What is the one thing that allows us to translate the ideas and words in our head to actual communication? This is English, and most of the time we take for granted that we are (some of us) fluent in a language. The ability to communicate in this modern world is slightly abused with the social media word laziness, but despite this trend of the use of language, I still am at awe when I truly think about the words that form in my mind when trying to convey my ideas.
I recently spoke with my Dutch boss about his original language, and was somewhat shocked to find out the distinct dialects that he told me about. In a country the size of Massachusetts, the Netherlands has four distinct variations to their language. The east, north, south, and west parts of the country each produce different dutch speaking inhabitants. Although I knew about the differing dialects of the British version of English, I was baffled and blown away by this concept of other languages in which I knew nothing about having different versions of their language. Differing syllables of emphasis or lisps can show someone in the Netherlands where someone is from just like in the US we can tell when somebody is from the deep south or from Boston.
Then I realized that India, one of the most populated countries in the world, has so many different languages, not even dialects, that the common language in their country has transformed into English. The small tribes in the country side have unique languages that no one else in the country speaks. This blows our United States conundrum out of the water. Instead of trying to figure out if a person from the New England area is saying “car keys” or “khakis”, people in India struggle to even understand if a person is friend or foe because of their language difference.
All of these unique ways of expressing our thoughts as humans, ultimately unite us. There are other animals that communicate through noises, squeaks, and roars, but as humans we have developed ways to translate between all of these differing dialects and even languages. Instead of using our languages as wedges prying other people away from us and holding our own language as a prideful possession, why not relish the fact that we all have different ways to say the word hello and enjoy learning about new ways to do so.
The language that each of us speak, and the even the dialect that we all use to speak each language shows us where we came from. Our surroundings including our friends and parents guide the way that we eventually speak as adults. I am continuing to learn how to respect other cultures and languages, but as an American, I hope I can learn how to not assume someone is a jerk because they speak a certain way. But instead, enjoy finding out how they developed their specific use of the English language.
If you really want to find out where you are from based on how you speak try this amazing quiz developed by researchers at Harvard. It was pretty amazing.