What we do and do not learn without trying

Useful line from Katharine’s last post:

…the conventions of written language, unlike those of spoken language, are not picked up incidentally by most native English speakers…

For some reason, I find the question of what we learn incidentally endlessly fascinating.

In my case, I actually did pick up most of the conventions of writing incidentally. I wrote by ear.

But how did I acquire an “ear”?

I’m sure my path to incidental learning of “school grammar” was obsessive reading. I was a bookworm: I read the backs of cereal boxes at the breakfast table; I read books when we had company; on vacation trips I read Agatha Christie mysteries as  my family walked along seeing the sights. [1/11/2020 – UPDATE: Had a conversation with Katharine yesterday re: learning to write without being taught to write. I’m not so sure now that obsessive reading was the ticket.]

At some point, I gained the ability to hear what I wrote.

Nevertheless, I would have been much better off if some teacher had sat me down and taught me the principles Katharine and I cover in Europe in the Modern World.

One thought on “What we do and do not learn without trying

  1. Good thoughts on your post! The freedom to play English by ear is one of my favorite things about writing! I’ve learned that reading more books, and talking to others about those books, is one of the best ways to develop this ability.

    Liked by 1 person

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