Monday, August 4, 2014

What’s the Point? - Why Teach Language Arts

"I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you." (Psalm 119:11)

When I was about 12, I hated studying English.  “What’s the point?” I whined to Mom.  “I’m not gonna be a writer or anything!  Why do I have to diagram sentences ‘n stuff?”

I hope the fact that I can write a coherent blog entry convinces you that Mom was right after all! Okay, you say, it’s great for a parent to be able to say “I told you so!” to a whiney kid.  But what do you say before the kid’s studying pays off?  How do you encourage a child to pursue language arts if he dislikes or struggles with the subject?

Why Language Arts?
God thought language was so important that He personified His Son as the "WORD." “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  (John 1:1)  The Scriptures are filled with references to God’s language — “the word of the Lord,” “the mouth of the Lord,” “the word of His power,” etc.  In fact, God chose to reveal Himself through words — the Bible — which He declares will “stand forever.”   When God created the universe, He did it not with “his hands” or “his strength,” but rather with his Word.  “And God said, ‘Let there be...’”

Language is important because it is communication.  Have you ever had laryngitis or some other mouth ailment, and tried to communicate without words?  Gestures and grunts don’t convey much and you usually wind up exasperated!  Words make our meaning precise and clear.  They can be written down so more than one person can read them.  Words can be translated so people of other tongues can understand.  Words can be etched in stone so that hundreds of generations can be moved by the same message.  But words only convey meaning if they are used in a way everyone recognizes.  And that’s why we study subjects like English, grammar, spelling and writing.

If I wrote this sentence: “Binx scarfed yer grub,” there is only one person in the world who would know what I meant.  My sister.  That is because she knows “Binx” refers to her cat Binxus, “scarf” and “yer” are our slang words for “ate” and “your” and “grub” is another slang word for “food.”  She would therefore deduce that her rascally cat had snitched her tuna sandwich again.  But no one else would understand this.  Why?  Because I did not use generally recognized words and spellings.

A Christian should always desire to communicate as clearly as possible because the Great Commission requires us to tell the gospel to others.  How can we share the gospel if others are confused by what we say?  Worse than a confused person is the one who is turned off of the gospel because the communication was sloppy, poorly worded, badly spelled or incoherent.  The Bible tells us to “always be prepared to give a reason for the hope that is within you,” and that preparation should include good language skills.

The more language we know, the more precise our meaning.  “She shouted at the animal,” conveys meaning, but “She hollered in exasperation at the tuna-snitching cat,” is more precise and you probably get a better mental image of what happened.  You received more accurate communication.

Language skills are learned by doing three things: studying the mechanics of language, reading what good writers and speakers have said, and practicing writing and speaking yourself.  You’re never too old to stop improving your language skills... and you’re never too young either.  The Bible tells us that words existed in the beginning and they will be there in the end.  Language is eternal.  Let that encourage you the next time you encounter those tiresome nouns and verbs!

Written by Heather Sheen

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