Updated: Oct 5, 2020
Learning Igbo language is hard. As my first non-anglosaxin language to pick up, the phrasing is difficult and you never know where to put the verbs and some single letters are simply just there to just be there — with no meaning.
My Nnenna asks me for a second helping of food. Ee, I say to her which means yes. Quickly, she responds that I ought to say Ọ.
Ọ and Ee both are responses that you say to mean yes. Similar in the french oui and si, only with different rules attached to the meaning. We talked about it for 15 minutes where I explained that both words mean yes but she insists they are different.
She also tells me that she has never even noticed.
After picking up Spanish, French and Igbo, I feel there is no such thing as being fluent in your own language. This idea is simply is a misnomer, and we all have experiences where we have no precise understanding of what is going on in the utilization of our language.
Fluency would mean that you can have a concrete understanding of the syntax and communicate exactly what you are feeling with zero mistakes. That can’t be happening if there are miscommunications between folks that speak the same language.
Those miscommunications occur when one of two things happen. The communicator is not meeting the listener where they are. Conversely, the listener is not seeking to understand the speaker’s point of view. Even if this, which is a roundabout definition of empathy, is done correctly, our heads’ attempt to transfer words to feeling are highly individual according to the surroundings that we are accustomed.
The communicator speaks and the listener receives. Translating what you are feeling into a word is hard but not impossible. What is truly difficult is for the communicator to understand that the word that was originally translated themselves may not have the same word to feeling relationship held by the listener. Therefore, the listener has a choice. They can just continue as if all people interpret all stimuli equally. or the alternative is to accommodate for this lapse by maximizing for precision over haste.
The communicator must choose decisively how to relay information to the listener in a way that is easiest for them to pick up into the receivers’ belief-set. Folks trying to accomplish this through code switching. Unfortunately, code switching does not work. It leaves a strain on the communicators’ brain to generate an entirely new system, language and belief set which in the long-run leads to erosion of the speakers’ true ability to relay their own feelings.
The most downstream way to get your point across clearly is to, contrary to popular belief, be yourself. Simply couple this with the ability to clarify what you are attempting to relay in two to three completely divergent ways. The signal of success is brevity in communication. With brevity comes the ability to move away from communicating what needs to be done to simply doing.
On the second side of the inflection point, the listener must take the communicators words and translate them into their own belief set. Taking words for face value is disastrous and communication falters on this half of the equation most often because listeners run on autopilot through the belief that they translate others' words of their own language fluently.
The team wins when the listeners’ interpretations that are translated are congruent with the communicators’. When the listener flexes their empathy muscle, the need for overcommunication decreases, and we begin to see brevity.
With brevity comes the ability to move away from communicating what needs to be done to simply doing.