Language | Not Always What it Seems

Happy Copyright©IreneGraham 2013 office@thecreativewritersworkshop‘Watch your language’ – a comment often heard by children when they are out of line. Yet it’s a truism I was conscious of recently as I lectured a group of foreign students from a very different culture. It was not a question of their understanding of the English language. It was how I had to vary meaning in my references to explain concepts to them – in order to communicate clearly, to a different culture, with different societal thinking patterns.

It brought back memories of many occasions with friends on my travels through english speaking foreign countries when I felt excluded because I did not understand their conversation, their references…their language.

It’s not what you say it’s how you say it – how often does this ring true in arguments? Misunderstandings of a minor scale can blow up and become minefields. So if language and reference affect us on a personal level, does it also follow that misinterpretation on a grand scale exists at international level of conflict?

Listening to Author Roddy Doyle in interview last week regarding the publication of his new book Two More Pints brought home to me the question again of reference in language. A master at dialogue, Two More Pints is a gem in the Roddy Doyle collection of gems. The interviewer asked Roddy to read his current piece regarding Ian Paisley. Roddy hesitated, questioning if the language was appropriate for radio; the interviewer agreed it probably was.  But it was how the reference of the f… word was interpreted. It gave deeper meaning and humour to the dialogue. In another context this would have not been the case.  

People who live outside their country often say the thing they miss the most is their language.  As an Irish person living abroad I too missed my language terribly; the inferences, the nuances, the double meanings, the wit, the turn of phase that resonated within and gave me connection to my identity and culture.  Oh to have had Roddy Doyle’s Two Pints, and even Two More Pints then…it would have filled the void that only language can penetrate.

Language is powerful. Misunderstandings arise because of division through interpretation. Perhaps in our conversations be it with friend or foe, we should remember the axiom: I know you believe you understand what you think I said but I’m not sure you realize that what I said is not what I meant. 

And at the end of the day, perhaps we are all not so far apart in our thinking patterns?

Writing Retreats Workshops | The Creative Writer’s Workshop


Communication Skills | Rekindle Your Fire

Fire Copyright©IreneGraham 2014 office@thecreativewritersworkshopThe value of communication resonated deeply with me recently upon visiting my dear 94-year-old Uncle, now sadly not able to chat because of recent illness. No length of time will bring back the opportunities I missed to ask him questions that I once thought were not important.  Family questions that he as the last of the linage could have answered, those silences will remain silent forever.

Communicating silently with my Uncle held so many moments of joy for me, and I felt from the smile on his worn face it did for him too. Precious time. Precious communication through silence. This silence has stayed with me for days, urging me to write, urging me to communicate.

Thinking about communication on a wider scale, or the lack of it, destroys so much. Relationships breakdown, families argue, countries are torn apart, wars are fought. The ability to step outside our own little world is not always easy. We become rigid in our views, attached to concepts, inflexible in our abilities to forgive, dogmatic in our beliefs, firm in our convictions. Yet with even one slight adjustment to move the cog in another direction, communication can change our universe. Communication can allow us a view of other worlds, offer insights to personal dilemmas and alter our journey. What can one do to manifest that all so important moment of communication?    READ MORE