“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.” – Albus Dumbledore
Every day, I find myself being more and more amazed with the power of words and, in a broader sense, with communication. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always liked writing; it was the one creative thing I was actually somewhat good at (along with photography, and that is essentially the end of the list).
But lately there is something more to it. I think about what the power of words actually is quite often, and not just in writings but also in conversations, debates, speeches and even in our own thoughts.
Language is an incredibly powerful tool because of several reasons, as it allows:
- Thought: There is a very close relationship between language and thought. Some even think that language shapes thought, a theory known as “Linguistic Determinism” elaborated around 1956 by Lee Whorf.
- Human evolution: Language allows us to think, and after that, to communicate our discoveries and ideas with the rest of society, making progress possible.
- Complex social interactions: It is true that we can sometimes get our point across without speaking thanks to body language, voice tone, etc. But if we didn’t have language, the scope of messages we could communicate would be greatly reduced.
- Persuasion: Persuasion is the ability to influence others. Thanks to language, we are able to express our ideas and have the opportunity to convince other people about them.
- Sharing ideas: How would I be writing this blog if it wasn’t through a language? In fact, the more languages you know, the further you will be able to spread your ideas, and the less barriers you will encounter in doing so.
- Understanding among people: Language unites us; we can share our own thoughts and feelings, find out what the other person’s are, and maybe even reach a consensus.
Language is underrated, communication is underrated. I started to appreciate my own ability to communicate with others when I studied abroad in the United States and language became a barrier. Sure, I did know English before my plane landed at John F. Kennedy Airport on August 27th, 2013, but I wasn’t prepared to use it on a day-to-day basis.
I remember not being able to understand a word some of my teachers said during the first weeks of school, and switching out of my Geometry class for that reason. I remember being drowned in homework, papers and readings, as it took me three times longer than my classmates to do them. I remember hanging out with my friends and not being able to follow the group conversations, going out for dinner and not understanding half of the words that were on the menu… Even sitting at the table on Thanksgiving, Christmas or other celebrations in silence as I genuinely didn’t comprehend a word that was being said by my host family and our invitees (if English was hard, Bulgarian was impossible).
It was one of the hardest but most humbling experiences I have gone through, and because of it I started to value language and communication skills. I like to think that maybe that experience was the beginning of the ride that has taken me to where I’m standing today, and I am grateful for that.
Now I understand that communication (along with empathy) is always the solution. Going back to the memories from my exchange year, I also remember being unable to start a conversation with my host mum when we were in a bad situation and needed to talk things through. We were in the car and I was thinking to myself “Sara, when we get to that tree, you HAVE to start the conversation”. But we got there and I still couldn’t say a word. “Okay, when we get to that other tree”. But again and again, I couldn’t do it, and this time it wasn’t because of language but because of my own fear and insecurity. If I had spoken up sooner, maybe the situation we were going through at home would have been resolved. I sure regret it, but since I came back to Madrid I have never blocked communication again, as hard as it might be to do so sometimes.
I believe communication is not only the solution in my personal life, but also in the challenges we are facing collectively as a society. In these times when many things are changing so quickly, we need to make sense of this new world and put effort into understanding one another. Only from respect, and through communication, will we be able to move forward.
From Talk the Talk; Walk the Walk (TT;WW for short), I hope to share my thoughts on what matters to me and to get meaningful conversations started, that is the Talk the Talk part. Researching, discussing and listening is the first step, but it means nothing if we don’t step in and take action. That is the Walk the Walk part, which I also hope to share here (maybe intermingled with some figure skating and other random stuff I love).