The language that deserves to be embraced
Reflections upon the concept of communication and barriers that people from different cultures and languages come up against when they find themselves in conversation.
- Episode OneThe train journey from my house to Melbourne’s city centre.As soon as I entered in one of the train carriages, despite being myself using Melbourne’s public transport frequently, I was struck by the muffled atmosphere permeating the train so completely. The absence of idle chatter, of conversations shouted down the phone, of greenhorn lovers that clearly lack British reserve and engage in public and very profuse displays of affection. In other words, everyday life scenes for commuters in Italy. I remember with nostalgia fellow travellers killing the time by playing a heated game of Scopa during the journey back home after a long day at work.Nevertheless, this lethargy enthralled me and I decided against putting on my headphones, (I didn’t want to depersonalise myself in the infinite and mellifluous world of social media and online streaming music) instead I opted to “listen in” to this silence. I sat next to a family including a mother and her three sons, roughly 10, 7 and 5 years old. An “ordinary” family, I assumed. The mother was wearing headphones and presumably listening to music from her iPhone; the eldest son was playing on his iPad, the middle one was sleeping and the youngest was intent in obstinately picking his nose, hidden by the book he was holding in his hand. No words were exchanged during the journey, nor when, after having turning off their devices, closed the book and put the headphones away, they headed for the doors. It is definitely not the first time that I have witnessed a scene where communication is reduced to exchange essential information. However, what surprised me this time was the young age of those kids and their apparent disinterest in interacting with each other.
- Episode twoReading an article on the difficulties of communication between different cultures.The article in question analyses quite simply the different levels of communication between two people coming from different cultures, by comparing them. Task-oriented cultures such as the Anglo-Saxon culture use communication chiefly as a means to share information, to get things done and set objectives to reach. On the other hand, in Latin cultures and some cultures from Asia (where socialisation plays a crucial role), communication is the tool to deepen interpersonal relationships and express feelings, to listen to the other and base professional relationships outside the work sphere.
- Episode threeThe inconsistency of Italian talk-shows.The better part of the programming schedule in Italian television is made up (some would say plagued) by talk-shows where the host and the guests discuss politics – the shows are cheap and the guests aren’t paid.This way, a handful of narcissist politicians, newspaper directors, pundits, trade unionists, “experts” and know-it-alls (you name it) weekly sit on the plush armchairs of Ballarò, Porta a Porta, Virus, In Onda, etc. Television couches often turn into a hullabaloo, the regurgitation of traditionalist TV. My wife pointed out to me the real inconsistency of Italian talk-shows. Listening to the chitchat, to the irrelevant flow of words and insults, she asked me to explain what was going on and why nearly every day there were bunches of people forever talking about this and that on television couches. Candidly, she stated, “It’s funny to me that so many words are said with no consideration whatsoever, when in my culture we’re used to having real actions follow the words that have been said.”
In the Book of the Genesis, the myth of the Tower of Babel is told. At the time, men were joined together as one people and spoke one language only; they decided to build a tower that could be high enough to touch the sky, so that they could find shelter in case of another flood, and, more importantly, be even closer to God and resemble him as much as possible. This irreverent and pretentious action was punished by God himself with the confusion of tongues. Men started talking different tongues and they scattered all over the earth, as they didn’t feel like one people anymore.
Languages are different from language in general, as the former are used to convey information and communicate. Vice versa, language is a code used to express emotion or to explore relationships. Therefore, it is universal as all kinds of language (visual, sign language, poetic, verbal, language of the body and dance, etc.) exist in every people, culture or nation, regardless of the tongue spoken.
In this regard, maybe, we can still feel like one people.