A Man Without Words

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Cholaki, Cassandra
ENGL 98R
11/29/12
A Man Without Words
In her book, “A Man Without Words,” Susan Schaller describes how the eighteenth century French philosophers continually exercised speculation as to how much of human nature was "given" and native, and how much was dependent on language and culture. She encountered Ildefonso, a Mexican Indian who lived in the most unique form of isolation, who was born deaf, and had never been taught even the most basic language. She set herself the challenge to make contact with this man, and introduce him to language. Ildefonso not only lacked any language but lacked any idea of language: he had no conception, at first, of what Schaller was trying to do, yet Ildefonso had a yearning to communicate and to be more than just himself in isolation. Inclusively, this book vividly conveys the challenges, frustrations, and the exhilaration of opening the mind of a congenitally deaf person to the concept of language. I believe the topic that stuck out to me the most was mentorship—the mentoring of a language-less mind, while bringing forth the qualities of patience, persistence, and, eventually, growth in both Schaller and Ildefonso. The entirety of the text reflected Schaller’s predominant efforts of constant and continuous care for Ildefonso’s success, no matter how difficult their communication had been between each other. Additionally, through her mentorship, she not only talked about ASL but she also exemplified the hand forms and gestures in which she was teaching Ildefonso; therefore, the reader has an opportunity to learn from Schaller at the same time. This novel was easy and fun to read probably being because I was interested in the topic. Sign language has always been fascinating to me; I even took a class at Grossmont when I was in high school. Being interested in the topic made reading strategies easier to engage in while reading. Some of these strategies I used were asking questions, annotating in the...
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