universal language of children

The One True Universal Language

cultural adaptation Expat Life France holidays Travels

Is childhood the best universal language in the world?

I spent a few weeks in France this summer to visit my family and to catch up with my best friends from university. It’s been many years since we met up and we now all have kids in toe.

While I never worried about the kids getting along or finding a way to communicate despite a language barrier (my kids speak English and only a few words of French) I was truly impressed by how easily those kids managed to spend so much time together and never appear to have a problem getting through to each other.

Every time, the same thing happened: the would observe each other for a few minutes then before you knew it they’d act like they had always been friends and language wasn’t even an issue at all. Without realizing it, my kids would soon be shouting out words in French while their new friends would call after them in English, all of them naturally mimicking the words, expressions and intonations of the others. Even more amazing: they could speak the other language without a hint of an accent!

universal language of children
I guess little talk is needed in that situation

And then as my friends and I were chatting, it hit me: Kids are kids! No matter where they are born, where they grow up or what language they speak. They have no problem understanding each other because they have the same games, the same desires to play and explore, the same curiosity, the same apprehensions, they throw the same tantrums, and break the same rules. Of course we all raise our kids differently but parents are parents and kids are kids. Simple as that!

Children seem to understand each other because they look at life and the world around them with the same eyes. To any child in the world, a football is to be kicked, a bike is to be ridden, sweeties are to be shared and enjoyed. You don’t need to speak the same language to play with building blocks, racing cars, dolls… Children understand each other despite the language because they can pretty much anticipate the other child’s reaction to the game or the situation, like when we took the children to the zoo. Not exactly hard to interpret what the others are saying when they see the lion, or when we come close to the playground. Childhood really is a form of universal language.

universal language of children
At the zoo.
universal language of children
Inside the lemur enclosure.
universal language of children
Animals and children understand each others too.

And so while my friends and I reminisced the past, shared our present and planned our future, our lovely children played together, oblivious that there was such a big barrier between them.

Or is it such a big deal? Is language really a ‘barrier’? Or is it only an issue  for self-conscious adults?

I think it’s time we take a leaf out of our kids’ book and stop making life difficult: we adults are so similar to other adults, just as our kids are to other kids. We parents complain about the same stupid things our kids do. We who work full time understand the stress of the professional environment. We who love to travel can easily share the excitement of discovering a new place… no matter what language we speak…

Think of the possibilities if we stopped worrying about our differences and started to simply be together: language is only a barrier in our mind.

What if we stopped calling it a ‘barrier’… would we still struggle?

Do you agree? What would you say is the best universal language?

4 thoughts on “The One True Universal Language

  1. You have a keen observation skills Jameela. Kids are great at finding a way to communicate despite a language barrier, because they communicate with facial expressions, cries, grunts or use of gestures, but kids should learn a second language. The capacity for language acquisition in the very young is quite simply astonishing. In just a handful of years, most children in any culture around the world are capable of progressing from knowing nothing about any language to becoming fluent in their native language or learn a second language; proficient enough to make their speech understood in a grammatically acceptable way.

    Cheers then
    Margaret Clover recently posted…Health and beauty benefits of ginger

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