Communication is a natural phenomenon. We are born speaking, crying out to our mothers, announcing our arrival to the world.
Humans have cultivated their communicative nature over time, in order to survive, to condemn injustice and proclaim victories. Verbalizing our thoughts satisfies a need in us: to relate to others or simply assert our ego. Even our inner voice is constantly bombarding us with questions from the moment we awake. The essence of success depends to a large extent on the ability to communicate and therefore the loss of communication in any format would lead to the eventual downfall of society as we know it.
“There is no such thing as conversation. It is an illusion. There are intersecting monologues, that’s all” – Rebecca West.
At 6 years old, my life was carefully fragmented into two delicate phases, both very distinct from one another. The first had been cultivated by French traditions, the second drenched in the American life and way of being. Had one been more predominant than the other, that particular first day of school might have been made a lot simpler. But the scales of my two cultures were perfectly aligned. Growing up in a family of different languages led me to believe that everyone spoke the same language as me: a chaotic tangle of the two. Where was my home? Supposedly there was a certain sense of familiarity in returning to France, yet the three years that separated the two seemed to erase the first. My rush of self-consciousness disintegrated eventually, once I had plucked up the courage to utter a few clumsy words of politeness to a girl beside me.
The challenge of switching from one language to another soon became a breeze and as I perfected my fluency in both, my thirst for languages grew. After four years of learning German and five years of Spanish, I am now studying the latter at University level.
As a child, the deafening sound at home meant that I was never the most verbal of people, unlike my present talkative self. My fragile voice never used to quite made it over the loud voices of the elder members and its content never made it worth listening to. Eventually, one starts to wonder whether silence might attract you more attention than by conforming to the expectations of being an ordinary loud youngster. I guess I just expected people to read my mind, interpret my feelings and react correspondingly which is why my first encounter with Sign Language, just a few years later, felt so special.
“The most important things are the hardest to say because words diminish them“- Stephen King.
Completely enthralled by what I saw, I watched the deaf woman’s hands paint story, after story, after story. I felt like I was missing out on one of the most beautiful and syncopated languages ever established. It intrigued me. Their body and mind seemed united and in silence, they expressed their every whim in an engaging and peaceful manner. I tried to rid myself of all the surrounding sounds associated with anger and irritation in an attempt to obtain the purity and softness of their world. Their sophisticated manner of expression instigated in me a burning desire to connect with the deaf community and led me to start learning ASL (American Sign Language) and then later BSL (British Sign Language) online 2 years ago, with a certain ambition.
I relish the uniqueness and phonetic particularity of every language that I come across. There’s nothing like the intertwining of a beautiful language and a melodious instrument, with music acting as a language in itself. I sometimes find the emotional power of a song to be even more forceful when the language is unknown to me. Looking up the lyric translation for Andrea Bocelli’s gorgeous song “Vivo per lei” almost diminished its sentimental effect on me. I fear the day Globalization will wipe away all the wonderful distinctions that exist between languages, imposing English as the ultimate international language. Laughter already acts as a beautiful bridge over language barriers.