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The Problem with Language

Language is bound to creativity. One must be able to express oneself succinctly and creatively. There’s so much freedom in words and expressions – from inside jokes, generational idioms or song lyrics, and now with technology-based invented words (Google as a verb; gif, meme, etc.).

The best part of language is that for the most part, it’s not fluid. Because language is not static, it changes and adapts to its users through time, space, and location.

Fun fact: when I started university in upstate New York, I used “mad” to mean “really”. Yes, this small Ohio farmgirl would say things like, “That’s mad cool” – not because I had a sudden interest in slang, but I wanted to fit in and have a shared language with my NYC friends.

However, language has one big problem that no one can escape: its users.  

Most of us are lazy with our language – we say “awesome” when something does not, in fact, fill us with awe. We use “wonderful” or “fantastic” as corporate cheers when there’s nothing fantastic or wonderful about cheering someone on to do their job. We change the meaning of words without even realizing it. For example, if “fantastic” becomes the new normal, what is more than fantastic? If “awesome” is said each time a student gets a B+ on an exam, what will you say to that student when they get an A?

Yet this one big problem is also language’s main strength: its people.

Language connects us to our emotional selves. Not only is it our primary communication tool and one of the main reasons humans are separated from the rest of the animal kingdom, but it also is full of nuances – tone of voice, facial expression, body language, word choice, nuance, and connotations all play seamlessly into an automatic orchestra.

Even not speaking the same language, we can still get by with hand gestures, tone, and a general sense of bewilderment and wonderment.

Language adds spice to the mundane. We know something is truly awesome or wonderful based on the context. How boring would it be if your boss simply said, “adequate” every time you turned in a deliverable?

As language changes, we study it. We go online and in person, asking questions and gathering information (What, truly, does yeet mean?) We continue harnessing and harmonizing with this tool that is truly, literally, amazing: our language.


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Megan Miller
Megan Millerhttps://www.aprovecharlanguagesolutions.com/
As one enamored with deep thinking and deep conversations, Megan Miller shares her findings and experiences as a word nerd and language lover worldwide. With more than 2 decades of Spanish under her belt, Megan has experienced firsthand the benefits of bilingualism. Megan is the founder and owner of Aprovechar Language Solutions, a translation and Spanish/English language coaching business that focuses on mindset, habit, and real-world examples to improve people’s confidence and comfortability in speaking and communicating. When she’s not coaching or translating, Megan uses her communication skills as an IT Project Manager to produce technological solutions and likes to travel and bake in her free time

4 CONVERSATIONS

  1. Mind you now! The problem of language is truly understandable only by those who (like me) are forced to study a language that is the most widely used by everyone and you have to deal with the pronunciation. This problem does not have it those who speak the Anglo-Saxon language that everyone strives to learn.
    In the globalized world of work, if you don’t speak English, you’re nobody.
    In general, then, the art of speaking well – rhetoric – has always been considered very useful and qualifying. Those who know how to “speak well” fascinate, convince and succeed: at school and in the world of work; in the context of private and public relations.
    The ability to be understood by others rests on knowledge and the ability to use the infinite possibilities of verbal and non-verbal language to manifest our thoughts and intentions.
    possessing properties of language, fluency of speech, mastery of vocabulary and control of the vocal medium increase communication effectiveness, strengthen the message and enhance the personality of the speakers.

    • Aldo,
      Thanks for the reply! While I agree that English has become a normalized skill (speaking, reading, writing), especially in business, there are still pockets of the world where that’s not the case. I’d like to think that we can still find common threads to coexist with others, even without sharing a common language.

  2. Hi, Megan, and thanks for the piece.

    One of the things I provide in my sessions is a focus on our voices. Most people think of their voice as a drain for the brain. It’s an instrument, a fabulous instrument capable of miracles of understanding. I like tricks, so the trick I suggest is, before you open your mouth, think W.A.I.T. (Why am I Talking?) and hold W.A.I.S.T. close to hand (Why am I Still Talking?) Words are precious packages of regard.

    I hope we can talk together. Language is my passion, and I’m guessing we’d have a great conversation. Yeet, btw, is a small animal from Ecuador that, though classified as a mammal, does not nurse its young but feeds them carryout.

    Keep on keepin’ on,
    Mac
    P.S. Don’t neglect the back2different podcast: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1171136

    • Love this comment; Mac, especially the “Why am I Talking” and “Why am I still talking”? questions! Fun fact; when I get nervous I ramble and talk in circles. This exact thought would pop in my head, along with a “Stop, stop, stop!” warning bell. In order for these words to continue to be precious, we need to ensure we’re talking with someone, not just “at” or “to” them.

      And thank you for the yeet definition: I’ll catch up with the Internet, one of these days.

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