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A Celebration of Language


There are hundreds of languages in the world, but a smile speaks them all.

September 23rd was the European Day of Languages and it was celebrated in grand style for the first time in Toronto at the Goethe-Institut at University Avenue. Four of the major Language Schools combined to present an event that was marked by the warmth, hospitality and cultural flavours of the different countries of the world that they represented.

As I am passionate about learning foreign languages and speak three of the 5 languages represented, of course I wanted to participate in any way I could.  Quelle joie !

The evening started by a Salsa dance presentation and the joie de vivre of the dancers set the tone for the event. There was a table bountiful with hors d’oeuvres and cookies and specialities representative of the different lands and fine wine flowed copiously matched ably with the finest chocolates.

Beginner classes in every language – Spanish, Italian, German, French, Polish and Finnish were showcased so visitors could try their tongues around different sounds and vocabulary to see if they liked it. There were also some special classes like German for Lovers , Italian for Opera Lovers, French for Poets , Spanish for Travellers and Storytelling classes… in short -something for everyone and for every style of learning and catering to every interest!

We attended almost all the different classes , some of which I was already familiar with, some of which were strange to me – but all of which were highly entertaining and we came away with some basic vocabulary of each! In particular I enjoyed a hearty rendition of a  section from the Barber of Seville , along with a bunch of very sporting students, ably conducted by an enthusiastic teacher with a robust singing voice !

The evening ended with a genuine opera singer who sang a well known aria from different operas in the different languages! What a performance!

Since Canada is known for its cultural diverity, it was heartwarming to see people of many other countries not represented in the event , gamely trying to learn a new pronounciation and language, and to twist their tongues in contortions alien to their own ethnic culture and language.

But all were united by a common love of languages, a willingness to celebrate in the wonderful diversity of the world and the easily understood language of smile, warmth and friendship – a universal language that is not constrained by vocabulary or grammar and that destroys every border that is created to separate us! 

My own love of languages started at a very early age, probably because I always loved to talk and speaking in one language was probably too constricting. Having crossed the hurdle of learning French, I soon learned to toggle between dissimilar languages in my pursuit for mastery in each – alternating between German, then Italian, and then Russian and Spanish.

I don’t often get to practice them all, but delighted in the company of students and people all intent on their individual pursuit of acquiring a new language.  And as far as I can see, it has helped to open my mind and create new neural pathways, broaden my horizons and ability to communicate with people in their own tongue. Most of all it has helped enculcate a keen awareness and pleasure in celebrating different cultures and languages.

What experience have you had with trying out something new?

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