Response to “Learning To Read” by Malcolm X

I believe that I resonated with “Learning to Read”  by Malcolm X because although I did not have any problem being able to read and write, I did have problems with communication just like he did because of my boundaries of knowing one way to speak. I didn’t know how to properly communicate with people and even today, it does become quite a problem in situations where I can’t express myself. I know so many words in English and could write the most beautiful essay yet somehow when people are involved I stumble over words and I get nervous and the English language becomes a blur to me. At one point in time, just as Malcolm X did, I decided I needed to re-evaluate my comprehension of what is perceived as the  common English language in my community AKA slang, so I did the only reasonable thing which was to study the way people interacted, how they spoke and how to speak like them. At first it was complicated because you don’t just automatically know what words mean, you hear them and figure out by example what it is supposed to mean. Only then can you say “okay this is how I’m supposed to use said word” and then apply that knowledge. Without studying first I would have felt as Malcolm did when he read books and skipped what he didn’t understand. I would have been foolish to jump in head first into speaking without knowing what I was saying and luckily I understood that. At one point I finally caught up and it felt really nice to be able to connect with other people of my age or just other people in general. Even if they weren’t necessarily my age I could finally understand what they were saying and I could talk to them and not have them say I sound a specific way, as if I had no idea what was going on. Just standing back and actually taking the time to expand the little bit of English that I know, I am now able to communicate on so many different levels. It’s a liberating feeling to not feel restricted by whatever your circumstance is and I believe that’s exactly how Malcolm felt which is why he never stopped reading and writing when he could. You get to experience new things from such a small thing as broadening your vocabulary and every experience onwards brings some form of joy. Now I can code switch whenever I’m talking to someone. I know slang, so I can talk to people on a day to day basis on the street, I know “proper”  English, so I’m able to speak to somebody on the phone as if I were a professional with every ounce of slang gone and I probably know other forms of English as well through reading, writing, and speaking.

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