How language trumps technology

How language trumps technology

Not a day passes by that I don’t hear about the new technologies, nuevas tecnologías, and how they are changing our world and life. What with e-mail, cell phones, computers and laptops, tablets, instant communications, e-book readers… the works! I am grateful and use them as much as possible.

I can now check the Library of Congress Catalog from my home in Madrid. I do not have to run to the Biblioteca Nacional to read a copy of El Imparcial from 1890, and there is no need to print a manuscript and mail it to my publisher in Barcelona. I can read a New York newspaper and listen to a Pittsburgh Radio program. Now I have bibliography literally at my fingertips, at my keyboard.

Yet, I have the impression that we all seem to forget that mankind has always had technology, tecnología, from the start… Fire, paper, the wheel, boats, writing, currency, the plow, the printing press and so on. True, now technology goes faster and changes occur almost overnight, instead of having to wait two generations as in the old times.

But, after all has been said and done, to use a silly cliché, our best tool is still with us. The tool with which we can take advantage of all the technology or tecnología.

Also read: Learning a language without forgetting another

How language trumps technology

Of course, you guessed it: language. Thanks to language we communicate with others, we preserve our knowledge for future generations, we convince, we sell, we get people to fall in love with us, we phone long distance, we type and send poetry, we listen to others and often understand what they say to us… The greatest technology mankind ever invented or will ever invent.

Of course, we cannot go to a store and say: “give me a pound and a half of the latest language in the market.” Neither can we request one thousand trendy and gisty words… And yet we are aware, all of us, that if we want to succeed, to make it, we accomplish it through language. We know we must improve this tool to the utmost. It is essential to have a rich vocabulary, a polished accent, decent grammar, understanding skills and reading abilities.

I am often asked what is the best English or the best Spanish. My answer is always the same: the one that can be better understood. As simple as that. Language is communication, and if we use this tool to make ourselves understood we will succeed in life: as a student, employee, salesman, lawyer, politician… whatever our line of work might be.

If you are lucky enough to handle English and Spanish, the two most widely used languages in the world, consider yourself a member of the bilingual chosen few.

And now, allow me to give you some tips:

  1. Polish your accent so that people understand you right away. There is something wrong when your listeners say “What?” or “Could you please say that again?” too often.
  2. Read and broaden your vocabulary. After all, culture is vocabulary. More culture, more words. Check dictionaries for the right meaning of words.
  3. Speak slowly and distinctly. Don’t make yourself difficult to understand.
  4. Never think you speak either language perfectly. Perfection in language does not exist. Be humble.
Delfín Carbonell Basset

Delfín Carbonell is a graduate of Duquesne University and the University of Pittsburgh. He holds a Ph.D. in Philology from Madrid and has authored 35 books in both English and Spanish, published by McGraw-Hill, Barron’s, Larousse, Anaya and Serbal. He has taught at Pitt, F&M, Scranton and Murray St. University.