Language and thought

There’s this whole debate going on about the teaching of English and why standards have fallen over the years.

But what is being missed in the furor is that a good command of the language helps plenty with the clarity of thought.

When I was an intern in The Straits Times and TNP in the late 1990s, it was strongly impressed upon me by senior colleagues on the importance of writing copy that flowed naturally and logically.

“You see, every story must have a head, middle and tail.”

“Each sentence should flow into the next. Don’t take a leap of logic suddenly, it disrupts the reader.”

I’ve added a few more maxims of my own, but what I really strive for are stories that “wake up, breathe, gain life and take a gamely sprint out of the page”.

I’m not there yet, but I’m trying!

In recent weeks, I’ve been taking a closer look at how we write and speak English. Often, people are unable to take a step back, scrutinise their work and deconstruct their thought processes.

How does one think clearly? One must use language to define and separate the categories, then be able to use words to associate them together in a meaningful way.

Some people use mind mapping to figure out their ideas, but if you use the wrong terms to map, you will get complicated results.

Also, it’s not wrong to have your brain shoot off in ten different directions, but you need to be able to connect the dots later, and once again, language is needed to lend meaning.

Kishore Mahbubani wrote a book called “Can Asians Think?”. I think the question for us is “Can We Speak and Think Clearly?”

4 Replies to “Language and thought”

  1. “You see, every story must have a head, middle and tail.”

    You are right. I was taught that in Oz. When giving a speech, it’s important to keep that in mind as well. I once attended this church service whose contents were everywhere. I wasn’t listening cos it felt like my parents nagging at me!

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