After doing all of the readings for this week, I found myself trying to decide what I should choose to write about for my first blog post. I have never written a blog before, and I must admit that even starting to write in this blog was a difficult idea to wrap my head around. I found myself going back and forth between thinking about how to write for a blog, and deciding what ideas from the reading I should focus on. In the end, I decided that I should embrace the casual writing style that is so prevalent in the “blogging world,” and simply start writing and let my ideas flow onto the page. Here goes….
Gee’s article was extremely interesting to me, probably because of my focus on second language acquisition, and my desire to learn as much as possible about other people and cultures. I love the way that he talked about discourse from a variety of perspectives. When I was reading his article, I kept furiously writing notes in the margin as I read, making connections between his words and other theories that I am reading and thinking about for other classes and in other parts of my life. Somewhat foolishly, I wrote these comments while reading as if I was discovering something Gee hadn’t yet thought of. As I turned each page, I had to laugh as I watched his words describe the same ideas I had just scrawled haphazardly in the margins, in a much more clear and concise manner. Although I didn’t “invent” any of the connections that Gee made, I do love the way that he talked about learning to read as “learning some aspect of some discourse” (p. 540). As he described the difference between cultures who highly value language acquisition, with cultures who value a more teacher-based learning approach, I couldn’t help but wonder what this implies for the American educational system, with students coming from a variety of different cultures all over the world. What is the correlation between cultures who value language acquisition in a more casual, immersive setting, and the people who come to American colleges unable to be a successful part of the academic discourse community? Are there ways that we can embrace the ability these students have to acquire language in a more naturalistic setting, and use that to help them be a part of the academic discourse community? Or will a part of them, no matter how small, always feel as if they are on the outside looking in?
One of the most interesting aspects of Gee’s article (in my opinion,) is on page 541, where he talks about “primitive” cultures functioning like extended families (or a “society of intimates,”) where the oral mode of language is much more useful and more widely used, while more modern societies function like strangers and use the oral mode of language in a much more limited way. This idea made me stop and think about the implications for this idea. In many “primitive” cultures, the language of the people does not even have a written form. So which came first? (The old “chicken or the egg” question…..) Do these “primitive” cultures typically not have a written language because the oral mode of language is much more important, and therefore the written form is not traditionally needed? Or, is the oral mode of language so much more important simply because there is no written form, and there is not really any other choice?