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S4.4.1 Language is more than communication

During a trip through Alaska, Bas met an Inuit (formerly known as Eskimo) who was fishing. Bas asked the Inuit where he could pitch his tent for the night. The Inuit looked at him kindly but silently. Then Bas saw that the Inuit slowly repeated all the words he had spoken inaudibly and softly to himself. He "ruminated" all the words that were said and carefully felt each and every word. After a pause of a few minutes he said: "It's alright. Your tent can stand there."

Inuit understand that language is more than words. There is more to communication than meets the eye and the heart. In a snowstorm at minus forty five degrees, you only say the essential words. That's why Inuit talk mainly with their eyes and take plenty of time for silences. Silences, in which the essence of a word is repeated, heard and felt inwardly.

Language is often misused. Around the year 1250, Isabella of Aragon, daughter of the Spanish king, offered a great reward to the one who would help her keep her disintegrating country together without war. Then a wise man came to her and said: "I will write a grammar for the official Spanish language. Then proclaim all your laws in this exalted language. Everyone who wants to deal with you will have to speak one language, your language. This will bring you unity and power." And so it was done. In this example, language becomes an instrument of power.

In 1870, the archaeologist and "language genius" Heinrich Schliemann travelled by carriage from France to Northern Turkey. In those days, every region had its own dialect. Heinrich regularly invited people in his carriage to join in the conversation. At the end of each day he wrote in his diary not only in the different languages, but also in the dialect of the region. In this way, Heinrich learned to speak more than twenty dialects!