Thursday, October 29, 2015

We learn to not speak.

Motivation to learn, in my case Japanese high school students' motivation to speak English, is a very important part of my job as a educator and I dedicate a lot of my time trying to figure it out.  I have distilled the broad spectrum of motivation down to the most relevant form for my purposes - desire.  Desires are emotions, but unique in that they cannot remain within the heads and hearts of the individuals who birth them.  They must be shared.  This isn't a conscious effort however.  No one cuts out time in their day to share a desire, they just do it.  Sharing a desire is as automatic to our existence as dry-heaving when we pass by a pile of vomit.  In fact, the birth of desires and our automation to share them is so natural it is the universal defining characteristic of all children on the planet.  It is so epitomic of children that if a one does not incessantly share it's desires, we are likely to consider the quietude of this child a mental disability, despite the fact that the main form of socialization as a child becomes an adult is to chill out with the sharing.

I see this desire to share as not only the epitome of being human, but also the backbone of our social nature - our Ace in the game of survival.  It starts as simple as the desire to eat while we are babes.  We are born, we scream, at that point mother is too tired to care what the scream means, but eventually she learns to understand that the meaning of each scream and giggle and whine are forms of communication of specific desires, one of them being "I want food".  Imagine if these desires were not shared by a babe.  The baby could possibly survive, but only if it's mother was on point like a Irish Setter.  Sharing our desires is so important for our survival that is must work under our conscious radar else the majority of babies would be dead.  The interesting thing here is that once a babe's desire is satisfied by it's mum, it is not like that desire is gone, it just changes a little bit - gets a little more complex.  The reason babes stop sucking the tit is in part the mom's choice, but also because the babe is done with milk.  It's desire for food has been satisfied with milk long enough.  It needs something else.  As a baby graduates from milk to various forms of vegetable, fruit and grain puree, it can still get by with screams, giggles, and whines as its go-to form of communication.  However, there does come a point where the babe's desire for food gets so complex that nothing offered to it by mum will do.  The screams, giggles, and whines just won't bring the babe what it wants.  Luckily, by this point in the babe's life, it is no longer a babe, but a child, and it no longer communicates mainly by screams, giggles, and whines; but by spoken language.  This means the child can ask, with amazing specificity, what kind of food it wants.  Sounds very luxurious doesn't it.  Well don't worry.  Most children soon realize that just because they have the power to ask exactly for what it wants, doesn't mean they will get it.  This realization marks the point where a child begins the process of being a member of a society. 

What you may have drawn from my little rant, and what I will make explicit regardless, is that throughout the entire life of a new-born babe, to child, to adult, to elderly, to dead; three things remain constant:
  • Desires are shared first, and then understood later.
  • Spoken language is the tool used to share them.
  • This entire enterprise is born and develops under the conscious radar because it is crucial to our survival (like our heartbeat)
The only thing that changes as we grow older and become more social is the complexity - of our desires, and as a result, of the language needed to share them.

This explains why babes learn how to speak the spoken language(s) most popularly used within their environment(s) without any formal educative intervention.  Their lives depend on it.  Babes learn to speak in the same way we, adults, learn to not speak.  

This is where I currently exist - in between 2 conflicting worlds.  One world is I need to educate my students to speak.  The other world is my students are being educated to not speak.  It is a difficult hole to get out of but I have the support of a billion motivated babies behind me - I think I will be ok.

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