The glory of languages
Language is the most glorified symbol of literacy. The facility has
been given to most living creatures. How a language is presented
differs. It enables them to express their thoughts in writing or through
gestures of the body. The expression of thoughts ranged from the
prehistoric cave inscriptions deciphered by scholars to the modern day
languages, not the hilarious language used in SMS messages with all
types of short words interlocked with numerals.
Countries have their own official languages. When England, France and
Spain invaded countries, English, French and Spanish became the official
languages in the colonies. However, many languages are spoken in one
country, because of tribal or ethnic divisions. The Irish, Scottish and
English in England; Tamil, Sinhala and the indigenous dialect of the
Veddhas in Sri Lanka are examples. There is a slight difference between
the up-country and low-country dialect of Sinhala. Swahili is the common
language in East Africa. The script uses English letters.
Thousands of languages are spoken in Africa. Hindi and English are
the languages used in official correspondence in India. English is a
compulsory subject in all their examinations.
Language is the stepping stone to a country's success and an
individual is future. It has to be understood. Its grammar, vocabulary
and feelings play a vital role.
English is spoken by a large number of people. It is the language
used in all international communications. Incidentally, English has been
the dominant language in the Commonwealth for centuries.
Tower of Babel
According to the Old Testament of the Bible, the people of Babel had
begun to construct a tower to reach God. The arrogant people of Babel
had wanted to be with God, to be like him. Suddenly those working on the
tower, began to speak in different languages. Confusion broke out.
Flared tempers and lots of babbling erupted. That was the end of
project “Tower of Babel”. So, without translators, the whole world would
be one Tower of Babel.
Language is the fountain in a multifaceted, cascading thoughts of
man. Great epics, poems, literary mastepieces, books on medicine and
science have been written on papyrus Ola leaves and later printed on
paper thanks to Caxton and the Chinese.
The thoughts of man have been written first in their own language and
later translated by others into many different languages. It is here
that translators help us.
Theirs is an unenviable role. They have translated ancient Vedas and
the teachings of great teachers who strived to show us the way to live
Their immortal words have been translated into thousands of languages
including Braille, the international language of the visually
English has its own share of malapropisms and Johnsonian expressions.
Of all these, the most soothing language is used by babies. Their
language is pleasing to the ear. The choice of words in any language
makes, people laugh, cry, mellow down or flare up tempers. Translators
should be conversant with two or more languages and also the subject
The use of any language is the speaker's prerogative. Mark Anthony's
speech by the side of the slain Julius Caesar made, the citizens of Rome
to go on the rampage. The hunter becomes the hunted. It is the language
that makes a speaker or writer popular. Of course, the listener or
reader should be conversant in their particular language. The language
used by an author or speaker can make the listener or the reader to
address his mind to the core of the subject.
Charles Dickens takes us to Bastille in France in 1789. Immortal
classics have been written by authors in their own language. Translators
of the Tripitaka, Upanishads, the Holy Bible and the Holy Koran will be
remembered with affection and prayer for their stupendous task in
bringing out the doctrine of great religious teachers.
The men of letters who translated such books into more than 3,000
languages without changing the meaning deserve praise.
The intelligent use of a language can make warring parties to think
twice. Winston Churchill's speech, “We will fight you in the beaches and
the backyards” saved England. He had covered the microphone and quipped.
“We can fight the Germans with only empty beer bottles'. His rhetoric
caused the enemy forces to think twice.
Chairman Mao Tse Tungm said, “Learn from each other”. This is
possible only by listening, writing and reading. They are integral
components of any language. Once a note was sent by the subject clerk to
the then British head of a department. “Sir, as per your instructions, I
got the teak logs pulled thought an elephant'.
The affable chief had minuted ‘Good work, Abey, but I pity the
elephant!”. Sir John Kotalawala and (Caldecott had been at Nuwara Eliya
during the April season.
They had gone to the stables and had seen a beautiful Arab stallion.
Then the Governor's wife had asked their escort – the Rate Mahaththaya (RM)
what beautiful specimen, does it have a long pedigree?” - RM had gone
red in the face. He looked down and said, “Not always Madam”.