Language grows out of life, out of its needs and experiences.

weathered antique book

She had been living in a world she could not realize

Here’s a thought for International Literacy Day – September 8th.

Language grows out of life, out of its needs and experiences. At first my little pupil’s mind was all but vacant. She had been living in a world she could not realize. Language and knowledge are indissolubly connected; they are interdependent. Good work in language presupposes and depends on a real knowledge of things. As soon as Helen grasped the idea that everything had a name, and that by means of the manual alphabet these names could be transmitted from one to another, I proceeded to awaken her further interest in the objects whose names she learned to spell with such evident joy. I never taught language for the Purpose of teaching it; but invariably used language as a medium for the communication of thought; thus the learning of language was coincident with the acquisition of knowledge. In order to use language intelligently, one must have something to talk about, and having something to talk about is the result of having had experiences; no amount of language training will enable our little children to use language with ease and fluency unless they have something clearly in their minds which they wish to communicate, or unless we succeed in awakening in them a desire to know what is in the minds of others.

one of Annie Sullivan’s letters to Sophia C. Hopkins
from The Story of My Life
by Helen Keller, John Albert Macy, Annie Sullivan

Beginning with Bread Crumbs

I want to make people think. If we agree or not is beside the point. I am here to open doors and tempt us to catch the scent of these words, those lives, our culture.

Finding and confirming the source of each excerpt is forcing me to grow. The more I get my hands into it, the more I want and the more I think I can do. As Annie Sullivan wrote above, “having something to talk about is the result of having had experiences.”

Though sometimes there is confirmation, I usually don’t know what happens in the minds of readers. Every QuoteSnack post is a new day’s bread on the waters.

Once in a while someone will email or comment, as did Paul Bogush, in a comment on yesterday’s Writing Prompt:

Too often teachers try to teach kids to write creatively or make their writing more interesting but it borders on the impossible. Always, the kids who have lived the least write the least. Kids who think the least write the least. Kids who can’t have a conversation, can’t write anything worth talking about. I never succeeded in making my students better writers until I made had them think deeply in class. I wasn’t able to have them write about things worth reading until we started to do activities worth doing. And they didn’t start to write in a way that was interesting, until we started to have interesting dialogs in class. Their language wasn’t learned, I can’t teach them to write. Language grows out of life.

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One Response to “Language grows out of life, out of its needs and experiences.”

  1. Abimbola Akanwo Says:

    May all our little children have the ability to “use language with ease and fluency”…

    May “we succeed in awakening in them a desire to know (and a desire to what to know) what is in the minds of others”

    Thank you for an interesting and thought provoking post…