Your Relationship with Language

I had a friend many years ago who swore she recalled her first minutes out of the womb.  The bright lights, the movement, the suddenly unmuted sounds and the large creatures who made rhythmic noises to one another and in her direction all formed her first memories!  From the moment you emerged from the warmth and relative  safety of the womb, you likely encountered similar stimuli, all of which your body was marvelously capable of translating into an increasingly complex understanding of the world around you.

Mae West
Mae West once said: “I speak two languages, Body and English.”  Human communication is a remarkably rich field, worthy of individual exploration.  What you say, how you say what you say and what gestures and emotions you use to empower your words are all part of your unique expression.  Some emphasize quantity while others prefer to focus on quality of expression.  Either way, every word shapes the future and contributes to your legacy.

There seem to be two types of people: those who embrace language and those who put up with it by necessity.  Whether it is due to nature or nurture or a combination of the two, your relationship to language is what it is, and there is no better time than the present to make improvements.  If you’re already good, you can get better.  If you have been too afraid or embarrassed to address this area of your expression, have courage and take baby steps in the direction of greater eloquence and succinctness. 

There are tons of useful and free resources on the web that provide useful launch pads for your passionate study of language.  Here are just a few:

  1. http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/ (for men or women)
  2. http://www.dictionary.com
  3. http://www.virtualsalt.com/vocablst.htm
  4. http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/vocabulary.htm
  5. http://www.openculture.com/2007/07/ten_podcasts_to_build_your_vocabulary.html

6 thoughts on “Your Relationship with Language

  • Resources for our whole family! Thanks so much! And I agree that we can each start where we are and become better at this. Also, with my teens interacting on the computer, I have been emphasizing the ‘legacy’ they are leaving with every word or picture they include. Apparently it really does seal your fate, so thank you again for this emphasis this morning!

  • These are great resources and the picture used here is profound. I think that it is so important to continue to learn realtive to our language. I will use this as well to help my children to understand the power of their words. It does take some courage to begin to expand our vocabulary, similar to learning a foeign language. It is very uncomfortable at first, being afraid that you will not be understood properly, but with practice it becomes natural and with help from others your confidence increases and your vocabulary grows. Communication is a wonderful experience when the words can truely express the feelings.

  • Finding just the right words to say something clearly and elegantly is so satisfying. What a great antidote it can be for frustration and confusion. Love your posts!

  • Virtual Salt’s “1062 word vocabulary list” is very cool – 3 pages of words: “from base to disparity, dispassionate to moratorium, mordant to zeal” – these are three pages I’ll keep bookmarked and click on a number of words and their definitions each day. Thanks for the podcast recommendations too – how often during the day it is possible to squeeze a little learning in.

  • Great ideas and information. I think most of us avid readers are really “wanna-be” writers. Thanks for the encouragement.

  • More great points here, Gregg. I like to read ‘good’ writers (leaves a lot of room for interpretation, I know) to keep up with vocabulary amongst other things. One site I like is Malcolm Gladwell’s blog at http://gladwell.typepad.com/. Keeping tabs on a diversity of topics is also invaluable – you don’t have to be an expert in all disciplines to build a substantial vocabulary, but being a well-informed reader outside your areas of direct expertise is helpful. Also I recommend limiting “fluff” reading – unless your vocabulary is undoubtedly weak you’re not going to improve it by reading something like USA Today, for example (though kudos to them for making news more accessible to a wide group of readers). If I write any more thoughts here I’ll have to start my own blog (per Grammar Girl’s “How To Write Blog Comments”), so I’ll stop now. Much appreciate the post today – I’m sharing the link with employees and colleagues.

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