Why you need to learn to speak (and read and write) standard English to succeed at college and in life.

It is your task to learn how to communicate effectively ('successfully') in the English language: to read, write and speak college-level American English. Let us first understand ('recognize') that communication among human beings is a tricky process that is made all the more difficult because all people think differently.

For example, some people think in a fashion (manner, way in which) one might consider to be very logical. This could be illustrated by

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6...

This thought pattern can be called a sequence (or 'series' or 'progression'), and I am using this example to represent 'sequential' thinking. In this case, for example, it could represent thinking about one thing at a time, in order, and then thinking about the next thing. Probably this is a slow way of thinking, but also, just as probably, an accurate way to proceed. Another, different, sequential way of thinking could be represented as, for example,

2, 4, 6, 8, 10...

Both of these are understandable ('recognizable' or 'discernable' or 'identifiable') as simple patterns. The idea is that almost anyone could follow such thought patterns.

However, suppose a 'thought pattern' looked like this:

23, 67, 98, 168...

Might it not be more difficult to follow?

The thought process of still other individuals might be represented as:


or even:

*&^%@ >8$

Neither of which do I understand ('conceptualize' or 'visualize').

Our different ways of thinking are related to our different ways of 'perceiving' ('sensing', distinguishing' or 'observing'). Through our five senses (which are sight, sound, touch, taste, smell), each of us interprets the experiences we have in our own way.

One representation of this, offered by the British philosopher John Locke (who was born in 1632 and died in 1704; this is commonly written 1632-1704) among others, was that the human mind was similar to a blank slate (tabula rasa in Latin) or chalkboard upon which the experiences of life are written.

After reading Locke's essays, another philosopher, Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), called the senses "the spectacles through which we view the world" ('spectacles' are eyeglasses). He meant that the unique ('one of a kind') experiences every one of us has changes the view of reality for each of us and forms our unique ('the only one of its kind') perspective on our experiences and on the world. This makes each of us an individual with our own thoughts, feelings, decisions, judgments and dreams.

Another, earlier, Italian philosopher, Giordano Bruno (1548-1600), wrote that, when he finally left the isolated ('remote', 'cut-off', 'inaccessible') valley of his youth, and glanced around at the outside world, he realized how one's visual horizon (how far and wide one can see from where one is standing) influences one's perspective on the world. For the first time in his life he realized that the world was much bigger than he had imagined. The visual image he saw, many other mountains and valleys, made him realize how much more there was to the world. When his eyes were opened in this way, his mind and thoughts followed and he became an independent thinker. (Bruno went on in life to write of multiple universes, other inhabited planets and perfect societies. He was burnt at the stake as a heretic (an unbeliever) for these views.)

By now, the idea I am communicating may be clear:

Due to our unique perceptions and therefore unique experiences, we all think differently; and this means that in order to understand each other, we need some common ways of expressing ourselves. For this reason, we have standard language (rules, common ways of speaking) so that we can communicate with each other.

You very likely already communicate informally in English. Now it is your goal to learn the accepted, standard, formal ways of communication.

Be advised that face-to-face communication between individuals is facilitated (made easier) by the fact that we can see each other and take note of the actions and reactions of the person we are speaking with.

For example, as a classroom teacher, I can see which students are looking at me when I speak, which students are sleeping, which are taking notes and which could be daydreaming. This and other body language (such as students shifting in their seats or students walking out of the room) assists me; these things give me clues as to how effectively I am communicating.

My audience is my students: if they can't understand me, or if the manner in which I deliver the knowledge and wisdom I hope to impart interferes with the message, then I must change what I am doing, and how I am speaking, in order to improve my communication.

There is a well-known story about improving one's communication skills: an ancient Greek orator (speechmaker), Pericles (approximately 495-429 BC; 'BC' indicates 'Before Christ'; notice how the dates decrease in BC until the year 1). When he was young he had a difficult time being understood by others. He garbled his words badly when he addressed (spoke to) a crowd.

To overcome this deficit (something that is lacking or missing), he filled his mouth with marbles and practiced speaking that way. After a while, he overcame the challenge of being understood while speaking with a mouthful of marbles and he was able to project his voice without the marbles. (He became a great orator (public speaker).

Fortunately, your task is much more mundane (everyday, ordinary). You need to learn standard, formal English because that is what is expected of you at the college level and in formal settings such as in the courtroom, correspondence with the government or in the workplace. Speaking, reading and writing standard English is of great benefit when seeking employment, communicating with officials, speaking with customers, explaining situations to patients or clients and interacting with others in public.

Formal language enables one to be more precise, more specific, and more exact when communicating thoughts to others. In this way, complex ideas, thoughts, judgments, knowledge, wisdom can be effectively communicated.


Copyright: 2005 English 4 All, Inc.