This week, I’m working frantically to get my application finished for this summer language program I want to get into, so I am incapable of thinking about anything other than this. As such, I thought I’d write about language. We all love language, right? Okay then.
Provided I get into this program, I’ll be spending my summer studying Arabic. This will be the third foreign language I’ve studied (the other two being Spanish and Italian), and I’m looking forward to it. I’ve probably been fascinated by words my entire life, but I became especially fascinated when I was in 10th grade English and the class did a unit on the history of the language. Learning that English is an Indo-European language and therefore has things in common with Hindi was a revelation to me. (Trivia: the English word “igneous” which describes rock formed from magma is similar to the name for the Hindu fire god, Agni.)
The thing about learning a new language is that it makes it impossible not to learn something about your own. In both of my previous language-study experiences, I learned so much — not just how to order dinner or ask for directions or read a newspaper, but how a language is structured. Sure, just like most people, I learned the parts of speech and how to diagram sentences when I was a kid in school, but these things never became practical, living ideas for me until I had to apply them something completely foreign. (Italian prepositions? Confusing and seemingly illogical.) A language is more than a series of words to describe things; it’s a culture, a way of understanding the world. And for me, at least, understanding that about other languages has helped me understand that about my own.
I have a thing for English. It was always my favorite subject in school, then I went on to major in it in college, and maybe someday I’ll end up teaching it. I love literature, of course — it’s magic, creating things from words, isn’t it? — but I love the fundamentals, too. I love the way the language works. The weird way we conjugate verbs. The morphemes that are the building blocks of our words. The syntax. The semantics. I really really love language, and most people who know me have been treated to me geeking out about it at one time or another. Words! Words are the greatest things of all.
Of course this love translates into writing. I wouldn’t write if I didn’t love words like I do. But I also like talking and listening, the way things sound, the way it feels to say certain words (it’s not a fancy one, but I have adored the word “zipper” all my life).
Perhaps this is a silly question to ask a bunch of people who read a literary website, but how much do you love words? What are some of your favorites? What do you love about language (and do you speak more than one)?