Confusing Topics: Langauge and Learning

I would like to take the liberty of explaining today’s blog post. I have, for quite a long time, struggled with the concept of language. My struggle has proven to me that language is key to helping us to understand how to serve the LD population. But what is this thing called linguistics anyway?

Linguistics is the scientific study of language. The debate about this topic is reviewed by some of the greatest theorist of our time. These intelligent intellectuals have evaluated language for a number of years.

Some believe that language is nothing more than signs and symbols. With this theory came the ideology that if an individual could learn the appropriate signs and symbols, then that individual could learn the language. Others believe that there is something unique about language. They believe that this unique quality about language should be studied and evaluated so that the world can really understand it.

I used to believe that language was a simple set of signs and symbols. I believed this so deeply that I was disgusted with myself for my inability to learn those signs and symbols. Therefore, when I began teaching my own children, I metaphorically, beat our heads against the wall in order to teach us what those signs and symbols meant.  I say, “teach us” because I was still learning the English language as I was teaching it to my children.

In Language: The Cultural Tool, by Daniel Everett (http://daneverettbooks.com/) he explains, why he believes that language is cultural not biological. He came to this conclusion after spending time with the Pirahã Indians of Amazonian Brazil.

I do not know Daniel Everett and I don’t throw out his theories or claim they have no value. I believe that his theories have a great deal of value. His work allows us to understand a culture far removed from our own. And his theories are not just things he determined from reading a book. His theories are based on his lived experiences with this culture.

Unlike Mr. Everett’s experience with the Pirahã Indians of Amazonian Brazil, my experience with language has been different.

I have difficulty describing this, but I am going to try.

When I began to paint, I discovered deep sockets of information filled aquifer hiding within me. Information that I knew I had learned, but could not access. I needed a well and that well, for me, was painting.  For me the language was inside of me. It was flowing through me. When I did not know or when I could not express the language because of my LD, the art gave me voice.

My experience was also altered by my experiences with my children. My children did not have a link to language because they were exposed to it in our culture and they don’t get my art in a way that makes learning tangible for them. My children had to discover the wells that accessed their aquifers too. Their wells were distinctly different then my own.

When my daughter was in Middle School she had the choice to take Spanish or German. To our surprise she chose German. One day she came home and said to me, “Mom, I think German is my first language.” The remark sparked a conversation that we have continued throughout the years. I felt this way about art and I am not an art student. I have no training in the subject but something happens when I put that paintbrush in my hand.

There are times when I am stuck on a question or a thought. I then lay out a large canvas, sit down on it and purge those thoughts in whatever colors are before me. When I stand, I understand. For me this feels biological, though many could debate that. I can then explain those thoughts in detail.

Writing my dissertation was the most time consuming, thought evoking, emotionally stressful time in my life. But I accessed that academic language through my paintbrush. It leads me to ask the following questions:

  1. What language are individuals with LD speaking?
  2. How can we help those students to access the language aquifer?
  3. Can accessing the aquifer help all students with LD?

One of my son’s aquifers was the well of history. We are looking for the well that will help him to discover the language of math. My daughter’s aquifer was accessed through the wells of math, German and one other well that is too difficult to describe on paper.

I would love to dive further into this very confusing subject and I thank you deeply for allowing me to talk it out.

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