November 2, 2011

Why Language is Vital

I have written about, many times before on this blog, how language acquisition is super important.

I focus on making sure students acquire an understanding of language and a means to express this language. It should not matter how they learn or use language, as long as it works well for them. It is important to ask, "Do they get what others are saying?" "Can they communicate their ideas and thoughts to their peers, family, and teachers?" To be unable to communicate with others or to express yourself using a language could be socially and psychologically damaging.

Just something to think about if a child is unable to communicate using his or her voice or understand what is being spoken. Try incorporating technology, visual tools, sign language, or some sort of visual communication mode.

When I was working with John on his 'monster' drawing the other day, I did not fret over the fact that he could not color neatly within the lines or clearly speak about his drawing. I was more interested in what he had to say through the way he knows how to communicate: sign language. Using his knowledge of language, he was able to interact with his typically developing peers (who don't sign). It may not be typical, how he communicates, but it doesn't keep him from trying to express his thoughts and ideas and to interact with others. If he did not know sign language, I am not sure what he would do. Knowing him, he would still attempt to interact with others, but it would no doubt be frustrating as he attempts to use spoken language, which he at this time, is unable to do effectively. He's working on it. For now, he has an interpreter and people learning sign language so they can all understand the important things he is trying to express. Too bad not everyone he will encounter will understand sign language. I have been told by others that they worry that because he can only communicate using sign language, he will have a tough time in the 'real world'. Sure, he will have a tough time with a lot of things right now and probably for the rest of his life. He can't write and does not know how to read yet. Maybe one day he will be able to utilize technology that will help him express his thoughts to others who know spoken and written language, or perhaps his speaking skills will improve over time. But, for right now, he is happy that he can use something he is comfortable with to express his desires, frustrations, hopes, fears, and dreams.

From David Caplan's Language and the Brain:

Language is one of the pillars of the human intellect. It is the principal means whereby individuals formulate thoughts and convey them to others. It plays a role in analyzing the world, in reasoning, solving problems, and planning actions. It allows us to convey memories of the past and beliefs about the future, to engage others about events that have not taken place, and to express the relations between events. 

Language is an indispensable part of human culture, without which jurisprudence, commerce, science and other human endeavors could not exist in the forms we know them. It is an object of beauty in its own right. A combination of semantic and artistic force can make writings such as Second Isaiah, the Gettysburg Address, or Shakespeare's sonnets, the definitive statements of spirituality, jurisprudence, or personal love for a culture or an individual. 



  1. I have always been fascinated with language. It interests me, how much language shapes the very thoughts each individual has. Our maternal language becomes such an inseparable part of our being.

    Is it terribly difficult to learn sign language? For some reason, I've always wanted to learn it, even though I technically have no reason to.

  2. It depends. For some people, sign language can be difficult to learn. It would not hurt to take some classes and see how you like it. I highly recommend it.

  3. Where do they offer classes? I missed my chance to take one when I was still in college...


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