November 25, 2005

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

Fascination can be found in prolific languages

Five weeks from now, 2005 will disappear and we will ring in the New Year. Yet, it was only recently that I finally realized that 2005 is being celebrated as The Year of Languages, designated by Congress. I learned this on an Indiana University website: (

spotlight/language.shtml.) The information is authored by Ryan Piurek, a writer with the I.U. Office of Marketing and Communications. His work, “We Speak for Language,” originally appeared in the Winter 2005 issue of The College Magazine.

Piurek opens his article with, “No matter what part of the world you’re from or what area of the world you’re interested in learning about, chances are Indiana University speaks your language. The College of Arts and Sciences offers nearly 50 foreign language opportunities for students—from American Sign Language, Arabic and Azeri to Uzbeck, Yiddish and Zulu.”

My alma mater always seems to be on the cutting edge of progress. Diverse languages are imperative in today’s shrinking world—shrinking because nearly anywhere is accessible through wide choices of travel options as well as media and personal communications. Ease with languages opens up student exchanges and business opportunities worldwide. Our knowing more than English is an asset in travel as well as in governmental, scientific, medical and humanitarian endeavors.

Although I aced Latin in high school and German in college, my memory is short, and now I wish I had concentrated on Spanish, currently in demand. Not long ago, we read in The Criterion that Pope Benedict XVI hopes Catholics worldwide will learn or re-learn at least basic prayers in Latin to stress oneness of the Church. Surprisingly, I still recall phrases from a few such prayers, and I admit that there was something comforting in having Latin as the universal language of the Church.

As for being multilingual, we have been blessed with many popes fluent in several languages—good examples for us. This is especially important for educators and younger generations.

There is one form of alleged communication that has always perplexed me: glossolalia. It is taught nowhere. The Church refers to this as the gift of tongues. The Skeptic’s Dictionary ( authored by Robert Todd Carroll quotes Dr. William T. Samarin, a University of Toronto linquistics professor: “Glossolalia is not a language”—and his reasons are fascinating.

A Catholic online encyclopedia ( ) says the glossolaly/glossolalia is “a supernatural gift … designed to aid in the outer development of the primitive Church.” This source shares relevant Biblical passages and other important information allowing readers to better understand the subject. It also states that glossolaly/glossolalia as described there is “historic, articulate and intelligible.”

I consider all languages fascinating. Now, do any readers remember “Pig Latin”?

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)


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