martes, 26 de abril de 2016

1 Language, 1000 Meanings

Life is challenging, everybody knows that. I've known that for a long time but I didn't realise it as much as I do now that I speak more than one language. Actually, when I think about it, I notice humans have always used more than one language to communicate with each other. There are so many languages available, as animals populate the earth. We feel this need of sharing our perspectives about life, and I found 'that' tricky. Languages are about sharing meanings but... what is a meaning? It is an idea about something, of course. Usually, it's related to a feeling or a perspective that we want to express in some way. To me, that is one of the most difficult things to achieve in the world.

When you choose a language to explain what you mean, you're putting a barrier in front of you, but you're also building a bridge to be able to connect with others in some way. The problem with this is that you never know if people really understood what you meant when you were trying to express something, especially if it was something related to your feelings or abstract subjects.

My first language is Spanish, and I could say that people understand what I mean when I try to explain something in my own language. However, I have experienced moments in which I have communicated my ideas in Spanish and people were not able to fully understand them. Why? Because they might have assigned different meanings to certain phrases or expressions I have used to explain something.

Not only verbal communication is the problem but also nonverbal communication... things related to intonation, facial expressions and lack of attention are some of the key factors in relation to misunderstandings. It's all about what we think, and verbal communication is not easy to use to express our own meanings. Animals, however, have proved it's possible to communicate effectively with each other without using any kind of words (at least not human words). Amazing!

I'm writing about this because I have been living in Ireland for about 3 years and I still get confused about some expressions, phrasal verbs, and tricks of the language in general. *The home of online English* has helped me a lot with these issues, though. English42 provides online tools and lessons for students, foreign people like me, who need to improve their English skills every day. This is something I feel passionate about.

Culture is another factor that influences meanings, and although I feel more adapted to the Irish culture now, I still feel like another person when I'm communicating my thoughts in English. It's like another part of me has been born and it's growing every day, even while I write this post and try to communicate this particular meaning!

I recently decided to learn a little bit more about computer programming, and now I see clearly how we communicate with computers using another type of language: java, php, c++, phyton, etc are some of the coding variations. These languages are very complex! Humans care too much about meanings, on the contrary, machines do not care about what you mean... They care only about what you type in, and they expect "black or white" instructions/meanings. That's why developers tend to be so picky about the requests we make. They need to "talk" to the computer and ask her to do A or B using a weird kind of language.

Sometimes humans hide what we really mean using nice words. We mask our thoughts because we judge them, and we use certain words to make them sound better, but we don't even know if people got the message we wanted to (not even if they told us they did). However, sometimes we mean to say something positive, and people interpret it the other way around. It's crazy! Those sort of things are the ones that make this subject so complicated to me.

Despite all these "negative" facts about languages, I feel profoundly in love with them. I believe life is about understanding our own meanings and connecting with each other. It's also important to realise that everybody is trying to figure out the true meanings hidden behind verbal and nonverbal communication.

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