18 February 2010
Before you can read, your discoveries revolve around bright colours, noises, touch, taste, and love. And then you get language. Language that helps you express your needs and wants. Beautiful language that allows you to understand the stories that your parents read to you before tucking you up for the night. Then you start to gain more control of language and, if you're lucky, you learn to read. When you start to read you get to add the element of wonder about those other places and people that, for now, only exist on the pages. Even when I was small I remember wanting to meet people from other cultures and go to places that I read about in books.
Before I began my life of wandering, it was language that helped me to find out what I liked and didn't like about school. It was language that allowed me to learn about myself through journalling and reading Anne Frank's Diary and Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. The stories of others informed my own.
It was also language that helped me through my teenage years. Song lyrics, important scribblings on covers of notebooks about who liked whom that week, and notes to pass in class (probably also about who liked whom). These writings were crucial to me in those days. Words of dire importance that made or broke friendships.
My favourite use of spoken language in those days was to make carefully scripted yet inevitably naff videos with friends on the giant VHS recorders of the day and to talk in "outrageous French accents" as dictated by Monty Python. These silly little linguistic episodes tied some of us together for life and much of the language re-emerges whenever we converse.
Who knew then that our interest in manipulating language for a laugh would be the thing that indicated our alike-ness? Language won over career choice, political or religious views, or any of the other things people think are important. It's a pattern that has repeated itself over the years whenever I've met new people. I seem to warm instantly to people that enjoy a similar interest in manoeuvring language for effect and those are the friendships that have lasted.
I'm blessed to have been born into a situation that allowed me to take action on my dreams to explore. My love of language, my own and that of others, has been the foundation and that which has allowed me to connect.