The art of languages

Thursday, November 19, 2020 - 10:54pm

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Soner Eker via Unsplash

Everyone should learn a second language. Yes, it looks great on resumes and it’s a nice fun-fact to pitch about yourself for an icebreaker. Perhaps it is harder for native English speakers to recognize this, but English does not encompass a lot of artistic or poetic words that many other languages offer. Learning another tongue if you speak only English will open the doors to an entirely new world. You can speak about things you were never able to before, understand things in a way you are currently not familiar with; your perspective about everything can change. 

Using another language adds an entirely different feel to your conversation. Many other languages incorporate formality into their dialect, which is one of the many aspects of intricacy English lacks. In French, if you are speaking to someone older or in a professional setting, you use “vous” to address them. When speaking to someone your age, or someone you are close with, you use “tu” to address them. This is just one way of how using a different language changes your entire feel to communication: The closeness you feel when referring to someone using “tu” for the first time is something the English language cannot match. It’s a small burst of happiness, something you would never have the opportunity to feel if you stay within the realm of only one tongue.

Many other languages incorporate a lot of indirect, poetic everyday phrases that, when you truly understand the language you are learning, can begin to change the way you look at the world around you. For instance, Urdu is a mix of Persian, Turkish and Arabic, and so it borrows many phrases from each contributor. Urdu is also the official language of Pakistan, and so Islamic phrases are also commonly used in everyday speech. For instance, if someone does something as simple as give you a glass of water, the appropriate response is not normally “thank you.” It is either “Jazakallah,” which in Arabic roughly translates to “May God reward you with goodness,” or when coming from an adult, is usually a small statement of a wish. When I give a glass of water to my dad, his response is “May God keep you happy for the rest of your life,” which, in comparison to English’s simple “thank you” adds a sense of connection, a poetic nature that adds so much beauty in every conversational exchange. Sometimes, it isn’t even about what you say but rather about the absence of what you are not saying. In Urdu, nobody says “I love you” on a casual basis. The words used for “love” are weightful and intense. When you say goodbye to a friend in English, it isn’t weird to casually throw a “love ya!” but that kind of casualness doesn’t exist, not just in Urdu but in many other Asian languages, like Chinese, as well. It’s common only to say certain emotional phrases in the more extreme circumstances — so when it is said, it means a world more than when it is said in just English alone. 

Languages have a powerful ability to tune your mindset. In Japanese, the “wabisabi” perspective is all about accepting imperfections and admiring the beauty in imperfect things. For instance, some artists purposefully leave cracks in pottery. Many mend broken objects with gold, a process called “Kintsugi,” which is a tangible manifestation of perseverance, symbolizing the beauty and usefulness of breaks and flaws. This kind of prevalence encourages the positive mindset of accepting imperfections and learning how to find attraction in it. 

Other languages have so much more to offer than just English. Learning another language adds intricacy in everyday, common actions that help you appreciate the beauty in the ordinary, in commonplace things and mundane activities. Learning a language is no doubt difficult and time-consuming; but it is, at the end of the day, a small price to pay in exchange for a brand new perspective.