Tag Archives: language

Religion as Language

If you’ve read any of my posts up to this point, you will likely remember that I’ve been struggling for quite a while with finding a church home and a religious label.

Well, my husband and I joined Christ Church, which has Methodist foundations.

So I’ve been getting used to calling myself a Christian.

Not that the label in itself felt wrong, just that I didn’t want to be associated with the hateful things done in Jesus’ name. The things I believe about Jesus are not very well reflected in many of the actions and words of people who claim to be Christian, so I thought that distancing myself from the whole thing was the best way.

The church we found seems to be based on just the things I do believe, such as love, enthusiastic faith, supportive community, a thriving children’s ministry, and other positive moves forward into a life of meaning and service. So I feel pretty comfortable aligning myself with this group.

I had a great insight into the label issue the other night when I’d decided to kill two birds with one stone by practicing my Spanish and praying at the same time. For a split second I thought to myself – does Jesus even speak Spanish?

I had a good laugh over that one.

But then it occurred to me — a religion is like a language. If I feel inspired to do something, I can phrase it as, “I feel called to do this.” As though God herself had spoken to me and pointed the way. I might also say, “My gut tells me…” which is acceptable secular speech. I could say, “The energy feels right,” which is the same thing translated into a New Age kind of understanding. Similarly, I could insert any sort of divine name and express my belief that this Spirit was indicating the correct path.

Each statement represents the same feeling in my heart/mind/center that a certain way forward is best. Is one a lie and the other the truth? Is English more true than Spanish?

After this realization, I came to the logical conclusion that, just because I’m a Christian, doesn’t mean I can’t study Buddhism or Taoism or Sufism anymore. Just like I don’t have to stop learning languages just because I’m fluent in English, but I can go on to become bilingual and trilingual, as many as I have the time and inspiration to learn.

The Great Spirit is not limited to one language, nor to one religion. God is bigger than all of our constructs.

The Best Class Ever

Okay, well “The Best” is always a relative term.

But wow. It was pretty cool.

I’m down to three students now in my Conversational Spanish class. Not a good number for doing various pairing or group activities. One of the students is fairly timid and just taking the class for her job (her employer is also paying for the class.)

She left at the break (midpoint of a two-hour class).

Nice lady, but not into it. The two students who were left have a smidgen of “word nerd” about them, they obviously like and want to learn Spanish and are very willing to stretch out of their comfort zone and venture into new language territory.

We worked on talking about “what time is it?” for a bit, because it is our second-to-last class and I feel like that is something really useful for them to know. We were able to go off on a tangent about three different ways to say “time” in Spanish (hora, vez, tiempo) and the specific meanings and scenarios in which one would use each (I LOVE to get into details like this!) It reminded me of teaching French and having my word nerd students ask me amazingly wonderful tangential questions about the roots of certain words, how they relate to English and Spanish and *BLISS*!!! I am in paradise.

So it was just the three of us, and I suggested (I’m sure there was a gleam in my eye) that we do an exercise that one of the ladies had done in class before, where  they choose one of the photos-cut-out-of-a-magazine-and-laminated-onto-a-card cards and make up a character based on the person(s) in the photo.

In class so far we have learned how to talk about what someone’s name is, their age, their family, what activities they like to do and adjectives to describe their personality. We’ve worked on asking people questions to find out this information.

So the last half hour of the class (and the details of the exercise were entirely their idea!) consisted of these two students randomly choosing a picture and then challenging themselves to come up with details about the person, presenting these details orally as they invented them. Conjugating verbs, remembering adjectives, recalling how to phrase things like “she has to” do a certain activity or “she likes to” do something or other.

My whole job was to occasionally correct them (which they were completely open to, it was fantastic!) as well as to provide the occasional word that they were struggling to remember. Also, I would ask questions about the characters they were inventing, to try to extend the game a bit further, when they seemed unable to generate more raw details on their own.

It occurs to me as I write this that most readers would think this was boring as sh*t. I apologize. I know I’m a total language geek, I freely admit it, embrace it, live it. But this was so damn cool you don’t even understand.

If we could have every class like this, and we could meet a couple times a week, they would be fluent so fast. They were just swimming in the words, splashing around in meaning, engaging their imaginations with their visual perception with their understanding.

It was truly magical.


A couple of years ago I tried to start a little business called Semanturgy Communications Services, then I found out I was pregnant and just decided to give up for the time being.  In fact that was when I gave up blogging, quilting and really doing any sort of project for myself.  Now I need to get back into the world financially, and while I’m also looking for a lateral entry teaching gig, this dream business is my backup plan.

My business offers a lot of services, partly because I figure I can get more business that way, and partly because I have so many interests that are all related (communication) that I figure I may as well put them all out there under one umbrella.  Working in the Spanish and French languages, I can do translation, and I also offer tutoring and classes for all ages and levels.  I already have curriculum developed for a beginning adult (or high school age) class, but I have lots of ideas for homeschool classes, preschool classes as well as classes for business and outreach where folks have a specific goal in mind when working in the other language.

For English, I can help with writing and editing or just freelance an article or newsletter myself.

All of these services are based on my passion for language and communication.  When I am working on developing a class, it feels like playing to me.  When I’m translating, I enjoy it so much that I feel like I’m just having fun with a puzzle, and yet I am completely absorbed and giving it my whole attention.  There are few places in the world I’d rather be than surrounded by dictionaries, thesauri, paper, pen, google for historical references, etc.  It’s a little embarrassing to be a language nerd, but maybe I can make it work to my advantage someday.

Of course, I can also see myself pouring this energy into a high school classroom, working to inspire kids to open up whole new worlds for themselves by being able to speak and read a new language.  I admit I’m pretty scared of the politics and bureaucracy, disgusted by the grades and tests, and disheartened by the lack of vision of many administrators.  If it were all about the words and the kids, I’d be in paradise.

So stay tuned to see if my relaunch crashes and burns, gets interrupted by some other job coming along, or ends up soaring into the stratosphere.  And for heaven’s sake, if you have any advice or experience to share, please do so!