The Uniqueness of Language


When people go to learn a new language, most think of each language as a unified, consistent entity. Spanish is Spanish, French is French, Mandarin is Mandarin. This is not, however, the case.

Language is in a constant state of change. Any depiction of a language can only be a freeze-frame within that constant evolution. What's more, it can only be the depiction of a single, localized variant of the language. Every region's version of a language will be slightly different, and there will be many varieties even within a very specific region. In fact, every individual's language is different from everyone else's. When you go to learn a new language, whose language are you learning?

The simple answer is: your own. You will need to create your own new version of the language, based on the examples of those who already speak the same "language." Take Spanish for example. Are you learning the Spanish of Spain or Latin America? If you are learning Latin American Spanish, are you learning Mexican, Peruvian, Colombian, or Puerto Rican variants? You can continue to hone in on a particular variety until you are learning the language of a single neighborhood, or even a single person.

This is why everyone has to create their own language maps. It's not possible to create a universal map of Spanish because that would be a map of something artificial, something that doesn't actually exist. There will be commonalities, but how you use language will be different from the way everyone else uses language; each of us is unique.

A language cannot be pinpointed. Only a collection of shared and agreed usages and meanings make up a language. When creating your map of a language, you will need to decide how localized, how specific you want to be in mapping out the patterns. While this may seem to complicate things, it actually simplifies the process: learn the language of those with whom you want to speak.

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