When you type “literate” into Google the definition that you get is:
- (of a person) able to read and write.
noun: literate; plural noun: literates
- a literate person.
So according to this definition a literate person is able to look at symbols and give them meaning along with using those same symbols to create something that can then be translated. I think that this is a very simplistic definition. According to this definition I was literate in the first grade. I could read. I could write. I was literate. I think there is more. Being able to look at words and understand their meaning is very basic. I read a lot of documents every day and while I understand what each of those words mean, when they are taken in context I am often confused. I have to go back and interpret their meaning based on the context and the individual word placement. I read and reread. I ask questions. I think about what I have read. I reread. I seek understanding.
Being capable of pulling meaning from a group of what are really arbitrary symbols and being able to arrange those same symbols into socially constructed patterns to convey meaning is the most basic form of literacy.
To me being literate go beyond that. There is understanding. There is contemplation. There is the recognition that what I take a group of words to mean could be read and understood in an entirely different manner. So what is being literate. It is the ability to look at symbols, understand the meaning of the grouping, and provide understanding.
Literacy is activity of being literate. Literacy can be obtained in any area. It is being proficient. It comes from spending time to become literate, which is more than being able to read and write. Literacy is a level to be sought.
With my definitions there are different levels of being literate and literacy. It starts in the most basic form – reading and writing – and moves on to understanding. I can read and write basic French. I am only in the most basic sense of the word literate. To become truly literate or gain literacy I would need to spend the time practicing, studying, and learning to become proficient. With proficiency I could move into deeper levels of both being literate and literacy.
As a reader, I am literate. I am able to take the complex (or simple) ideas of others, internalize them, and give them meaning. Even in the most jargon riddled articles about topics I have no background in, given enough time and a dictionary I can, at the most basic level, glean meaning. I just don’t do it enough. I need to spend more time actively reading. My interests vary widely and I rarely spend time just reading. It feels like an indulgence. There are so many other things that I should be doing. Not that I actually do them, but I should be.
My literacy as a writer need work. While I am capable of creating sentences, combining them in groups of common thought, and ensuring they are (mostly) free of grammatical and spelling mistakes, I need work. I struggle with writing. My most dreaded assignment is writing about whatever I want to. I prefer to have a topic given to me and clear parameters about what is expected. Three to five pages on a topic of my choice ends up being four pages about the most recent topic discussed in class. I do not see myself as an original writer. I can produce documents that meet the specified guidelines, but I do not have a compulsion to write or voice my own words. At least without some sort of prompt. I do think that when compelled to I am able to create solid work. I can look at my own writing and pick out errors in both grammar and syntax. I spend time to read and reread my own work and adjust the wording so that, at least to me, the sentences presented are of high quality.
As a thinker, I lean towards the over thinking end of the spectrum. I am capable and willing to accept things on face value and move on, but more often than not, I don’t. This is both a strength, I have a very analytical mind that wants to more and why, and also a weakness, somethings do not need in depth analysis. My favorite time to think is when I am trying to go to bed. It’s a “favorite” of mine to stay up late over analyzing and replaying the events of my life. Who needs to sleep anyway?