What I Think The Purpose of a Language is

I remember vaguely how whenever I would talk to my friends, they would seemingly bow their heads down and smirk while looking at each other with a sneaky look in their eyes. It turns out that they noticed how ungrammatically I spoke my English, and if you add my weird sounding accent, made fun of the mistakes I made. This made me hate speaking in English, even though I loved watching American shows and laughed at how Barney always used “Legen - wait for it - dary” in most of the episodes in How I Met Your Mother or when Homer always said “you little…” to Bart as he strangled him in The Simpsons. Even though I understood English, with all its humor and slang, the feeling of sheepishness was evident as speaking a peep made my head pound. 

This attitude turned out to be a recurring theme and noticing everyone’s faults was normal in the community I lived in. People would correct a person’s grammar instinctively as if it needed to be corrected, or they would state that their use of words is wrong. I thought this was normal; if you need to learn a language, you had to know everything until the last detail. I had to speak and write perfectly, like how everyone expected me to do.  

As I entered university, a jittering feeling of panic crawled up my spine; as the sudden realization that most of the conversations I had to do here would have to be in the language I wasn’t confident to speak in. The sudden fear that people would point out the way I speak created a wall that made most of my words stay at the back of my throat.

Photo by Joshua Rawson-Harris on Unsplash

But for some reason, as I talk with people from all the corners of the world, to the people who live in the country where my university is, I’ve noticed how people care more about what you have to say. Grammar, accents, and choice of words aren’t actually the basis of a good conversation, but what you need is a good story. As I spoke with the people around me, the ins, ons, and ats became a minor issue, and the conversations we had created connections which I never thought would be possible. Laughs could be shared, empathy and different kinds of sentiment could be felt, all because English isn’t a language you need to perfectly speak anymore, but it has become a language you are able to use to connect with everyone.

The feeling might still be there when I encounter situations where shyness suddenly pops up and saying something in English feels weird; but to have good conversations means being willing to look past and forget those little mistakes to develop more connections with people. I think this is more important than the occasional misuse and mispronunciation of words. This goes with any language; as we learn more languages, we get to tell more stories and connect with more people, which gives more purpose to these languages. 

Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash