Semester 1, 2018. Thus begins my second year of university and the beginning of another journey of learning, working and juggling all the in-betweens.
This semester I am studying music business, photography, literature and language. In some ways, they are all disconnected and in other ways they all connect perfectly.
I love that I get to study a wide range of topics at once and I love discovering how they all connect. So far, the most intriguing subject to me is my subject relating to language.
It’s a prerequisite for teaching English and it’s mainly about dissecting the different nuances of the English language (particularly standard Australian English) and being able to put into words the subtle aspects of the language for the benefit of students.
Context and interpretation
One thing I’ve realised so far is that I do a lot of a things by rote. The way I use the English language, words, actions and even silence are all connected to my experiences of society and culture.
I never thought about the appropriate level of ‘verbalisation’ in society, I’ve just known. Basically, knowing the appropriate level of ‘verbalisation’ just means understanding, in the context of a certain culture (like Australia), how much time is given to speaking and silence respectively.
For example, I know that on the train in the morning, it’s not polite to start a long conversation with the person next to me because people here enjoy their personal space. However, an exchange student from another culture may not understand that – hence the purpose of this course: to teach teachers how to interpret and put into words the little nuances of the English language.
It’s amazing how much is dependent on social and cultural context. So many of the habits we have, the words we say, the mannerisms we adapt all stem from our up-bringing and influences around us.
Absorbing the culture
I’ve been thinking about how similar our outward expression is to our inward expression in that sense. Just like the way our mannerisms and words reflect the culture we are surrounded by, our thoughts reflect the culture we choose to absorb. This ‘internal culture’ comes from the culture we surround ourselves with and how we let that influence our thoughts, words and perspectives.
I’m thankful that I’ve had people around me in life who have been such positive influences on me. I’ve started to talk like them, think like them and respond to situations like them because I’ve positioned myself to absorb their culture.
I want to absorb their culture because I can see that it’s the same culture that is talked about in the Bible. The culture of the Kingdom of God. One of forgiveness, kindness, positivity, encouragement, bravery and faith.
Really, when I position myself to absorb their culture, I’m really positioning myself to absorb the aspects of Jesus they are reflecting in their life.
Absorbing a culture requires seeing and hearing the culture. Observing, watching, listening, taking notes. It requires being humble enough to fumble through ‘learning the language’.
Immersion teaches the subtle nuances
I know for me, learning to speak in a positive manner took some learning. It can feel silly at first, just like the way it feels to try and learn a new language. Learning to forgive instead of holding a grudge felt foreign and strange at first. Learning to respond to difficult situations with hope instead of fear was a constant free fall into trust.
But, just like learning a language, the more you try and the more you immerse yourself in it, the more you learn. Eventually, you begin to get the hang of it.
I think that’s why it’s so important to surround oneself with people who love God and do their best to demonstrate His character in their own life, words and mannerisms.
Just like the way we begin to mimic our parent’s mannerisms or ways of speaking in the natural, when we surround ourselves with God and His children, we begin to look and sound like Him too.
The most powerful influencer I know is the Holy Spirit. Looking back on my life, I know that so many of the things that are second nature to me now were kindly taught to me by the Holy Spirit. Little things like praying before exams or smiling at people I don’t know are all ways that the Holy Spirit has taught me to reflect God and live in fullness.
I’m thankful that the Holy Spirit understands me well enough to teach me in a way that I understand and I’m thankful that because of that, I can absorb those subtle nuances of the Kingdom of God language.
It’s a language I’m still learning, but it’s getting easier and easier.
Caitlyn Furler is a lover of writing, music and people. She is a second-year university student, studying music and literature. She is a worship leader in her church and is enjoying doing braver and braver things.
Caitlyn Furler’s previous articles may be viewed at: http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/caitlyn-furler.html