love letter to words and language

Photo + Artwork by Maria Hochleitner

Photo + Artwork by Maria Hochleitner

I love languages. And I love words. For most of you this is not a very surprising or shocking coming-out now, I mean I am learning 5 different languages, I am studying Sinology, I am living in China to improve my Chinese and I am constantly talking about my wish to learn Arabic…It’s just a logical conclusion that I love languages! But things are not always as they appear at first glance…

At school I always favored English over maths and I enjoy going to language classes. Sometimes. I mean just because I am good at learning languages and maybe don’t have to put as much effort into it as other people, doesn’t automatically mean that I love it. But that’s what people always thought and when I failed the qualifying examination for studying politics, most of them told me that it’s better for me to study linguistics anyway. I never regret my decision to study Sinology and Orientalism, but I have to admit that sometimes I was asking myself if I would have ended up learning all these languages without people telling each other “Maria loves languages”. I can tell you learning languages is hard work and requires a lot of discipline and continuity. Hours and hours of trying to memorize words and phrases and understand grammatical structures…and for what? For a little bit of small talk in China or Turkey?

I didn’t know what it was but something still kept me going, something inside me was telling me that I need to speak those languages.

While reading a book last week the scales fell from my eyes.

Of course I love languages! But not just for the sake of being able to communicate with a lot of people from different countries (which is an amazing side effect)…

I love languages because understanding a language gives me the opportunity to understand other people’s thoughts and ideas. It enables me to feel all the emotions that a person put into his words. Of course anything can be translated, but we can only translate words, not meaning and that’s what in my eyes makes every translation a poor translation. No matter how much effort we put into a translation, in order to fully understand a person’s thoughts, you have to think in his language. By reading or hearing only translations we can maybe understand each other but we cannot feel each other.

Speaking a language, that’s not only putting together words to form sentences, that’s knowing how to combine words correctly in order to make the ones listening to you, feel exactly the way that you feel or felt. That’s turning emotions into words and being able to express that you are happy in 999.999 different ways. It’s like discovering a whole new world which is only accessible for those who stop trying to translate but start to understand. Words are powerful and they can either feel like a knife held against your throat or a warm hug.

I have always been one of those persons, who primarily pay attention to the lyrics whenever they are listening to a song. I guess words are playing a major role in my life and I don’t see them only as a tool to communicate with others. It’s not only about the content, it’s also about the form. I like books that are telling a nice story and I LOVE books that are written in a way that is touching my heart and making me want to absorb every single word. There are very few things in this world making me feel more satisfied than reading a perfect sentence, a perfect combination of some of the most beautiful words a language has to offer, with the perfect meaning behind it. I adore some of those perfect sentences so much that I want to read them again and again. I want to retain them, those perfect combinations of perfect words and keep them wherever I go. And yes it’s true: same words, different language, different feeling.

One thought on “love letter to words and language

  1. Pingback: Books you must read | Gegenwind

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