I was in early stages of taking language lessons. A question by my tutor caught me off guard.
“Do you know how many languages and major dialects there are in India?”
It was a question that I had not thought much about. I know there are many, but just how many? As I thought of states, tribes, and cultures, I wondered how I would count mother tongues. Even with a clarification question or two, I realized that I was blindly guessing.
“Thirty or forty?”
“Eight hundred and sixty-seven.”
I have no idea where the number came from or the criteria used. I do know that the number is easily north of two hundred. I initially dismissed them and then the obvious stood knocking at the door of my mind. “There are many languages in the world and they all mean something to someone.” (1 Corinthians 14.10)
I wish I knew their stories. Every last one of them! In the past few days, I have listened to conversations in Malay, Mandarin, Tamil, Singlish, and English. I wish I understood each with its nuances, humor, and history. Even though I do not understand, I can watch and experience the emotions that flow with the words. It is an interesting process. What seems angry in English is something different in Mandarin. The inflection of a word that does not change the meaning in one language radically alters it in another.
As we have talked about language, communication, and the all that it carries, I find myself amazed at the way our hopes, dreams, and aspirations are shared in common. However one might communicate, s/he needs to belong. Whatever one’s background is, the gifts of friendship and compassion are universal. Humor, frustrations, and hope can be expressed with and without words. It is wonderfully amazing and hope filling at the same time.
Our stories are unique and important, at least to us! They are also part of the mosaic that forms a wonderful family. The God I know loves each where and as we are. Can I do anything less?