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The Language of Family

Language is important and understanding it is difficult to understand even if you have a “college level” vocabulary. This misconception that language is easy comes from our daily use of it. Of course , as a parallel example, one would have to say that understanding the physiology of the human body is easy also as we need the body to function as it should all our life. However the fact that it takes eleven years of study to become a doctor proves that wrong.

 If you think I am saying this merely because I am a teacher and a writer you are correct. However, as I study more about teaching English to non-english speakers I am having a few too many “Duh” moments as I am updating my knowledge of  teaching methodology . Language is more than a vocalization of sounds to create phonemes which are the building blocks of our spoken  language, it is also more than the creation of graphical images that are formed into words and eventually sentences. These sentences convey meaning and emotion. Sound farfetched?

Think about the difference between a good book and a bad book. A good book is able to create specific emotional response to the words , where as a bad book does not.  A further proof that this may not be the easiest of tasks, two of the most preeminent universities,  Harvard and University of Oxford ,offer Master  and  Doctoral  degrees in the study of English. It is then safe to assume there is a great deal to understand about English that the average non-English  professional does not know.

Today , when I was reading about children and how they react to English the author discusses several times that the Adult-Child relationship is one of inequality. The child is constantly trying to figure out what the parent wants through nuances in the grammar, word choice, and body language. The teacher, like the parent , needs to be especially aware that the only way a child can learn is by linking words with specific  defined ideas.  As children grow up to  be adults the need to understand the psychology of English increases not decreases.

As the economy continues on its downward spiral the  phenomenon of “boomerang children”, that is children who return to live with their parents, is going up. As governments tighten their belt  and more and more and the natural increase for a need for aid when people age, parents  will probably find themselves moving in with their children .. Parents ,and children both fail to understand that even the very basic form of conversation has nuances that go beyond the simple words that are spoken.

Any number of factors has the potential to cause trouble, and since this is not a blog about psychology and I am not a doctor , it is irresponsible for me to go into  detail with specific examples. However I am good at language and communications and here are some things to think about:

  1. The speaker is responsible. When you communicate with people they cannot usually guess what you mean. Saying what you mean requires  thinking about specific words. Words have values that are absolute and if you use words incorrectly , you simply cannot communicate. Pause, think about what you think you are saying, and if  does not match the dictionary definition of the word then you need to change the words you use. Poor use of grammar can also affect conversations the position of a word in the sentence could mean the difference between asking a simple request and giving a demand that has consequences or even make a bizarre statement where no possible answer can be inferred by the listener  .
  2. Listen. Listening is a complex action. It involves figuring out the meaning of the sentence based on word placement  ,grammatical structure,nuance,  intonation, and often body language. It cannot be done while doing something else, even if there is a mutually agreed upon first language. Put what you are doing down. The e-mail you are looking at can wait. The very fact you are not looking at the person  means you are not listening. If the person repeats a word more than three times, it is an aural cue to show that this is an important concept they are trying to explain.
  3. Watch body language. Body language is key to all conversation and depending which experts you ask it comprises anywhere between 50-93%.. Again look to your favorite book to see how important body language is. When an author describes a toss of the hair, a biting of the lip, or an exasperated sigh it conveys a world of meanings to the reader. More so in real life. If you don’t understand body language you literally understand as little as 7% of what you are saying. If you only understand 7% of what you are saying it is unfair and unrealistic for anyone to understand anymore than 1%.and probably they will understand  closer to 0%.


Language is a very important device. Using it properly does not end with that essay you wrote for your  college midterm or to get give the correct answer during a job interviewed. Language literally changes chemical responses in our body into thoughts. It can be something you use to hurt the ones you love or to get closer to them. As a speaker, in life a s in the job interview or midterm, it is your responsibility to use it correctly will help you pass this complicated daily surprise quiz we call life.It may be the very small details that save a family.

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Language --

Working remote, I'm robbed of body language, and the speaker can't see me. I know from my past that reading body language is critical to interpreting the message. Assimilating information is much harder without it. We end up depending much more upon emails, spreadsheets and slides. It's not as effective. Someday I might do a study: 1) how many times an email goes around in a circle, with people at the tail referring the question being asked back to the question's originator; 2) how often an email's subject no longer reflects its contect as a new thread subject/thread was begun; 3) how many times the information being sought is already embedded in the message.

Of course, all communications to a remote person is pretty formal and structured. I miss the informal channels so necessary to clarify and validate messages.

Good post, Joshua. Cheers