- First Thoughts
Having done a literacy project freshman year first semester in my EN 10 class, maybe I have a little insight into what’s going on when it comes to one’s literacy, how they obtained it, what obstacles they had to surpass in order to obtain it, etc. At the time I didn’t think I had anything. Literacy is just a given—a given I now release was obtainable because of my class privilege and education—and I never understood how people in the 21st century could be illiterate.
Literacy has to meanings to me: (1) the ability to read, write, speak. (2) competence in a given field. I’m not literate in European history. I’m literate when it comes to grammar rules. I’ve become a very articulate writer over the course of the latter years of high school into college.
As hinted at, I found it hard to believe that there are people in this world who aren’t literate, more so in the United States (as I haven’t left the country in quite some time and thus can’t give an examples elsewhere). In the third world, education is hard to come by (breaks my heart), and it’s even harder if you’re female. I understand that. However, if you’re illiterate in the U.S., I’ve picked up this prejudice that you’re white trash. It’s a stereotype, really, the image of illiterate people as unkempt-haired, surly men and women who only wear white t-shirts, live in trailer parks, et.al. Or maybe I’m thinking inbred.
I loathe people who don’t know their grammar rules. Basic ones, especially. You’re vs your, their vs they’re vs there, all of those. It’s even worse if you’re in college. It’s something that should just be known at this point. I think people who don’t know the difference between you’re and your, people who misuse certain punctuation, etc. should be in college. I know in my elementary and middle schools—and the education wasn’t that great, may I add—we were forced to take one class every year with objectives that specifically targeted grammar, vocabulary, spelling, all of that.
And I say this boldly, as a person who used to attend a special class for “dumb kids” at 7 in the morning before school started because my comprehension was at a disturbingly low level.
- Instant Version
I think my final piece would encompass a few points:
- I was the dumb child, see above. I’ve worked hard to shake that.
- Comprehension in your first language is one thing, but comprehension in one you hardly know is another thing, esp. when you’re in that country.
- I’m an articulate piece of garbage now
I took two years of Italian in middle school. Three years later, I went to Italy for a week with classmates. I was the designated speaker. The first night, I was jet-lagged and sick when we went to see the pope. They don’t have porter potties in Italy (at least none that I saw or remember) so I rushed into a restaurant. Begin scene:
I grasped the fence with two fingers, the metal a drastically different temperature than the rest of my body. I was hot, bothered, I felt my stomach churn—a feeling I could identify only as the catalyst to sickness.
“Ms. Papp,” I called to my chaperone. I had to repeat her name and lean closer to her, for the cheers around us that were directed at the pope drowned me out. She turned to face me. “I think I’m going to be sick,” I disclosed, a hand on my stomach.
Her smile dissipated. She grabbed my hand, leading me out of the crowd and back onto the streets. “Scusi, scusi, scusi!” we chimed.
My mind was scrambled. I was embarrassed. I couldn’t believe I was about to be sick in Rome, within the first six hours of being there. I scanned the streets for a sign that said “bagno,” skulking when I saw none. We settled quickly on speed walking into the first restaurant in sight, with myself taking two steps to her every one. I galloped ahead when I saw a hostess.
“Scusame,” I urged. She was holding a tray, lowering it when I stepped up to her. I stuttered through the sentence, “Io ho mal di stomaco. Com’è il bagno?” Instead I clutched my gut, chanted bagno bagno bagno.
She looked at me, concerned, until pointing down the hallway toward the communal bathroom.
I was sick. It must’ve been something I ate, maybe it was the jet-lag, the lack of sleep on the plane, who knows. Ms. Papp knocked on the door to the communal bathroom just as I was heavily breathing in one of the stalls.
“Alyssa, do you need anything?”
I responded, “I’m alright. You can come in—”
“No!” a woman yelled. There was a woman in the stall next to me, suddenly chiming in on a conversation that didn’t effect her. She began yelling in Italian, I was perplexed. I couldn’t comprehend what she was yelling about. Keywords led me to believe she thought I was inviting my chaperone into her stall, and I tried to tell her otherwise with the limited vocabulary I was equipped with at that moment.
The only consolation prize I received after that was a stick of gum.
- Narrative Thinking
I think I kind of did this one already.
Yeah I pretty much accomplished this too. Not my favorite anecdote from Italy but it’ll have to suffice.
In my “dumb kid” class, I remember drawing this potato like creature instead of doing the assigned work with the other dumb kids. I gave it lined body hair, B.O. the works. Joey, one of the dumb kids, said I was freaking him out.
In a different dumb kid class in middle school filed with much smarter dumb kids, Billy was insulting another kid. He was called a broken record player. Billy called him lettuce head. “Lettuce head? Lettuce head? What is even a lettuce head, Billy?”