What is learning?

What is learning?

A child says, while pointing to objects consecutively, "two, two, two"

Observing this, her parents point out a picture of an octopus in a book and ask her how many arms it has. She obliges, "two, two, two, two, two, two, two, two!" The last "two" is said with a flourish, as if to report the total – or that is how it sounds to us, since we are used to counting in this cadence.

This is precious baby talk and much as her parents might delight in it, she will (all too quickly) grow out of it. The child, in this case, is the daughter of my friends, and she recently turned two. It seems she has been indicating things and saying "two-three, two-three."

The day will come when she abandons her system and counts as we do – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5!

Now what is learning …

When she said "2, 2, 2, 2, 2!" was that learning?

Or when she started saying 2-3 -2-3 was that learning?

Or when she says 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 will that be learning?

And what was she learning, and when? The concept of number? Of quantity?

I think that what she learned first of all was the concept of difference. Of non-one-ness. So in fact the word "two" did not signify the quantity two, so much as it signified "another." Now hear her "count" or point out the arms of the octopus: "Another, another, another, another, another, another, another, another!"

Another, again, more .. such words work magic for the newly verbal. They can serve to name anything, provided one of said thing is there to serve as a reference.

And when finally one replaces "another" with respective names, and two with three and four … what is one learning then? The names of the things, in the prevailing language. In order that others may understand what one has already understood, but has to translate into their language.

Read more: Two, another two and now there is a three