Communication is the process of transmitting information from one person to another. The language arts are all important to the communication process. Listening and speaking are basic to oral communication; reading and writing are basic to written communication; and viewing and visually representing are basic to visual communication. Listening, reading, and viewing are ways of receiving information. Speaking, writing, and visually representing are ways of conveying information.

Values of Communication

Communication is an essential element in our lives today. Almost every endeavor depends on some form of communication: oral or written instructions or demonstrations for performing an activity; oral or written information or gestures to coordinate the activities of several people who are participating in an activity; oral or written queries about objects, procedures, or locations; oral or written evaluation of the outcome of an activity. Examples abound: A parent follows a recipe or watches a cooking show to discover how to prepare a special dish for the children&rsglq;s dinner. A teacher tells his class who is assigned to go to the learning center and how many are allowed to be there at one time or posts a diagram of the classroom and lists the names of several students under each of several centers that are currently being used. A child asks an adult where the sun goes at night. A supervisor writes a commendation for an employee, based on her handling of a project.

Some of these uses of communication are based on current actions: A person asks an oral question and is answered orally; someone makes a telephone call for the purpose of transmitting information or ideas; a person wishes to share an abstract thought with a friend and expresses it orally; a salesman sends an e-mail to a client to explain a delay in an order; a supervisor writes a note containing instructions for a secretary to use the next day, handing it to the secretary personally before leaving for the day. Other uses for communication involve transmission of information over time. A child leaves a note for her parents, informing them of where she will be that afternoon and how she can be reached; a friend writes a letter telling about the fun he is having on his trip; an associate sends a videotape of a meeting in the mail, so that the information can be shared by those not able to attend; a student reads a reference book describing a subject he is studying or reads the same information from an Internet site; scholars study a book written in the sixteenth century for clues to current happenings.

Children come to school knowing many ways of communicating: They know how to inform, to inquire, to console, to joke, to argue, and to persuade, for example. Children, however, come from diverse backgrounds, culturally and linguistically, and they may not perform these communication functions in the same ways. Most children also come to school with knowledge of a wide range of communication events, such as telephoning, e-mailing, storytelling, sermonizing, questioning, and searching the Internet, but some have had more experience with particular situations than have others because of differences in culture, socioeconomic status, and other background conditions. Some may not have had experiences with computer uses, for example, whereas others may have had little or no exposure to storytelling.

Failures to Communicate

Failures to communicate can cause serious consequences to the people involved. If a building is on fire and the person who sees it is unable to convey the problem to emergency personnel, the building inhabitants may be injured. Salespeople who fail to communicate may lose sales. Teachers who fail to communicate may have students who cannot perform at appropriate levels in school. If a child feels sick and cannot explain the problem in an understandable way, she may suffer a more severe or prolonged illness because the discovery of the illness was delayed. The inability of infants to tell adults what is causing their discomfort when they cry is a good illustration of the problem that exists.

In school, failures to communicate may result from cultural differences. For example, the teacher who asks a child, "Can you find your seat?" does not want the question to be answered with a "yes" or "no." This teacher is asking the student to go to the proper seat. A child who has not been exposed to this type of communication may respond inappropriately, in the teacher's opinion, causing the teacher to think the child is uncooperative.

Students from different cultural backgrounds also may not understand the idioms they encounter in school. If they hear the teacher or a classmate say, "Are you pulling my leg?" they may be completely bewildered, since no physical contact has taken place. They, in turn, use idioms relevant to their own cultures that confuse their teachers and classmates.