Friday, September 28, 2007

"Language Is A Way Of Negotiating Human Relationships": Students Really Get This

In yesterday's post, I listed the parts of a discussion-based lesson plan. During that discussion, the students identified several elements of the idea of "home." One of which was that members of a close community develop their own way of communicating. Certain tones and vocabularies are appropriate in communications between certain family (the example of a close community that we discussed) members, and all members of the "home" understand the intricacies of the language.
It wasn't until I attended a virtual Microsoft Sharepoint presentation later in the day, in which I was mostly confused because of my lack of understanding of coding and programming jargon, that I thought more about my students' observations from The Odyssey. Then, I chose a random TED videopodcast to watch today; it's Friday. And my choice happened to be Steven Pinker's discussion of the construction of language in which he states the quote I used as the title of this post and that "language emerges from human minds interacting with one another."

Now, this post is being written pretty quickly, and these ideas seem obvious and enormous at the same time. But I was already thinking about how lesson-planning is different with the ability to use social networking and collaborative software. Pinker's talk gave my thoughts a little more of a center. If we think about where language comes from and what its basic function is, I think students will be way more tuned in. But, usually, I think, we don't teach that way, there's a different, more convoluted message that's conveyed about the function of language, something that comes more from our, as English teachers, love of language. And we'd probably do more to appreciate communication based on different intelligences. More related material and more organized thinking to come...


Clay Burell said...

Thanks for this. We're talking about cursing in our modern adaptation of King Lear in AP Lit, and also discussing writing and reading and life in our AP Lit Ning (now public, and I'd love to see you and any of your students come in and start or add to discussions - the _language_ is so real there, as you note).

Time to watch the Pinker. He's a regular contributor to the brilliant website - Nobel Prize-winning scientists thinking together about today and tomorrow, in demotic, engaging language.

Clay Burell said...

Wow. At 10 min. 24 secs, Pinker launches into the "language as dead metaphor" that Nietzsche explored in his works (and Foucault and Derrida extended).

So much there. (Jeez, Pinker talks fast. Love the hairdo. Think I'll continue letting my own freak flag grow ;-)