Written to the song: Pobre Diabolo — Don Omar

“Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace” — Buddha

Bahai Gardens, Haifa

I always had the idea that language and bilingualism had a role in the peace process. While countries claim to be bilingual, there always seems to be one dominant language. For example, English and French are Canada’s national languages, although most signs and even the conversation in the House of Commons are in English, due to the demands of our population (As Canada is over 80% Anglophone). Similarly, Israel acts the same way. As a country with both Hebrew and Arabic speakers, only 20% of Israelis actually speak Arabic. Since Israel is made up of many immigrants (from places like Russia, Ethiopia, India, South Africa, and the US), new immigrants focus on learning Hebrew when immigrating in addition to their mother tongue, rather than Arabic as (based on the stats) more people they interact with are Hebrew speakers. Is there a method to find commonality between a country’s major languages, one that encourages cultural understanding? Hint: it deals with language.

An Israeli designer named Liron Lavi Turkenich has created an incredible solution which demonstrates pure creativity, innovation with language, and a step in the right direction for cultural and linguistic interaction. The idea is based on a theory on the way in which we read. When reading English, our brains decodes meaning from text by selectively reading only the upper half of letters. Turkenich found something special — that Arabic reads the same way, and Hebrew reads the opposite way— Hebrew readers’ brains decode meaning from the bottom half of words. In Israel, all road signs are written in Hebrew, Arabic, and English. As Hebrew and Arabic are Semitic languages they share root words. Turkenich was intrigued by the way individuals selectively read, and decided to find commonalities between Hebrew and Arabic words to find a hybrid: a mixture between to languages. She was able to find 638 instances where she could merge the top half of Arabic letters (as Arabic readers selectively read the top half of words), with the bottom half being Hebrew letters — combining the reading tendencies of both readers while respecting both national languages. This method allows speakers of either language to have the ability to choose their language preference, as well as exposing one to the other language.

Why is it important to be exposed to another language? Language learning pushes you to actively make connections between your language and another language. It’s the “uh-huh” moment of understanding the origins of our vocabulary, the importance of syntax, and how we are so lucky that English doesn’t have grammatical gender (ex: in Spanish ‘the weekend’ is classified as a feminine noun as it is la semana). Learning language impacts empathy, by understanding the perspective of others (Cooke, 2017). Finally, language learning helps you unleash creativity, by inspiring others to think critically and differently about various concepts. Take Einstein for example — a genius who used his love of violin to inspire him to think differently about his physics (DiPiazza, 2015).

If Liron Lavi Turkenich’s idea of language hybrid’s is adopted (which I hope it is), I genuinely believe it will transform the way individual’s perceive language, it will motivate others to learn another language, and influence creators and linguistics world-wide.

Watch to learn more (the video is in Hebrew, but the essence is still there if your Hebrew language understanding isn’t):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jmhkZnmUNKk

Sources:

“Aravrit Typeface’s 638 Hybrid Letters Unite Hebrew and Arabic.” Designboom | Architecture & Design Magazine. N.p., 29 Aug. 2014. Web. 29 July 2017. <https://www.designboom.com/design/aravrit-typefaces-hybrid-letters-unite-hebrew-arabic-08-28-2014/>.

Cooke, Ed. “Learning a Second Language Isn’t Just Good for Your Brain-it’s Good for Democracy, Too.” Quartz. Quartz, 13 Apr. 2017. Web. 29 July 2017. <https://qz.com/957043/learning-a-second-language-isnt-just-good-for-your-brain-its-good-for-democracy-too/?utm_source=atlfb>.

DiPiazza, Daniel. “What Picasso, King and Einstein Have to Teach Entrepreneurs.”Entrepreneur. N.p., 27 Apr. 2015. Web. 29 July 2017. <https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/244513>.

Author of “Q & A a Day for Travelers”. https://www.linkedin.com/in/anna-frenkel/