“J’adore…idioma…OK” (Nods)

Recently, some circumstances arose that offered me the opportunity to learn some British Sign Language and I grabbed it with both hands—see what I did there?!

It is another manifestation of my adoration of language and the many forms it takes, fascinated by the manner in which we communicate with each other. What better subject to be enthralled by?

There is something beautiful about being able to communicate effectively without words, using only a quick pair of hands and an expressive face. Of course, there are others ways to demonstrate one’s thoughts, such as with a look or mannerism, but these can be ambiguous. Have you ever confused a derisive sneer for a seductive smile? A subtle wink for an eye problem? There is no such problem with sign language.        

I’m also a fan of foreign languages. I love listening to people converse in a tongue foreign to mine—strange sounds uttered so rapidly that, often, you can’t help but think the speakers are playing a prank on nosy eavesdroppers. A language book and corresponding dictionary take pride of place in my living room, desiring a reprieve and a rest in the bookcase but finding themselves unlucky every time.

Despite the numbers of students studying a foreign language is declining in the UK, there are still a great deal of people who feel the same way I do. Many are so enthralled by other languages that they ink them onto the skin, risking getting caught out by the arrangement of words, Rihanna…cough…David Beckham…ahem…Hayden Panettiere.  

Chinese characters are especially alluring to many dedicated inkers, which seem to offer a mystical quality. I once read a news article about a man who sought some of this mysticism by requesting a tattoo of Chinese characters reading ‘peace, love and hope’. What he actually got was ‘at the end of the day this is an ugly boy’! The real kicker? He had no idea until he attended a Chinese restaurant only to be called a clown. Was he really an ugly boy? Who cares? Focus! We’re talking about language. The unfortunate young man in question couldn’t read or speak the language, yet, saved up to let a stranger tattoo his skin with it. (The story concluded with his confirmation that he was saving to get it lasered off).

Children (and some adults) have been known to make up their own language—that’s how important it is to be able to communicate, to be unique, to maintain some secrecy. That’s what language allows you to do and I love it all the more for its diversity.  

 

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