Home > 8. The Dragons of Grammar, B. The Living Artifact > Language is the Art of Community

Language is the Art of Community

I’m sure most people have heard some variant of this before, but it bears repeating: language is the primary means by which we establish our identities and humanity with other people. You can show up looking like a hairy stone-age guy who badly needs a shower, but if you reel off a quote from, say, Romeo and Juliet, at least some people will be willing to forgive you your appearance.

In other words, nothing says more about you than the way you speak.

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The thought may have particular importance as the school year revs up. It has always astounded me how little attention we pay to language skills in the United States. Everyone is worried about buying new computers and building science classrooms, but no one seems to understand that unless we cultivate English and a knowledge of languages generally, our community’s cohesion is at stake. It’s not simply a matter of being understood, it’s also a matter of what you know and the impression you make.

And it’s clear that we aren’t trying hard enough: when many colleges teach their Freshmen remedial English, our High Schools are failing to teach even basic language skills. Not to mention things like Latin and Greek, which not only help students develop a better mastery of their everyday speech, but also open up the possibility of reading the gospels, Thucydides, and Cicero in their original languages.

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I know that many schools are maxed out just trying to integrate students whose families have come to America from all over the globe, but let’s not forget that it pays to get our young people past the basics and give them some mastery of the culture that they are inheriting.       RT

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Image: The Rosetta Stone; WikiCmns; Christian Theological Seminary; Public Domain.

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  1. August 31, 2011 at 7:42 pm

    I agree. I’ve always believed language should be the basis for any education.

    • September 3, 2011 at 4:51 pm

      1story: Thanks for the encouragement and for stopping by! RT

  2. JB
    September 7, 2011 at 7:06 am

    My language skills are good (I went to this weird “Great Books” college in New Mexico), but I still piss people off! I should shower more.

    But that Socrates guy pissed off people so much that they made him drink hemlock. I guess he needed a shower too.

    • September 8, 2011 at 2:33 am

      Josh: Thx for stopping by–and long live Socrates and weird colleges! Good as always to hear from you, Joshu-er 😉 eric

  3. September 8, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    “nothing says more about you than the way you speak”. nice phrasing and very very true! xx

    • September 13, 2011 at 9:42 pm

      glitteringsoot: it’s one of my mantras (tho poets of course already know this). (& very possibly I’ll be linking to your site soon, soot 😉 )

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