When we read a book or watch a film in our new language, it’s easy to feel helpless at the sheer number of words and phrases that exist. And somehow, the ones the characters say are all perfectly chosen for that moment. It feels like they switch between endless grammatical constructions, so no two sentences feel the same. Plus, they use so many idioms and expressions!
And we imagine that we should be talking like that too.
But then we as language learners look at our own language abilities… and our hearts sink. We don’t have all that grammar and vocabulary yet. So, we tell ourselves that maybe we should wait a while longer.
No. No, no, no.
To you, I’d say, remember this.
For life’s biggest moments, we use simple language.
I love you!
It’s a boy!
The language that speaks to the soul is often the simplest language we’ve got. Script writers know this. Marketers know this. (How many products do you know that have complicated, literary slogans? I don’t know any.)
And we don’t always need a lot of words to make an impact.
Baby Shoes is a story that might have been written by the novelist Ernest Hemingway (although its actual origins are debated). Urban legend has it that Hemingway wrote it to win a bet with friends that he could write a complete story in six words. This is the outcome:
For sale: baby shoes, never worn.
It’s six words, six very simple words, and yet communicates a world of tragedy.
So, if you’re telling yourself that you don’t have enough words, you do. If you’re telling yourself you can only make super simple sentences, I would say, speak in simple sentences and be proud of them. A sentence doesn’t need to be long or complicated to be powerful.