In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we’re sharing one of our most popular posts from 2010. We hope you’ll enjoy both your holiday and this post from Jim Woolf about the power of language.
With the national holiday commemorating Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday approaching, I took the opportunity to listen to Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, which I had never listened to in its entirety. Listening to that speech reminded me of something: I love language. I love words and the art of finding the perfect words to express the exact thought I want to communicate. I love hearing others use words to paint colorful visions, persuade my thinking, touch my emotions, and communicate truth to my soul. For me, language and the ability to truly communicate are very special and cherished gifts.
I lost that gift once, and it was quite a traumatic experience. I had an opportunity to live in a different country with a different language—one that I had studied for many years in school. I remember vividly the minute I stepped off the plane and heard the native speakers of the language I had studied. My first thought was, “I’m in the wrong country—this is not the language I learned.” I spent many months struggling to understand and be understood, and dealing with the frustration of doing neither very well. I eventually reached a moderate level of fluency, but I never came close to being able to express myself as well as I could in English.
During the time that I’ve worked for Imagine Learning, I’ve often tried to put myself in the place of children learning English as a second language. I can’t imagine what it would be like trying to learn concepts being taught in a language I mostly don’t understand. And that’s not to mention the social ramifications of struggling with your peers’ language.
So let’s take this opportunity to remember why we do what we do—why you teach children and why I work for Imagine Learning. It’s because we have the opportunity to empower children, to enable them to communicate, to eliminate a roadblock to their lifelong success—to give them a priceless gift.