Hello. Goodbye. Please. Thanks. Yes. No.
These six simple words are often the first words in foreign language textbooks, and among the first you'll want to know when traveling abroad. In our native language, they're the ones we remind our young children to say ("Yes, please!") because they show so much about the speaker's intent and heart towards others.
Acknowledging others. Showing courtesy and respect. Communicating needs and desires clearly. Sharing ideas and perspectives. This is the purpose of language.
Someone recently asked how I got my daughter to ask me to keep speaking French (rather than English). I think it's because our relationship has always been conducted in French and she identifies me with that language. Plus, my husband's high school students and athletes tell her it's "so cool" that she speaks French, so she gets positive reinforcement from them on a regular basis.
But context also is part of the story, since I only switch to English when I am exhausted or angry--a minute or two when parental criticism or lazy commands come rushing out of my mouth. Apparently, the constraint of a non-native language is a curb that I should appreciate more. If I don't speak with kindness and forethought, my daughter doesn't want to hear it said.
Those six simple words are a reminder of what we all want to hear as we learn to communicate with others.