World is our play ground. In this playground, we sometimes need a common syntax to understand our fellow players.
Have been lucky to travel and live around many parts of the world. Being an explorer at heart, I always want to know why people do what they do, what they say, why do they dress up the way they do, what do they eat, why do they eat it, why are the houses in certain places the way they are, why is their always some commonality in people from the same country, where does it stem from, how do the people at a place deal with their day to day lives, whats the spirit of the place, how does the history, geography of the place affect its present status?
To feed answers to this curious mind, the main thread is communication. The main form of communication – verbal. And as complex as the world is, those many are the languages. Using language other than the mother tongue opened new doors of knowledge for me. The slangs, the tonality of language, the formal or informal way of speaking, the kind of words used to express certain thing, the gestures associated with it, all gave me a new meaning to language. It’s not just a communication tool. It is a storehouse of culture, tradition, history. Its a big magic chest, as much you delve into it, it gives you more and more knowledge. Its a tool to delve deep into the human beings at a certain place, their origin, their nature, their approach towards life, the simplicity or complexity of their lives.
Learning about new languages, however, is an iterative process. Born in India, having myriad languages around was never a surprise. Learning three spoken languages in addition to the written Sanskrit language wasn’t too nerve wracking either. Also, the knowledge that even after this I can’t communicate with a sizeable fraction of Indian population wasn’t that intimidating either. Moved to 3 different countries after that, speaking English, Norwegian and Portuguese respectively, all a different language group. English, being the known one, then became the first level of communication tool. In English speaking countries, it becomes the mode of normal communication and in non-English speaking countries, it may vary from a basic communication tool or in some very non-English speaking countries something better than mute. My interest in languages always put me in a decent situation to utter basic communication in first few weeks, but the elaborate communication takes time. In this period, how do you cope? How do you communicate? Do you just wait for the communication to improve relying the language or are there other ways to achieve the same results. Contrary to the popular thought, the places where it was almost impossible to communicate verbally due to lack of language skills initially, are the places where I learnt the most important lessons about communication.
Living in four different countries, all linguistically diverse, I have seen quite a lot of communication types or lack of it. Some were total communication failures, some were just the most beautiful unsaid words. I have seen people making an issue about how lack of language skills has jeopardized a certain relationship between individuals, companies, etc. And I have seen people who can’t speak the same language, but convey what’s needed with exceptionally innovative ways.
Through these different experiences, I came to one very simple conclusion, the one and only thing required to communicate is the ‘will to communicate’. Not knowing the language is not so much a barrier as not willing to understand the person or not trying to communicate with the person/organization is. On a higher level, diplomatically, internationally, its always done with resources. But even for a common person, he is able to communicate most beautifully with the basic resource ‘himself’. And when it becomes a two way process, its one of the most fun things I have experienced. I call it the ‘language of love’.
Two ladies, meeting in a bus, talking with gestures and barely fathomable words, but communicating effectively and walk out with the most awesome feeling and a smile on the face. Two people, trying to work with each other, drawing things, writing down stuff, pointing at things, communicating perfectly what is needed and walking out with appreciation for each others attempt to communicate. One elderly person, just wanting to appreciate a youngster and putting his hand on the youngsters head, showing all the appreciation he can.
So, language is a tool, not a necessity. It gives you a whole new level of communication but without it, you are not disabled. You can communicate and sometimes communicate in the most beautiful way..
The world is such a beautiful, diverse place. The more, the questions you ask about it, the more it will become your friend. You will feel more close to it and it will feel more close to you.