On Language

Have you ever stopped to think what language teaches us?

Huw Williams | 15:09, Saturday 14 March 2015 | Turin, Italy

Let's think about langauge for a few moments. There are days when I feel as though I think about nothing else. We often say it, but we're very aware of our deficiencies in speaking Italian even though we're well into our fourth year here. We work in English and so ironically, though we live in Italy we are not as immersed in the Italian language as one would expect. We can get by of course, in most situations we can communicate what we are trying to say - it is often clumsy and full of bad grammar but we can usually get what we're trying to say over to our long-suffering listeners. After all this time, it's strange how one adapts, I no longer expect to understand those snippets of conversation on the street as people pass by, so they just get blocked out altogether, I never even try to keep up with the news readers. But we can get by.

getting by is not the goal of language

But then I am reminded that getting by is not the goal of language. I suppose it's where we aim first when learning a new language, but it's not the goal. We are made for more than simply being understood and merely comprehending what comes back, we are made to connect - and this is what we all feel is lacking when we can't speak a language well; it is the subtlety, the nuance, the suggestion, the hints of language which carry so much more meaning than grammar and vocabulary. Such things are appreciated by the fluent conversationalist but never grasped by the student who is still working out conjugations mid-conversation.

Language is our teacher in this respect - our desire to speak and to be understood will never be satisfied by merely getting by, we are too sociable for that, we will only be satisfied by connecting with others in heart to heart relationship.

the Bible is full of things to say on language

So it should come as no surprise that the Bible is full of things to say on language. It opens with God speaking in relationship, Babel underscores the broken relationships of the Fall, and yet God continues to speak, message after message, both to and through patriarch, priest, judge, prophet, king. The theme of God's word is foundational to the whole of scripture and generation after of generation of Christians have rightly wondered at the fact that God is a speaking God, a communicating God, a God who wants to connect - most amazingly of all - with people like us.

And the miracle doesn't stop there. Having communicated his words clearly over centuries, God's desire to connect moved Him even further, to work the miracle of the incarnation, the Word was made flesh. The goal was more than comprehension of God's messages on our part, it was connection - a heart to heart relationship between God and people. Thus God's Son became one of us, so that we could become one with him.

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