What is language? Simple question, right? Almost as simple as, “What is love?” If only it were so. Let’s take a look at Google’s definition of language:
1. The method of human communication, either spoken or written, consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way.
While this definition has its drawbacks, such as that some languages aren’t spoken or have words (sign language), it does mention the most common understanding of language: Communication. And though communication seems to be the end-goal, many would say communication emphasizes more the end than the goal.
For example, to utter, “Come over here!”, is to command someone to do something. If the command is obeyed, then the end has been achieved.
But what about the goal? Some would say the goal was less about achieving an end and more about achieving a means. And what is the means?
Language communicates the desire for interaction. Another way of saying this is that language seems to be more about relationships than mere communication. How so?
- In a command, we are demanding something. If the person or persons doesn’t respond or ignores us, then we have either a conflict or a meaningless situation.
- In either case, the command — or any wish, even if only for conversation — implicitly asks the other person to interact with you. Thus, you are asking someone to have a relationship with you, however simple that relationship may be.
- Think of it this way, if two people try to speak to each other, but neither speaks the other language, then you have a situation of so much gibberish. Each person, however, will do many things to get her meaning across, like using hand gestures or finger-pointing, to convey meaning. Thus, the meaning is really a desire for a relationship. And it doesn’t have to be a romantic one.
When two or more people are able to communicate, then a connection, or a relationship, has been established. And this usually requires both, or all parties, to agree on what the connection is.
Which brings us to the essence of language — a contract whereby everyone in a group agrees that a word or signal will represent something in a meaningful context.
An example would be for two or more people to agree that a chair is something that is used for sitting.
(A chair in Spanish means “Silla” (pronounced ceeya))
Once this is agreed upon, these people now share something. That something becomes the foundation for a relationship, which is based upon a mutual agreement.
But have you ever tried to explain something to someone and they just don’t get it? Then you point to something and suddenly the lightbulb flashes on. This is reinforcement: having the word or signal match the object (the meaning you wish to convey).
And this is the crux of QTalk. QTalk is a method of teaching language by reinforcing a word with a picture or visual representation. The student engages the visuals through a relationship of words to pictures. Hence,
MIRA + PELICULA
Translation: You watch movie. Technically, it should be, “Usted mira pelicula,” but some would argue that “usted” is implied in the same way as “stop!” would indicate that the speaker is commanding you to stop. Thus, “you stop!” is the same as “stop!”
While the QTalk method would seem obvious, as many of us grew up on Sesame Street and other children’s shows that emphasized words-with-pictures, it appears that this tried-and-true method has largely been abandoned in high schools and colleges.
Why, though? That is a question for the educators to answer. In the mean time, if you want to learn language in the most interactive environment, take a look at tribeclanguage.com.
Tribeca Language doesn’t teach so much as it shows the student how to speak a foreign language. Rather than bogging down the student with infinitives and conjugations, QTalk favors a more practical approach — teach language in the same way a child would acquire language: Speak without questioning why it’s spoken in such a way.
The virtue of this approach places the emphasis on speech, and incorporating the grammar into the speech, for a more fluid absorption of the language.
If the point of communication is to communicate, does it matter if it is done imperfectly? As long as you’re getting your point across, you’re learning. Who cares, initially, why a certain preposition is attached to some words but not other similar words. We speak everyday with prepositions. And we do so imperfectly, but does anyone really care, so long as the message is conveyed?
While the QTalk method may seem “simple,” it is often said the simplest things in life require the most skills. This couldn’t be truer than with the QTalk method because it’s not merely the image, but the precision and efficacy of the image that produces the best results. That is an art in itself, especially when you have to visually represent ideas, such as philosophy or Communism.
But let’s save this discussion for a future post.
-Written by TheBong-
(Please inquire about learning a language at firstname.lastname@example.org. The 1st to do so will receive 5 free classes.)