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Komorebi (Koh-moh-ray-bee) is the Japanese term for “the scattered light that filters through when sunlight shines through the leaves of a tree”. In English, we do not have words that describe particular images. We do not have a term for “the scattered light that filters through when sunlight shines through the leaves of a tree”.

I am part Japanese, Okinawan if we’re being precise, and I have grown up around two different cultures and languages. It is interesting to think that there is no one universal language that binds our world. There are ways to translate, but hidden meanings and underlying messages get lost through the transition from language A to language B. A good friend of mine is Ethiopian. She and both of her parents immigrated here when she was 6. She was old enough to remember her culture, but still young enough to be influenced by American culture. She was describing to me the differences between English and Amharic on the term “thank you”. In English we say thank you all the time, it is probably one of the most common phrases we use. However, in Amharic, it is strange to say “thank you” for smaller things like someone holding the door open for you, or to the cashier at a shop after your purchase. Instead, you only use it for monumental things that are more significant in their lives.

Languages vary region to region and culture to culture. In just the U.S., for example, depending on the region you are in, phrases will change, accents will vary, and communication patterns shift. In the South, they have a Southern twang accent and have region-bound phrases like “Fixin’ to” and “Hold your horses”. In the Midwest, we joke about using those phrases, but never actually involve them in normal conversation. Additionally, in the Midwest, we have terms for specific situations like how “sun delay” refers to a certain kind of traffic, and how “dontcha know” is a popular expression in Minnesota.

Malcolm Gladwell touches on the effects of language on cultural variation in his book Outliers. Specifically, in Chapter Eight: Rice Paddies and Math Tests, he speaks on how the language barrier between American children and Chinese children is the main reason why Chinese students are so much better at math. Their number system is more logical and flows with their day-to-day language.  I’ll link the book at the bottom for you to check out, it’s a really great read for high school and up

It is important for people to study other languages and cultures because if no one pays attention cultures could easily disintegrate and be forgotten. Documenting the process of languages developing and changing is important for future generations to come. Without documentation, we wouldn’t be able to understand what messages from the founding fathers are saying because they are written in old English, nor would we understand cave drawings from the early ages.

Once a month try to go to the Public Library and read about a culture from around the world; whether it is America in the 1700s or the indigenous tribes of Papua New Guinea, learn about them! Help future generations know what life was like today, and twenty years ago, and maybe even fifty! It is in our hands to preserve the past as we voyage into the future.

Check out Outliers! It is available in pdf or on Amazon for $9.89.

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