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Global Studies: Connecting Through Language

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Connecting Through Language

(October 10, 2013)

The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives ~ Anthony Robbins

Last week Global Studies participants at Talking Stick Learning Center began a month-long study of language and how we use it to communicate with the world. In order to travel, make international friends, and eventually understand the perspective of those who at first seem foreign, it is essential that we communicate with each other.

To start the dialogue we played several charade-like games involving body language and silent gestures, and we discovered there is a vast amount we can "say" without ever using our voice. We all share a human language that can be communicated across cultural and national boundaries. Aside from spoken languages made of sound and written languages made of alphabets and pictures, we thought of many other languages such as sign language, morse code, secret knocks, cave paintings, radio language, nautical flags, map legends, and even texting shorthand that allow people to communicate across cultural boundaries.

We then tried to guess what are the top 20 most spoken "first" languages in the world. It was very eye opening to discover that English was not in 1st place, and that Mandarin (which no one guessed) was at the top. Also shattering to our western perspective was the fact that five separate languages spoken in India made it into the top 20. (Hindi, English and Spanish flip-flop their rankings frequently as they are spoken by roughly the same amount of people.) As a nod to the vast possibilities of language we then each chose a phrasebook and learned a foreign greeting that we shared with the class.

[pb_vidembed title="Top 10: Most Spoken Languages (by Native Speakers)" caption="" url="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4lte--EJUsM" type="yt" w="480" h="385"]

Lastly we began a discussion of constructed, invented or artificial languages. There are so many! Klingon, Simlish, the Languages of Middle Earth, Pig Latin. We also touched on the politics of language and how language can change the world, with a brief mention of Esperanto which was created to be a global, non-political language. Participants began work on independent language projects, including constructing their own languages, translating, decoding, and working with morse code. Their enthusiasm for this topic is infectious, and I eagerly anticipate what we will discover together over the next few weeks.

[pb_vidembed title="Top 10: Invented Languages" caption="" url="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kuyQXl7Trkw" type="yt" w="480" h="385"]

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