The use of language is pure magic! As far as humans go, it's one of our species' most amazing evolutionary developments. No matter what country we live in or continent we call home, the use of language is one of the few things all of us share.
Around the world mankind uses literally thousands of languages and dialects. All of them express our deepest thoughts and most private feelings.
Language also records our histories and tells our stories. It doesn't matter whether we are using the written or spoken forms of our languages, we cherish them.
Language is powerful. It expresses our opinions, and some of us will argue to the bitter end just to have the last word of it. Everyone knows the last word is always the most important one.
Nothing like a word can cut us to the quick or impassion us with emotions we didn't know we could feel.
Language is personal, intimate, and much more. It defines us individually. Our use of spoken words is a huge part of our personal, national and cultural identity.
Language is our soul, the very essence of our being. Our accent and use of words identifies us with certain geographic areas. It makes us part of a group.
Just as we have different fingerprints, our voice prints are different too. When one becomes accustomed to hearing the beautiful lilt of a sweet, southern drawl, there's nothing else like it in the linguistic world. Itss simply the type of language and sound that makes us feel comfortable and "at home".
The sounds of our own voices are ingrained in every fiber of our beings. One of my adult students once said that when he began to speak Spanish it not only felt funny but it sounded funny too. He said it was like hearing a cartoon duck's voice coming out of his mouth instead of his own!
From the moment we wake up each morning until we fall asleep, most of us are talking. We simply don't think about the amazing neurological process that is involved in making every sound we utter. We simply open our mouths, and words pour out.
For most of us, the ability to use the English language is one that we take for granted. But, have you ever thought about just how important language is to you?
What would you do if you woke up tomorrow in another country where your native language wasn't the one you heard, understood or needed to speak? Could you develop a communications strategy that would allow you to not only survive-- but to thrive?
Today this complicated issue faces many of our citizens. Thousands are learning Spanish, while thousands more are struggling to learn English. Somewhere we will meet in the linguistic middle.
Learning another language in adulthood is outrageously difficult. All the linguistic cards are stacked against us.
Acquiring a new language takes dedication, desire, and practice; however, we are impatient and we want to acquire fluency with ease. We want to learn to speak another language at the speed of a Porsche cruising down a superhighway.
In actuality, the process of learning another language in adulthood is more like riding in a Model T bouncing down an unpaved road. Your journey probably won't be smooth, and you can expect some starting and stopping along the way to achieving proficiency.
Many professionals I work with experience these painful bumps in the linguistic road. One of my great joys is hearing their success stories, and one of my greatest challenges is motivating them to continue their journey when they have a Spanish language fender-bender. So, I was surprised a few days ago when a doctor who had participated in one of my seminars called to invite me to lunch with his family.
"There's something I want to share with you," Dr. Taylor said.
Over lunch he explained his personal goals for learning Spanish to me. "Reaching out to my Spanish-speaking patients so they understand their illnesses and their treatments is constantly on my mind," he said. Then he continued, "I want to find out as much as I can about their lives and their families. This helps me treat the whole person and not just the parts."
At the end of our lunch together Dr. Taylor told me that he had come to realize something about the art of practicing medicine and the art of communication.
"No matter how hard we try," he said, "both are imperfect sciences. You told us it was more important to communicate and not to worry about our grammar mistakes. So, I don't worry about it now. I just get out there and do my best. My patients seem to appreciate that."
"Well, doc," I said, "I couldn't be happier to hear of your progress. It looks like you are going to make a full linguistic recovery.