Literacy and Liberty

Learning to Read
Posted by: , September 20, 2018, 8:34 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Do you remember taking a language in high school or college? Specifically, that first class where you walk in and the professor says something words you’ve never heard and all you can do is nod. I can’t remember that moment when I learned to speak English, probably because I was too young, but I do remember when letters and words started making actual sense to me.

It was probably a Dr. Seuss book, I can’t remember the specifics but the feeling when something ridiculous like “Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one.” (Seuss, .. (Dr.). I Am Not Going to Get up to Day. S.n, 2009.) I definitely didn’t grasp any meaning beyond the absolute basics of the individual words, but there was something sort of amazing in the fact that those shapes “f,” “u” and the upside-down version of “u.”

The complexity of language is something I take for granted a lot now, but I was thinking about it a lot about a week ago, it was right after my third or fourth class in Arabic and my professor had just explained that three letters we had just learned combined to make a word that is pronounced “bab.” Bab just means door, but when those random symbols are squiggles connected to form something with a real meaning it kind of blew my mind. It wasn’t an earth-shattering discovery by any means, it was, however, a moment that made me recall a moment much earlier in my life, the moment it all kind of clicked, when I learned to read.

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I adore this post, especially because I relate to it so much. I personally love learning new languages because it is like a puzzle to me. However, I didn’t always love learning languages because of the difficulty of learning new sounds and words and letters. Learning a new language is definitely like learning to read again. I completely agree that any language is complex, and we take for granted that we speak and read and write in the language that we can. Thanks for sharing!

   Ainslie 09.21.18 @ 12:53 am

Your story made me recall the moment when I just started to learn English, which allowed me to learn about literature in another world. I think it is especially interesting doing bilingual or multilingual that ways people express their emotion are so different. (Like Chinese people use “hit” as verb super frequently: “hit” phone means call someone, “hit” words means “typing”, “hit” water means go get some water. But we are not violent people and we don’t like hitting anyone!!!)
And I hope your language learning will go well in the future!

   Julie 09.22.18 @ 9:43 pm

Logan, this is a great account of one of the many ways in which learning a new language also makes you see/understand your native tongue differently. Often we don’t *really* learn grammar, for example, until we learn a second language. Similarly, learning new alphabets reminds us–it certainly has reminded you already at Dickinson!–of certain arbitrary qualities of our own language and literacy systems.

   Professor Seiler 09.25.18 @ 1:54 pm

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