Coming to an Awareness of Language ~ Malcom X

“In fact, up to then, I never had been so truly free in my life,” this quote exemplifies the true meaning of self-motivation and self-improvement. Malcom X, a ‘hardened criminal’ was doing what all people should do, bettering his knowledge when he found out he was under par. He recollects reading books and not understanding the words so he skipped those words. I too have experienced this along with some of you reading this. When I was in second grade I had my first book report. I chose a book a little too advanced for myself at that point and read it but didn’t read it and understand it. My mom, a Chemistry teacher, would not help me, she said to get a dictionary and learn the words I needed to know to read the book. By my mom caring and doing this I actually understood the book and became smarter by that experience.

Malcom X was trying to better his knowledge so he would be like Bimbi and be able to emulate and convey the messages he had for his listeners or fellow hustlers. He was self-motivated and determined to better his handwriting and to learn the “words he needed to know.” By copying the words one page at a time he was submerged in knowledge. He recalled most of the words and definitions the next day, which was a great start to his learning. Malcom X was known for his speaking, by his self-interest his bettered his life by using the resources he had available to him.


22 thoughts on “Coming to an Awareness of Language ~ Malcom X

  1. I was very amazed by Malcolm X and what he had accomplished when I first read this. I had always heard about him and how he was civil rights activist but I didn’t really know his story until now. It takes immense amounts of time and patience to read and copy the dictionary but I guess when you are in prison there isn’t much else to do. From a personal experience of mine, I used to practice my handwriting when I was little and I would copy pages out of chapter books but I never copied more than a page at a time. I was young and would lose interest very quickly. But the fact that he continued to practice his handwriting and he learned the words out of the dictionary shows that he was a dedicated man. He wanted a better life for himself and instead of waiting for it to happen, he began to make it happen himself. He truly is an inspiration.

  2. When I read the story of Malcom X, it really surprised me by what he did. I know for me, and as well as some others in this class, that we had no idea what Malcom X was really known for and how his journey actually started. It motivates myself when he expresses, “Everything I’ve ever felt strongly about, I’ve done something about” (67). I’m one to sit back and think over and over whether or not I should say something, do something, act on something, and nine times out of ten I don’t do anything about it. Reading his story and his life through prison inspired me to find something to be so passionate about. If Malcom X can gloat “I never had been so truly free in my life,” (69) like you said, while he was in prison demonstrates how moved he was by learning and practicing what he taught himself. Just by sharing this story, he is reaching out to his listeners and followers- motivating us to better ourselves and push ourselves to learn something on our own and use that ability to influence others.

  3. I believe what happened to Malcolm X, happens to many whether they are writing a paper or speech. It is easy to bite of more than you can chew with writing. It happens because people try to impress whoever their audience is using a vocabulary that they don’t even know what the words their using means. It takes a person that is truly invested in their future to copy down words and definitions every day just so their vocabulary increases. I think in our time the amount of tools we have at our disposal that can increase our knowledge, it would be extremely foolish not to use them.

  4. Robert, I like that you shared your experience using a dictionary to aid your Chemestry studies. Even though your mother insisted that you do it, it demonstrates the kind of self-learning that Malcolm X describes. Action and self-motivation appear to be crucial aspects of writing.

  5. I too would pick books harder than I could actually read and try to force myself to understand it. As a 1st grader I stared at the first paragraph of Harry Potter hoping I would magically be able to understand it. My grandmother, much like your mother, would force me to look the word up, and then write the word and its definition 5 times.. little did I know at the time, that she was helping me become the reader and writer I am today. I like how relatable your post is.

  6. I also have experienced reading a book that is far too complex for me to understand and pushed myself to comprehend what the book was saying. My summer reading assignment going into my senior year in high school required me to read the book Into the Darkness. This book was really confusing and I understood almost none of it. I kept reading, however, and forced myself to focus on what I was reading enough to understand what was going on in the book. This helped me when it came to doing the assignment that went along with reading the book. I was able to write the summary of the book and participate in the class discussions about the book that I am sure I would not have participated in had I not pushed myself to understand what was going on in the book.

  7. I did the same thing as a child. I read books that were little beyond my reading level to challenge myself. If I could not tell what the word meant by the context of the sentence, I would go and ask my mom and she usually told me to go look it up in our dictionary. Also, during elementary school, we had vocabulary words, and if we got them wrong on the test, we would have to write down the word and its definition five times to get some extra credit for it. I was surprised to find out that Malcolm X did the same thing when educating himself, but it seems to have been a very effective method.

  8. When I read this story of Malcolm X, I had no idea what he had done to become such an incredible and eloquent public speaker. Writing down and learning entire pages of the dictionary is something that most people would not even consider doing because they would not have the patience. But he had found his passion by realizing he needed to better himself and incidentally it caused prison to be much easier. Everyone has had experiences that bettered themselves but there are not many similar to Malcolm X’s. His great deal of determination, patience, and perseverance are rare in most people and should therefore be appreciated.

  9. I can relate to how Malcolm X reads something and skips the words he doesn’t understand. I also do that because I feel like if I don’t skip them, I would understand the context less. I also liked the example you gave about how your mom made you read the dictionary for words you didn’t understand on the 2nd grade project. I also picked books that were above my reading level in elementary school because I wanted to impress my friends. Now, I pick books that are below my reading level. I thought it was cool that Malcolm X was determined to improve his handwriting and words he needed to know.

  10. In your response, I felt that you truly grasped what Malcom X wanted his readers to grasp. You understood and felt the point he was making which was that you are your own motivation. Your own life experience and how you related that to Malcom X’s writing proved that you actually did feel what he was saying. The reference to your life and how your mom made you go out and find the drive to learn on your own also made it more of a feeling-oriented response, which overall, benefits both the reader and yourself. A very good response and personalization to Malcom X’s passage!

  11. Your take on the piece by Malcolm X was I think essentially the point he was trying to make. He realized that he wasn’t truly able to understand what he was reading and in response decided to better himself in the situation. The insert about your personal experience made your response more relatable because you provided and example of what the author’s point was trying to make. He was self-motivated and determined to better his handwriting and to learn the words; which also displays a different way of looking at reading and writing. Most students dread having to write a paper or read a novel, its like a “prison” to us; but Malcolm X whom is actually in a prison is grateful for the opportunity to read and write, which for him “truly set him free in life.”

  12. “Malcom X, a ‘hardened criminal’ was doing what all people should do, bettering his knowledge when he found out he was under par.” This statement at the beginning of your post struck me as bold, but also very insightful. I found it a very agreeable statement that people should better their knowledge if they feel as if they do not know as much as should. I feel that this is an prominent problem that the United States faces at the moment, and that the young people of this country are not driven to learn more than what is being taught in public schools let alone obtain any information that they are receiving. As I see it, it’s free education so why not take in as much as you can.

    Malcolm X was not privileged enough to become educated in even the most basic form; such as, reading, writing, vocabulary, and many other skills. He did what some thought was absurd and taught himself how to read and write, and not just simple stuff but he knew how to write very well. He was determined to not be just another African-American living the struggle during the 60’s and 70’s, but instead he was motivated to above and beyond that. He became an educated man. He defied the “norm” of what society was back in those days. I find him to be a very inspiring person. I enjoyed your blog post very much!

    “Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.” -Malcolm X

  13. I really admire the way you started off your blog with the quote. I agree with you–“In fact, up to then, I had never been so truly free in my life.” This quote really does illustrate the self-determination and motivation that Malcolm X had to really understand language. I think it is important to have that urge to learn by using your surrounding resources. Instead of quitting, Malcolm X kept a goal in mind and he was determined to reach that goal. Also, I had a similar experience to yours. When reading advanced books, I often found myself skipping words that I didn’t know. I started to look these words up in a dictionary and use them in my daily speech and writing until I really had a full understanding of the words. By doing this, I feel like I developed a sense of self-motivation and in the long run, I grew as a speaker and writer.

  14. From the very first sentence I felt included, up to date, and related to the topic. I feel your response was concise and well worded. Inspired and amazed by Malcolm X I felt that, in hindsight, it was an injustice to know merely of his name and not of his story. Simply because of how relatable he truly is. With the amount of knowledge around us every second of every day, the real crime would be not using the tools better ourselves.

  15. I definitely agree with the comments above, especially the one discussing how much the necessity and desire for education has changed so much in just the last 50 years. Some people in this generation take the necessity of learning language for granted. They think if they’re planning on becoming a scientist, or mathematician then language and taking english classes is pointless. But Malcom X realized how essential language is to humanity. Feeling oppressed by “the white man” he decided to educate himself and break the norm. Its very inspiring and humbling to step back and realize how lucky we are to have the resources to obtain a good education. Surely if Malcom X, of all things, strongly pursued language and education from a prison cell, then we should count our education just as precious and chase after it even harder.

  16. I like how you drew from personal experience in your response and how it related to almost everyone in the class. Often times we find ourselves reading and stumbling across a word and just skipping it thinking we will understand the meaning of it later. Sometimes this works but other times we find ourselves lost in the novel just because of that one word. Malcolm X teaches us to be self-determined and self-motivated and shows us that we need to work on our writing in and out of class so we can get better.

  17. Yes! I was the same way as a child. I would choose books that were too advanced for me to read. And after asking my mom what the words ment a few times, she would hand me a dictionary. I love how Malcom X chose to better himself while imprisoned. It was actually a good experience for him. Reading, writing, and learning will set you free and I love how he acknowledged that.

  18. When I was younger I chose books that were easier so I could get out of trying to understand all the big words. I like how you used your personal experience to relate to the writing. You only succeed in life by having self-motivation, without it you won’t accomplish your goals. Also self-determination is a big part of developing educationally. If you give up at the sight of difficulty, life will just get harder and harder.

  19. I have had a very similar experience as you did, Robert. I was handed a dictionary and was told to figure it out myself. At the time I hated doing this, but once I saw that I was learning, I became motivated and continued learning. Malcolm X did the same when he was in prison. “I woke up the next morning, thinking about those words – immensely proud to realize that not only had I written so much at one time, but I’d written words that I never knew were in the world.” – Malcolm X. Part of his motivation comes from the fact that he realizes that he is learning and I can relate to that very well.

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