When you study eight languages, what do you learn? You learn how to study a language at all.

The first thing is grammar. Understanding what rules govern meaning. Meaning is all about relationships. Put the same words in a different order, or twist their endings, and you change meaning–or create garble. The same ingredients, different impacts.

Therefore observe. Scrutinize. Plumb with questions. And crucially: explore.

Never speak another person’s words. Speak only your own. Butcher your sentences rather than ace those of others. Drive into the words and gather your own scrapes.

When finally you’re able to communicate, you will be speaking the language as yourself, not fearful of the types of things you want to say.

The second thing is music. Each language has its own melody. Each languages bears its own silences. If you listen, you will hear.

This goes beyond the sense and into the under-sense. Words carry histories, have varied weight and magnetism. Each language asks different questions inside its words. And each bears its own cadences. Speak the correct cadence, and you can flub a word or two.

And above all, never fear making a fool of yourself. Failure is part of the process. Super duper doozies are part of the process. You will create monsters. Dance with them. To learn a language, one must desire to communicate, to meet others’ souls, more than one wants to preserve one’s ego. Much is learned on the backs of mistakes.

Press your hand to your cave wall. Burn your soul into it. Speak your own words with all the sounds of the world. Filter the world through the prism of you. Your love, your pain, your longing. Your relationship to the world.

And it occurs to me now, that art is language too, and can be learned the same way. Observing. Questioning. Feeling. Experimenting. Speaking our own hearts.

We are languages too.

We are leaves falling, leaves crushed.

Fall in Central Park. (Not a command, a description of the season and the place.)

Fall in Central Park. (Not a command, but a description of the season and the place.)

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About sputnitsa

Born in the US, I grew up in Africa and the West Indies, and returned stateside in my teens. After a decade in international development, democracy work, and inclusivity training for domestic NGOs, I joined Peace Corps, and after a year, experienced my first Russian invasion. I followed that up by volunteering with refugees and youth, and after some vacation time climbing minarets and mountains, I returned to New York City, where today I work on social justice with college students, produce short films, and write.
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4 Responses to When you study eight languages, what do you learn? You learn how to study a language at all.

  1. joyiejoytan says:

    YES to all your points! I completely relate. I love languages, and you’ve listed just 3 of the many reasons why I do. Thank you for the lovely read 🙂

  2. Sputsie dear, you wrote this just when I needed it! thank you

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