Monday, November 13, 2017

Languages

How do people communicate with each other? Of course with a language. Formally a language is a system of communication using sounds, notation, glyphs and symbols to transfer information between two speakers. This is the essence of English, Greek, Italian, Chinese and all other languages.

The language is the most versatile human tool. It can be used for very simple information content like "my name is Spyros" to very significant information like "The earth rotates round the sun". It can support daily life "don't forget to buy bread" and it can create art "Sing to me of the man, Muse".

Recently I was to France to attend a conference and I had disadvantage as I don't know French. I was however amazed to realize how many other language I could use to communicate with many different people in different contexts. The most amazing thing is that you realize that most of these "tools" are actually languages afterwards you use them to communicate and not when you learn them.

Human Languages

I can't talk French but I can talk Greek, English and Italian. Every time with everyone we could find a common language to talk. The human languages are amazing. Everyone of them contains the civilization, the history and the customs of its origin and it exposes them rigorously. For example the Greek word "Μουσείο" - "Museum" in English - means the place of the Muse and reveals the ancient use of Museums as places of worship and inspiration. Most people try to learn additional languages and if possible they would learn them all.

Programming Languages

The conference I was in France, was about the programming language "Go". Most people there think that Go is a very good language and they prefer it for their programs. Programming Languages are in essence notation for generating engineering artifacts for computers. Programmers choose them based on simplicity, performance, clarity and consistency. They like to compare a language between each other and sometimes this leads to flame wars, a popular activity for programmers in social media. When talking to another programmer, even there isn't a common human language you can communicate using code, some gestures and basic words. You just put a laptop in between, one writes some code, the other corrects it etc. This escalates nicely in talks. If you talk in English about a difference between Go and Java it eventually will go to code and we will exchange code snippets than words. In this kind of art the monuments are not the Iliad and the Divine Comedy but rather open source projects like spring, kubernetes, rails and many others. There is however a very notable difference between programming and human languages. People like it very much when they talk in different language but they hate it when they have to use a programming language other than their beloved one.

Chess

When in Paris, I frequently visit the Gardens of Luxemburg where people enjoy good weather practicing chess and other sports outdoors. Chess has its own notation like Bg3, Nf5, Qa5 etc. This notation can be used to write games for future reference, but also to talk with the opponent even if no common human language exists. In a given position a player can propose alternative moves and plans using just the position of the pieces. He can say "Nf5, Rg1, Qh3 better" and the other player immediately understands not only his intentions but also his style and aspects of his character. It is amazing how far such discussions can last using only just the chess notation.

Sketching

When everything fails you can always draw something. Of course you don't expect someone to give you the directions to your hotel by drawing a map. But what happens when you go a shop with art supplies because of your hobby? There you will meet people with the same interests and soon you will exchange portfolio and start drawing new sketches. The language is the drawings and the words and the lines, the colors and the composition.

And much more

Of course there are many other alternatives. Things you can consider as a language include music, cuisine, sport, fashion and many more. It is important to realize that all these are used to communicate with people and reveal more about someone than this CV. They are not just notation, sounds or gestures. They are complete languages.

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