Posted in Blog

Language is a Living Thing

I just finished reading a YA book called The List by Patricia Forde, which was a brilliant book, beautifully written and very entertaining. At the end of the book Forde had written some notes about how her inspiration for The List, in which the last remaining humans can only speak a language of 500 pre-approved words, came from working in the Irish language and finding that she and her colleagues didn’t have the words for everything. They would then need to contact older relations or friends who might remember the word.

As a native English speaker, I’m in a privileged position (although, as with many privileges, it can set you up to fail). English is spoken world wide, with many non-native English speakers having it as a second language, while for many native English speakers it is their only language. It’s difficult for me to imagine what it must feel like to watch the language or your parents and grandparents die.

People, especially older people, often become frustrated by changes in language. The way the youth of the day speaks takes up newspaper space much more often than it should. But language must be able grow to and evolve and change, because that’s how it stays alive. When we native-English speakers hear people LOLing, or googling something or that they went to a gay club with their friend, we should be pleased that our language is still vibrant and living. Because the alternative leaves us both linguistically and culturally poorer.