Language arts is essentially the study of how we use words to create and to decipher meaning. In general, schools divide language arts into four broad fields: reading, writing, speaking, and visual literacy.
Reading is the foundation of language arts. To be a competent writer, one must first be a good reader. Reading begins with learning that a language's alphabet is formed of individual letters that compose words, sentences, and paragraphs. Reading, however, is also being able to understand the larger meanings that exist within the printed word and often beyond it. A successful advanced reader can (1) understand complications in plot and character and (2) ultimately make larger inferences about how works of fiction and nonfiction relate to the world.
Writing, or composition, involves using various parts of language to form a written narrative. Composition falls into a number of categories:
- Fiction. Fiction is most often defined as imaginative writing that tells a story by way of integrating plot, characters, and themes. Fiction is divided into three genres: the novel, the short story, and poetry.
- Essays. Essays are works of nonfiction that may be either impersonal or personal in nature. Essays are typically grouped into broad categories that include argumentative (or persuasive) essays, cause-and-effect essays, compare-and-contrast essays, and reflective (or narrative) essays.
- Technical writing. Technical writing includes the composition of instructions and manuals. Technical writing often uses specialized language specific to a field—medicine, engineering, computer science, and so on.
A speech is usually composed of an introduction, a central message that must be communicated to an audience, and a conclusion. Speeches target a specific audience and may contain language, or “jargon,” with which that particular group will be familiar. Good speeches often contain anecdotes that engage the listener. In addition, many...
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