Understanding the Power of Language

Malcolm X was a man that felt strongly about certain things and then took action. In prison, he was unable to take action for what he believed in which triggered his interest in language, reading and writing. I just as Malcolm was explaining often have a hard time articulating exactly what is on my mind. Everyone has a time when they know exactly what they want to say in their head and then they stumble on words and say the opposite of what they were trying to. Also I often have people misinterpret my words which is frustrating. As I’ve gotten older, my vocabulary has expanded making it easier to speak what is on my mind without stumbling but I still struggle. I feel like writing what is on my mind is much easier than speaking and like Malcolm X I am more of the  take action type.  Just as he did, whenever I read books when I come across a word that I don’t know, I will get out the dictionary and look it up. Although I’m not as bold and do not have the patience to copy the entire dictionary It is ad rite his passion for language. I believe that as we grow older our reading, writing, and language skills improve but communicating is always something we will struggle with. My favorite part of this piece was when Malcolm said “I had never been so truly free in my life”. Even though he was imprisoned, Malcolm X was at peace because he still had the power to communicate with others and take some form of action for the things he felt so strongly for. I hope that one day I can be as bold as Malcolm X and stand firm in what I believe. Yes he is a criminal, but his passion and dedication are inspiring. This piece shows that language is powerful and is a “tool” that should be used frequently. 

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19 thoughts on “Understanding the Power of Language

  1. I find it interesting that you say writing down what you think is easier then speaking what you think. I find myself to be the opposite of that. When I’m writing, I think through what I say way too much that what I actually want to say does not come out the right way. Even though I find speaking my way of things difficult too, I think its easier to come about words that can get me to the finish of what I am trying to say. Malcom X demonstrates his passion he has for learning out of the dictionary, and like you I could never sit and do that. However, it makes me question if I were in his position, what I would do to pass the time. Would I find the dictionary just as interesting as he did and copy it word for word and learn so much, or would I just sit there and feel trapped? When there is nothing in front of you, a dictionary might become your best friend, like it did to Malcom X. It wasn’t just his best friend though, it allowed him to become more knowledgeable and let him feel free for once.

  2. I agree with what you said, writing your thoughts down for what you would be speaking on is easier then having no aid at all. It helps me to stay on subject and speak more fluently.It also helps you to think about what you are going to say, its a way to prepare and to also have an aid during the actual speech. Like Allie said if we were in Malcom X’s position would we find the dictionary just as interesting he did, or would we just there being trapped? I would try to do what he did, but I do not know how successful I would and I do not know how long I would last.

  3. We often times don”t even think about how powerful the ability to communicate is and I love how you let us know of situations when you’ve lacked in that ability and as you’ve grown you’ve learned more and more. That really put into perspective how lucky we are to have to many opportunities to learn and grow all around us, and makes me want to take advantage of all of them.

  4. I am going to be completely honest here, if I read over a word that I don’t know I will usually ask somebody for the definition. If they can’t answer my question I just skip over the word and keep on reading. This is probably a bad habit and I know I should kick it, but I don’t really read enough books to ever come across a word I don’t know, I also have a pretty solid vocabulary.
    I agree with your comments about struggling to find the right words to say to get the right point across. I know I just said I have a solid vocabulary, but quite often I get stuck on a phrase and I can’t find the correct word to say to complete my sentence.

  5. I completely agree with you. I find it so much easier to write down and express my thoughts on paper than to articulate them verbally. When I get to write down my thoughts on paper I can go over them and make sure that it is exactly what I am trying to say in a very clear and concise way. Sometimes when I am speaking out loud to a group of people I don’t get all my thoughts out in the way that I had planned in my head. I have greatly developed my vocabulary over the years but the fact that Malcolm X increased his vocabulary so significantly and so quickly shows just how great his passion was, which something that should be admired.

  6. I also agree that it is much easier to write out your feelings than to be vocal about them. When I write out things I can take my time a carefully articulate them how I want to rather than getting caught up in the moment and not being about to think about how I really feel. I find it much harder to come up with the right words on the fly rather than being able to sit down and concentrate and carefully explain what I am trying to say. I find it much easier and it also has helped my vocabulary expand over time just as it did for Malcolm X.

  7. I find it interesting that so many of you find it easier to write your that’s than to say them. I feel like I followed Malcolm X’s pattern of being an articulate speaker who has had to work to write out my thoughts. Another idea worth thinking about is that Malcolm X was able to speak clearly to the street hustlers as log as he spoke about subjects that were relevant to that group. It was his need to communicate ideas that occurred to him outside that social group that was so hard. Similarly when he spoke to people in social groups to which he did not belong he did not have the vocabulary that could speak to them. Much of this essay focuses on the way different audiences shape the act of writing and the expression of ideas. This is what I mean when I say writing is always social.

  8. Just like you and Malcolm X, I also struggle to articulate what I am going to say. I usually have to think about what I want to say before I actually say it. I also hate it when people don’t understand what I am saying. It is really aggravating to me. Even though I also have a better vocabulary, people still sometimes don’t understand me. I thought it was really cool how when Malcolm X was in prison, he still managed to communicate with other people and take actions on what he believed in. That shows strength and it shows uniqueness.

  9. The detail and comparison that you used in your response to this reading of Malcom X’s definitely gave it a feel that your readers will love to read. From the personal experiences with your own struggles and your relation to the author, saying, “although I’m not as bold and do not have the patience to copy the entire dictionary…,” you provide the reader with your true and raw thoughts on this passage, as well as how you can compare to it. That technique is one that will be useful for any piece of writing you produce. Overall, a very good response to read.

  10. In your response, I completely relate to having trouble expressing what I’m thinking onto a page. It makes all the sense in my head but as soon as I try to write about it, the mess or words begins. Like you said, the acquiring of new words broadens our vocabulary and ability to explain complex ideas and communication skills. The idea of writing being powerful is exactly right; in the most simple and complex ways, writing has power. Each individual is capable of this seemingly common activity but it’s all about how we view it. Whether we view it as a “prison” or “true freedom,” depends on a person’s individual value he or she places on writing.

  11. Malcolm X was one of history’s most recent influential speakers. It makes you scratch your head and think how could he have been ineligible to read and write. Especially if you take the time to read his excerpts, and see how his language is very eloquent and fluent. It is very admirable to read and learn about someone who was self-taught everything he knew and spoke. He was a man of experience and that is someone whom I strive to be.

    I find it interesting as well that you have an easier time writing what is on your mind. I agree with you to some extent. I feel as if when I write that I have an easier time putting words together than I do at times when I am speaking; however, when I speak I feel that I can keep going for a much longer time than when I write. I do wish that our generation was still into keeping journals and diaries like Malcolm X and many of the people of his time. I feel as if we have lost touch with our inner-self. I believe that writing can bring out a whole different perspective on how we think everyday. Malcolm X was a very verbal communicator, and his self-taught skills of writing and reading helped him become just that.

    I believe that he came to understand how powerful and how vital communication is to our society even more so due to the fact that he knew people who lived the struggle of not having these skills that we find basic today. He had to motivate himself to sit down everyday in prison and write every word of the dictionary into little booklets. I know that I don’t have this kind of motivation let alone patience to do this sort of thing.

    Malcolm X was truly an inspirational man; even though he contributed to the racial violence that occurred during the 60’s and 70’s I am inspired at how one man can lead a whole race of people to share what he believed in.

  12. I understand that you find it easier to express your thoughts through your writing instead of through speaking. I am the complete opposite. I find it easier to explain my thoughts through speaking. However, I have had moments in which I knew exactly what I wanted to say, and then found myself stumbling over my words and struggling to get my point across. Writing is very powerful. When writing my thoughts out onto a piece of paper, it does provide practice and better use of complex vocabulary and organization skills. However, it is also important to have strong speaking skills. When coming across new words, learning the meaning can help improve and broaden our vocabulary and communication skills.

  13. I could not agree more! With language barriers, speech impediments, and emotions limiting the fluidity in which we communicate with one another, it seems that speaking what is one’s mind presents itself as a challenge to many; that is, until we find that one method that makes us feel as if we have “never been so truly free. That feeling of not being rushed and no one judging you other than your imagination and eraser is almost like a way to communicate to and with our emotions rather than them getting in the way. The pen and paper are the tools. I enjoyed your passage well done.

  14. I like how you ended the blog with saying that language is a powerful tool and I couldn’t agree more with that statement. Having the ability to speak, read, and write properly is something most of us take for granted because we’ve been taught that since before we could remember. Malcolm X wasn’t very articulate and he couldn’t write a sentence to save his life, until he decided to make a change for himself. It is hard, like you said, to sometimes say what you mean and in educating yourself on reading and writing it truly can be freeing. His dedication was inspiring and it goes to show that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to.

  15. Like many of the responders on this page I also fall into the trap of not being able to articulate what I want to on the page. It isn’t so much that I don’t know what I want to say but rather that what I want to say never comes out on the page. It is some how relieving to me knowing that a man that had great influence on peoples lives had such trouble, like I do with spoken word. Yet since he had this trouble he put time and work into fixing this aspect that he wasn’t great at. I believe that all of us could tear a page out of his book and take the time out of our busy lives just to work on our imperfections.

  16. I like how you interpreted the reason he said he felt free, “Even though he was imprisoned, Malcolm X was at peace because he still had the power to communicate with others and take some form of action for the things he felt so strongly for.” After reading this sentence it emphasized for me even more how he actually used language as a tool to take action. Not only did he teach himself language, but he immediately began to use that language to do something about his problems and it made him feel liberated. I think that’s a beautiful example of how powerful language is.

  17. I completely agree with you. I find communication to be difficult sometimes, too. I can stumble and choke on my words if I haven’t fully formulated what I’m trying to say yet. Although writing is still difficult for me, it’s definitely easier than speaking aloud sometimes. I can appreciate how Malcolm X disliked the fact that he couldn’t communicate to the outside world and therefore decided to better himself. He also had the patients to copy down the entire dictionary, which is astounding to me. Knowledge is freedom and he discovered that by spending all his time reading books.

  18. Throughout my life I had trouble conveying my thoughts. I like that you used your personal experience, but also admitting something that someone might not usually say. I love how self-determined Malcolm X is and how he set himself free with his writing. He inspired me to follow my dreams, but also to be self-determined in everything I do. I try to never give up and trudge on.

  19. I also have a hard time getting my thoughts across to other people. I always say that my brain moves faster than my mouth does. Its interesting that you said ” I feel like writing what is on my mind is much easier than speaking…” Even though I don’t get my point across verbally that well, I feel like writing my thoughts down would take too long for me. Malcolm X had an amazing trait of self-determination that enabled him to learn a lot about language so he could get his point across to others.

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