Thursday, February 12, 2015

Over 6800 Languages in the World

There are more than 6800 languages in the world. Imagine that! And each of those languages represent distinct cultures. In one culture there are words that cannot be accurately interpreted in another language because there simply are no equivalent words. For example, the Inuit language has 50 different words for snow. We may add a descriptive word to describe the snow but not likely 50 of them. They understand snow quite differently from most of the rest of us.
Are we wrong not to have so many words for snow? Or are they wrong for having so many?
Even within the English language there are distinct variations based on culture. Compare British, American, Canadian and Australian English. What's a lift in one country is something else in the next. Compare the words fag, bonnet, barbie, molly.... one English country to the next. Who's wrong? Who's right?
Many Americans insist that being in this country requires speaking English. And Northwestern PA people should know not to ask for "pop" outside of this region.
Compare how we order our sentences to other languages. It reflects the importance we place on certain things. How we structure our conversations is also very telling. We don't place a great deal of emphasis on larger context and connection. Cultures that place a great deal of emphasis on larger context choose their words and structure their communication much differently - always putting the context first.
Our use of language, our selection of words, our structure of communication not only reflects our culture but also provides a framework for our thought processes. We are prone to focus on "the point". The problem is one point looses a lot of context. There is always a larger context.
We need to understand that our words, the way we frame them, the way we link them together is a reflection of who we are and the very small context of our individual experience.
The single word "snow" is not enough for an Inuit person. They see snow through very different eyes and with a very different experience. If there are so many different words for snow and 6800 different languages in the world, is it so hard to accept that there are many ways to express spiritual understanding? How can there even be words to perfectly express such things? These are things you cannot touch, see, taste, smell. Spiritual understanding is something within. The meaning it has within your life is yours and yours alone. The truth of it shows in what you do with it.
Whatever words you put to it won't change the truth of it. There are no words for it. Insisting that someone else match your expression of it is rather odd. If we are at peace with our spiritual understanding, we can simply live it. It doesn't require affirmation from anyone else. If it is truth and we live it well, there is no need to bend another to our will. If we are connected deeply to that spirit that is fully open and within us, it flows into all those around us as well. No words make that happen. We live it and we pass it on. Not with words but with spirit. Let's stop letting words trip us up so much.

1 comment:

  1. Great piece and I can relate. Living in a country that has 5 distinct languages and a even larger mix of religion really brings the best out of people. Kuala Lumpur has over 1.6 million people living within the city and you can feel the overwhelming presence of nice and courteous people. To claim that there is only one correct language or religion generates negativity and friction. If you really want to become a good person, you need to accept and adapt to the lifestyle of other people. Learn their language, learn their religion and beliefs. This will truly make you a more adaptable person and others will enjoy your presence more. You need to open your mind and heart to all aspects of life and close out the negativity that negative people generate.