our heads. Sometimes it is as if these words whisper to our ears, they speak of ancient secrets long forgotten. Now becoming a tool for our generation, they continue to teach us about who we are. With one sentence and a click a person can have the power to take down governments. Those type of communication are new and we still attempt to see how far they can really go.

This is why our era is destined to explore yet another territory of our world, language. The way we communicate and intend to be perceived, defines what to be human means. We have developed over the years many new concepts to which we paired new words.  If one was to walk up to an Alien and shout “I am Human”, would the alien be able to comprehend? Does he understand any notion of individuality? Does he communicate through sound waves and imagery like us? These are the challenging questions behind a simple statement. We not only have to teach them about the words we speak but also what they represent to us.

The beauty of words is that, one must explain them only truly possessing a half-knowledge of their truest meaning. For example, “Weapon” is a word not to be taken lightly. As it can mean many things beyond its original description. To us it is a words that conveys aggression, as we allow words to carry meaning and power. Releasing them could ultimately acts as firing a gun. One just hopes he fires in the right direction. Words once spoken can never be taken back, but untold ones will never expose all that is unseen. Such is the duality between deciding to use them, or abstain to do so. Our vocabulary is what separates us from animals. It insures you are understood and not perceived as an animal, but as an entity. This is the challenge ahead for the ones who wish to encounter new cultures. Leap across in the unknown and establish a notion of who you are. Hoping the other party understands who that is in their context.

Language can easily be obstructed by communication issues. This is because language is constantly being modified by us. We decide the words we want to speak and so create our own language. This creates language barriers, a good example of that is a joke. Often the meaning of a joke relies too much on context to work. This often makes it impossible to translate. When a joke does get translated however, it is a proof that communication can be improved upon. We can train our brains to adopt a new way of thinking quite flexibly.

 Another complex thing to translate is a lie. As one must understand what “lying” means. To us it is something we face every day, but for someone who has never heard a lie, the concept might be confusing. Ultimately the language you speak defines who you are. As our brains are indeed wired to the way we write and speak. Dots in sentences tells us it is over. Comas, that something is following.  We read from left to right, this imprints us with a linear thinking. Left and behind are bad, right and forwards are good. Always looking ahead. Another species might communicate by smells only. Driving our focuses onto different signals will make a tremendous differences on us biologically, and the way our brain perceives things. It is perhaps subconsciously that we modified ourselves by talking and writing.  Even amongst us humans, we differ in the written and spoken domains.

The myth of the Tower of Babel tells us we humans were once united as one. We wanted to reach the heavens and become gods by building a tower. God saw it as an insults, and as a punishment for our attempt, we were condemned to develop different languages. Unable to understand one another the humans scattered, and the tower could never be finished. This story shows brilliantly the importance of communication. It is fundamental for us to understand each other clearly, but ultimately impossible for us to achieve. It does show however that once all united under one language, we humans could reach the heavens. So let us join as one and finally redefine what “Human” means. To be one day able to walk over into the unknown and simply say “Human”, with the certitude that we will be understood by what is there.

Words are a powerful weapon created by our race. Let’s insure we control it fully before pointing it in the direction of a visitor.