By Craig Funston
Let’s have a quick lesson on “articulation.” You may have never even heard the term before, and I’m fine with that. It’s a quality that I prize in others, and something that I personally pursue.
Articulation is the ability to express oneself well with words. This could come through writing or speaking, or better, both. It is the art of transmitting thoughts into words, words into sentences, and sentences into prose. One who is articulate communicates clearly and simply.
You might be generous enough to say that a certain county-famous columnist is quite articulate. (But then again, you might not. Just don’t confuse him with Maurice, Cousin Reggie, or Aunt Bob…please.)
The art of articulation is demanding one: dreams, ideas, and arguments that that are held inwardly must be expressed outwardly; they need to be presented in an intelligent (and intelligible) manner.
I get inspired listening to articulate people. And the inverse is true, too: I get really exasperated when I am talking with people who struggle with expressing themselves well (a working definition for “inarticulate.”).
Inarticulation (not an actual word, by the way, but I’m just trying to, well, express myself clearly) comes in at least two forms: slang and vulgarity. Slang is essentially a coded language for a community of the select, whereas vulgarity is off-colour and filthy.
To the best of our ability, then, we should all speak to each other in proper English. Not necessarily the queen’s English, either; she’s talks with a funny accent.
Limited reading skills, of course, are at the bottom of articulation challenges. I admit it is an over-simplification to say that one who reads well communicates well. But I stand on this premise: Reading will invariably lead to good grammar, spelling, vocabulary skills.
We tend to blame the day schools—a favourite whipping boy for many societal ills–for the growing crisis of inarticulation. Probably some truth there. And the home, what with its plethora of electronic gadgets, toys, and distractions, should assume some blame for our diminishing communication skills. School and homes can still be the seed plots for developing acceptable communication skills
Let me focus on where I think the seat of all basic training and education takes shape: a warm, accepting family lifestyle.
Remember the old-fashioned notion of eating together? And eating together means talking with (and to) each other, sharing thoughts, wishes, feelings and plans. Beyond the mealtime, there would be reading together (okay, bit of a stretch, but it’s still a good activity), and even playing games together –words games, in particular.
It’s through these family forums that thinking, communication, and vocabulary skills are honed. Having the freedom to talk through things, expressing one’s thoughts and feelings without screaming fits, are part of that process.
However, with the breakdown of the traditional family, or the pit-stop mentality of the family home, and the scourge of instant meals while eating alone, don’t help.
Need I add that the intrusive nature of X-box, Play Station, television, computers, and other electronic devices don’t help? Read that again, please: They have their place, I suppose, but they don’t need to be front and center in the home.
I am sensitive to the fact that there are a lot blended families, single-parent families, and other configurations of traditional family, believe me. So, whatever your family looks like, the above suggestions still apply.
Kids love to be read to on a regular basis. We found that with our own children (and now grandchildren) over the years. I’m sure that’s why our kids have such terrific vocabularies. Being read to often leads to a desire to read to oneself.
I have been shocked, then, to discover a new generation of kids in day school who were never read to when they were youngsters. And, you guessed it, they don’t like to read much on their own. And you guessed it again—man, you’re insightful!–they’re very articulate.
Reading allows them to hear the proper sequence of sentences, absorb good vocabulary, and create a thirst for reading on their own. That’s why getting the reading and writing basics down pat in the early years (at home and school) is so essential to better articulation skills.
So it’s all about reading. With so many options—books (hard copy and electronic), magazines, fiction and non-fiction, newspapers–the list is endless. That may even include the column of a county-famous writer…