As Oscar Wilde, in ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’, put it perfectly; “Words! Mere words! How terrible they were! How clear, and vivid, and cruel! One could not escape from them. And yet what a subtle magic there was in them! They seemed to be able to give a plastic form to formless things, and to have a music of their own as sweet as that of viol or of lute. Mere words! Was there anything so real as words?”
That’s a very intriguing question. Is there anything so real as words? How can they hit us so hard? How can simple words make us feel so deeply?
It’s crazy and absolutely magical how words strung together in sentences make up entire languages, and not only make communication possible but can have complete control over us.
Has listening to music ever completely changed your mood? Do you feel sad when you listen to a sad song, or happy when a happy song comes on?
Have you ever found yourself completely lost in a story with the words on the page immediately turning into images as good as a movie in your mind? Even a simple conversation with a person can make us feel a crazily wide range of emotions: we can go from surprised to happy to sad to excited- all in the matter of a few words.
It is mesmerizing how we become part of the story or poem and feel the same emotions as the characters, as we read the words printed upon pages.
Be it music, poetry, literature or just a conversation, it’s mind-boggling how these words have a profound effect on our emotions and mental state.
Nathaniel Hawthorne said, “Words: so innocent and powerless as they are, standing in a dictionary; how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.”
We know how powerful words are, and we know how deeply they can affect us. Every single one of us needs to learn to use our words very carefully; for once they are out of our mouth, they can never be taken back.
Our words are bullets and the wounds they cause never heal.
When words are strung together in a structure, they make up sentences and sentences are the building blocks of a language. Being an aspiring polyglot (a person who can fluently speak, read and write in multiple languages), I have often had people ask me why I want to learn new languages. They say that today we have translators ready on our phones; why do we need to go through the trouble of learning the entire language when the objective is to just communicate?
So, naturally, I decided to write a blog to explain it.
As you may have perceived, the very idea of language to me is absolutely riveting. It’s fascinating how human beings can effectively communicate through structured languages- a feat that no other species has achieved yet. We have come from drawing symbols on cave walls to speaking over 6000 different fully developed languages over the world.
OVER SIX THOUSAND DIFFERENT LANGUAGES.
During this process of evolution, languages weren’t the only things that came into existence. This process gave birth to many, many colourful cultures, contrasting but complementing each other at the same time.
This leads us to an important fact that is comparatively lesser known: when you learn a new language, you don’t just learn it’s grammar, it’s sentence structure or it’s pronunciations; you discover a new country, a new culture, new food, a new way of thinking. For example, while learning French I didn’t just learn how to write or speak the language; I learnt how the French live, what they like to do and what they don’t, I learnt about the HUNDREDS of fromages francais, I discovered the rich culture and history of France and how it’s shaped their language and lifestyle.
Have you ever heard the phrase ‘lost in translation’? Another beautiful characteristic that languages possess is that each of them has something unique and special of its own that it loses when it is translated into another language. The word or sentence, when translated into another language, loses it’s exact emotion and meaning- a piece of it gets lost in translation.
Now that you know the significance of words and language, I just want to tell you that your words DO make a difference. Go ahead, raise your voice, speak!
Because it matters. Every single word matters.