The use of a spoken language is one of the building bricks of the foundation that makes us human. Through our language we can transmit precise knowledge to others. Through our language we can teach our children what we know. Language is also the foundation of a culture.
The word “culture” comes from the Latin word ” cultivare”, which means ” to cultivate”, “to grow”. We “learn” and we “grow” our culture from the environment we were born into. Our language is a product of that culture.
Our language is actually a product of all the people we met and all the situations we have dealt with throughout our lives. Hence, the foundation of language is based on your social interactions with other people. The more different kind of people we meet, the more different kind of situations we put ourselves into, the wider we grow the range of our language.
We learn from our family, school, job, friends and different sub-cultures we belong to. If you move to another city or another country your old knowledge is challenged with other ways of expressions, other values and other ways of doing things.
The language is the bearer of culture. Some words are just not translatable. For example, in Swedish we have the word ” lagom ” . It means ” not too much, not too little, just in between ” . Look how I had to use a whole phrase in English, just because we can’t find an equivalent in English. The language mirrors the people and the society those people live in.
The word “lagom” expresses both “balance” and “don’t make to much of yourself” . Law of Jante, (This is what Paulo Coelho says about the Law of Jante ) . So the word is both positive and negative at the same time. It is something that reflects the Swedish society. The balance AND the social restrain of mediocrity.
In Romanian, I learned , that the word “dor ” is not easy to translate to another language. I first came to hear the word from the phrase ” Mi- e dor de noi ” , and from the book ” A Train to Trieste”. There is something about “longing” in this word, but my Romanian friends and people on the Bucharest Lounge Facebook page pointed out, that it is more than that. Something that can’t be translated.
A language also reflects history and geography. Take English as an example. English belongs to the Germanic language family. However, after the Battle of Hastings, in 1066, where the French “came storming” in to England and stayed for nearly 300 years, the language became so influenced, that we today can enjoy a very rich vocabulary in the English language. With words of both Germanic and Latin stems. Compare : ” heartily ” ( Ger.) and “cordial” (Lat.). English is a language rich in synonyms thanks to the French !
In some countries there is an “Academie” that governs language development. In Sweden we have Svenska Akademien, founded after the French model. Language has a tendency to live its’ own life. There are occasions when the Academy suggest spelling or pronunciation rules, but people keep on doing it the way they want. For example. We had the word “juice” in Swedish. The Academy wanted us to write it “jos”, which would have been more according to Swedish spelling rules. However, people just refused and today we write it “juice” . Language changes when the society changes. It has always done that.
Our language is the soul, the essence of a people.