l'ecrit contre le mot parle
My friend and colleague who teaches high school philosophy in my school shared to me that one of their lessons is the difference between the written and the spoken word. Somehow, I found it interesting to write about since I am just idly sitting in front of the computer thinking of what to write. Hmmm, a brain exercise.
It takes two to communicate. There is the giver and the receiver of the message. How they come in agreement as to what the message is is practically dependent on the ability of both to play the roles they have in this kind of endeavor. While there can be many receivers to listen to a message, it would be chaotic to have more than one delivering it at the same time. Just the same, these receivers will sometimes have different understanding of the message they have just heard. So, basically, communication can be a very hard, it can even get frustrating at times.
Many will argue that in order to communicate well, one should know the right grammar, correct subject-verb agreement, tenses, etc. and going even further, syntax and semantics of a certain language. Again, this is dependent on the ability of the giver to make his message come across with nary a problem. But is this all there is to it? While it is true that these are very important, one can still communicate even with very minimal knowledge of a language. I think tourists in any land can manage to be understood, albeit with extreme difficulty, to get his/her message across using signs and symbols, and still get what he/she wants in the end if confined only to the very basic. When we went to Korea, most of the people we met did not speak English. So too were the store signs. But we managed to get by especially with a little help from the guide who even taught us how to haggle. The day we were to go home, the itinerary was to go to a famous theme park but knowing that I will have to spend more than I can afford (again), I opted to stay in the hotel. Come lunch time, I went out to look for a restaurant. I was shocked that none of the menus was written down in English. So what was there left? I pointed! I saw someone eating and pointed to her food, showed her money to ask how much and we understood each other. Whether I was taken for a sucker and paid more than I should have is totally a different story of course. But nevertheless, I was able to buy me some food.
The complexity of communication does not end there. There is the difference between the spoken and the written word. Which do you think is more effective in getting your message across? Is it the written text or the spoken word? Which would you prefer? I say it will depend on two things. Again, the ability of the participants and the message itself.
The written word is more permanent. One can store the paper on which the message is written and have it re-read numerous times until one has memorized its contents. This is the reason why when we deal with legal issues, we have to have them written down. This is called evidence. It will be very hard to deny what you have written down. The good thing about the written is that you have the time to edit and revise the piece before you send it out. In so doing, you have a well thought out piece (supposedly) which you have crafted to perfection at least from the point of the giver of the information. But more often, the receiver would want to react, clarify or make a comment. This makes the written word basically a one way communication until a response has been received.
The spoken word is a fleeting exercise and passes very quickly. This gives the speaker a chance to deny and swear by the grave of his/her great great great grandparents what he she has just uttered. Of course we have the tape recorder but sometimes, they can be inaudible. But then again, this can also when a piece of writing is done in a manner that can hardly be read. My handwriting is a classic example. When I learned how to use the computer, it seems like I have thrown my handwriting down the drain. I can hardly read my own handwriting.
The problem with the written word is that it does not contain life. It does not bear intonations, speech patterns of the speaker and the facial expressions that go with it. These are very important aspects of communication for they also convey meaning. A single word that would look benign on paper would have a different meaning with the tone by which it has been uttered. Of course, writing has developed exclamation points and question marks but then again, these are very limited.