Learning Creative Communication: a tribute to Shel Silverstein

Learning to love your mistakes

I love Shel Silverstein’s books. As a kid, I memorized many poems from “Where the Sidewalk Ends” and “A Light in the Attic.” And I was thrilled when my own sons discovered the same funny verses and quirky illustrations that made me crack up as a kid. One of the things that I love about Shel Silverstein (and Dr. Suess, for that matter) is the creative way he expresses himself and entertains with made-up words, silly rhymes, and creative illustrations. Reading is FUN and sometimes non-sensical, but even if the words are invented, the reader still learns quickly what’s going on.

I saw the book “Runny Babbit” recently, and it made me think of all those times when I mixed up my foreign language words or tried to translate my English thoughts exactly into what I thought would be comprehensible French. (For those who are not familiar with the book, check out this short animation of the first few lines.) I’m sure I sounded like one of Silverstein’s poems, mixing Franglais with gestures and a few invented words to try and get my message across.

It is easy to stress out over grammar rules, word genders and pronunciation when you are trying to perfect a new language. But rather than worry about perfection, think of your mistakes as a sort of “creative communication.” Channel a little Shel Silverstein and express yourself the best you can–you might be surprised how much your conversation partner understands! Even if they smile or smirk as you stumble over a word (or sentence or paragraph), just pat yourself on the back for being able to provide a little linguistic entertainment, Silverstein-style!