Friday, April 15, 2022

The spoken v. the written word

When I was going through the Navy's nuclear power program, I remember them telling us early on that people learn in a variety of different ways that involve different senses and different modes. It's different for each person, too. One might learn more through seeing, another through doing, another through hearing, etc. Since they wanted to cram as much information into our heads in as short a time as possible, they taught us to study by using every means available to us. The classroom lectures were very structured. All the information was already outlined and written out. To teach us, they would first read it to us, which would engage our hearing. Then they would write it on the chalkboard (often with charts, diagrams, and illustrations), which would engage our vision and reading capacity. Then we would write it in our notes, which would engage, I guess, our writing faculties or muscle memory. To study, we would copy our notes on dry erase boards over and over, we would read them out loud over and over, we would quiz each other, and we would work problems. So we engaged as many of our various faculties as we could, and this was a very effective way of cramming information into us. These techniques helped me a lot when I got to college.

At the time, I didn't concern myself with which one of these things, if taken by itself, was more effective. But over the years, I've come to see that for me, the written word is far more effective than the spoken word. This is true whether it's me who is listening to somebody else or me who is trying to be heard. I have an easier time following what people are saying if they write it than if I listen to them talk. I also have an easier time explaining myself in writing than I do in speaking.

I don't think most people are like that, though. I often hear people say it's better to speak than to write because in speaking, you can hear the inflection in the voice, which enhances understanding. Speaking in person is even better because you can see facial expressions and hand gestures. That all makes sense to me, and yet I find the written word to be more effective than the spoken word, and I much prefer it.

Of course there are exceptions. If I'm listening to somebody who speaks okay but can't write worth a flip, then in their case I might have an easier time understanding them talk than write. But they are the exception.

Back when I started this blog, blogs were just becoming popular. A lot of people were starting blogs. People used to participate in the comment sections of these blogs. It seemed like that's where all the discussion was taking place. People would respond to each other's blog posts by posting responses on their own blogs if not in the comments.

Now-a-days, I see less and less of that. People have moved on to podcasts and YouTube videos. Now there are YouTube videos responding to other YouTube videos, and that's where all the conversation is taking place. It also takes place in the YouTube comment section, but that's mostly fly-by expressions of agreement or disagreement than engaging discussion.

I don't like it. There was a video recently where Braxton Hunter went on Cameron Bertuzzi's channel to argue against Calvinism. I thought about responding to it in my blog, but as I thought about it, I kept saying to myself, "This would be so much easier to respond to if he just had it all written out." I have no desire to make a YouTube response either because I'm such a terrible speaker.

The older I get, the more frustrated I get with verbal conversation in general. This is especially the case in group conversations. It seems like nobody ever completes a thought before being interrupted. No subject that gets brought up ever really gets discussed before the topic changes all of a sudden. I get frustrated just watching other people talk even when I'm not trying to participate. I don't see how they aren't more frustrated with each other. I keep wanting to interject to say, "Hold on! I want to know what So and So was going to say," or, "I want to know where they were going with that." If somebody says something, and I want to draw them out a little more by asking a question or two, somebody else will inevitably derail it by either answering it in an irrelevant way or by raising another question that takes the conversation in a different direction. How is everybody not at each other's throats all the time? Lately, I've dealt with these thing by simply not engaging people in verbal conversation as much as I used to. I just let stuff go because I feel like there's no point in trying to engage. It'll only lead to frustration.

I'm not trying to push the point of view in this post that the written word is superior to the verbal word. I'm just reporting a little autobiograpy and venting a little. For me the written word is more effective and enjoyable than the spoken word. I'd much rather read an essay than listen to a podcast. I'd much rather engage with a blog post than with a YouTube video. I'd much rather exchange emails than talk on the phone.

What about you? What is your favourite medium for learning and communicating? Why?

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