Thursday, September 03, 2009


I was doing some language therapy the other day (yes! I have started! Yes! I love it! No! I will really, really try to avoid blogging about it! I will try to never blog directly about my work!)...

Ahem. As I was saying, before I so rudely interrupted myself, that the language therapy I was doing reminded me of my own complicated relationship with language. I began my professional/academic relationship with language in undergrad, when I was an English writing major. There, I was deeply, deeply involved with the English language and became rather skilled at manipulating its intricacies.

Then, I moved to Linguistics, where I was fascinated by the ability to quantify that tricksy will-o-the-wisp of language I had tried to master in my writing. Attaching numbers to the frequency with which people used a certain word versus another, or even analyzing the minute differences in the vowels people use could tell you so much about the intersection between people, society and language. It was amazing. As I studied more and different languages, I learned about the incredible range of possibilities in language. I found poetry in the translations of other languages, was moved by the simplest differences in how we encode our thoughts.

Finally, I moved to speech-language pathology, where I could use all of that linguistic knowledge and experience to help those who struggled with learning language in some way. I love it because all of that theoretical knowledge I acquired for selfish reasons (I loved it! I wanted more!) I can use to help others. However, it is a double edged sword.

I am learning that while I adore many aspects of my job, I am challenged when I try to teach some of the slightly higher level language concepts. If you or I spoke with one of these kids or young adults on the street, we could have a perfectly good conversation with them. However, they often struggle with many of the slightly more advanced language concepts, especially those used in school. Things like defining words, explaining "why," describing things, etc. And I don't mean doing these things well, just doing them at all.

My struggle is that I have spent many years teaching students with typical language how to refine these skills and shape the language to their use. So how do I go back so many steps to try to remember how to learn the skills in the first place? It's definitely a challenge for me, but I am making small progress. Learning how to explain things at the most basic level is a skill everyone should develop (I just have a pressing need to).

(And with that, I end on a preposition! Take that, prescriptivists!)

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