Something else also struck me as I watched this video. I’d always assumed that oral language acquisition was “natural” and innate, something that wasn’t taught. (As opposed to reading and writing which must be taught; no one learns to read without explicit instruction.) But Deb Roy’s discussion of how a caregiver’s own language changes around an infant and the feedback loops inherent in oral language acquisition makes me think my former view was entirely wrong. It is taught, only the process is subtle and unconscious.
I disagree, language can be taught as a second language, and it usually is, but as a first language isn’t it learned through mimicry? I was never taught Italian I just learned by speaking with my grandmother who did not speak a word of English.
I read a book, Strong Opinions, which contained articles and interviews on Vladimir Nabokov, the Russian writer. (I apologize for the non sequitur, but it does tangentially relate to the subject)
In the forward Nabakov writes: “I think like a genius, I write like a distinguished author, and I speak like a child.”
In an interview he was asked: “ I notice you “haw” and “er” a great deal. Is it a sign of approaching senility?” Nabakov responds: “Not at all. I have always been a wretched speaker. My vocabulary dwells deep in my mind and needs paper to wriggle out into the physical zone. Spontaneous eloquence seems to me a miracle. I have rewritten—often several times—every word I have ever published. My pencils outlast their erasers.”
Herman Melville also would constantly change one word in a sentence and dedicate a whole week until he was satisfied with the word he chose. (Again, I apologize for the factlets, but it all revolves around language (words) and it’s all quite fascinating.)
I have noticed with interest that many great writers were not as articulate in speech. What is your view on this?