The Power of Language

There is this open-door policy at The Art Factory. Well, not so much of an open door as it is just an overall hospitality thing. Mary Beth Holladay has the gift of hospitality. She’s a terrific hostess, always serving others and creating spaces of beauty for the enjoyment of others. Christine Sine is another who has this gift.  Missional hospitality is the right term for it, I think.

Hosting Dinner & Dialogue  is just one of the many ways The Art Factory extends hospitality to the local community of artists.

Everyone brings a salat to share. The buffet line is set up in the Gallerage. 

Conversation is encouraged during the meal and after it.

Imagine a mini-Ted talk, following by discussion.  Tim and I worked together to facilitate a discussion about language and how it shapes our identity. How is language inclusive and exclusive? Should we have a global language?

Most everyone recognized that when it comes to trade, it is very beneficial to have a universal language that allows for economic gain for everyone.

Yet hardly anyone desired to trade their own regional tongue  for another.  Many here  speak more than one language. Several speak three or more. But each dinner guest could point to a specific language that defined them best. Language is the thing that connects us and divides us.

 One doesn’t have to look very far to see how mastery of language grants power to individuals. Or how the lack of such mastery can marginalize another.

Here in Kandern they speak their own specific dialect, kind of an Appalachian form of German specific to this mountainous region. Up the road a piece in Basel, Switzerland, they speak a hybrid form of German dialect. And yet, the standard for teaching and learning is High German, which is hardly used by the locals.

Our inability to learn the language of others can leave us feeling so trapped, so caged in and cut off from others, don’t you think?

My own southern dialect seems like a relic to me at times. But I was forced by a college professor to learn to speak his way. He warned me that if I didn’t lose my way of speaking, I would never work in the Northwest. He was British himself, so I was never sure what he meant when he insisted I must learn to speak the right way.

Those who know, say it is ever more difficult to learn to write in another’s language. I have a difficult enough time writing in the only language I know. I envy those who become fluent enough to write the language of others.

 Because I think it is simply impossible to be your best self with a person with whom you cannot swap stories.

 Dinner & Dialogue night ended with Rick Holladay sharing the story of how he came to fall in love with Mary Beth, and how all that led to the formation of The Art Factory, proving once more that it is  our ability to swap stories that binds us one to another.

About Karen Spears Zacharias

Author. Speaker. Journalism Instructor. Four kids. Three dogs. One grandson.