You were trilingual once

I’m on a former professor’s e-mail list, and he recently sent something about how we’re all trilingual – not in the English, Spanish, and Mandarin sense, but in “…the three universal languages of information, motivation, and intimacy.”

Information is language about; motivation is language for; intimacy is the language of being and connecting.

Schools primarily speak information; parents, pastors, coaches, and politicians often speak the language of motivation; musicians, poets, children, and lovers generally speak the language of intimacy.

He explains that we begin life speaking intimacy as infants. In school, we begin to discover a world much bigger than our parents, and to learn about it we use the language of information. Finally, “we realize that words can influence and inspire people for action, so we learn the language of motivation.”

In the process of learning information and motivation, we often lose the language of intimacy. […] People respect knowledge and inspiration so the languages of information and motivation take center stage.

He goes on to imply that the language of intimacy is the most meaningful of the three.

I think I agree. What is the ultimate point of gathering all our information and developing skills to motivate and influence others? Power is one answer that quickly comes to mind, but power to do what? And for what?

Isn’t the point of learning information and motivation so that we can better relate to ourselves and to one another? To better know ourselves, and thus be more able to share ourselves and receive others? To better and more authentically share life together?

I’m personally way more comfortable speaking information and motivation. Maybe that’s why I’ve played guitar for over a decade but never really been able to write songs, nevermind poetry.

If you want the full version of his e-mail (400 words), just let me know.

2 thoughts on “You were trilingual once”

  1. Hi Joel,

    I am interested in the 400 word e-mail from the professor about the three universal languages. Could you send it to me when you get the chance?

    I really enjoy your site. I have saved many of the articles on differences between Chinese and Westerners, and also your experiences learning Mandarin.

    I am currently learning Chinese in Taiwan, but I’m disasitsfied with the quality of instruction with one of the universities in Taichung. I can’t afford the top program in Taiwan (NTU ICLP program $3200US/semester), but I’m here because I have Taiwanes friends in the US. Do you think studying Chinese in China would be a better idea? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

    David F
    Taichung, Taiwan

  2. Well, studying Chinese in China would be cheaper, so long as you’re somewhere like Tianjin and not Beijing or Shanghai. Living expenses are way cheaper in Tianjin (we paid less than $200/month for an average two-bedroom, though most foreigners pay more). Tuition depends on the school. We went to a private school in Tianjin that offers one-on-one and small group classes. It was more expensive than the universities (also nearby) but they deliberately developed their program to address those teaching-style frustrations often experienced in the average Chinese university program. It’s low-pressure, though, so if you aren’t self-motivated, they won’t really stop you from slacking off. I can send you some contact info if you want.

    The e-mail above isn’t an academic e-mail list. It’s more like little daily inspirational thoughts. If that’s what you’re after let me know and I’ll forward it to you, no problem.

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