Human language is a remarkable tool. It:
- connects us to others;
- can also put up barriers to connections;
- shapes how we think and what we think about;
- can empower as well as disempower;
Language can put people on equal footing with others or it can create and perpetuate lasting inequalites.
Our language skills and competencies – speaking, reading, & writing – greatly determine what kind of access we have to the information commons and all the riches of collective knowledge.
And while there is some fascinating and humbling research emerging about the languages of animals ( and plants & trees!) humans are uniquely made to use language.
We’re not just meerkats warning the pack of an approaching predator.
One of us might be really good at communicating how ferocious and how fast the predator is approaching. One of use might excel at persuading the meerkat kids to take cover, while another might shine when it comes to reviewing how we can be quicker and safer next time.
And if you want to stay with this topic:
- Human language is an ingenious rule-governed system that we start learning from birth.
- From the time we’re babies we learn language through repetition, elaboration.
- That’s how we grow our vocabulary and syntax (the structure of sentences).
- The richer our communication environment, the stronger and more versatile our language skills become.
- We continue to expand our language skills throughout our lives.
- Remarkably we can say and understand utterances we’ve never said or heard before. Amazing!
- Through language we can consume limitless amounts of information and knowledge.
- Without it the world is smaller and our options for learning are less rich.