Language is a myriad of wonderful things. It is what unites you with a lost tourist asking for directions, provides reassurance to a nervous interviewee, or develop an affinity with an acquaintance. It is a gift of self expression and communication – the very foundation that every bond in our lives’ stand on.
I remember one of my teachers in high school asked us if we process the English language in the same way that she did. She went on to explain that when someone speaks to her in English, her brain converts the words to her native language, and then she thinks of her answer in her native language, converts it to English, and then responds. She basically thinks in her native language.
This was a bizarre concept for me (perhaps I couldn’t – and still don’t – understand the subtle nuances in linguistics) and could safely say then that I think in English, as truthfully, to this day, I am the most fluent in it, because that’s what I’ve been exposed to the most in all mediums.
With that being said, I am (thankfully) a bilingual, who can speak a smattering of a couple other languages’ (which are not worth putting on my resume). I like the freedom that this gives me, not just because it widens the number of people I can communicate with, but also because a language can have its limitations when it can’t be translated fully without part of its meaning being left behind. There are times I speak sentences in half English and half Urdu to communicate what I need to say in its entirety. And there are times when I don’t know the Urdu equivalent to an English word (read: all childhood conversations with the extended family). However, its only recently that I became fluent with jumping from one language to the other in seconds. Because, like everything, language becomes easier with practise.
I am unclear whether language is something we are born with or something learnt. Learning and practising a language in your formative years is the best time to get the hang of it, but how do we say our first few words? How did we understand what our parents were saying to us? If we understood when we’re spoken to when we couldn’t speak, shouldn’t that mean that there is something innate within us, ready to accept the first language we are spoken to?