How many languages do you know? Can you read, write and/or speak them? How comfortable are you using languages as a way to communicate your thoughts?
Is a person who knows and is able to use several languages
How did I turn out to be one?
My mother tongue was Telugu and we had moved to Chennai, so everyone around us spoke Tamil. Tamil comic books were available all around us. I started learning to read Tamil comic books for my brothers when parents were at office.. reading every letter, putting the word together and then reading the words together and the whole sentence again! It took us about 3 months (and a lot of patience from my younger brothers 😊) to learn to read. Another summer it was time to learn Telugu, this time it was not comic books – but one letter per day to read and write! I studied in a Punjabi school, so picked up Hindi as my second language. Had the privilege of schooling in an English medium school (and an excellent English teacher). Married a Bengali and wanted to converse with great-grand mother and aunts on in-laws side and learned the language after marriage.
Those who know Tamil and Telugu can understand parts of Kannada and Malayalam. Those who understand Bengali will easily relate to Oriya. Those who know Hindi can relate to Punjabi as well!
Was it useful to learn different languages?
Yes. I would say it really helped understand different perspectives and taught me tolerance.
In my mind, audience for the different languages was segregated like – Telugu with family, Tamil outside home, English at school and workplace, Hindi for poetry and literature, Bengali with in-laws!
Language classes are the best places to showcase our creativity in the form of poetry, short stories, essays, point of views, recitation competitions and the like. Provides a forum to express ourselves formally.
I wrote an article during my college days and got accoladed by UGC (University Grants Commission). The article revolved around the words in different languages and how it had similar and widely different meanings. It taught me the importance of understanding the audience before figuring out your vocabulary to express & communicate.
For example – Naku – means for me in Telugu, Tongue in Tamil and without the u-sound, Nose in Hindi
It helped putting the other person first before choosing words to communicate.
My interests started expanding towards understanding people and cultures. Be it in life or just in the workplace, relatability increased! Understanding another person’s perspectives and stepping into the shoes became easier!
Can it apply to workplace?
Yes it does! I learned programming while at college! I joined an IT firm as a software developer. It became easier to learn multiple programming languages and step up into overall design and architecture, as language no longer became a bottleneck. My mind had figured out the construct, and repeating it across any programming language became easier!
Interestingly, Translators for Diplomats must be polyglots, as they deal with ambassadors from many countries!
My children chose to learn Spanish and Latin! While I could not help them with the subjects, I could see them figuring out how to learn the tenets by themselves and speak!
I grew up in a South Indian culture, learned North Indian culture and living now amidst western culture. My roots may have originated from one place, however they have been shaped and strengthened across multiple cultures & places, and that is what I need to understand and pass it on to my children. My perspectives have been shaped by many, and languages help significantly in keeping an open mind to learn!
Verse from school walls
Through learning languages we learn about culture
Through learning about cultures, we learn to respect people
Through learning respect for others, we can hope for peace!
Realize what had started off as a fun summertime activity with brothers has now shaped my life in so many different ways!