October 29, 2013

The Art of Language

Learning Begins with Language

When we are young, we learn to speak as an organic consequence of natural human curiosity.  We have an innate desire to understand our world and to commune with and relate to people and nature; and we use language to accomplish this.  

We learn to talk by attaching words to objects and form phrases to express desires and thoughts.  Later we discover the written language through symbols in the alphabet.  Then we discover ways to put the symbols together to form words.... and then sentences.. then proper sentences… then complex sentences.  Eventually we learn to put the sentences together into paragraphs and organized writings that express more detailed thoughts.

Verbal communication is a natural companion of written communication.

To help children continue to learn language skills,  it helps to TALK.  Practice speaking.  Read a book then tell the story together.  This process is fun, and also reflects the natural spiral or curve of learning.  Discover by reading, understand by discussion and reinforce by reiterating the idea of the story later either orally or in writing. 

Value of Good Speaking/Writing Skills
Be sure to incorporate healthy skills into conversation and avoid “lazy talk” lexicons.  These may be popular culture but they are a detriment to, and stifle communication because they can so easily be misunderstood.   Poor use of inflection and inadequate vocabulary limits communication options thereby limiting our ability to understand each other clearly.  It is important to avoid perpetuating poor interpersonal relationships by avoiding pop-culture jargon and using clear and easily understood language instead.

Foreign language to understand our own
Learning a foreign language is a great boon to helping us understand the structure of our own language.  When we translate words, phrases and especially grammar, we reinforce what we know about our linguistic structure.

While it is a 'dead' language,  Latin is of especially great value in understanding our own language When we study the complexity of structure,  tense, and case in Latin, we automatically relate it to our own language and begin to naturally recognize the architecture in everyday use.  Even the simple use or non use of pronouns for example, helps us understand the proper use of pronouns in English.

What's more,  learning to recognize the Latin (and/or Greek) etymology of English words helps to elucidate the meaning of  our language and thus improves our vocabulary, expanding our ability to communicate more clearly... which enhances our relationships overall.

Rather than rely on spell-check, it behooves us to encourage spelling mastery for our children.  The old school way of writing words five times each however, is not useful or of any real benefit in understanding spelling.   By using etymology for spelling rather than memorization, we can learn the formula for how words are structured.  We begin to recognize the phonetic break down of letter combinations.  If we learn to recognize roots, prefixes and suffixes, we can easily hear a word, acknowledge the parts and spell it with ease.  One who understands etymology can hear a complex word they've never heard before and spell it with ease without ever having to memorize it.  This is the difference between simply memorizing symbolic combinations, and understanding the relationship between the symbols.  This is crucial to true intellectual growth and overall personal health; because after all, communication is about relationships (commune and relate)

Imagine two mechanics.  One memorizes the parts of an engine and how they go together.  The other studies combustion and how vehicles are propelled into motion.  If presented with an entirely new and alternative type of motor, the latter is more likely to understand how to fix it while the former might be baffled because it is not in his file of memorization.

Simply put - when we understand what we are doing, there is no need for memorization.

Discover, understand, utilize.  That is the curve.  That is learning.  That is living - free of the limitations of stale and stagnant and empty information.   It is the difference between indoctrination and education and it all begins with understanding the complexity, beauty and value of skillful language arts.

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