Inaudible Universal Language§

writer: russell j.t. dyer; posted: May 27, 2007; revised: April 24, 2018; readers in past month: 504

French Post Card
Les meilleurs Voeux pour une Heureuse Année.
The best Wishes for a Happy Year.
Mailed in New Orleans, December 1906
Tous mes voeux de bonheur.
All my wishes of happiness.

Whenever I go to the United States for a few weeks, when I return to Italy I find that my Italian language skills have received a boost. I think the break gives my brain a chance to sort out internal coding related to each language interpretation. On the flight from New Orleans to Atlanta, I wrote some post cards to my cousins in Sicily. I meant to write them while in the U.S., but just couldn’t get myself to do it until I was enroute back to Italy, with the intention of mailing them at my last stop at the Atlanta airport. What’s interesting is that I wrote them fairly quickly and without an Italian dictionary. When I finished the first one, I realized that I had written it without considering what I wanted to say in English first. I had reached for the Italian words without much thought.

More and more I believe that we don’t think in English or any other spoken language. Instead, I believe that we think in an inaudible universal language (IUL) — not even audible in our minds — and that we translate some of this inaudible universal language into a spoken language in our minds — this is why we beleve that we think in a particular language. Before now, I found that a thought would occur to me (in IUL) and I might say parts of it in my mind in English, and then would say it in Italian internally to prepare myself, and then speak it in Italian aloud for others to hear. This three-step method is what slows the process. It also involves extra self-analysis, which delays verbal communication more and makes it more disjointed from the body language — or rather the body language reflects thoughts unrelated to the intended content.

This three-step process also adds more internal English to the process. I say each phrase or sentence in English internally before translating it internally. Normally, I sense that we have a thought, again the IUL, and may say parts in English internally, but usually just invoke an IUL interpreter program which converts the thought directly from raw thought to audible language (i.e., English). After the words are dispatched to the lips, a copy of the words that have been sent are sent back to the brain for memorization and for consideration. This may be why we sometimes stop ourselves in the middle of a word that we decide is an error or in some way not appropriate. We then sometimes attempt quickly to dispatch an alternative to a word not yet completed. Or we cancel the remainder of the words in queue and announce corrections are coming. These rapid changes aren’t usually as fast as the person to whom we’re speaking. They can more easily pounce on ur mistakes because they don’t have a stream of words to interupt. They’re mouths are ready to speak. As a side note, I think that people who pause between sentences (e.g., George Schultz, former U.S. Secretary of State) are intentionally sending the words to the mind for review and approval before they’re sent to the lips.

For those who say we think in a spoken language, I would argue that that’s not possible: not only would it be incredibly slow and boring to speak all of that text in the mind first, but we just don’t hear it happening. If it were transpiring in the mind, when thinking of a tree we would hear ourselves say, ‘What’s that thing that I’m picturing called? That green and brown thing that’s big and that birds nest in? You know, um, not a flower or a bush, but bigger. Wood comes from it. Oh, yeah, tree.’ Instead, we just say ‘tree.’ We don’t think [tree], say in our mind {tree}, and then say aloud ‘tree’. That’s an extra step and each step extra involves more analysis. Try listening to a George Schultz speaker some time: It’s frustratingly slow.

While I’ve been learning my first second language, or at least the first in which I have been striving to achieve fluency, I’ve noticed that my brain has confused my IUL interpreter as I attempt to create a second and distinct interpreter. Prevously, I had only one IUL interpreter: one that interepred IUL thoughts into English. While developing an IUL to Italian interpreter, my natural coding has overwritten or at least been mixed with the IUL-to-English interpreter. Eventually, I believe that I will sufficiently develop separate and distinct interpreters for Italian without having my language system panic and attempt to engage the English interpreter. At that point I will be able to keep my English interpreter clear of Italian code.

Regarding the post cards, as I wrote each one, I tried to observe myself to see if I was strictly using my Italian interpreter. As the Zen tennet tells us, I couldn’t observe myself while doing — that is to say that while writing the cards. After I finished each card, though, I tried to think of the process just completed and found that the English interpreter was not engaged. Since then I’ve noticed that many times when speaking Italian, I go directly from IUL thought to spoken Italian. The follow-up analyais in my mind of what was sent to my mouth to say, is a mix of Italian and English at times, but it’s quickly becoming all Italian follow-up, as well. This makes the delivery quicker and the body language becomes insync with what is spoken — making me more comprehensible.