We had a week away from the rat race last week and attended a convention in France and then had some time in Germany. A wonderful time was had and we saw some amazing sights with such global importance in Berlin, I can only urge everyone to take a trip there to witness them face to face. The worldwide effects which spread from Berlin are mighty but that’s not what I want to draw attention to in this post.

Today I want to look at the feeling of safety we derive from our own language.

My wife is better at languages than me. She was the one who got stuck in to the learning Italian when we went on holiday there. She studied German at A-level and has a pretty strong grasp of at least being able to work out the gist of what’s being said in French. I studied Spanish to GCSE level and I limped over the line. I enjoy the sound of other languages and they charge my mind to hear all of the many ways that humans communicate but being able to actually take in the details is something I find really tough.

When we were in Italy and France, it was remarkable though, just how much of the little odds and bods we all shared in our languages. That level of familiarity bred a comfort that helped bridge the gaps of being in a foreign land. There were more areas of familiarity in German but the addition of the occasional new letter suddenly made the ice I was stood on seem that much thinner. In Germany, I felt on very thin ice for so much of the time we were there.

We can take our language and the ability to communicate almost for granted. Every day we work, play and everything in between based around the powers of communication and that communication let’s us do almost anything. Can you imagine what any ‘normal’ day would become if you were unable to converse with anyone? Isolation can be a very dangerous place. If you were the only person who didn’t understand the language that was being used, you’d be stuck on the outside looking in but totally adrift in the sea of sounds that everyone else was using and doing their best to almost plead with you to understand. Frustration builds because you’re cut off.

The best you can hope for is hand signals and as much guess work as you can muster to try and get your point across while digging for the meanings to what others are saying.

Language is a thing that we all make use of. In all manner of ways we have our own set of terms that we can converse in with set groups. Special terms from work can sound like nonsense to family. Fandom terminology at work is the same. But remove understanding of a language and you lose so much more than just the ability to order a beer.

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