It is often said that language is the most powerful connector between people. The thought of random sounds strung together having the infinite power to elate, infuriate or illuminate people is truly fascinating. However, questions arise about what the power of language is centered around; is language solely sound based? Must people understand each others languages to understand each other? How much do the way the sounds are made tell you about the situation you are in?
The Language Resource Center at the University of Michigan has understood the importance of these questions, and has begun to help me, and countless other students, realize the power of language in their own lives.
Being fluent in Greek, French and English from a young age I have always been intrigued by the power of my voice in different scenarios. This has led me to yearn for, at minimum, a rudimentary understanding of all languages and how they connect to their cultural home. The Language Resource Center has provided me with culturally applicable resources in different languages that show the languages used in their home culture. For example, I have been able to watch Russian TV and listen to the intonations of the actors. This has helped me appreciate that the speed of the Russian language can be connected to the speed of Russian culture and society. Furthermore, I have been able to explore how differing speaking volumes hint at specific countries cultural preferences. For example, Greeks tend to speak very loud and passionately, often you will see two people yelling at each other, and yet they truly are having what they consider a casual conversation. Yet in American cultural quiet speaking is much more the norm. Conversations in public seem to become private by the whispering and shushing that occurs. While it may be a stretch, there is an argument that connects these cultural differences to the differing senses of community in each country.
Even though these connections and questions are daunting, the Language Resource Center at the University of Michigan is a place in which I am able to attempt to learn more about these subjects. And begin to understand the power of the languages I speak, not only through their sound but also through their cultural importance. I am so excited to delve deeper into the issues of the importance of language and its power.
— Patrick M., University of Michigan student