The movie, directed by François Truffaut in 1969, is about a real event: a boy is found in a wood, in the outskirts of Paris, in France in 1798. At first the boy, apparently aged 11-12, can’t speak any languages and he seems to be deaf and dumb, but some time later he shows he’s able to recognize the “sounds of nature”, such as – for example - the dropping or cracking of nuts and the whirling of the wind. The boy has probably been abandoned in the wood but nobody knows why. So, the French scientist Dr. Itard tries to train the wild child (as they call him, now) to the human language, even if the general scientific consensus states the boy is “idiot, abnormal”. While, in fact, lots of French scientists believe the boy has been left alone in the forest just because he was probably deaf-mute since he came to being, Dr. Itard thinks he has been abandoned due to unknown reasons and only after that he has become abnormal, losing his speaking skill forever. The boy is taken to an Institute for deaf-mute children where Dr. Itard tries to teach him “to look, listen and speak”. Here, at first, the wild child seems to behave in a quite unnatural way: he crawls instead of walking and uses signs language instead of oral one. But: is crawling unnatural indeed? Crawling is properly every human being's first way to walk since he's born! Moreover, can we really state the boy can’t “speak” just because he only uses signs to talk? Undoubtedly signs allow him to communicate, to “talk” about his needs and, in the end, moods too. Surely, in order to communicate the boy is able, now, to use the same signs he had never used before, when he used to live in the wilderness. Can we really say he hasn’t learnt any languages? Certainly he has! Step by step, the boy becomes sensitive to temperature, and besides temperature, to the sounds of the human language, particularly to the “o” vowel, so they call him “Victor”. But – strangely – as Victor becomes sensitive to the human spoken language he also becomes sensitive to moods. Might the knowledge and the consciousness of the human language be related to the sensitiveness to moods? Who knows… As the wild child learns to speak he learns to weep too, to feel pain and make a difference between good and evil, justice and injustice. Dr. Itard's efforts to train Victor to the human language and to improve his brainpower succeed. One day perhaps Victor escapes and hangs around the countryside. The boy is starving and when he fails to steal a chicken he decides to get back home, to Dr. Itard and his maid Miss Guerin. Is it because, half-civilized by Dr. Itard, he has also lost his hunting skill or because he misses them both? The movie is also about the difference between “language acquisition” and “language learning”. The former is a natural process by which a human being acquires his mother language since he is born: language acquisition does not consists in grammatical explanations. Some researchers regard “language acquisition” as fundamental: the most efficient way to acquire a language. But – on the other side – while acquiring a language and a fluency in a spoken language, a human being is not always considered to acquire a writing skill, a consciousness of the way to write correctly and how a language works. “Language learning”, on the contrary, is an artificial way to acquire speaking and writing skills. It usually takes place in classes, in schools, and it always consists in grammatical exercises and elucidations. “Language learning” perhaps is not always considered to lead a student to speak a language fluently.
martedì 14 maggio 2013
mercoledì 1 maggio 2013
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