The beauty of the spoken word

Kristin: Last night I was talking to my friend Inara Beecher who I met this year through the Governor’s Leadership Foundation Program. We were talking about the guilty pleasure of watching TED Talks instead of completing our case study. I recommended Sarah Kay’s talk from TED2011 and Inara posted:

So with Inara’s inspiration, I wanted to draw out those talks from TED2011 that illustrated that “common thread of the power, and beauty, of language and the spoken word”.

We start at the beginning where MIT researcher Deb Roy wanted to understand how his baby son learned language. To do this, he set up his house with fish-eye videocameras recording every single moment of their family life and the interactions his son had with carers and spaces. In his talk he shows us how his son learns to say “water”, and how it emerges from an initial “gaaaa”. The highlight for me is how he’s captured his son’s excitement at learning too.

From beginning to metamorphosis, and Sarah Kay’s talk was one of the unexpected delights of TED/TEDActive for me. I have thought a lot about the way in which she describes using a list of “Ten Things I Know to be True” to kickstart teenagers into writing poetry (I love Charlotte’s poem!). And that we take a “backpack’ of our experiences of what we know, that helps us leap into the unknown. Further description does not capture her essence, just watch and listen:

Finally, an ending, of sorts. When television film critic Roger Ebert lost his ability to speak due to a cancer, he found he was able to communicate through blogging and Twitter. At TED he enlisted friends and the computer voice of Alex to tell his story of survival and experimentation, finding joy in connection and the telling of a joke. I don’t think his talk is up on TED.com yet, but I will update this post when I find it.

Update: Roger Ebert’s talk now up on TED – 14 April 2011

The theme for TED2011 was “the rediscovery of wonder”, and there were other related talks and performances relating to the beauty of the sung voice, or different perspective on language and learning. But I think Inara’s observation about the power and the beauty of the spoken word is worth reflecting on. Finding a voice should not be taken for granted.

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