From My Language, I See the Sea — How About Yours?

How learning a new language helps you unlock a culture from within

Rui Alves
A-Culturated

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Colorful portrait depicting Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa sitting at a table next to a volume of his magazine “Orpheu 2.”
“Fernando Pessoa” portrait by Almada Negreiros | Source: Wikimedia Commons

Have you ever wondered how learning a new language can unlock an entire culture from within?

The language we speak influences our perception of the world around us. Did you know there’s a language with only 12 letters while the largest human alphabet has 74 characters? This alone speaks volumes about the synergy between language and culture.

Fernando Pessoa, one of the greatest Portuguese poets of his time, claimed, “A minha pátria é a língua portuguesa,” or “My homeland is the Portuguese language.” This bold statement came from a man who spent his formative years in Durban, South Africa, and it highlights the profound connection between language and identity. Our conscience of ourselves stems from language, as it is our ultimate form of expression.

Pessoa’s multilingual journey deepened his own cultural perspective and his example shines a light on our own experiences with language which can similarly broaden our horizons.

The return to Babel is a serpentine dream. We’ll never go back, so all we can do is expand our limited linguistic range and share with others what we have learned about the world and ourselves in a language.

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Rui Alves
A-Culturated

Language teacher, linguist, life coach, published author (joined the Army and worked for the EU). A publisher, digital ronin, musician and alchemist of sound.