Understanding language leads to healing of community
In America, we say “God willing.” In Mexico and other places, they say “si Dios quiere.” The phrases mean the same thing but they sound different.
When you live in the borderlands, or in any community where two worlds come together, people say the same thing to each other but different words are heard, different syllables, different inflections of tone.
The same words are being said but our brains think we are hearing something different. When we hear something different, understanding becomes more challenging. Communications begin to break down.
We get confused. A simple greeting, a raised eyebrow, a questioning face, leave us going from a place of wanting to hear something, to a place of wanting to go separate ways.
It happens all the time, misunderstanding. On our side of the border we expect others to speak our language. We use collective words that pit groups against each other. Us, we, here, you, them, there. Maybe other cultures do it too. We want people to be like us, to sound like us, because we think it’s the best way to be, to sound.
Growing up in a bilingual household, I didn’t know as a kid that there was a correct way or a better way. My parents taught me that everyone spoke English and Spanish. As a teenager, I began to think that my friends spoke English and our grandmothers spoke Spanish.
As an adult, I learned that educated people spoke English, and others didn’t. Society, the way we operate, what we expect in the business world, started to tell me that there are winners and losers, achievers and dreamers, rich and poor, and that there was a common difference between these groups — language.
At least, that’s what society was telling me, and it was telling me this in the English language. I’ve heard it over and over. In class, in the media, in popular culture. Now, in my forties, and living as close to the border as one can get, I am reminded of the power of language, and culture, and understanding.
People that speak two languages, that listen to others even if they don’t capture every word, they are listening and trying to understand. That’s where the…