A conversation about language

The first 2 years of your life are the most intense training/programming session you will ever have in your entire life. You are taught language for the first time. Going from nothing to something, through listening to the people around you and what they point at and get you to repeat. Programming you to understand the language. Over time you adjust to the nuisances of the language. You start to be able to tell the difference between irritated and pissed off.

However, your understanding and appreciation of language is subjective due to the environment that you are brought up in and their approach to language, and which language you are taught. For example, Swedish emotive words often are associated with a physical feeling that you get in the body. The word for “envy or jealously” translates roughly as “svartsjuk” which when translated back to English is “Black sickness”. You see this word it’s about that physical, black gurning beyond envy or jealousy, it’s a physical ache for something that you don’t have but you wish you did. An ache that’s so bad it’s a sickness. So through learning Swedish, you end up having closer contact and understanding of emotions that physically affect you as it’s built into the language, so you are able to easily verbalise exactly how you feel. -Karsten

Growing up between two languages is interesting as well. As a child it can be confusing which language to use in different contexts, which words belong to which language and where the right grammatical rules need to be applied. The great thing about learning when you are young is that you don’t have any restrictions yet. You are not afraid of making mistakes, you’re not worried about what others will think of you, you just babble on without any hesitation. – Solrun

I had a similar issue when I was young as I learnt Swedish before I learnt English, so when I went to school I would just mix and match English and Swedish as I spoke as I wasn’t aware that they were 2 different language yet. Therefore, my first few years at school were quite eventful as the teachers obviously thought that I was just making up words when I didn’t know a word. However, I was just speaking Swenglish. And sometimes this still happens to me when I can only come up with the word I mean in one language and not the other leaving me stuck, mentally, on a word that is in the wrong language halfway through a sentence. – Karsten

People will correct you, over and over again, and you soak it all up like a sponge. You start adapting your language to different situations, and the way you speak to your parents starts becoming different to the way you address your teacher or your peers. It is a funny thing when you then start searching for words in one language that you know from the other language, but you can keep searching forever because it doesn’t exist. You have to let go of the fear of making mistakes, which is going to happen a lot, and trust that as long as you keep speaking and listening you will get better, your vocabulary will extend and your understanding will keep evolving.

Connecting language to the world you perceive, knowing more than one, or more than two languages, will greatly impact the way you see the world around you. Each language is so unique in their vocabulary and style, so switching from one language to the other instantly feels different. It’s like taking on another personality. For example, Icelandic will have several different words to describe waves, or snow, or horses, while there is only one word for these in the English vocabulary. The poetic nature of English and Icelandic however is very different to the very analytical and structured German language. Speaking German can feel very harsh and completely lacking of emotion, so it creates a distance from speaker to listener. This in turn affects the people who communicate in this language, resulting in a society that can sometime seem emotionally detached. – Solrun

This emotive, physical side to the Swedish language helps Sweds express precisely how they feel with maximum efficiency. Whereas, with English, I feel that, for the most part, emotive language is more trivialised. For example, if you say “I’m sad”, then at is just associated with someone looking a bit down, displeased and not happy. It doesn’t go any deeper than that. Whereas, with Swedish if you say “I am sad” in many different ways in order to express which level of sadness you are experiencing. For example, “jag är ledsen” means that you are feeling a bit upset, sorrowful or disappointed, but “jag är sorglig” is a deeper and more serious way of saying the same thing; it has more of a feeling of despair about it. So even if Sweds might not seem to always wear their heart on their sleeve, they will always be able to express what they are feeling precisely to their friends and family when needs be, so on that front there is always clarity in their emotion. Thus creating a society where people are able to express what they truly feel. With England, due to the trivialisation of the majority of emotive words in day-to-day language means that most English people find it difficult to say how they feel as there is no way to gauge the severity or seriousness of any admission emotionally. Which leaves a lot of words unsaid and a lot of issues left unaddressed. – Karsten

So language is an incredible medium to communicate, but is also incredibly restricting, because in a way your world is limited to the words you know. Things you can’t identify with words don’t exist, so learning more languages is a good way to know more of the world and expand your whole universe. -Solrun

So poetically speaking, Swedish is my best language for emotion and English is my best language for communicating to the rest of the world. However, Icelandic seems to be the best language for description of physical entities. – Karsten

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