Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Rhythms and Culture in Languages by Anne Mason

Have you consciously tapped into the rhythm and pulse of a culture and language? I noticed the effect one day when I landed in the UK from a trip to Ireland. It was tangible, and felt like electricity moving through my body. A new awareness emerged, like I was awakening to something that has been happening in the background, like a running program. At first it felt strange and unusual, like I was a stranger to the place, even though I had spent most of my life in Britain. I noticed then that something was leaving me, feeling the pulse and rhythm of Ireland, the country, the language and culture I had left, as an identity that had become part of me, moving away. When I put my feet on the ground in the UK, it was like shedding this skin. Then a sense of familiarity and then I remembered what it felt like to be in the UK. 

From this new observance, I wondered about how much of our communication with others was coloured by this. I had been exploring my desire to meet others, learn languages and speak to others, a lifelong dream and Ireland had been part of this. I felt held by the country, after living there for a while, like it didn’t want to let me go. Yet when I arrived in the UK, it felt like this was my new place and the feeling of Irish culture I had experienced was moving from me.

I am a member of an internet based social media called SpeakTalkChat.com, whereby you can search for other people, based on your shared interests and languages and thought I could explore this new realisation of mine, using my PC or mobile phone. Just to see what happened when I connected to other people, their languages and their cultures from a distance as it were. I log in to SpeakTalkChat to use it as a tool to practise my language skills and to learn from others. I can search for others, make appointments to chat, and video chat freely, meeting others face to face via my PC. Would I be able to feel this rhythm and connect to it, when speaking to another in this way?

I noticed then, I was indeed moving from a different perspective, like an archetypal 'English' woman, talking to another. I wanted to meet and practise my language skills using SpeakTalkChat. This UK pulse was influencing me and my approach to another. I then listened in a different way. So as an example, I made an appointment to talk to a member in Ireland, to practise my Gaeilge. The time spent with my friend in Ireland was lovely, via SpeakTalkChat and helped me to find some of the sounds I was looking for to pronounce key phrases. I have been working on the Conemara dialect. However, from my new perspective I realised something I hadn’t felt before.

There it was an energy I could see for the first time. Ireland, a beautiful country with lovely people, with its own music, and this lyrical language enclosed in some way, like a bubble of energy, around the culture. I then realised I too felt this surrounding me, I now had a different experience of this chat with my friend. Flowing underneath or around us the real language and culture it was like listening to a beautiful composition and delightful dance. I was no longer just ‘learning’ to speak Irish.

I got excited. SpeakTalkChat is available globally. I could reach out, take myself to anywhere in the world, meet new people, learn the new ‘street’ language and see how it felt to tap into the flow of the culture and the people. Wow. Off I go, why don’t you join me?

Anne Mason has a life-long interest in languages and culture, in particular the way language brings us together as people. She is concerned by the loss of languages and the domination of mono-culture. Her love of languages stemmed from music and a desire to sing and play her cello. She wanted to not just learn the words, but to understand the meaning of the music and the words and the 'flavours' of it all.