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.


Shiela said...

Such a beautifully written post - hey - you should do this full time :) Loved reading this, and couldn't agree more!

Alyssa C. said...

I feel the same sort of connection to language. Great post and I look forward to keeping up with your blog and writing! Thanks for visiting mine, too :)

CherylK said...

You are very wise. You remind me of one of my daughters because I think she thinks like you do! She is very wise, too.

shantiwallah said...

Only one more week to go until I am full time, yikes! Thank you for the inspiration, Shiela and thanks for being a great friend.

Thanks Alyssa. It's probably no mistake that our connection with language is leading us to pursue the life we are pursuing!

Thank you Cheryl. What a wonderful compliment.

Orangesplaash said...

Beautiful write up. I was just watching a programme on Egypt heiroglyphics on discovery - liked the way the messages were left for the future generations. A language is the most wonderful form of expressing oneself.
You have a nice blog. Its nice to know a fellow contributor in Pocket Culture thorough the blog. I have started following your blog now.

niamh said...

So true and very well put! Language is the thing which joins us together, even when we don't share a common vocal language we can try to share and find a way through gestures or actions.

Fly Girl said...

What a lovely post! I think you're exactly right, the love of words leads to this kind of wandering life.

shantiwallah said...

Thank you all for your kind comments. I'm so happy to have met all of you writing travellers through my blog!

Orangesplaash, I used to memorise heiroglyphics out of a book when I was little. I was convinced I could learn to "speak ancient Egyptian".

Laura Kelley said...

Hi Marie:

Nice post. I especially like the part about connecting with people through the common manipulation of language. I find it still holds true today as well. When I meet Americans who love classic British humor and its language gags and enjoy BBC-America, we usually grow closer as friends or colleagues.



shantiwallah said...

Thank you for your comment, Laura. I think humour is often one of the hardest things to translate and it's great when people can 'get' each other on that level.

matt miller said...


for once, i'm speechless

shantiwallah said...

Now, Matto, you don't think I really believe that you have stopped talking, do you? The world would stop turning without your beautiful rants!