When I tell people I learn languages, sometimes I get funny looks (read: cutting ones of derision, hidden behind a knowing smile). Other times, people are interested, but maybe don’t want to show their interest all the way, or else (heaven forbid) they’ll look smart.
However, there are indeed times where people look genuinely grateful that I have a passion for words. I don’t want to say I live for those moments, because it’d be kind of millennial of me, but I do find them intriguing and I usually am more drawn to the person (at least momentarily at first) when they express as much.
In previous posts, I’ve discussed my love of writing. I used to be really sensitive about what people thought about what I had to say, even if I was a bit forceful about how I dove into the craft and how I presented my work to others. Writing was for a very long time something I simultaneously hid from others, yet wanted to show off. It was a paradox I couldn’t figure out, and maybe one others have trouble conceptualizing, too. But now I think I have a handle on my insecurities enough to open up about them and not keep them buried in the back of my mind.
The best conclusion I can come to is that I was afraid of sharing my work due aforementioned perfectionism. I’ve mentioned this in the context of language learning before, but it’s important to note that I tend to be a habitual perfectionist. I grew up with an older sibling that majored in English and a mother who desired to foster perfect spelling from my youngest years. They’ll both say they weren’t picky, and I’m certainly not implying I despised the feedback, but sometimes years later after initially learning to read and write, I worried intensely that my work would never be up to snuff.
I won’t say it wasn’t without its good impacts. My older sister taught me to read aloud to check for misspellings or grammar errors, and this proved especially useful in middle school (more discussion on this in a moment). I don’t think software like Grammarly was a thing back then, so I had to proof my school essays and project documents by hand.
This ended up being a quite wonderful, in my mind. Looking back, my journey to literacy was little shaky, as I’ve mentioned in a separate post. But my family was incredibly supportive of my fits and starts, and this paid off eventually because when it came time to sign up for high school classes in eighth grade, my English teacher recommended me for the Advanced Placement track and commented that I “should’ve been in there to begin with” while in middle school. Interesting how that works out, eh?
So, I went from being afraid to read to in love with words. And really, that’s where the title of this blog comes from. It’s meant to cover everything language. But what, really, does “language” mean to a person like me, who’s mostly a hobbyist and pretty much a nobody? And why should you, Internet stranger, care about that?
I think the answer is an easy one.
With the rise of fandom culture and an increase in an appreciation worldwide for the individual, passion runs our planet more than ever. People quit their jobs faster than a snap of a finger to travel the world if the culture of their workplace isn’t just right. And maybe, now more than ever, people realize the human element of their own selves: their own mortality. Life’s too short, they say, to spend it on something you regret. This can be interpreted in a lot of ways, but let’s take it in the most schmoozy, pop psychology one.
Part of coming to terms with dying and only being part of this planet for a short time has forced us into new habitats–AI, new forms of medicine, and turning the world ever more into something that resembles a dystopia of newly developed nations (and creaking old-timers) in combat for first. But what AI and replacement animal parts don’t give us is that sense of identity that can only be found through self-expression, and deep acknowledgement of our inner being.
The only way I’ve found that works for me to do this is through language. Language is not a tool unique to humans, and perhaps some animals have the capability to use it with a defter touch than even the smartest of us homo sapiens. But for me, my whole world is words. Some people don’t think in words. They might think in numbers, pictures, signs, or splashes of color.
A misplaced word can throw me. I value quality of words, not quantity. Strip away everything, and what’ve you got? Bippity boppity boo.
I like the quote attributed to Mark Twain which is the featured image for this post: “Don’t use a $5 word when a￠.50 word will do.” When I first read it, I had to think about it, but it changed how I approach my life, as I approach it primarily through linguistic intelligence. It forced me to not be simple, but rather plainspoken and direct. Yet, to me, this quote means, “Don’t sacrifice wit for brevity”, as well.
It’s a delicate balance.
All that to say that language, whether foreign or native, written or spoken (I don’t sign or code [yet]) for me is more than a tool. It’s my blood.
(And I’m adamantly anti-Grammarly despite what convenience it appears to offer, and despite my age bracket. I’m the most old-school millennial I’ve met.)