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Language is one of the most amazing and mysterious abilities of the human being. This skill is natural for everyone and yet there is still so little knowledge about the questions concerning language that it can be frustrating at times. Starting from the very birth a child begins a journey of discovery of the world, where language plays a crucial part. Communication and language use is taken for granted by many people and it is easy to forget how important it is. The integral role of human language is often revealed in the situations when an individual experiences difficulties expressing his ideas or thoughts effectively due to various factors. Such factors include language disorders, the lack of common language among individuals, different contexts that require specific terminology, to name just a few. No matter where a person lives and what his/her mother tongue is the language has a profound impact on the individual’s communication abilities, cognitive and emotional processes, and even the socio-economic status.
The first and the most obvious impact that the language has on the individual is related to the communicative competence. It is common knowledge that the language is a tool which the humankind has invented for communication with each other. Throughout the long history of people the language has been evolving as well, reflecting the lifestyles, occupations, and leisure activities of a particular group of people. Thinking about the contemporary situation, communication surely happens every day in lots of settings and through different media.
It is important to remember that with the advancement of new technologies, like computers, smart phones, and the Internet, the communication has acquired a new dimension that did not exist earlier. The language, being very adaptable and reflecting the new reality, has changed as well. There is now many new ways to express one’s opinion on line with the help of contracting or blending words, combining letters and numbers to make a word, using abbreviations, and characters like brackets, commas, colons, etc. This kind of language, although not widely recognized yet, involves a process of acquisition or a conscious learning like any other known linguistic variety. The knowledge of it helps a person to accomplish a task of communication with other individuals in a setting where the accurate use of the words and characters is made crucial because of the lack of visual and audio clues.
Another important area of language impact is the cognitive and emotional domain. Language has an undeniable connection to the human brain, which is both extremely interesting and provides vast opportunities for research. It is unbelievable how a small child can acquire any language easily but a grownup has to make tremendous effort to achieve a limited level of second language proficiency. These questions are studied by linguists and some of them managed to relate some answers to the brain activity. However, even an average person can draw some logical conclusions relying on common sense. For instance, it is a fact that different languages have different amounts of words to explain certain phenomena. This may depend of geographic and climatic conditions or any other factor. So, by acquiring a particular set of concepts of a mother tongue an individual is inevitably forced to think in terms of those concepts and within their boundaries. That is why the cognitive processes are impacted by the kind and amount of language available at one’s disposal. The similar case can be made for the emotional influence of language. Different concepts of love, friendship, anger, compassion, etc. shape to some extent the person’s ability to understand those feelings.
Finally, the socio-economic status of the person can be influenced and shaped by the language he/she speaks. This area of impact may not be something that immediately comes to one’s mind (as opposed to communication, for example) but is not less important and legitimate than the others. One of the most wide-spread examples is the role of English language around the world. English proficiency can become an invaluable tool for a person who wants to earn a competitive salary, travel with ease around the world, or engage in business activities with partners overseas. The native speakers of English usually take this advantage for granted and may not be always aware of the benefits that the language brings. However, the speakers of minority, indigenous and endangered language varieties certainly have another opinion. Their native language may be associated with low level of life and underpaid jobs while knowing a more prestigious language may allow them to live a better life.
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Together with that, even knowing the same language may still not mean the equal opportunities. Among speakers of English, one has to know the formal language to enter the academic or business community. This is where the professional slang, terminology, specific ways to address people, and even sentence structure come into play. On the one hand, this seems ridiculous but on the other hand there are few people who can honestly say that they did not feel uncomfortable or discriminated if they used the inappropriate type of language in professional settings. It is important to note that these influences that a language has are socially constructed. There is obviously nothing inherently superior in English language or in the formal language. For the time being, though, these impacts seem to be holding quite steadily.
Observing the everyday lives of a human being one can easily see that language is interwoven with virtually every step people make. The impacts of the language on communication, emotions, thinking process, and the status in society cannot be underestimated. These impacts are both positive and negative but most of them are created and encouraged by people themselves. That is why it is important to be aware of them and avoid the temptation to take our world languages for granted.
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