Every Word Is a Bird We Teach to Sing
A mind-expanding, deeply humane tour of language by the bestselling author of Born on a Blue Day and Thinking in Numbers.Is vocabulary destiny? Why do clocks "talk" to the Nahua people of Mexico? Will A.I. researchers ever produce true human-machine dialogue? In this mesmerizing collection of essays, Daniel Tammet answers these and many other questions about the intricacy and profound power of language.In Every Word Is a Bird We Teach to Sing, Tammet goes back in time to London to explore the numeric language of his autistic childhood; in Iceland, he learns why the name Blær became a court case; in Canada, he meets one of the world's most accomplished lip readers. He chats with chatbots; contrives an "e"-less essay on lipograms; studies the grammar of the telephone; contemplates the significance of disappearing dialects; and corresponds with native Esperanto speakers - in their mother tongue.A joyous romp through the world of words, letters, stories, and meanings, Every Word Is a Bird We Teach to Sing explores the way communication shapes reality. From the art of translation to the lyricism of sign language, these essays display the stunning range of Tammet's literary and polyglot talents.

Every Word Is a Bird We Teach to Sing Details

TitleEvery Word Is a Bird We Teach to Sing
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseSep 12th, 2017
PublisherLittle, Brown and Company
ISBN-139780316353052
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Humanities, Language, Writing, Essays, Linguistics, Autobiography, Memoir

Every Word Is a Bird We Teach to Sing Review

  • Krista
    January 1, 1970
    You are what you say – well, maybe, up to a point. Every voice carries certain personality traits – the tongue-tiedness of one; of another, the overreaching vowels. Every voice, in preferring dinner to supper, or in pronouncing this as dis, betrays traces of its past. But vocabulary is not destiny. Words, regardless of their pedigree, make only as much sense as we choose to give them. We are the teachers, not they. To possess fluency, or “verbal intelligence,” is to animate words with our imagin You are what you say – well, maybe, up to a point. Every voice carries certain personality traits – the tongue-tiedness of one; of another, the overreaching vowels. Every voice, in preferring dinner to supper, or in pronouncing this as dis, betrays traces of its past. But vocabulary is not destiny. Words, regardless of their pedigree, make only as much sense as we choose to give them. We are the teachers, not they. To possess fluency, or “verbal intelligence,” is to animate words with our imagination. Every word is a bird we teach to sing.Eventually diagnosed with high-functioning autistic savant syndrome and synesthesia (only one of fifty with this particular diagnosis in the world), Daniel Tammet sees the world in a unique way: assigning colours to feelings and connecting more to numbers than to letters as a way to describe his inner life. Every Word is a Bird We Teach to Sing is the fourth nonfiction book Tammet has written from this unique perspective, and perhaps that means he has stretched his personal material a little thin at this point – perhaps he doesn't want to rehash the details he has written about before, but which I haven't read – so while I did find everything he assembled in this varied look at languages around the world to be interesting, I was most interested in his personal stories, which didn't last long enough for me. From the beginning, Tammet writes that, though raised in London, English always felt like a second language that didn't belong to him – his long undiagnosed autism causes “a disconnect between man and language” and he was constantly translating experience into his private language of numbers. It wasn't until he started reading that he began to visually connect the look of words to their meanings (which gave him a unique way to essentially teach himself his mother tongue), but still, he privately wrote poetry composed of only numbers. To demonstrate his savant abilities, in 2004 Tammet correctly recited the first 22, 514 digits of pi (a European record) in front of a live audience over five hours: As I gathered momentum, acquired rhythm, I sensed the men and women lean forward, alert and rapt. With each pronounced digit their concentration redoubled and silenced competing thoughts. Meditative smiles broadened faces. Some in the audience were even moved to tears. In those numbers I had found the words to express my deepest emotions. In my person, through my breath and body, the numbers spoke to the motley attendees on that bright March morning and afternoon. Tammet, who now lives in Paris with his French husband, discovered along the way that reading Dostoevsky in French translation freed him from self-consciousness and allowed him the pleasure of “learning new words and discovering new worlds”. Tammet had eventually realised that the same method he had used to teach himself to read English – exploring the character of a new word instead of literally translating it – would be the key to learning any new language. Tammet recalls being a nineteen year old volunteer ESL teacher in Lithuania and teaching the women in his class via this method (ie, getting them to explore “sn” and “sm” words – snicker, sneer, smile, smirk – and recognise that they're all focussed on the mouth), and along the way, he picked up Lithuanian. I loved the chapter in which Tammet discovered a poet, Les Murray, whose words struck him to the core, only to learn that Murray is also a high functioning autistic man. I found it fascinating that when Tammet was given the nod to translate Murray's poetry into French, Tammet understood that translating the character of the words (the visual arrangement of consonants and vowels, the mix of tall and short and rounded letters, internal assonance) was vastly more important than literally translating the words and imagery (and that Murray was okay with that). I was fascinated by everything up to this point, but suddenly, the book becomes about Tammet travelling around the world, speaking to experts about their languages. Abruptly, Tammet is in Mexico City, talking with a man who is a native speaker of Nahuatl – the language of the Aztecs and their descendants – a culture that “revered the power and the magic of sounds”: Mexico City (then Tenochtitlán) was always booming , ringing, resounding in the days of Montezuma's glory. The wind whistled, the Aztecs – with flutes and ocarinas – whistled; to the tinkling of a rain shower they added the tinkling of their bracelets, anklets, ceramic pendants and beads; after a night ablare with thunder, a morning of horns and conches, copper gongs and tortoiseshell drums. Singers in iridescent feathers roared like jaguars, squawked like eagles, cooed like quetzals. Mellifluous orations, “flower songs”, offered the listener color and beauty, and could inspire and pacify. Tammet then meets with native Esperanto speakers, speaks with an African author who thinks all African literature should be written only in African languages, and then goes to Iceland and learns that there is a committee that not only scours the media for the intrusion of Icelandic-corrupting slang, but they also must approve every potential baby name as authentically Icelandic before a birth certificate can be issued. Tammet meets with those on the Isle of Man who have resurrected the Manx language from the 1940s recordings of the handful of native elderly speakers who had still lived on the island at the time, meets with the first Englishman elected to the French Academy (which curates the definitive list of what words are authentically French and enforces their use), and while everything to this point seems to be about the protection of languages under threat – and especially under the threat of encroaching American slang – the book then takes another turn, with Tammet meeting with people who approach language in a more intentional manner. He describes the OuLiPo movement (a method of writing within restraints, which Tammet writes about within restraints), and then learns sign language (I did find it interesting that the two people he meets don't consider themselves to be part of the official Deaf culture: the man, because he has a cochlear implant and has regained his hearing; and the woman, because she was taught to lipread as a child and therefore regrets that “her brain had been made to resemble that of a hearing person's”). Tammet speaks with a man who translates the Old Testament from the original Hebrew into German, and then with people who study the emergent grammar of telephone conversations, and ends with speaking with those who are writing computer programs that simulate human speech – as it turns out, they may never pass the Turing Test. And then the book ends rather abruptly with this conversation with Mark Bickhard (a Professor of Cognitive Robotics and the Philosophy of Knowledge ): Humans in conversation, he concludes, update and modify social reality from moment to moment. Meanings are broached, negotiated, tussled over. Big things are at stake. Computers, on the other hand, inert and indifferent, “can't care less” about meaning. It is this can't-care-less-ness that will forever keep them imitating people's words.I care about the philosopher's words. They can change me, and I let them. When I turn off my laptop it feels warm. I notice that. Not the warm of a friend's hug or handshake; only of electricity, I think. But without it, how much less of the world's meaning would our brains transform, convert? Without a concluding chapter, or a thesis statement beyond the book's title, it's hard to parse what Tammet's ultimate goal was. I most enjoyed stories of Tammet's personal relationship with language, and while I appreciate the importance of protecting threatened languages as a vital expression of the unique cultures that produced them, I couldn't really see a connection between the last few sections of the book and what came before. And yet, it was all interesting, and as a collection of the ideas that fired up Tammet's remarkable brain, it was always rewarding to tag along with the author as he pursued those ideas.
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  • Margaret Sankey
    January 1, 1970
    Tammet, as a person with high functioning autism, defied conventional expectations and turned the workings of his mind to a field in which he could find great advantage--sociolinguistics. Although primarily a novelist, this is a set of essays in which he engages global language: the onomatopoetic words of Nahua in Mexico, the only Englishman in the French Academy, the Icelandic personal names committee, the challenge of translating the Bible for a Pacific tribe that has never seen milk or honey, Tammet, as a person with high functioning autism, defied conventional expectations and turned the workings of his mind to a field in which he could find great advantage--sociolinguistics. Although primarily a novelist, this is a set of essays in which he engages global language: the onomatopoetic words of Nahua in Mexico, the only Englishman in the French Academy, the Icelandic personal names committee, the challenge of translating the Bible for a Pacific tribe that has never seen milk or honey, the dialects of sign language (and its French roots), attempts to keep the Manx language alive, and teaching business English to Lithuanian women in the 1990s.
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  • fiafia
    January 1, 1970
    J'ai beaucoup aimé Je suis né un jour bleu de Daniel Tammet, ce qui explique d'ailleurs mon intérêt pour celui-ci. Cependant, les deux livres sont bien différents. Si Je suis né un jour bleu a été le récit de sa vie, son parcours, ses difficultés, sa découverte du monde et de sa propre personnalité, Chaque mot est un oiseau à qui l'on apprend à chanter (quel titre magnifique!) est un recueil d'articles, d'essais, de retranscriptions d'interviews, tout cela autour des mots et de la linguistique e J'ai beaucoup aimé Je suis né un jour bleu de Daniel Tammet, ce qui explique d'ailleurs mon intérêt pour celui-ci. Cependant, les deux livres sont bien différents. Si Je suis né un jour bleu a été le récit de sa vie, son parcours, ses difficultés, sa découverte du monde et de sa propre personnalité, Chaque mot est un oiseau à qui l'on apprend à chanter (quel titre magnifique!) est un recueil d'articles, d'essais, de retranscriptions d'interviews, tout cela autour des mots et de la linguistique en général. C'est encore mieux! pourraient dire ceux qui me connaissent bien et je le dis moi-même. D'autant qu'il choisit les sujets qui me tiennent vraiment à coeur: perception des mots, préférence pour certains mots, esperanto et LSF, OULIPO (avec un exercice de style assez brillant autant de la part de Tammet que de son traducteur), la disparition des langues, l'opposition des langues, la fidélité des traductions, etc., etc.Tammet ne fait pas de simple vulgarisation, il présente son sujet et va aussitôt au fond du problème, il évoque des aspects qui sont loin d'être à la surface. Malgré cela, les textes restent à la portée de tout le monde, y compris des gens pas spécialement initiés à certaines problématiques de la linguistique.Mais il y a un mais. À mon avis, Tammet privilégie le fond, le contenu qui pour lui sont suffusants pour rendre le sujet passionnant. C'est vrai en soi mais cela ne marche pas toujours, il ne réussit pas à rendre sa passion communicative. Et malgré mon intérêt le plus aigu pour les sujets traités, j'ai trouvé certains passages un peu longs ou ennuyeux. Cela me fait vraiment mal de devoir le dire.
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  • Katie/Doing Dewey
    January 1, 1970
    I thought it was offensive that some critics thought this author’s earlier memoir might be a one-off ‘disability memoir’. However, I have to admit that part of what made me think he would have something interesting to say is the belief that someone with autism might have a different perspective on the world. To an extent, this was true. The way the author associates concepts with numbers (in part due to his synesthesia) was fascinating and his descriptions were beautiful, poetic in a way delight I thought it was offensive that some critics thought this author’s earlier memoir might be a one-off ‘disability memoir’. However, I have to admit that part of what made me think he would have something interesting to say is the belief that someone with autism might have a different perspective on the world. To an extent, this was true. The way the author associates concepts with numbers (in part due to his synesthesia) was fascinating and his descriptions were beautiful, poetic in a way delightfully rooted in math. However, I also felt like his passion for words tapped into a common feeling, something I’ve felt from many authors. The way he analyzes words may or may not be unique (he’s certainly more thoughtful and more knowledgeable in his appreciation for language than I am!), but the passion driving his analysis is something I think any reader or writer will enjoy relating to. Lovely read, highly recommended.This review first published on Doing Dewey
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  • Emma Sea
    January 1, 1970
    Requested via library
  • Tracey Allen at Carpe Librum
    January 1, 1970
    Every Word Is A Bird We Teach To Sing - Encounters with the Mysteries and Meanings of Language is a collection of essays by Daniel Tammet. Daniel is an autistic savant with synaesthesia and his love of language and words intrigued me enough to pick up this book and find out more. What I learned quickly was that Daniel Tammet is a little out of my league. His collection of essays takes an almost academic look at language and meaning, and I wasn't prepared for just how many languages he would refe Every Word Is A Bird We Teach To Sing - Encounters with the Mysteries and Meanings of Language is a collection of essays by Daniel Tammet. Daniel is an autistic savant with synaesthesia and his love of language and words intrigued me enough to pick up this book and find out more. What I learned quickly was that Daniel Tammet is a little out of my league. His collection of essays takes an almost academic look at language and meaning, and I wasn't prepared for just how many languages he would reference; narrowly thinking this book would be primarily about the English language. I later learned Tammet is a polyglot and has mastered 10 languages: English, Finnish, French, German, Lithuanian, Esperanto, Spanish, Romanian, Icelandic, and Welsh, the majority of which are referred to in this book.Most interesting essaysAn Englishman at L'Academie Francaise was about the group of people assigned the task of refining the French dictionary. This felt like a glimpse into another century, so to discover this is still happening today was a thrill.My favourite essay was Talking Hands, which was essentially about ASL. I didn't know that the persons's stance - leaning forward, leaning back or to the left/right - also added meaning to sign language and I just loved this essay.I enjoyed A Grammar of the Telephone, which was all about how the emerging technology of the time inspired a new way for people to begin a conversation and talk to each other without the cues of body language.Least enjoyable essaysTranslating Faithfully was about translating the Old Testament and Conversational Human looked at whether chatbots will ever sound truly like 'us'.Most impressive essayOuLiPo is the essay title, but also a "loose gathering of (mainly) French-speaking writers and mathematicians who seek to create works using constrained writing techniques." (Wikipedia) While writing about these writers, Tammet does so without ever using the letter 'e'. It was amusing and easily the most impressive piece of writing in the collection.I recommend this book to those with an interest in linguistics. Those with a love of the English language might find themselves a little out of their depth in some of the essays but there's no reason why you can't pick and choose which essays to read. It will be well worth the effort.* Copy courtesy of Hachette Australia *
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  • Alan
    January 1, 1970
    Daniel Tammet is an autistic savant whose talents include quick mathematical calculations & memorization, multiple languages and colour synesthesia. He has performed various public stunts, presumably for book publicity, such as learning Icelandic in 1 week and then being interviewed about it on Icelandic Television and memorizing/reciting Pi to 22,514 digits. I first learned of him about a decade ago from reading various articles / reviews related to his autobiography Born on a Blue Day: Ins Daniel Tammet is an autistic savant whose talents include quick mathematical calculations & memorization, multiple languages and colour synesthesia. He has performed various public stunts, presumably for book publicity, such as learning Icelandic in 1 week and then being interviewed about it on Icelandic Television and memorizing/reciting Pi to 22,514 digits. I first learned of him about a decade ago from reading various articles / reviews related to his autobiography Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant. At the time, the draw of interest for me was that Tammet had changed his family name after finding the Estonian word "tamm" (oak) on the internet. He adopted the new name as he preferred the colours and shapes that it conveyed to his synesthetic sensibility. I hadn't read any of his books previously, but this most recent 2017 title with essays on various languages or methods of speech and writing intrigued me.The essays cover a wide range of topics including Tammet's own teaching of English in Lithuania, Icelandic naming rules, L'Academie Francaise and its official control of the French language, Sign Language, Telephone speaking conventions and habits, writing with Oulipo constraints (an essay which is itself written with an Oulipo constraint), the attempts to preserve the Manx language (the Gaelic language unique to the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea), translating the Old Testament Bible, whether AI bots will ever pass a conversational Turing Test etc. All of these were intriguing and full of linguistic trivia that you likely have never heard about before (at least I certainly hadn't).Oddly, there is no essay about the Mänti language which is a Finnic-based language which Tammet invented by adapting his favourite Finnish and Estonian words. Perhaps it is covered in another one of his several books which I am now even more eager to read.
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  • Anne
    January 1, 1970
    I am strangely receptive to alluring book titles. Some books are named so brilliantly that the title alone is enough to make me yearn to read it, no matter what the topic. A few of my favourite titles are Far From the Madding Crowd, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, Living to Tell the Tale, In Search of Lost Time, Grief Is the Thing With Feathers, The Cider House Rules, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, If on a Winter's Night a Traveler.A new favourite title is Every Word Is a Bird We Teach to Sing I am strangely receptive to alluring book titles. Some books are named so brilliantly that the title alone is enough to make me yearn to read it, no matter what the topic. A few of my favourite titles are Far From the Madding Crowd, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, Living to Tell the Tale, In Search of Lost Time, Grief Is the Thing With Feathers, The Cider House Rules, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, If on a Winter's Night a Traveler.A new favourite title is Every Word Is a Bird We Teach to Sing. It is beautifully visual, and after finishing this book I could see why this title was chosen - it seems to reflect Tammet's way of looking at the world of language.Every Word Is a Bird We Teach to Sing is a very interesting mix of different subtopics within the field of language. I had expected a more educational book, but Tammet's setup is more personal than that. Every chapter is based on a place he visited, people he met, experiences he had, or simply experts he questioned about a topic of his interest. For instance, there is a chapter on Tammet's TEFL experience in Lithuania, one with his meeting with a native speaker of Nahuatl and one on sign language. I would say that Tammet is more interested in venturing into unexplored areas of language, rather than focussing on conveying as many facts as possible. This may disappoint one reader and delight the other - I was leaning toward the latter. I liked the wide range of topics and seeing his personal input: Tammet often just describes being intrigued by something and then arranging a meeting with someone. Every page shows how much he enjoys language and the chapter on OuLiPo clearly shows his love for playing with language. I didn't learn a lot of facts per se, but after reading it I feel like I have been introduced to a lot of different ways of thinking about and using language, and that in itself makes Every Word Is a Bird We Teach to Sing inspiring and worth a read.
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  • Amelia Smith
    January 1, 1970
    full review on agreybox: https://tinyurl.com/y8urztzt- I received a copy of this book from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for honest review. Every Word is a Bird We Teach to Sing by Daniel Tammet is a non-fiction piece that focuses on our relationship as beings possessing the ability to communicate through language. This relationship isn’t always tended to—how many of us on a daily basis think about the words and the words others use to communicate, especially not just what they m full review on agreybox: https://tinyurl.com/y8urztzt- I received a copy of this book from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for honest review. Every Word is a Bird We Teach to Sing by Daniel Tammet is a non-fiction piece that focuses on our relationship as beings possessing the ability to communicate through language. This relationship isn’t always tended to—how many of us on a daily basis think about the words and the words others use to communicate, especially not just what they mean but how they sound, look and feel? In many ways, I felt as though this book asked of me to slow down and find pleasure in the way in which humans communicate.Though it is a book about linguistics, Every Word doesn’t require a previous knowledge or interest in the subject. Not bogged down with linguistic jargon, and thoroughly explained with the jargon arises, Every Word tells stories about language that are accessible and will appeal to a wide audience, which is its strength. Through personal stories and interviews, Tammet weaves together a tapestry on the beauty and frustrations of language, at once a method of connection and a barrier of understanding. It’s a love letter, laden with hopes, fears, frustrations, and the triumph of connection.Tammet’s personal relationship with language is the first subject in his book and it is a necessary beginning as the author experiences language in a way that many people don’t. Identifying on the high end of the spectrum of autism, Tammet’s first experience with language was one that no one else understood. Numbers were his chosen way to communicate and Tammet describes this system and his tumultuous relationship with using English to express himself.The rest of Every Word journeys through many topics, all related to language. Tammet captures the paradox of language in discussing the utopian dream of an easy-to-learn global language of Esperanto and the tragedy (to some more than others) of the disappearance of languages due to cultural imperialism. Here too he delves into the politics of the language of repression and the efforts of native speakers of suppressed languages, like those in Africa, to publish works in their mother tongue. He takes us on a trip to cultures obsessively dedicated with preserving the sanctity of their language in an effort that is both admirable and fool-hardy.I felt that these subjects were handled with respect. Even when Tammet’s position on the topic shows through his writing, he isn’t dismissive of the other side of the arguments presented. With many of these political issues, there’s strong arguments on both sides and I liked that Tammet expressed his own doubts and beliefs without pressuring the reader to agree with him. This is a book for people who love language and for those who don’t already to fall in love with it.
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  • Samantha
    January 1, 1970
    Daniel Tammet is an explorer and treasure seeker, and his prize is language. Tammet is uniquely qualified for a linguistic adventure, through his synaesthesia – the ability to interpret one sense as another. In his case, Tammet sees language as a visible construct – shapes, colours and textures. Initially fluent in the language of numbers (even composing poems of numbers), Tammet has always had a remarkable yet perhaps unusual relationship with words – they are more than pen strokes on a page, b Daniel Tammet is an explorer and treasure seeker, and his prize is language. Tammet is uniquely qualified for a linguistic adventure, through his synaesthesia – the ability to interpret one sense as another. In his case, Tammet sees language as a visible construct – shapes, colours and textures. Initially fluent in the language of numbers (even composing poems of numbers), Tammet has always had a remarkable yet perhaps unusual relationship with words – they are more than pen strokes on a page, but physically represent a shape, feeling, texture or colour, arranging themselves in unusual partnerships and illustrating their links to their brethren through manners invisible to many.Tammet’s unique experience of language thus illustrates to the reader the immense richness of any language, the amazing possibilities in prefixes and suffixes, the playful manner in which a language can be constructed and destructed, allowing one to see it anew. This rebirth of language in the mind of the reader is a moving a deeply rewarding experience, which Tammet gracefully and intelligently communicates.Daniel Tammet has allowed me the opportunity to view my mothertongue anew, as a creature which constantly evolves, adapts and and translates. As he declares, “English never stops.” Through the book’s unique interpretation of words, sounds and the squiggles which indicate both, it becomes apparent that no language is fixed – while rules govern grammar and structure, the feelings and imagery inspired by a specific expression can be interpreted differently be many readers – in fact, it is safe to say that every person translates their own language, as well as that of others. Indeed, the author explains an incredibly powerful aspect of language and communication, “To be fluent, we must animate words with our imagination”.Every Word is a Bird we Teach to Sing is a rewarding experience, a ticket to Tammet’s journey in search of what makes language just that, and the politics, history and evolution behind communication. His book truly has the power to change the way we view language as a tool which allows us to communicate.Throughout its forages into the various complexities of language and communication, Tammet makes a point of leaving you with the realization that what is most important in this all is meaning, not the words or gestures you use to provide it.Tammet’s is a book which makes scholarly investigation exciting, and which makes greater understanding possible. I cannot adequately praise his efforts, but I leave you with an instruction; he is a pathfinder, and we should follow him.Every Word is a Bird we Teach to Sing by Daniel Tammet is published by Hodder & Stoughton, an imprint of Hachette Books, and is available in South Africa from Jonathan Ball Publishers.
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  • Tom
    January 1, 1970
    This book is difficult to categorize. It is written by an individual who is a high-functioning autistic savant. He experiences synthesia so that words take on variety of shapes and forms.
  • Lou Grimm
    January 1, 1970
    This could be the hardest book to ever attempt to do justice to by review because Tammet is an absolute master at language! I can only give it my best, but please: multiply my sub-standard praise by a thousand to get the true splendour of Every Word is a Bird we Teach to Sing.Tammet's ability to see words differently to the way we are commonly taught opens up a whole world of patterns and nuances. Is there any more beautiful way to write of aged-related memory loss than this?The speakers had got This could be the hardest book to ever attempt to do justice to by review because Tammet is an absolute master at language! I can only give it my best, but please: multiply my sub-standard praise by a thousand to get the true splendour of Every Word is a Bird we Teach to Sing.Tammet's ability to see words differently to the way we are commonly taught opens up a whole world of patterns and nuances. Is there any more beautiful way to write of aged-related memory loss than this?The speakers had got to an age at which their cottages possessed lives of their own. Water in a saucepan would occasionally boil by itself. Knitting needles would somehow find their way into a cutlery drawer.Or is there any more thought-provoking way of conveying the importance of checking the source than this?An earlier Latin scribe, sticking to the [Greek version of the Bible], translated Psalm 128:2 as 'labores fructuum tuorum manducabi', an ambiguous phrase whose meaning became an object of dispute: did understanding it as 'the fruit of labours' make any more sense than as 'the labours of fruits'? ... A simple blunder; the scribe hadn't realised that the Greek karpoi means 'fruits' but also 'hands' (literally, 'wrists'). The original Hebrew text actually reads (as in the King James translation): 'For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands.' Tammet even sheds light on something I've puzzled over for years: why do people talk in second person about an event that happened to them personally? The below extract explains a phone conversation between mother and son discussing her cancer:Viewed one way, the situation is quite simple: the mother has news; the son wants her news. But, of course, it is not so simple: the two talkers being close, the mother's bad news is also the son's. And so the mother was tactful. She did not say, as in a book or a letter, 'I got a bone scan,' 'They gave me a shot,' 'I had to drink water...in volumes.' She said, 'U'get that bone scan,' 'They give you a shot,' 'Ya have ta drink water...in volumes.' You or y' or ya are inclusive - also distancing, and therefore softening.This is an amazing collection of essays covering a stunning array of language considerations: can the dying Manx language be kept alive; is there really an Englishman working to keep the French language pure at L'Académie française; how important is the letter 'e'; is there a difference between signing as a first or second language; will computers ever pass the Turing test?I never want to part with this book, never want to lend it to anyone in case I don't get it back (and that's not like me at all)! I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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  • Jane Mulkewich
    January 1, 1970
    I have always loved word play, and this book elevates word play and the love of language to new heights. The author writes a chapter on his childhood and his intense pre-occupation with words, by the shape of words, and making poems with numbers. Later he is diagnosed with high-functioning autism, and he discovers an Australian poet who is also a high-functioning autistic man, and ends up translating Murray's poetry into French and writes about the painstaking care with which he chooses the word I have always loved word play, and this book elevates word play and the love of language to new heights. The author writes a chapter on his childhood and his intense pre-occupation with words, by the shape of words, and making poems with numbers. Later he is diagnosed with high-functioning autism, and he discovers an Australian poet who is also a high-functioning autistic man, and ends up translating Murray's poetry into French and writes about the painstaking care with which he chooses the words. One chapter is about teaching English in Lithuania, and how he used poetry instead of the textbook: "When Plath writes of hearing someone's speech "thick as foreign coffee"... the same word can be understood in ten different ways in a single reading and absorbed instantly.. Grammar and memory come from playing with words, rubbing them on the fingers and on the tongue, experiencing the various meanings they give off. Textbooks are no substitute." One chapter explores how far computers have come in so many areas, but they have never been able to make a human conversation; they never "produce different arrangements of words so as to give an appropriately meaningful answer to whatever is said in its presence, as the dullest of men can do". One chapter is on Esperanto (meant to be the universal language), one about American sign language (and the roots of ASL as developed by a Frenchman), a chapter on Icelandic names, a chapter about encountering a speaker of Nahuatl in Mexico, a chapter about reviving the Manx language on the Isle of Man, and a chapter about the first-ever English member of the Academie francaise. And just for fun, he writes a chapter about a French novel written entirely without the letter 'e', and challenges himself to write the chapter also without using that letter between d and f, and writes about how such tasks can improve your writing. In his chapter called "A Grammar of the Telephone" we learn how the greeting "Hello" became popular with the advent of the telephone, and also about a study involving telephone conversations about cancer... "Just a few words could comfort, reassure, inspire. Words and semi-words like mmkay, phew, and oh, boy all did valuable social work. I wish more doctors, nurses and caregivers understood this." Every word is a bird we teach to sing...
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  • Jo-Ann Duff (Duffy The Writer)
    January 1, 1970
    Every Word Is A Bird We Teach To Sing is a wonderful collection of encounters, interviews, and experiences which author Daniel Tammet has experienced throughout his life. Daniel has high functioning autism and sees the world, and in particular words and numbers, differently to most of us. Numbers bring about feelings and images, for example, certain numbers are described as heavy, hard, floating, or aggressive. There is a complex pattern when it comes to attaching feelings and colours to words a Every Word Is A Bird We Teach To Sing is a wonderful collection of encounters, interviews, and experiences which author Daniel Tammet has experienced throughout his life. Daniel has high functioning autism and sees the world, and in particular words and numbers, differently to most of us. Numbers bring about feelings and images, for example, certain numbers are described as heavy, hard, floating, or aggressive. There is a complex pattern when it comes to attaching feelings and colours to words and numbers, which I had a hard time grasping sometimes, yet it all works in Tammets mind and it all fits together.See how the T advancesStainSatinSaint(From Every Word Is A Bird We Teach To Sing)Tammet explores not only the English language but that of other countries. He helped Lithuanian women learn English by using poetry; where words bring about feelings. Feelings are something our memory holds on to, something sticks when a phrase or sentence resonates with and it is then remembered forever. Rather than repeating meaningless lines on a whiteboard, Tammet taught English using poetry and genuine, natural conversation. In Iceland, the country works extremely hard to keep the language as it is, with committees to approve names for children and even scouring newspaper print to ensure slang words don’t creep in and become part of the everyday language.Who Should Read Every Word Is A Bird We Teach To Sing?Every Word Is A Bird We Teach To Sing is a brain training book. I found myself fascinated by a language I have spoken all my life and I definitely felt I was learning and gaining a deeper understanding of language. Not only about the intricacies and wonders of the English language, but also understanding what it’s like to live in this world with high-functioning autism. At times it seems a curse, but in Tammets case is definitely a gift he shares with eloquence here.
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  • Breakaway Reviewers
    January 1, 1970
    A stunning depiction of the depth of human languageDaniel Tammett is an autistic savant, rated at 15th in a poll of the Top 100 geniuses in 2007.By the excellent writing which characterises this book, one would never guess that he views the English Language with discomfort, where synesthesia meant that he understood words in terms of strings of numbers.The book contains fifteen very different chapters, each describing the influences and the ups and downs of his exploration of the words themselve A stunning depiction of the depth of human languageDaniel Tammett is an autistic savant, rated at 15th in a poll of the Top 100 geniuses in 2007.By the excellent writing which characterises this book, one would never guess that he views the English Language with discomfort, where synesthesia meant that he understood words in terms of strings of numbers.The book contains fifteen very different chapters, each describing the influences and the ups and downs of his exploration of the words themselves and their meanings.His overall view is that words themselves have no meaning until they are used in context. Alone, the word 'toast' could have two very different 'meanings'. We animate words through our imagination and hence 'the bird is taught to sing'.It wasn't an easy journey for Tammet as he confronted the closed minds of the psychological researchers who failed to see the depth of his experience of words. One of the words the researchers presented was 'equivocal' and this sparked such a rich and varied experience in Tammet's understanding as evoked in his description, 'A word cool to the touch. The greenness. The Shininess. The coolness. They all came at me simultaneously. The word radiated the sea on a late British summer afternoon – the briny, garlicky smell of the sea – and aroused a momentary nostalgia for the coast'. It also contains all five vowels if you hadn't realised that.This is such an accessible book, rather than the usual studies of psychology, autism and language, each word sings exuberantly, like the birds, and in that song opens up some understanding of the potential of human language. It is an absolute must for anyone interested in linguistics, psychology and/or autism. PashtpawsBreakaway Reviewers received a copy of this book to review
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  • Auderoy Lin
    January 1, 1970
    FAV QUOTES:The world was made up of words. But I thought and felt and sometimes dreamed in a private language of numbers.Sixty-one two two two two elevenOne hundred and thirty-one forty-nineAs sounds and social currency, words could not yet hold me.All literature, I finally realized with a jolt, amounted to an act of translation: a condensing, a sifting, a realignment of the author’s thought-world into words.I had more than one book in me. And each of my subsequent books...was different. Each ta FAV QUOTES:The world was made up of words. But I thought and felt and sometimes dreamed in a private language of numbers.Sixty-one two two two two elevenOne hundred and thirty-one forty-nineAs sounds and social currency, words could not yet hold me.All literature, I finally realized with a jolt, amounted to an act of translation: a condensing, a sifting, a realignment of the author’s thought-world into words.I had more than one book in me. And each of my subsequent books...was different. Each taught me what my limits weren’t. I could do this. And this. And this as well.Enthusiastic students don’t make good dunces.For the director, poetry was only a side effect of language, peripheral; for me it was essential.Grammar and memory come from playing with words, rubbing them on the fingers and on the tongue, experiencing the various meanings they give off.Assurance rejuvenated them, made their skin shine. I had never seen the women look as beautiful as they did then.Every voice carries certain personality traits—the tongue-tiedness of one; of another, the overreaching vowels. Every voice, in preferring dinner to supper, or in pronouncing this as dis, betrays traces of its past. But vocabulary is not destiny. Words, regardless of their pedigree, make only as much sense as we choose to give them. We are the teachers, not they. To possess fluency, or “verbal intelligence,” is to animate words with our imagination. Every word is a bird we teach to sing.Reality responds to language. Reality is polyglot. Humans in conversation update and modify social reality from moment to moment.
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  • Joshua
    January 1, 1970
    Disclaimer: The review is based on an ARC I got through a Goodreads giveaway."A joyous romp through the world of words, letters, stories, and meanings. Every Word Is a Bird We Teach to Sing explores how communication shapes the reality we live in. From the intricacies of translation to the lyricism of sign language, these essays display the range of Tammet's literacy and polyglot talents."These paragraphs from the back of the book, in my opinion, best sums up what this book is about.This collect Disclaimer: The review is based on an ARC I got through a Goodreads giveaway."A joyous romp through the world of words, letters, stories, and meanings. Every Word Is a Bird We Teach to Sing explores how communication shapes the reality we live in. From the intricacies of translation to the lyricism of sign language, these essays display the range of Tammet's literacy and polyglot talents."These paragraphs from the back of the book, in my opinion, best sums up what this book is about.This collection of essays by Daniel Tammet starts off in the best place to start; his journey with language from his youth in England to his adult life in Paris.He does not shy away from topics of language, but embraces them from the view of a person who loves language and cannot stop themselves from diving in as deep as he can; while managing to cast a wide net as well. Each essay jumps into a new linguistic topic. Each one looking at aspects of a different language and the oddities and intricacies of each.I could not put put this book down. Each page filled with just the right words for the job, even if that word is not in a language one can read (thankfully for us poor monoglots, translations are very often provided.). The topics written about, and the way they are written about, show just how much of a lover of language that Daniel Tammet is.It was an amazingly engaging work and each essay has something to add. Daniel Tammet truly taught every bird in this book to sing.
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  • Clara
    January 1, 1970
    Note: Thanks to NetGalley for providing an Advance Reading Copy of this book. All opinions regarding the book are entirely my own.You don't have to a lover of languages to enjoy Daniel Tammet's Every Word is a Bird We Teach to Sing, but what a delight it is if you are! Tammet grew up in a working class British family and felt like a perennial outsider. He went to college only in his thirties, after being diagnosed with "high-functioning autistic savant syndrome and synesthesia." From childhood h Note: Thanks to NetGalley for providing an Advance Reading Copy of this book. All opinions regarding the book are entirely my own.You don't have to a lover of languages to enjoy Daniel Tammet's Every Word is a Bird We Teach to Sing, but what a delight it is if you are! Tammet grew up in a working class British family and felt like a perennial outsider. He went to college only in his thirties, after being diagnosed with "high-functioning autistic savant syndrome and synesthesia." From childhood he had a fascination with words, and that interest, along with the lessons learned by being labeled "different" and "unusual" as a child, have made him a populist about words and language:Vocabulary is not destiny. Words, regardless of their pedigree, make only as much sense as we choose to give them. We are the teachers, not they. To possess fluency, or "verbal intelligence," is to animate words within our own imagination. Every word is a bird we teach to sing."Tammet's topics range from Iceland's strict rules to ensure that babies receive proper Icelandic-derived names to the rise and fall of Esperanto. He introduces us to some fascinating languages, including the resurgence of Manx, the original language of residents of the Isle of Man, and the language of phone conversations, codified by two pioneering researchers, and describes his novel approach to teaching English in Lithuania.The longer I read, the more I enjoyed the rich mix of essays that informs our understanding of the vital drive for human expression.
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  • Stephanie
    January 1, 1970
    Thanks to NetGalley for the free digital ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. Check out all my book reviews at www.myliterary2cents.blogspot.comPlot Summary: This is a narrative of the author's life. He is a high functioning autistic with some amazing, although unique, linguistic skills. He starts out telling about his life as a boy and his unique language of numbers. The chapters then go on to describe how he acquired more linguistic ability through travel. He explains series of t Thanks to NetGalley for the free digital ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. Check out all my book reviews at www.myliterary2cents.blogspot.comPlot Summary: This is a narrative of the author's life. He is a high functioning autistic with some amazing, although unique, linguistic skills. He starts out telling about his life as a boy and his unique language of numbers. The chapters then go on to describe how he acquired more linguistic ability through travel. He explains series of tests he was put through in order to better understand his unique abilities. He explains numerous word origins that are pretty fascinating. He speaks of translations briefly in one chapter.Notes about the author/writing style: This writer is obviously very brilliant. This is definitely not a "beach read", but is very interesting. Given the uniqueness of how this author learns, all educators should read at least one book of his.What I loved about the book: I loved learning about the author's unique "math language". Every word had a number attached to it. That blows my mathematical brain!What I disliked about the book: There were parts a little too technical and detailed for me.Who should read this book? Anyone who loves words and learning!
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  • Linda
    January 1, 1970
    EVERY WORD IS A BIRD WE TEACH TO SING by Daniel Tammet (Born on a Blue Day) is a truly amazing book. I am so impressed by Tammet's writing and, frankly, do not have the words to adequately describe how lyrical this text feels. Tammet, autistic and multi-lingual, clearly loves language in a way that many of us never experience:"Chord. ... It is a golden word. Gold, white and red. ... And if you retype the words in small letters, reordering them to spell dcorh, and then trim the tops off the tall EVERY WORD IS A BIRD WE TEACH TO SING by Daniel Tammet (Born on a Blue Day) is a truly amazing book. I am so impressed by Tammet's writing and, frankly, do not have the words to adequately describe how lyrical this text feels. Tammet, autistic and multi-lingual, clearly loves language in a way that many of us never experience:"Chord. ... It is a golden word. Gold, white and red. ... And if you retype the words in small letters, reordering them to spell dcorh, and then trim the tops off the tall letters, the d and the h, do you see the anagram acorn?" OR"One day, intent on my reading, I happened on lollipop and a shock of joy coursed through me. I read it as 1011ipop. One thousand and eleven, divisible by three, was a fittingly round number shape, and I thought it the most beautiful I had yet read: half number and half word." Sentences like those stretch our brains and give a sense of what it is like to be synesthetic, understanding numbers and words through shapes and colors. EVERY WORD IS A BIRD WE TEACH TO SING received a starred review from Booklist, should work well with AP definition essays and could provide some enthralling prompts for our Senior English electives, especially Creative Writing.
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  • Mary Beth
    January 1, 1970
    When I go to the public library, I usually come out with an armful of books that all look interesting to me, and I generally have low expectations of actually reading all of them. I thought I’d probably read some bits and pieces of this book before returning it. Not so; I was completely engrossed and tore through it in a way that I don’t usually do with nonfiction. Each chapter of the book is more-or-less stand-alone, exploring different aspects and topics related to language and linguistics. An When I go to the public library, I usually come out with an armful of books that all look interesting to me, and I generally have low expectations of actually reading all of them. I thought I’d probably read some bits and pieces of this book before returning it. Not so; I was completely engrossed and tore through it in a way that I don’t usually do with nonfiction. Each chapter of the book is more-or-less stand-alone, exploring different aspects and topics related to language and linguistics. And I’ve always loved words and language so I may be a biased here, but I never thought that the development of Esperanto, the shaky status of the Manx language, or Icelandic debates over linguistic “purity” would be interesting to me. Daniel Tammet, however, completely drew me in and captured my attention on nearly every page of this book. Languages: the way we use them, the way we learn them, the ways they develop, the ways they die - the topic is endlessly fascinating, and in Every Word Is A Bird We Teach To Sing, Tammet has made the “mysteries and meanings of language” approachable for anyone.
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  • Amber
    January 1, 1970
    I received a copy of this book through goodreads’ first reads program. As a polyglot, I was intrigued by the book’s blurb, but it didn’t turn out to be quite what I expected. The beginning mainly covers the author’s synesthesia, and how he processes language as a result. The following chapters had some interesting highlights- things like the little-known community of esperanto speakers, the reason for government name registries in some countries, and insights into the inner workings of L’Académi I received a copy of this book through goodreads’ first reads program. As a polyglot, I was intrigued by the book’s blurb, but it didn’t turn out to be quite what I expected. The beginning mainly covers the author’s synesthesia, and how he processes language as a result. The following chapters had some interesting highlights- things like the little-known community of esperanto speakers, the reason for government name registries in some countries, and insights into the inner workings of L’Académie française. This was a small volume that touched briefly on a variety of language-related tidbits without delving too deeply into any single topic. Good for the acquiring the odd bit of pub trivia.
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  • Morgan
    January 1, 1970
    I thoroughly enjoyed this book, particularly the approach the author suggests to learning a new language. There were also plenty of references to other authors whose works might prove interesting.However, in the chapter "Translating Faithfully," a question about the morality of learning another people's language with the sole intent of translating a religious text into that language for the people's consumption would have been appropriate.
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  • Melissa
    January 1, 1970
    I liked this book a lot. Not only does Tammet approach language and translation objectively, but he also provides many fascinating glances at the nuances of language (as well as writing the chapter on lipograms lipogrammatically!). He also addressed the struggles of Wycliffe Bible Translators in learning a new language outside the classroom and using what is known about the language and culture to translate Scripture!
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  • Kevin Payne
    January 1, 1970
    The author writes essays covering a variety of topics relating to language included teaching English (in his case teaching Lithuanians English language by using poetry), Esperanto (Zamenhof invented the universal language from the ground up to help cross-cultural communication - much to his father's dismay who destroyed an early compilation of the lexicon), Icelandic names, the revival of Manx language, ASL, and other topics. The author has a unique perspective being a autistic savant.
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  • Kerry
    January 1, 1970
    I found this patchy - some absolutely fascinating, but some slightly tedious. (The chapter on Esperanto, for example, was unnecessarily long.) But worth a read if language is your thing, and the first chapter in which he explains how his autism and synaesthesia affected his childhood experience of language was really interesting.
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  • Corey Schuler
    January 1, 1970
    One maxim of mine, "Question everything" is very much satisfied by this book. Everything we take for granted about language, which is close to all of it, is drawn out in this book. Culture, nationalism, philosophy, politics, semiotics, etc ... If you want to rethink the world around you and how you perceive it, start here.
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  • Lydia
    January 1, 1970
    This book was as poetic as it was thought provoking. Linguistics is a fascinating field of study. As a layperson to the field, I found this book extremely accessible. I highly recommend it. I was delighted to receive this goodreads giveaway.
  • Helen Yee
    January 1, 1970
    I really enjoyed some of the essays here (Esperanto, sign language and poet Les Murray) but felt woefully underqualified to appreciate Tammet's in-depth analysis of language, its roots and its evolution. Definitely one for linguaphiles - who will no doubt wax lyrical over its genius.
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  • Benno Lang
    January 1, 1970
    A thoroughly enjoyable series of essays. There's always so much more to learn about the way language works, and this book provides a few interesting hints, with discussions of several languages, and personal tellings of tales involving sociolinguistics and interesting language problems.
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