The Power of Communication

Dorothea - Westfield, Massachusetts
Entered on April 14, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

I believe in the power of communication to solve problems. Language is one of the most powerful tools we have as humans; it is the power to make and break relationships, learn, and thereby progress. The only thing holding us back from being able to communicate with everyone is ironically, language. It is through different cultures and traditions that we get such a diverse and beautiful world, but it also causes problems when we cannot simply converse with one another. Most of us are so stuck in our own world, where ever that is, speaking the only language that we know and not thinking twice about it. If we have the opportunity to travel abroad and have not prepared ourselves linguistically, then there is often culture shock, frustration, and miscommunication.

I experienced this first hand when I left the country for Morocco; it was completely foreign and strange to me in every possible way. I learned to assimilate as best I could as I slowly learned spoken Arabic. Every day, I would hear Arabic constantly and whether I could understand it or not, having it constantly (or often subconsciously) going through my ear made it sound more and more familiar. Soon, English, although comprehendible, became noise. I started hearing from a different perspective, trying to imagine what these sounds I made when I spoke English sounded like to a non-English speaker. When I was put in a family environment, I was actively engaged in conversation, even if I was simply using the same word over and over again. Soon words like “good” and “please” came out automatically; I did not have to translate them in my head because I knew what they meant.

In the city, we were taught how to bargain in Arabic. The natives would at first think we were French and would try to speak French to us. When I would reply in Arabic, they would exclaim their joyful shock and immediately asked if we spoke fluently. I would then reply “only a little” and continue to talk about myself saying “I am American” or “I am a student” to which they would reply “You came all the way from America?” or “for you, student, I will give a good price!” All they really wanted was someone to talk to. Generally, the longer I stayed to talk, the better price I got. Sometimes, a small crowd of amused Moroccans would gather around us, trying to translate parts of the conversation or help by acting out or writing down what they were trying to say. I cherish those memories, broken as the language was, of learning through communication.

Communication bridges the gap between cultures. Communication is what will solve world problems. If we all learn to simply talk to each other, then we can learn and teach others the important differences that only make us different, not right or wrong.