The Window and the Door

There are between 6600-6800 distinct languages being spoken in the world today[1]. Each corresponds to a specific culture; a trail of traditions, ideas, and feelings can never truly be translated from its mother tongue to another. Studying these cultures and their products provides us only a window into their reality while learning the language provides a door through which deeper knowledge can be attained. Take for example words such as Saudade, a Brazilian world for nostalgic longing for home, or Waldeinsamkeit, a German word for the feeling of being alone in the woods. These words don’t exist in English and yet they capture nuances of their mother culture that tell us about the intimacies of the cultural psyche that created them. Of all of these global languages I know only one and a half (I’m still working on my Spanish). I’ve set a life goal for four– clearly I’ve got a long way to go, and even then four is a tiny fraction of what’s out there. In this world of so many languages how many do you know?

 

Languages are subject to natural evolution like all elements of culture. However there are also mindfully created languages, such as Esperanto. As a child, created code languages fascinated me. I spent hours learning and speaking Pig Latin, Ubbi Dubbi, and countless other languages with my cousins hoping always to find new ways to secretively communicate. Using code my cousins and I created a world that excluded and baffled others. There frustration was our goal. I found it weird that English, what I spoke with my parents, could be understood by anyone walking by. In a world so large and intimidating Pig Latin and Ubbi Dubbi built a wall of protection and intimacy around us.

 

What I didn’t realize was that my language didn’t need protecting: my abstract thoughts and disjointed sentences– my kid-talk– made my words to hard understand without even trying. Hilarious home videos show me standing on the couch in my living room at five and six years, old passionately proclaiming words that when strung together make very little sense. This inability to effectively communicate was the product of a child’s mind, so wild and free, yet utterly disorganized when compared to an adult’s.

 

While kid-talk is not considered one of the world’s 6800-6900’s languages, it is charming to listen to and does provide a door into the functioning of the child mind, just as studying foreign languages opens the door to foreign cultures. The Scared is Scared, a student video recently sent to me by friend, wonderfully presents this concept through the actualization of a child’s narrative. It’s also got some pretty impressive life advice woven into it as well. Kid-talk, though perhaps at times disjointed, can illuminate the beauty of simple conclusions that adults miss. Disorder, at times, opens the door to clarity.


[1] “1. Language and Writing.” International Mother Language Day. UNESCO.org, 2004. Web. 14 Feb. 2013.

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One thought on “The Window and the Door

  1. Sorry but Saudade it´s not a brazilian word, it´s a portuguese word. They have it because they speak portuguese. Angola, Moçambique, Cape Verde, Timor etc. they also have the word Saudade.

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