"The whole movement of life is learning" (Krishnamurti). "To be an act of knowing, then, the adult literacy process must engage the learners in the constant problematizing of their existential situations" (Freire). "Once you learn to read, you will be forever free" (Douglass). "I can learn anything I have the desire to learn" (White, S.G.).

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Learning languages

So this week I'm helping David figure out what class to take this fall; he's been accepted as a non-program graduate student at Virginia Tech. When we learn a language, we learn code. There is so much more socio-culturally to a language, but the base element is translation, initially literal translation. David has trouble with social cues, which are a language all their own. And yet, he speaks English, French, German, Russian, Italian, and Hebrew. People are always impressed that he is so skilled, but what I see is code. He can convert code, and if language is code, which I believe it is, he is able to convert. So he is literate in one way but illiterate in another. Neither has more importance, but in our society, his illiteracy makes it difficult for him to maintain relationships. I think people would be surprised at how much literacy is non-verbal. David's going to take a Comp Sci class in September. He is going to be trying to prove that he is capable of graduate work in order to apply to the Comp Sci department for his major. Comp Sci is probably the best place for him to start, but it will be interesting to see if he ventures into a more cultural environment as well.


  1. Joyce, I'd love to learn more about David's literacy ability. It seems to me that translation requires more than mere code knowledge, to include comprehension. Otherwise it would be like just spelling nonsense words with different alphabets.

  2. There is a comprehension component, but I think that my initial thought would be that he is translating the code into English rules and patterns of thought and speech. At one point he had Japanese flashcards to teach himself Japanese, but he didn't have anyone to speak with or write to, so I think unless he finds that, he won't be able to go any further with it.


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