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Richard Krooman

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Julliet is the sun? Is there a difference between hearing language and reading it?

This question arose to me while reading a book about the brain and (shortly after) hearing James Geary's talk about metaphores.

Everything that I read seems to be a lot more distant and without emotion than the things that I hear. If someone talks to me using all kind of metaphores I can understand what he's trying to say. But when it's written down I can usually only see that it's not logical.

Geary sais that "Julliet is the sun" is a metaphore that better explains what Julliet was like than any describtion of her appearance.
To a dyslectic guy like me however reading that line doesn't make sense. Trying to visualize it somewhat gives me the idea of what he means though. After visualisation I can also combine that with emotional feelings. And then rework my way back to the text.
For instance I would guess that the next line of text (never read romeo & julliet) would have something in it like: And the rays of light that emitted from her smile warmed my heart.

But the above doesn't come natural to me. It's more like there are 4 seperate sequential stages that I need to go through before the emotional content of the written word reaches me.
1) looking at the words
1.5) "hearing the words"
2) visualizing the scene
3) combining emotions to objects
4) figuring out how to combine them all together

But I can stop at any of the stages. A speedreading book thought me to skip the "hearing the words" for faster reading (which works really well).

However when I hear stuff I don't actually have to visualize things to undestand the emotional content. This is not the case however when I read, only when other people talk to me.

In both cases I construct a logical framework around the story filled with why's. (I try to understand the motivation of the main character in the story)

Anyway I was wondering if a similar distinction between hearing / reading exists in your life

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    Feb 16 2012: Hi Richard,
    I definitely experience a distinction between hearing and reading. With the verbal use of language, we see, hear, and can sense tone and body language, which is a big part of "hearing" the verbal word. These qualities are missing with the written word, and we are dependant on our own interpretations of what is written. This may be the reason why, as you insightfully say..."everything that I read seems to be a lot more distant and without emotion than the things that I hear"?

    I learned, as a professional actor, to read scripts with many different interpretations, and that is how I often read comments on TED if I have difficulty understanding what is written. This leaves the written word open to many interpretations, rather than colored by one or more of my own interpretations. Not only do we have the possibility of different interpretations here, but we also have the fact that english is not the first language of many people who comment on TED. I am very grateful they are using MY first language:>)

    I've had situations when discussing a book with another person who has read the very same book, we discover that we had very different interpretations of the characters and situations presented in the story. I think when we read, we sometimes put things in an order that our brain recognizes, based on our previous experiences, perceptions, ideas, thoughts, feelings and opinions. When actually facing a person in a verbal discussion, it's a little more difficult sometimes, to hold onto our own perceptions, and perhaps we pay more attention to the other person and the meaning they want to convey?
    • Feb 16 2012: Hello Colleen,

      Well I'm not sure what the reason is for my different interpretations of the different media.
      But the feeling runs deeper than what you're describing. And it's not really coupled to body language.

      For instance I am capable of reading the line "Whatever you do... DO NOT THINK OF AN ELEPHANT" perfectly fine without ever thinking of the physical being of an elephant. Simply because I don't use the visualization for the elephant. And I do (more or less) mean that there is no meaning for the word elephant during the time that I read it. I can give it meaning on the go though but it's not a direct step.

      But when someone sais it to me that becomes increasingly hard. Although I must say that sometimes I don't 'think of the elephant'. Now that I think about it... it seems like this became harder over time because in the past I could do this similar to reading.

      It's hard to explain :)
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      Feb 17 2012: Colleen,

      I agree with you 100%. However I have to stand by my opinion. There are certain things that are set in stone. Written or spoken, and as long as you know the source of the referrence. the words " Frankly my dear I don't give a damn" should automatically bring to mind only one thing and only one person.

      Now...If I say or write GEORGIA, unless you know I am singing a song then it can mean anything. Not set in stone.

      That's how I see it. Hope we are on the same page.
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        Feb 17 2012: Of course you stand by your own opinion Frank....has anyone asked you to change it? I am not easily led by someone telling me what "should automatically bring to mind only one thing and only one person". There is not much in my life that is "set in stone". It appears that we are not on the same page, and that's ok:>)

        The topic question is... "Is there a difference between hearing language and reading it"?
        I'm not sure what motivated your comment above. It simply seems kind of controling when someone tells me I should think of "only one thing and only one person" when certain words are spoken.

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