❝You can never understand one language until you understand at least two.❞ ‒ Geoffrey Willans
We probably will never know when language was invented as a spoken mean of communication, but we have an approximate idea when we started to write it down in order to remember.
Writing is an art. But writing ultimately is, still today, the primary way humanity developed to render permanent: words, ideas, concepts, laws… oh well, why not, even recipes.
Yet, writing our concepts down is not an identical task when it comes to different languages. The advantage of western civilization has been to have opted for an alphabet that represents sounds rather than concepts, yet for a while within the Mediterranean basin we seemed to have a language that used symbols: Egyptian.
However since we managed to translate more and more of it, since the discovery of the Rosetta Stone, Egyptologists realized that even if it seems a symbolic language, in reality it is based on sounds.
The Orient is, well: different. Since the beginning there has been a tendency towards the realization of symbols to represent concepts, objects, actions, names. Personally I believe it is a more instinctive way of “writing down” our thoughts, in theory you don’t need much training since it should be rather easy to identify the meaning of a symbol; until, well, until you start to use so many symbols that they become less and less visually identifiable and all of a sudden you end up with a language that requires you years of study in order to read anything more complicated than a restaurant menu.
To name one language that uses symbols: if you take Japanese and come across an ideogram you have never seen before, you literally cannot pronounce it and you need to ask for help.
The approach used by western languages, namely: writing sounds, might not be so immediate to figure out, to come up with, but it sure has an extraordinary advantage: it has a far shorter learning curve, and if you come across a word you have never seen before, chances are you might still be able to pronounce it correctly and maybe even figure out the meaning from the context.
Once we learn how to write we soon discover we need to learn how to write well. We usually discover it the hard way, at school, with some bad grades. Writing well is not easy, yet if we love reading we soon start to say that writing is not easy for we instinctively aim to write well, to write at our best.
That is not easy, on the task of writing Ernest Hemingway used to say that:
❝There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.❞
The problem is the need to express the perfect concept that swirls in our mind with the correct words, so choosing the right word becomes paramount.
On the topic Mark Twain said that:
❝The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.❞
You can always count on Mark Twain to say it like he sees it.
Ultimately what is necessary to actually write something worth reading is reading itself, if we don’t read we will never come up with good writing:
❝If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.❞
…and coming from Stephen King, a seemingly inextinguishable wordsmith, I might argue that the man must have read an innumerable amount of books. My humble advice is for you to read a lot and read for yourself, but remember that buying and praising a book does not count, you need to actually read it:
❝ ‘Classic’ – a book which people praise and don’t read.❞ – Mark Twain