By some strange coincidence, I found myself reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein lately. As I read through, I came across the section where the poor wretch, the daemon, the monster, starts to learn speaking and writing. I think it is a very good example of the input before output argument, and can provide an insight into the way we should learn as well. Enjoy!

“By degrees I made a discovery of still greater moment. I found that these people possessed a method of communicating their experience and feelings to one another by articulate sounds. I perceived that the words they spoke sometimes produced pleasure or pain, smiles or sadness, in the minds and countenances of the hearers. This was indeed a godlike science, and I ardently desired to become acquainted with it. But I was baffled in every attempt I made for this purpose. Their pronunciation was quick; and the words they uttered, not having any apparent connection with visible objects, I was unable to discover any clue by which I could unravel the mystery of their reference. By great application, however, and after having remained during the space of several revolutions of the moon in my hovel, I discovered the names that were given to some of the most familiar objects of discourse; I learned and applied the words, _fire, milk, bread_, and _wood_. I learned also the names of the cottagers themselves. The youth and his companion had each of them several names, but the old man had only one, which was _father_. The girl was called _sister_, or _Agatha_; and the youth _Felix, brother_, or _son_. I cannot describe the delight I felt when I learned the ideas appropriated to each of these sounds, and was able to pronounce them. I distinguished several other words, without being able as yet to understand or apply them; such as _good, dearest, unhappy._”

“I ought not to make the attempt until I had first become master of their language[…]”

“Presently I found, by the frequent recurrence of some sound which the stranger repeated after them, that she was endeavouring to learn their language; and the idea instantly occurred to me that I should make use of the same instructions to the same end.”

(Thanks to Landorien for putting the thought of literature into my head!)