What Is A Language?

We all speak, read, and write in languages we know. We have all been taught from birth a language or two that we find easy to use. Many people I know can speak, read, and write more than one language. However, I want to write about how we define a language.

What is a language? Is it that which we speak today? Is it those words and sounds we utter, that we learned since birth? My computer speaks a language also. To be clear, it can speak many more languages than I can. But when I want it to do a specific task, I find myself speaking to it in a language that I seldom say anything in when speaking to another person.

Most programmers I know use many languages, Those languages are called by names that are universal in the world today. It might be “Python”, “C”, C++”, “Ruby”, “Perl”, or something else. For non-programmers, this might seem strange, like speaking in a foreign language they don’t understand. For programmers, the languages flow relatively easy.

How many of us really know more than one language? I spent 20 years in the United States Air Force. We also had our own language, to fit what we did on a daily basis. While it was understandable by all of us in the Air Force, most civilians could not understand it. Many jobs have their own languages, and when speaking or writing outside the job, it is difficult to explain it. What is perfectly clear to those in that field, seems like any other foreign language outside of it.

Next time someone suggests a world-wide universal language, I would like to see “computer” nominated. Computer language is universal. Think about it for a minute. Every person in the world can learn “computer”. Huh?, you say? That is not a language, you say? Why? Computers today can translate from language to language, as shown by google translate. Not only can they be used to translate speech, but written language. They never tire, they do sometimes get things wrong, but who doesn’t make mistakes?

Yes, I think in strange ways sometimes. That is part of being me. Not everyone will agree with my definitions and thoughts. You know, that is okay! After all, it needs to make sense in your language, as well as in mine, to understand my thinking.

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