“Wow! What an amazing, and interesting session with Stories of Our lives” said Pauline Omoboye. “It felt good to welcome some new members to the group, including Yaron Matras,  a retired professor of linguistics interested in people’s experiences of multilingualism.

We discussed the power of language and how it gives us an insight into our identity. There are many forms of communication and I believe all languages are equal. During the session in our breakout rooms we discussed what language meant to us. I chose to talk about ‘patois/creole’ also known as ‘broken English’. I spoke about my parents who are from Jamaica.”

Pauline Omoboye

When my parents left the Caribbean for England, they were ordered by their parents to speak the Queen’s English as that would show class/status. They were told people would know they had come from ‘good stock’, and they were educated by the way they spoke.

As children our parents would sometimes talk in patois, usually when we were being chastised or they were using humour. They would also use it when they met up with friends who had travelled on the same ship to come to England as it gave them a sense of community.

Patois is my parent’s mother tongue, it shows her origin. Mum used to say when she was in Jamaica that if you came from the country your accent was broader, so they would say they were not educated. It showed ignorance.

The tone used within language is also very important when it comes to understanding language. It gives away emotion and you can quite often read someone from the tone they use.

Stories of Our Lives is wonderful. You meet super people and realise the richness we have as a group. Jolene excels in her delivery of the sessions. She keeps us grounded and there is always something new to learn. The richness and diversity of the group is awesome. I feel really proud to be involved in the whole refreshing experience.

Come and join us.

Susan Ash

My main focus for this topic was about body language and I include here a poem related to human body language that I wrote some years ago.

First Encounters

What do I see
The first time
I look into 
Their eyes?

Those rare strangers
Who, without words,
Make me catch my breath
The first time we meet.

Is it a glimpse
Of recognition?
Fragments of myself,
A kindred spirit?

Or the attraction
Of opposites?
A chance to learn,
To expand my soul?

I am drawn to them
But do they see me?
Or am I just part of
The wallpaper of life?

© Susan Ash

However, an unfolding story in my life is my interest is the use of body language to communicate with animals, particularly horses.  Whilst thinking about how I could introduce this, the perfect quote below came up on my Facebook page and introduced me to a book that I have now bought to read in full.  I also refer often to ‘Horse Speak’ by Sharon Wilsie & Gretchen Vogel

“the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear.”

The Outermost House by Henry Beston

Declan Wilks

Plants

I talk a little water
to the plants. They listen -
a thirsty root-eared
listening.

They drink my words,
say nothing. Why would -
should they?

Sometimes I play them
icaros - magic songs, they say,
of the green kingdom.

Not that
I would know.

If they recognise such music
they don’t let on. But in dreams
they dance, I know -

it’s not the wind that stirs
them.

To me they speak stillness only -
but a glorious stillness it is, a
homely one.

When I join them there I hear
them better, though hardly and rarely.
I’m trying.

Still, there’s something
they won’t tell me - there must
be, must be. Am I
not listening?

An array of green leaved houseplants in pots, in the corner of a room by a window.
Photo by Huy Phan on Pexels.com

Tony Goulding

December’s sessions focused on the theme of language, leading to some interesting and thought-provoking discussions on various aspects of the subject.

Experience of language depends on whether you live in a large cosmopolitan city or a close-knit rural community. The differences highlight two separate functions of language. Not only is it a means of communicating but also a shared language that gives a group its identity and helps bind it together.

In large cities, with many linguistic groups, the need to interact with each other perhaps leads to the first of these functions becoming paramount.  On the other hand, in smaller communities such as in North Wales in which only one language is spoken its role in binding the group is enhanced.

As with many things there are both positives and negatives.  Close knit groups may become insular and not interact with “outsiders”. In larger places, local dialects are being steadily lost and, with that, some of the beauty and individuality of the spoken word.

On this subject of the use of language, I have always been fascinated by the use of different language codes for “home” and “business” and their relation to the exercise of power in society.  An example of this is the use of jargon by various organisations often with the effect of bamboozling the general public.

Jean Thompson

We had a second chance to talk about Language in all its manifestations and applications, and it was especially good to share this session with some new members of the group, and some members who had so much experience of linguistics. Such a fascinating subject, we could find new things to discuss over many more sessions.

We need language for communication in many forms. To express functional needs, and social interactions but also our artistic and emotional needs. An interesting question was raised as to whether an emotional and poetic expression can only be most successfully met in our prime language, the language we learned from birth?

Spoken language lives and evolves. If you walk behind a group of young people and listen in on their conversations, you could be forgiven for thinking they were not speaking English at all! If you are over the age of 21 and try to emulate them, you will often just be the source of amusement, embarrassment, or ridicule because you will probably not get it right!

It is also interesting to think of different representations of communication. Not the spoken or written word, but communication by visual or tactile means. Having worked with children and young people who struggled to express their internal struggles through the spoken word, because of intellectual, physical, or emotional difficulties, I know that, for them, different means were necessary to draw them out. Art or other activities are often needed to encourage them to communicate.

And then what about those who choose to live in a virtually silent community? Is language still important to them for communication?

And then what about ‘bad language’? Where does that fit into society? What is bad language at one stage, becomes almost the accepted norm at another. Who or what determines what is bad?

So it goes on!

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