Audrey C GIP
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Audrey C GIP

Words cannot capture experience, but can they capture history?

My grandfather in 50's

For the longest time, and to this day, I’ve lived by the statement that words cannot capture experience. Whether this statement is incorrect or not is not the point I am trying to get across though. Recently, I’ve been wondering if words have the capability of capturing history, withholding history and stories and ancestry. So the question arises: Words cannot capture experience, but can they capture history?

A few days ago in my Modern Latin America class, we wrote an argumentative essay on the topic of “dying” languages, or ancient languages that the coming (and current) generations aren’t learning. The central question was whether these dying and indigenous languages should be taught in schools. My opinion formed immediately. I whole-heartedly agreed that these languages should be taught and passed down because the language itself holds so much culture and history of the people. What worth do the stories and songs of struggle and pain (happiness and victory as well) have when they are told and spoken in the indigenous languages?

I felt such an advocacy for this topic, which is quite funny. After I finished writing my essay I remembered a story from when I was younger:

My family is from Korea and eventually moved to Maryland. My immediate family, however, moved to California when I was young. Nevertheless, my parents took me and my sisters to Maryland every chance they could get — summer break, winter break, fall break, spring break.

During one of the visits to Maryland, I was sitting in the kitchen eating fresh fruit from my grandparent’s backyard when my grandfather came in, sat besides me, and asked me something in Korean. Although I went to Korean school every Saturday back home for a few years (I eventually quit), I couldn’t understand a word my grandfather was saying. Luckily my mother was able to play the role of translator.

I thought everything was fine until I heard a tinge of sadness and angst in my grandfather’s voice. My mother later explained to me he was upset that my sisters and I couldn’t speak Korean.

“There’s so much I want to say to them,” he told my mother.

In the moment, my parents were both frustrated at my grandfather. They didn’t understand why he was upset over something so trivial.

“Just say it in Korean and we will tell them in English,” they responded back.

At the age this occurred, I didn’t see the big deal. I thought both my grandfather and parents were arguing over something useless. But as I grew up, and up until now, I finally realize what my grandfather meant. Rather than just knowing Korean to converse casually, the language holds the stories and hardships that my grandfather faced.

I say that words cannot capture experience, but maybe I’m wrong. Words and language is not as shallow as I always believed them to be. Yes, it’s impossible for words to describe unexplainable emotions and events perfectly, but they do hold more meaning.




Global Scholars 2022 blog

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Audrey C.

Audrey C.

the name is audge. audgecho. || Global Scholars ‘22

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