Language, Culture, Bread

What is your word for these beautiful baked items?


Done any extra baking lately? I’ve been on “bread overdrive” now for several months, and that got me thinking about bread – specifically, how, when I was in the fifth grade, I saw a loaf of sliced bread on our kitchen table and asked my dad, “How do you say ‘bread’ in Croatian?”

He answered: “Kruh.”

But then I said: “‘Kruh,’ huh. ‘Kruh.’ Cool. But deep down, they know it’s ‘bread,’ right?”

Ahhhhh. That’s how we perceive the language that we have learned from our infancy: it’s real, because it springs up from the center of us.

Then, five years later, when I went to Croatia to be with my family for the summer, it tuned out “kruh” was not a plastic-wrapped soft white sliced loaf, but a hard-crusted, hot, heavy, heavenly loaf for which one happily got up at 5 AM to go to the bakery in the village and carry it home warm under one’s arm. “Kruh” with butter and jam was a savory breakfast with “turska cafa” and fresh goat milk.

So I experienced that words are real in every language, and that those words are bound together with their cultural setting. Now I had – and have – two sets of tools and experiences to make my life richer and more aware.

So let’s turn to you.

What’s your language background? Can you already pull from more than one set of tools on your journey of being human?

Whatever your background, here’s my invitation to you: think of a single word, a word for an object. What images does the word bring to your mind, what settings, what experiences? Now connect with a friend or relative who has another set of tools, that is, another language, in their background. Ask what the word is in their language. And then, ask them what images come to mind, what settings, what experiences. Try another word with them; explore and enjoy the journey for a while.

Find your voice through your words and images – and enter the conversation.

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