I was a year old when I first started speaking. It wasn’t something profound, just the word ‘nice’ but for my parents that simple word was profound – it changed everything. I went from being a cute blob of a baby to an actual person who could use language to describe emotions, wants and needs.
Language at the Ranch
I recently attended a session at the Ranch for new employees that focused on Aboriginal awareness (approximately 80% of our clients are Aboriginal). One of the things that blew me away in the session was just how big a role language plays with the youth.
Language patterns, volume, pitches, and pauses all took on a new meaning for me. For example, people from different cultural backgrounds vary in their “pause times” in a conversation. The time before replying for Aboriginal peoples and people who's first language is not English, tends to be about four or five seconds, while the time for non-Aboriginals is generally two seconds. Because of this, Aboriginal youth may find it difficult to take part in class discussions where, typically, youth jump into the conversation as soon as the previous speaker has finished.
Also for many of the youth that come to the Ranch, English is not their first language (The most common Aboriginal language among our youth is Cree and Inuktitut). So as they are learning all the new processes that come along with their enrollment in our programs they also have to be constantly translating their thoughts.
Tone, volume and pitch is also different for some youth when they come to the Ranch. Speakers of Aboriginal languages often speak in softer tones.
The importance of language cannot be understated at the Ranch. It can be a barrier and it can also be used to break down walls. We use it to create change and to help our youth and families continue to move forward.
Words, like Nature, half reveal, and half conceal the Soul within. ~Alfred, Lord Tennyson
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