A Man Without Words by Susan Schaller
At the level of sheer pleasure in reading, A Man without Words is as gripping as a novel, eliciting great sympathy for both protagonist and author. . . . The question that drives itwhat is it like to be without language?should be of interest to any reflective person, and it is one of the great scientific questions of all time.Steven Pinker, author of The Language Instinct
A Man Without Words (Short Film)
A Man without Words
The book features in 1, WorldCat libraries,  and has been translated into Dutch ,  Japanese  and German. Susan Schaller is a writer, public speaker and human rights advocate located in Berkeley, California. Schaller recalls that she chose to sit in on this class randomly, and by doing so changed her life. She was then hired by the 'Reading Skills Class,' a class of deaf adults learning to read English, and it was here that she met Ildefonso. Within a few minutes of introductions, it became clear to her that Ildefonso did not understand her signs as a form of communication, but he diligently copied Schaller's movements hoping to derive some meaning. Ildefonso seemed to see Schaller's signs as commands more than representations of abstract concepts, and for several days appeared to make no progress. It was not until Schaller began signing the word " cat " to an imaginary student that Ildefonso suddenly understood her attempt to communicate meaning, at which point he began to cry.
For more than a quarter of a century, Ildefonso, a Mexican Indian, lived in total isolation, set apart from the rest of the world. He wasn't a political prisoner or a social recluse, he was simply born deaf and had never been taught even the most basic language. Susan Schaller, then a twenty-four-year-old graduate student, encountered him in a class for the deaf where she had been sent as an interpreter and where he sat isolated, since he knew no sign language. She found him obviously intelligent and sharply observant but unable to communicate, and she felt compelled to bring him to a comprehension of words. The book vividly conveys the challenge, the frustrations, and the exhilaration of opening the mind of a congenitally deaf person to the concept of language. This second edition includes a new chapter and afterword.
"A meditation on the wonders of language Susan Schaller's book is a tantalizing glimpse into unexplored territory Virtually nothing has been written .
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All of us, in some sense, take language for granted. Why should we not, since we acquire it as children in early life? We acquire it by speaking, speaking with our parents, without the least difficulty, and without any need for explicit instruction. All human beings acquire language in the same automatic fashion; all of us, that is, except those who are deaf. But for those who are born profoundly deaf, the acquisition of language may be a much more difficult and chancy matter, because they cannot speak with their parents in the usual way: they cannot take in language by ear. They can, of course, take it in, effortlessly, by eye —if they have the good fortune to be exposed to a visual language, a sign language, when they need it.
Foreword by Oliver Sacks. New York: Summit Books. A human being without language would seem to be a 19th-century phenomenon; at least that's what people tried to tell Susan Schaller. But one day in the late 's Ms. Schaller, while working as a sign-language interpreter in Los Angeles, encountered a year-old deaf Mexican man who seemed bright and curious but who, as she quickly discovered, had no language whatsoever.
The question that drives itwhat is it like to be without language? Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want to Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Other editions.