I have tried to learn a few languages in my life, but it wasn’t until I took a beginner lesson in Bangoli (the language of Bangladesh), that I realized that language is truly mind blowing. I was a total failure at learning French, so I was never able to enjoy the feeling of having learned, well, anything really. I grew up with English so it has always been natural for me – really nothing more. I have spent the last four years of my life learning Italian and I began to realize the reward in discovering a new word or the ability to communicate with someone. I was awestruck by the beauty of the Italian language, and I continue to be. But I never really grasped how huge language is.
As an example of how to teach a language to someone who doesn’t know a word of it, the Via Lingua teachers had one of their own come in and teach us her native language — Bangoli. It was after spending 45 minutes trying to remember how to say “my name is” and “I am from America” in a language that is not only unlike my own, but unlike anything I have ever heard in my life, did I realize what the world of language encompasses. There are a million and one ways to communicate and we know one. The fortunate among us may know two, or maybe even three, but we as Americans know “American” and that is that.
Spending time with girls who have learned American English, British English, and Australian English throughout their lives, it becomes obvious to me how vast the English language is. I am finding it continually awesome to think about how many people are in the world and how they communicate on a daily basis. I want to know how language evolved; how hand gestures and guttural sounds became the languages that we speak all over the world today. Somebody please make a documentary on this, because I will be forever curious.
And because I find this humorous, this is a perfect sample of “American” for you… Last week our Italian roommate was a little bit confused when my American roommate and I were referring to things as “ghetto.” We had a difficult time giving a perfect explanation because it is in fact slang in the way that we use it. Then one night, my Italian roommate and I took out the trash; our American roommate stayed in to clean up and find a bottle stopper for the wine we hadn’t drank. When we walked back in we saw this sitting on the table:
I then turned to my Italian roommate and said, “Silvia, that is ghetto.” We all burst out laughing, but it was the perfect illustration. If one single language can be this crazy (or maybe we Americans are just crazy?), try thinking about all the languages all around the world.